CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - As anybody who has hacked their way through 18 holes will tell you, golf is a hard enough game with two hands on the club so why would you try and play with one?
Briton Jason Palmer knows as he prepares to make his European Tour debut at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa on Thursday where he will put on display his unusual chipping game.
The 30-year-old said he would not have reached this level had he not made one key change to his game -– he chips using his right hand only anywhere within 50 yards of the green.
“I was battling with my short play into the greens with two hands, I just couldn’t get the feel right. I dreaded missing the greens and it was affecting me badly,” Palmer told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“I made the switch while on the Alps Tour in 2010, just really to try something different. As soon as I did I went on a great run of form and I’ve stuck with it. It’s freed me up and I enjoy my short game again.
“I used to get a sinking feeling when I missed the greens, but now I quite enjoy it. I get to show what I can do.”
Palmer does not get much reaction from his fellow professionals, with course etiquette suggesting you do not comment on an opponents’ technique, but he does dread pro-am tournaments where people can think he is joking around.
“Fellow pros know how the yips can have a devastating effect on your game and I know I wouldn’t be on the European Tour if it wasn’t for the change that I made.
”I do get some strange looks at pro-ams where some amateurs don’t think you are taking things seriously, but I have taken to warning them now before I play a shot.”
Palmer believes his career can be a lesson in how to adapt to something outside the norm if it helps you to be successful.
“There are countless examples of players who have struggled with a particular aspect of golf,” he said. “If you look at putting, there are a variety of different grips and so many ways to get around that.
“Chipping is a bit different in that your options are a lot more limited. I’ve seen players try to play left-handed or cack-handed even... this is what works for me.”
Palmer putts with both hands and said was the strongest part of a game that was built around hitting fairways and greens in regulation with the hope of avoiding chipping altogether.
“I’m quite a short hitter from the tee so therefore I need to be straight and accurate with my irons,” he said. “My strength is my putting. You wouldn’t look at my long game and say, ‘He’s a tremendous ball striker’.”
Palmer has not set goals for the next four days but he hopes nerves kick-in on the first tee on Thursday where he has been drawn with South African pair Titch Moore and Haydn Porteous.
“I would like to feel nervous. Generally if I feel nervous, I play better. In recent years I’ve not had the same nerves and excitement as before and it will be good to feel that again.”
Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Ken Ferris