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Better Golf Without Practice (Book Review)

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Better golf without practice. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I recently picked up a book of the same title written by Alex J. Morrison in 1940. He is the same author who wrote “A New Way to Better Golf”, which by all accounts online seems to be the better and more widely read of the two.

Alex Morrison also became widely known as the teacher of one of the best players of the era; 24 time PGA Tour Winner Henry Picard. He’s taught the best in the game, so what is his thesis on golf?

Well, I was a little disappointed. Being a student of the game for over 10 years now, I must admit this book is probably best suited for beginners. Alex has an amazing swing, and worked with amazing golfers, but this book didn't cut it for me. I didn’t make this judgment because of the title. In fact, quite the opposite. I don’t think enough is written of the mental game in golf, and I thought this book would delve in that direction. But it's not a book on the mental game...

The first part of the book talks about how to simplify how you think about the swing. He introduces us to the “whirling motion,” his description of the perfect swing. In my opinion, the whirling motion is no more than just understanding that centrifugal force will unload the club at the bottom, rather than the golfer having anything to do with that.

The next part of the book is all about the “Morrison Keys” to Good Golf. Morrison tries to give the reader a few “key” ideas to take away, and use those as principles to follow. Unfortunately, the keys come across more like “tips” than fundamentals. I can say from personal experience that having only one or two things to focus on during your swing is the only way to be consistent. BUT, and I say this with the best of intentions, I don’t think these keys will cure any long term ills you have in your swing.

Morrison’s main “Keys” are the following:

  1. Keep the chin behind the ball
  2. Roll your left foot to the inner part of your stance on the backswing, and do the same you’re your right foot on the downswing.
  3. Stand up tall with nice posture, slightly bending at the knees
  4. Get a good wind up on the backswing Lead with the left side on the downswing
  5. Keep the head looking at the impact zone, even after impact.

I finished the book feeling like his teaching ability face to face would come across as better than the way he describes his lessons in the book. I’ve no doubt that he can crush a ball with his long, fluid motion through the ball, but there’s that extra bit of wisdom I always look for in a book that tells me the author went that extra mile for his readers. That’s not here. There are so many “keys” that he presents throughout the book that it all feels like a bit much to take in by the end.The best way to describe it was thatI was looking for a blueprint to a house, and I all I got was the lumber.

Sevam1 has said that you add, add, add in the swing and eventually you have to take away, and you’re left with the simplest possible motion. The simplest possible motion for you may NOT be rolling the left foot, holding the chin a certain way, and standing tall. For me it may be taking the right hand back a certain way, or turning back to the ball at a certain point in my swing. Is that wrong? No. Everyone’s “keys” are a bit different, and we arrive at them for different reasons. When you’ve run the gamut of things to learn from in this book, what next? Come back to one of Morrison’s keys? Maybe you moved your chin! I doubt if it will help you in the long run.

How many times has this happened to you or someone you know - You read a tip in a book or magazine, and it works great for a round. Maybe even a few rounds… Then all of the sudden you make a bad swing, then another, then another. Pretty soon you wondered why you ever thought that tip would help you. It was absurd! Then it’s back to the drawing board to figure out how to piece your swing back together. Another book, another magazine, and hopefully an answer…

The truth is that your golf game is constantly evolving, changing, and hopefully getting better in the long run. A month from now, I probably won’t have the same 2-3 thoughts going through my head as I do today. Even if only a little bit, these thoughts change from season to season. It’s only natural. Holding my chin a certain way may make me stand too tall after a while; rolling my left foot in may lead to a loss in balance. Anything in excess will lead to its opposite, especially in golf. Am I swinging too fast? Too slow? No golf book has all the answers, but I feel a bit cheated by the title. Rather than a system for swinging the golf club efficiently, it feels like a collection of “tips” articles compiled into a book.

On the plus side, there are some fantastic photos of pros’ swings we don’t see too often, like Henry Picard, Ralph Guldahl, and Gene Sarazen. In fact, that’s the best part about the book - I would recommend checking out some other sources of information to learn the swing, and if you have any interest at all in golf history, particular around the 1930’s and 40’s, check out some of the pictures in this book - chipping, putting, full swing photos - they are all here. Hundreds of them.

There are also some great stories of how the mental toughness often makes up for a lack of ability on certain days. I never knew the story of how Olin Dutra had to crawl up the last green at Merion in 1934 to win the US Open because of a stomach ailment he was going through. That was pretty cool to learn.

If you’d like to check it out on Amazon, there are a few copies floating around every now and then

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