They say Seve Ballesteros was a short game artist, but I thought watching video of him chipping would be a trifle boring. Now, after viewing Seve’s short instructional tape on YouTube, I feel like I just had a painting lesson from Matisse.
Seve is gone over five years now, a victim of brain cancer that took him in 2011 at age 54.
But what a golf legacy he left behind: over 50 wins in 15 countries in 15 years; five major victories; world number 1 for 61 weeks between April 1986 and September, 1989; ranked in the year-end world top-10 from 1977 through 1991; career highlights that included making a birdie after hitting his tee shot into a parking lot; and an instructional video focusing on his technique around the green, called The Short Game.
The Short Game is findable online in its full 64-minute version on YouTube, but there are also short pieces of the video broken into two to seven-minute sections that cover different shots around the green – the high shot, the low shot, the putt from off the green, etc.
I fully expected to spend as brief a time as possible viewing a few sample segments, and then writing about it. Instead, I sat transfixed for over an hour as Seve revealed the swing-thoughts, set-up and stroke for each of the different obstacles we face with chips and pitches.
His English isn’t perfect and there were a few times when I didn’t get exactly what he said the first time, but overall his instructions are clear, his drills and demonstrations are impressive and the archival footage showing some of his tournament play is priceless.
The video was filmed in Dubai sometime in the late 1980s, early 1990s after the release of his book, Natural Golf by Seve Ballesteros and John Andrisani, (hardcover in 1988, paperback in 1991, still available on Amazon, new or used.
The complete video starts with some basic fundamentals like Seve demonstrating how he takes his overlapping grip, (as opposed to the interlocking grip “used by Mr. Nicklaus”), the set-up, the stance, and how to aim. Then it turns its attention to how to get the ball close to the pin from 100 yards and in.
Over the next 55 minutes, Seve goes from full shots to half-wedges, pitch shots to bunker explosions, and he even touches on bad lies and his famous left-handed backhand chip on to the green. He shows us how to hit the bump-and-run, the little spinner and the fast stopping lob shot.
One thing that becomes clear in the video’s opening scenes and is demonstrated throughout is how great of hand-eye coordination Seve had; you can see his golf imagination at work early in the video as he dribbles the ball off his wedge face, between his legs and then pops it into his pocket.
Besides the golf, it’s good to again be reminded of how engaging Seve was. He flashes a wry smile or a quick grin after he takes a shot or makes his point on screen and you almost feel touched by the man’s charisma.
I’ve watched the entire video now and I want to go to a practice green where I can hit chips and pitches and try shots I don’t normally attempt until I’m forced to.
I know when I do, I’ll hear his voice in my ear and his swing thoughts will guide my hands as I clip the ball from the grass and send it in a high arc toward the chipping green. When the ball lands and stops tight to the hole, I’ll smile…and then wonder, is that a little flamenco guitar music I hear in the distance?