Feature Interview with Melvyn Hunter Morrow
Part Two – March 2012
Your objections to modern aspects of the game such as distance aids, carts, etc. are well documented on GolfClubAtlas.com. How would you explain the allure of a traditional approach versus modern one?
If you are seeking to enjoy a sport then I feel you must embrace it fully. By that I mean test yourself totally. Commitment to uphold the game, its traditions and its defining qualities. The very idea of cheating oneself to save time and energy, perhaps in the belief that it will enhance one’s performance makes me wonder if you have selected the right game for yourself. Then we look at the additional cost to the game’s integrity by discarding the irrelevant parts you do not care for whilst keeping the parts you do like & enjoy. How can anyone with these attitudes say they are committed to golf? The game is actually that simple, it just requires the player to walk and think. No pressure whatsoever, but the laziness of our modern society is like a terminal virus constantly eating away the healthy quality parts of life or in this case a great game. The first step is that easy, it’s the test of self-commitment. This defines a golfer from a player. A player being someone who is happy to delude themselves into believing they are golfers. Yet they never accept the challenge, never test themselves preferring to ride and not walk, and resort to artificial aids in place of eyes and brain. Close to nigh on desecration of the great game of golf.
Walk and you become at one with the course. You are forced by the mere fact of walking to notice the contours, the potential traps and possible routes subject to your playing skills. You are at one with the course as you walk up and down the curves of the fairway. You notice shadows that only appear as the light reflects off the course. Walk and it comes into focus yet ride and there is a good chance you will miss it. So Walking keeps you aware, and the side benefit helps to de-stress you while making you slowly fitter. The exercise will, as any athlete can confirm, warm you up by increasing the oxygen going through your system, your mind and body. Your reactions improve as does your mental ability. Add to that the sharpness in one’s coordination with the inbuilt comfort of knowing your mind is ready to calculate, both, the best route and distance. Not forgetting, after all, that you are also playing against the cunning of the designers so need your wits about you. As I said, walking keeps you in touch with the game, the land and your ultimate destination, that little submerged cup.
Use Distance Aids? Enjoy riding to walking? Do you as a golfer really want to rely upon outside aids to play the game of golf? Is your own resolve that weak that you would prefer to be regarded as a Player to that of being a ‘Golfer’? In fact, do you have the ability to think for yourself when out on a golf course? Worried, concerned that you may lose an advantage over others, or are you willing to fully embrace the game of golf experiencing the inward warmth and satisfaction knowing you did it unaided. It soon becomes second nature. You look and select a club, the idea of it being X yards from a target is plainly a distraction; it helps not one bit. The total contentment of instinctively knowing is what is so thrilling about Golf. To resort to aids defines ones game as being that weak. That need is a cry for help. It is just a crutch that many a sportsman would not accept. Yet golfers seem to be willing or, should I say, that you are content that The R&A are willingly prostituting the game to satisfy the manufacturers but not necessary the ‘Golfers’. Golf is all about commitment. That commitment to walk thus understanding and experiencing the course and design close up. The on-going commitment to oneself is based upon the enjoyment of the game by selecting the right club through your own senses and orchestrating the shot. A golfer IMHO does not need any form of outside aid and that includes a caddie. The real shame for me does not lie with the golfer but our governing body for allowing these alien/outside aids to ever contaminate the great game of golf.
The traditional game of golf is open to all comers. It lets good, poor and indifferent players enjoy the game in their own way. The knowledge that you did it by yourself, unaided, no matter the level of your skill, is the reason why you want to play another round, and the next time, on a new different course that you had not previously experienced. It’s that oldest of challenges Man against the Elements, not Man with his aids. However, you really have to fully experience the real Royal & Ancient Game of Golf to understand, let alone embrace, the mental and physical pleasure of doing so unaided.
Please expound on the concept of playing by ‘instinct’ and of the joys of relying on one’s senses as one discerns what is being offered on a particular shot.
Instinct is the reason for our existence, our survival as the dominate species on this planet. Yet many a modern golfer willingly gives up Natures natural driving force, to be re assured by artificial or outside methods. No outside aid can assist you as well as your own eye, brain and body co-ordination.
Once the golfer masters his/her own trepidations, be it as simple as the grip, reading distance or mastering the slice, then the game comes to the golfer. All that is needed is continued practice to hone in the skills (noting that we each peak at different standards & levels).
