@GolfDigestMag When designing a course what is your thought process? To encourage or discourage the average handicapper?— John Coronado III (@johnciii) May 31, 2012
JACK: Actually, John, all of our design strategy begins with the average player. Recent studies suggest that less than two percent of golf is played from the back tees. So why wouldn’t you design for the 98 percent of those playing the golf course? My philosophy has always been to give golfers room off the tee, and then put a premium on the second shot and around the greens.
Early in my design career, I was often contracted by a developer who wanted me to design a championship golf course that could one day host a Tour event or even a major championship. So that was my directive. But at that time, there wasn’t as significant a disparity between the best players in the world and the average player. Today, equipment has created a game played by the touring professionals that the average player can’t relate to. So when we approach a design project, we focus on creating a course that the average player will find enjoyable, memorable and challenging. Then we go back to find the tees where the big-hitters or gorillas can play from.
@GolfDigestMag What are your top three tips for putting? (You're a crazy good putter!!— Josh Beams (@JoshBeams) June 1, 2012
JACK: The other day at the Memorial Tournament, I was talking to Jaime Diaz of Golf Digest about the very topic of putting. Without a good setup, you haven’t got a chance, and there are three basic setup fundamentals that are important to putting.
First is the grip. I want my hands opposing each other. I want all four fingers of my right hand on the putting shaft, and I want the index finger of my left hand to overlap the last finger of my right hand. It’s called the reverse overlap grip. And my thumbs are basically down the shaft. A little adjustment for comfort is fine.
Second, your eyes should be over the ball. The most important part of “over the ball” is what I call “down the line, over the ball.” It may be a little behind the ball which is the way I putt so that I can see the line. Or, what is probably preferable, and a way I wish I could’ve putt, is my eyes directly over the ball. That way I have converging lines cross on the ball, allowing me to hit the ball right at the base of the stroke. With my method, I am slightly behind the ball so that I’m looking down and the base of my stroke is slightly before the ball, which means I have to make an extra effort to carry my putter through the ball.
The third important fundamental is that your arms and shoulders should always be on the line of the target, whether you have an open stance or a square stance. The reason for that is because it must be comfortable and putting is no different than any other shot. You have to be comfortable to be able to hit the shot properly.
To recap: Reverse overlapping grip; eyes over the line of the target; arms and shoulders down the line. Then it’s just a matter of swinging the putter and hitting the putt.
@GolfDigestMag What's the one tournament that got away from you that you wish you could have back?— TC Ford (@SFWahoo) May 31, 2012
JACK: When I look back, especially at the 19 second-place finishes in majors, I could probably find a few I’d like back. I would’ve liked to have finished a few shots lower at Muirfield in 1972, when I was going for the third leg of the Grand Slam and Lee Trevino chipped in at 17 and beat me by a shot. And I'd like to have shot a couple shots lower at Pebble Beach in '82, when Tom Watson chipped in at 17 and beat me. But the British Open at Royal Lytham in ’63 was the only time I really gave one away. Round by round, everything fell into place for me at Lytham, and with each day, I crept up the leaderboard. By the end of the third round, I trailed Bob Charles by just two shots, and early in the final round, I picked up another shot. On the seventh hole, I jumped into the lead. Perhaps I relaxed too much, but I mixed in a couple of bogeys with some birdies coming down the final stretch. Still, I was in position with a hole to play. Back then, however, there weren’t many scoreboards to watch, so I wasn’t sure where I stood. I tried to judge my position by the crowd noise coming from the hole being played by Charles and Phil Rodgers. When I assumed they both parred their hole, I thought I needed to par 18 to win and a bogey to tie. As it turned out, I needed a par just to tie and birdie to win. I played the hole a bit too aggressively, catching a left fairway bunker with my drive, and ended up bogeying the hole to miss out by one stroke on a playoff with Rodgers and Charles. Charles won the playoff and I learned a valuable lesson. That lesson paid off when I won the 1963 PGA Championship in Dallas.
We all have those close calls, but that's part of the game. If somebody plays better than you and defeats you, then they deserve a firm handshake, a smile, a congratulations, a pat on the back and a “well done.” When I was a kid, my dad taught me that the most important thing in sports is to be gracious in victory and sincere in defeat.
via Facebook: "We saw Bubba hit an amazing shot to the green and win the Masters. What's your most memorable recovery shot?"
JACK: Norman, I’m still trying to figure out how Bubba hit that shot. It’s not so much the amount of hook he put on the ball that amazed me, it’s about how he was able to get the ball to stop after putting that much hook on it.
As for my career, I’ve been fortunate to hit some shots I’m very proud of, so it’s not an easy question to answer. If I have to pick one, it might just be a shot I hit late in the third round of the 1975 PGA Championship at Firestone. I had a five-shot lead after the 15th hole that day, and the cushion made me a bit sloppy. After my caddie handed me my driver and walked down the fairway of the 625-yard par-5 16th, I realized the tees were 30 yards ahead of the normal position and 3-wood was the better play. But on this long, hot afternoon, I decided against calling my caddie back. Well, my “easy” driver landed me in the water hazard way left, and I had to drop. Faced with a flyer lie, I whaled a 6-iron 230 yards into the right rough and behind a large tree. The tree was about 30 feet high and just a few yards in front of me. The pin was 138 yards away, but a pond sat just in front of the green. Ball, tree, pond and pin were all in line with each other, and I was lying 3. If I chipped out, I was looking at a 7. If I went for it and found the water, I was looking at 8. But with a comfortable lead and 20 holes left to play, I was thinking of hitting the green and one-putting for 5. Knowing that a pitching wedge wouldn’t get me there, and an 8 iron wouldn’t get me high enough to clear the tree, I chose 9 iron. I opened the clubface and put the ball well forward in my stance to make certain I would get the ball up quickly. I swung as hard as I could, and the ball cleared the tree by inches and the pond by a few feet. The shot stopped 30 feet past the hole. I made the putt for a 67 that put me on my way to a comfortable win.
5. Steve Pease, via Facebook: "We know it's not easy to win even one major, but which major was the most difficult to get the job done? (Jack rocks.)"
JACK: Steve, all the majors are difficult to win and that’s why they define so many careers in our game. But if I had to pick just one that might be the most difficult, it might be the one coming up next week—the U.S. Open. To me, the U.S. Open is the complete examination of a golfer. The USGA does the best job of preparing a golf course that will completely test you. For the most part, a U.S. Open challenges every shot a golfer has in their bag. There are courses that demand length, but all of them require accuracy. U.S. Opens require shot-making, shot placement on greens and, of course, they test your putting ability. Most important, they test your mental ability -- from course management and patience to performing under pressure.
via Facebook: "Were there ever times during your amateur career where you felt like giving up on turning pro?"
JACK: Actually, Munro, when I was an amateur, I didn’t really have aspirations of turning pro. I’ve always enjoyed competition -- even today -- and for much of my life, golf was my vehicle to competition. When I played as a teenager and until I turned pro a few months before my 22nd birthday, I played golf because I enjoyed the competition. I didn’t necessarily want to be a pro; I wanted to be the best I could be. It wasn’t until I had won my second U.S. Amateur at age 21 that I started to realize that to be the best, I needed to beat the best. I didn’t turn pro because of dollars and cents. I turned pro because of the game itself. All I wanted to do was be the best I could be at what I was doing, and the only way to accomplish that was to play against the professionals.
Many thanks, readers, for submitting your questions. And a bigger thanks to Jack for answering them so carefully.