When a living golf legend chooses to offer his golfing knowledge, it’s decidedly best to accept.
Tom Watson, an eight-time major champion and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, recently released Lessons of a Lifetime II, which introduces Disc Three to his Lessons of a Lifetime DVD anthology. While the first two discs in the series relay the fundamentals of the golf swing, the new addition provides golfers with 23 more advanced lessons including mental approach, handling pressure and practice techniques.
Lessons of a Lifetime, directed by Terry Jastrow, a seven-time Emmy Award winner, has sold over 70,000 units since its release in 2010, making it one of the best-selling instructional programs ever. It not only sells, but it works. In a survey of viewers from the first two discs, 88 percent of golfers said it helped improve their game. It has been sold globally in 40 countries and five languages including French, German, Japanese, Mandarin and English.
So what makes Watson want to share his extensive knowledge with the world?
“There’s a cloud over my head when I’m playing bad. Life isn’t as sweet. It’s a lot better when I’m playing well,” Watson told GolfWRX in a conference call. “If 10 percent of golfers improve from this, then I succeeded. I want to make you a better golfer.”
With positive feedback from the original release, Disc Three builds on the fundamentals established on the two-disc set, and includes even more stories from his golfing buddies.
Throughout the series, Watson consolidates knowledge that he’s soaked up from more of golf’s greatest minds including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Byron Nelson, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, his late caddy Bruce Edwards and his long-time teacher Stan Thirsk. He even has a lesson entitled “Tips from Tiger’s Dad.”
“I’ve plagiarized from others… and these are what I consider to be the fundamentals,” Watson said. “I’m narcissistic in the sense that these are the fundamentals that have worked for me.”
Watson has been a sponge around his all-star cast of friends over the course of his illustrious golfing career. According to Jastrow, he’s one of the smartest golfers ever, comprehensively understands the fundamentals of the game and articulates them with supreme simplicity.
Jastrow has it right. Watson breaks down seemingly every aspect of golf with an unbelievably easy to retain approach. He communicates complex moves, feelings and thoughts that are valuable to lower handicap golfers, in ways that the beginner can understand.
The combination of Jastrow’s direction and Watson’s mastery creates entertainment value and a natural flow of content that is top notch. Watson breaks down each concept with a verbal explanation and demonstration, using simple graphics (lines, circles and even virtual goalposts added in post-production) to increase understanding. He reviews key points as the series moves along and provides a checklist for every lesson.
Commonalities throughout Lessons of a Lifetime are his emphasis on setup, ball position and most importantly, grip pressure. Nicklaus was a proponent of similar notions, who was known to say that he could teach someone with a good setup and good grip, but a golfer with poor setup and a bad grip was unteachable.
Watson relayed a story from when he was having dinner with Nicklaus the night before the final round at Turnberry during the 1986 British Open. Nicklaus called Greg Norman over to their table and told him, “Just be careful of your grip pressure tomorrow.” Norman went on to win the tournament, and Nicklaus’ advice illustrates that even the world’s top players should concern themselves with how they grip the club.
“Bad grip and poor fundamentals are more likely to fail under pressure than a good grip and good fundamentals,” Watson said.
To explain phenomenons like Bubba Watson, he tells golfers to “Do as I say, not as I do. His swing may work for him, but probably not for anyone else.”
Some of the lessons in the series delve deeper and display how the body and mind should work through the swing. In Disc One, he introduced what he believes to be “The Secret,” which simplifies how the shoulders work around a plane. His knowledge of this “secret” originally began when he analyzed Corey Pavin’s swing and pre-shot rehearsals.
In the newly released Disc Three, he delivers a sequel to “the secret” in a lesson named “The Secret: #2: Keeping the Hip ‘Crease’ at impact.” It’s an original take on a concept that others before him have tried to explain.
“No one has talked about hip crease before.” Watson said. “It’s a different way of thinking that may be easier to understand. It’s sometimes hard to take words and put them into action, but it helps getting you to your left side and creating acceleration.”
On the DVD, he shows how the “hip crease” maintains stabilization of the body throughout the swing and produces power and solid contact.
As for how amateurs can improve their equipment setup (WRX members ears perk up), Watson said in the interview, “A 60-degree (wedge) shouldn’t be in most people’s bag. It’s too difficult to control distance and takes too much skill.”
He also suggests that players opt for more loft in the driver, play the ball farther forward in their stance and add more hybrids to their bag. He admits himself that he will be gaming four or five hybrids in the near future, recognizing that his status as a “super senior” is approaching.
With inherent and professional ties into the golf industry, Watson also tackled issues facing the recent decrease in the population of golfers. He believes that the golf hole should double in size for the sake of overall enjoyment, but doesn’t think it will translate to more people playing golf. The biggest problem, according to Watson, is that golf has to compete with smart phones and instant communication.
An 18-hole round of golf may simply take too long. Nicklaus has been experimenting with 12-hole golf courses, but Watson says nine, six, or even three holes would be sufficient for people to get the golfing experience.
Another popular topic in current events among golfers is the use of Trackman. How does Watson, who preaches fundamentals, feel about the widespread usage of the technology? “I’m skeptical,” said Watson. “How accurate is it? How do you figure out how far the ball went? Maybe through mathematics. The way I use Trackman is to look at the numbers when I hit a perfect shot. Then wait until I hit another perfect shot and compare the numbers to 100 percent confirm it. That’s how you should use Trackman. You have to tell Trackman when you hit a good shot.”
Golfers and teachers across the world are accepting Trackman and similar technologies into their preparation and practice routines. Numbers, angles of attack, speeds and spin rates are useful to hone the swing and equipment, but fundamentals are the heart of a golf game. That’s where Tom Watson thrives.
The MSRP is $49.95 for the entire anthology of Lessons of a Lifetime, which includes all three discs and a 20-page booklet. If you want to purchase the third disc individually, it sells on retail for $24.95 with a four-page booklet. You can buy either, or both, at www.tomwatson.com or on Amazon.
As Watson puts it, life is sweeter when you play well. There’s no better way to learn the game, or improve on bad habits, than a comprehensive look into the knowledge that a living golf legend has acquired over his career.
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Happy Father’s Day weekend and U.S. Open weekend at none other than Pebble Beach weekend! Whoa, cannot wait to see the golf action today!
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In this video, Tyler Wong, PGA Director of Player Development at NW Golf Academy at Sah-Hah-Lee Golf Course in Clackamas, Oregon, talks how kids should grip the golf club.
How kids grab the club is almost always naturally inconsistent. Don’t worry about it! They don’t need to have a perfect grip to hit good shots. Hockey style, cross-hand, and other variations of the golf grip are common for kids.
Most of the time, I just want to get the hands together on the handle. I like to use the phrase “squish the fingers,” which means get the trail hand fingers mashed together against the lead hand. If they interlock, overlap or do something else, don’t worry.
Remember the goal is to get the ball airborne and forward! Worry about the grip later!
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