Whether driving off the Tee or taking a second shot from half way along the fairway, the golfer’s mind should be on the task in hand. So I cannot understand this need to clutter one’s mind with useless data. So the pin is XYZ yards from your ball, but what is the point of using a book, notes, markers or an electronic aid to tell you the distance in feet, yards or even XX amount of baked bean cans? Neither my mind, nor my body operates in feet, yardage or, as I said, baked bean cans to define distance. It’s that inward instinct of looking and relooking then letting the mind control the body and shot that counts. Yards, feet or baked bean cans are data that the mind let alone the body cannot equate. Don’t agree? Then let’s look at the sequence of events when taking a shot.
Having noticed the distance from ball to pin, be it by natural visual or artificial means, having then selected ones club, the golfer just prior to his/her shot allows the mind/body to control the process of hitting the ball. It becomes automatic, sub conscious to a point. No more reference to distance be it electronic, marker, book or whatever, it’s now down to eye brain and body co-ordination. One’s eyes look to the target, then the ball, then the target. During the time the brain is controlling all the functions including checking and rechecking distance vs. strength of swing, until finally satisfied, at which time the mind is in full control instructing the body to proceed with the shot. The skill of the golfer (achieved by being a natural, well-practiced, or still learning) dictates the quality and accuracy of the shot. However, that whole process had, in truth, zero to do with outside distance information, because at the mille-seconds before the club makes contact with the ball, the mind had deleted the distance info in preference for what the eyes told the brain, and the brain instructed the body to do. In other words, all golfers when it comes to hitting the ball do so by instinct and are not in any way, governed by the distance information no matter its outside source.
The difference being, that I was taught in the end the body has controls (the control differs per individual due to nature), not via outside aids, as the brain is still faster and quicker than any current aid. Also, not forgetting that the brain will pre-set the mind/body co-ordinations to the default mode, making all other info null and void, solely relying on that last visual input at the time of the final action. So in the end we all play in the same format – that is by instinct.
Furthermore, I am able to feel totally content and satisfied that I achieved my score utilising God’s gifts and not conning myself (while spending good money) utilising useless gimmicks.
Golfers do not need distance aids. Like drinking or smoking we can get addicted to these things and when we are weaned off them our confidence suffers because we believe the distance aids were responsible for our current level of play/skill. With Distance Aids it’s just about getting over the belief that they do help when, in fact, all they actually help is to drain your bank account chasing what you already possess. There can be no more enjoyment or satisfaction in knowing you did it your way, unaided, and if it was a good shot, that inward joy that makes us play the game time after time.
What are five hidden gem courses in Scotland and England that the traveling golfer might be unaware?
The modern game has perhaps placed a different meaning to the term ‘hidden gems’. However, I define them as places that offer me good constant golf with the added bonus of the Morning and Afternoon games offering up different challenges.
At the same time, smaller clubs have courses which are enjoyably thanks to their environment. So base upon this definition I offer up the following, but in no order of preference.
I can’t leave out Askernish, can I? It’s the most encouraging course that has come to light in the last 100 years. There is a lesson to be learnt regards Land Fit For Purpose, or the need for expensive irrigation not to mention drainage. However, will potential clubs, their club committees and club owners, let alone Architects/Designers actually understand what has been achieved at Askernish or will it all be lost, perhaps absorbed in money, costs and feasibility arguments? The question, is there a will, if there is then there is always a way.
Will the word sustainability ever actually mean anything to modern club owners and their advisors? I fear, because we have this stupid mentality, that we have the money (perhaps not in the amounts we had in the past) plus the technology, so let’s rebuild it – but for what purpose? Perhaps to reduce the challenge that made it so special in the first place. Just what would be the point? So let’s enjoy a little moment or two, looking at Askernish and remember why we took up the game in the first place. You know, that great game our fathers knew so very well from their youth, pre 1940’s, that game called golf.
Askernish was born out of understanding the past by a bunch of real golfers and their generous friends, which I believe holds an important lesson for the future development of GCA. The question is will owners and clubs allow the good designers the freedom to select the land as well as undertake the design and development of the course – to work with the natural landscape or are we for ever cursed with the notion that over-watered, super manicured courses are the order of the day?
There are so many small out of the way fun courses. It’s difficult to name them all but a few worth noting are Bridge of Allan GC; Golf Club House Elie; Leven Golfing Society; Machrihanish GC; Machrie GC; Kinghorn GC; Callander GC; King James VI; Strathpeffer Spa GC; Ladybank GC; Baildon GC and CleeveHill GC. There are a host more, but it depends just what each golfer is actually seeking.