Who Was the First to “Spot Line” on the PGA Tour?

Who Was the First to “Spot Line” on the PGA Tour? August 13, 2022

Lots of players on the PGA Tour now spot line. When I first saw Justin Rose standing behind his ball on an iron shot to the green, holding his club up, and looking at his target and his club shaft, perhaps with one eye closed, I wondered what he was doing. Was there something wrong with his eye? Or was he trying to see if his golf shaft was straight or bent?

[I played with Arnold Palmer at Tucson one year when he pulled his five iron shot on the par three 17th hole, and that ball landed in the bunker. Arnie then held his club up and looked at the shaft to see if it was bent. He then held the grip with his right hand and tried to turn the club head with his left hand, to see if the club head and shaft were loose in the hozel. I thought, “Only Arnie.” I mean he was trying to blame his bad shot on an equipment malfunction. But really, if you Palmer well, like we did, he was always messing with his clubs. So, he likely thought that he had messed with that five iron too much.]

No, Justin Rose–the 2013 U.S. Open winner from England–was spot lining in a way that I had never seen before. Spot lining was not done much on the PGA Tour during my career; but it has become more popular in recent years. I tried it some, but I never got into it. I don’t know why. Maybe I didn’t give it a good enough try. To the average golfer, it seems kinda “mechanical.” That’s something I tried not to do too much. With my mathematical mind, I could get too mechanical, especially tinkering around with my golf swing. They call that “paralysis by analysis.”

One time early in my career on the PGA Tour, I was playing with Jack Nicklaus in a Tour tournament and noticed him doing something that I had never seen done before. While Jack was addressing his iron shot to the green, he would look at a spot on the ground about six inches or a foot in front of his ball and on his line to the green. Then he would look back at his ball without looking up at his target. He would do that at least once or twice. And if I recall correctly, the last time he did that he would look up at his target and look back at his ball before making his swing and thus hitting his iron shot.

So, I asked Jack about it. He explained that just before he addresses his ball, he stands behind the ball and looks up at the green. Then he looks for some type of spot on the ground that is on his line to his target. Maybe it is a few inches from his ball or a foot or more. [Jack never held his club shaft up to help him see his line to his target, as Justin Rose does, which seems to be a finer improvement on Jack’s method.] Jack would then address his ball, aligning the leading edge of his iron club perpendicularly to that spot on the ground. That way, Jack said, he never gets misaligned to his target with his club face when he addresses his ball. I was surprised.

I then told Jack that I had never known of a PGA Tour pro doing that. Jack may have then said that he didn’t know of any Tour player doing it either. Regardless, I then asked Jack if he ever does that on putting. He said “no,” and I think I recollect correctly that he added that he had never thought of doing it on putting. I then said the reason I asked him that was that there is a pro on the Tour who does that all the time, but only on his putting, and that is our friend Dale Douglas. Jack then said he didn’t know that.

I should then have gone to Dale and asked him if he had ever tried his spot lining on his iron shots. And if he had said “no,” I would have told him there is a guy out here on the Tour who does that, but he’s never tried it in putting. [Maybe I did do that and have forgotten.]

Anyway, I think Jack Nicklaus was the first PGA Tour player to ever do spot lining on full shots on the Tour, and maybe Dale Douglas was the first to do it on putting. But who was the first to do spot lining on the PGA Tour, whether on putting or full shots? Was it Jack Nicklaus or Dale Douglass? I dunno. If I would have asked Dale that, he probably would have had something funny to say. Dale Douglas was a really nice guy.

[See my next post today about my friend Dale Douglass passing away last month.]

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