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Jimmy Ballard: Golf’s most underrated teacher?
Post by GolfWRX Member – Dan “danattherock”
My journey towards learning how to properly swing a golf club has introduced me to all kinds of stuff. I have attempted to understand books from many of the most well known teachers and players. The norm for me is that I get a pearl or two from each book, dvd, etc.. but I never find an entire blueprint to go by that I can believe in or perform. I also have several ‘training’ aids in my garage collecting dust. I have a shelf full of books and dvds in my office. Golf is truly inundated with snake oil.
Last week I spent two days down in Atlanta with Jim Grant at The Standard Club. Jim worked under Jimmy Ballard for years and teaches his connected golf swing as it is called. My intention originally was to attend Jimmy’s 3 day golf school in Key Largo, Florida. He lives there and does about a half dozen schools each summer. Unfortunately, I was not able to make that trip. My research and contact with Jimmy Ballard and his wife led me to Jim Grant, long time friend and disciple of Jimmy Ballard.
So I am driving down I-85 last Tuesday morning. Wondering what (if anything) I will learn in the next two days. Worried that I have spent another grand on nothing substantial. Questioning my decision but at the same time holding on to the hope that this will be the real “aha” moment. As it turns out, I stuck gold. Every aspect of this trip was unreal. The facility was as nice as any I had seen and Jim was a breath of fresh air. He smiled, explained fallacies of the golf swing, and told fascinating stories about his days on the PGA tour. The whole time he just kept rolling balls out in front of me on the range offering a tiny suggestion or feeling that would help me out.
During the two days, he taught me the basics of Jimmy Ballard’s swing principles. I drove home with a new outlook on golf and 15 pages of notes in a notebook. There is not one phase written down that I don’t understand. A first in my pursuit of golf proficiency. If I miss, I know what caused it. If I hit a perfect shot, I know what caused it. If I push the ball, I know one of two reasons for my doing so. For a lack of better terminology, I feel empowered. In contrast, every other lesson I had ended in me riding home with my head spinning trying to remember what I was taught and wondering how I would be able to process and hold on to the information.
A few years back I bought Bobby Clampett’s book, “The Impact Zone”. Until getting Jimmy Ballard’s book and dvd recently, “The Impact Zone” was the book that had the biggest impact (pun intended) on my golf swing. Cliff notes for the yellow book some say, his book was (and still is) very valuable to me. I even bought the yellow book, but couldn’t understand it. In the end, I can say I agree with many of TGM principles, I just can’t digest or employ the material. Unfortunately, my experience doesn’t seem that rare.
I even dabbled in S&T recently. More specifically a hitting pattern that blended components of S&T with TGM principles. At 6’6″ 300 lbs, I had a very hard time physically doing what was asked of me. My instructor, local, was fantastic. And to his credit, when I did what he asked of me, I made very solid and consistent contact. But in the end, low back pain forced me to abandon the swing. I am sure S&T will work for many, but for me, it just wasn’t meant to be.
In contrast, reading Jimmy’s book and watching his one hour dvd is more like having a beer with a friend. Casual conversation, loaded with facts, pictures, and references to all the greats in the game. Much reference (and reverence) is given to Ben Hogan. It is a very simple approach to something I have admittingly made harder than it needed to be. A basic athletic motion with a few (7) key concepts. None of which seem contrived or require super human flexibility, timing, or athleticism. My main obstacle is simply undoing all the damage I have done to my golf swing before hearing of Jimmy Ballard.
Interestingly enough, all this originates with Babe Ruth of all people. A tip (hankerchief under left arm) he gave a team mate (Sam Byrd) who later won 25 events on the PGA tour after retiring from baseball. The same guy that helped Ben Hogan. He taught it to Jimmy way back when and it gave birth to Jimmy Ballard as a teacher. We likely would have never heard of Curtis Strange or Hal Sutton had Sam Byrd not taught Jimmy Ballard what Babe Ruth taught him way back when. A fascinating story, truly. But as I said, most importantly, it just makes sense.
My time with Jimmy’s swing principles has been brief and I hesitated to make this post to be honest. But in the two weeks since seeing the dvd and only six days since spending time with Jim Grant, my golf swing has already changed. I still have not read the book in it’s entirety. I am 39 years old and have been playing golf on some level of consistency since I was in high school. I have hit shots in the last week that I never thought possible. The contact is more solid, I am one club longer, and the trajectory is higher. For the first time, I am consistently getting out of bunkers. My driver is finding the fairway more than usual. Golf is not rocket science I am finding out. The odd thing, I feel like I am doing less, not more, to facilitate this.
I started this thread to see if anyone else has benefited from Jimmy Ballard’s teachings. Also, thought it would be good to make other struggling golfers aware of someone that the golf community in general has not acknowledged as much as would seem deserved. To make a very long story short, some of Jimmy’s principles defy what is commonly taught by the PGA and it’s stable of highly qualified instructors. Being that the average handicap has not been lowered in recent decades, I find this to be more of a reason to see what Jimmy has to offer, not the other way around.
Very interesting article below about Jimmy Ballard for anyone interested….