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Q&A with Martin Chuck, inventor of the Tour Striker training aid

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Every invention is born out of a problem, which rings especially true when it comes to training aids for golfers. Nearly every training aid was made to correct a specific problem — whether it be an inside takeaway, a slice, topping the ball, etc. — and golf instructors will use these products to help translate a feeling into a reality for their students.

For some, learning through training aids is the only answer.

Recently I spoke to Martin Chuck, the inventor of the Tour Striker training aid, about the origin of his training aids and how he uses them to help students achieve a desired result. Chuck is no slouch as an instructor, either; he was recently named a Top-100 golf instructor by Golf Magazine.

Chuck teaches out of his academy in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he’s one of the lead instructors with Revolution Golf, an online game-improvement program. Enjoy my Q&A with him below.

1) Let’s start by discussing your thoughts and experiences that went into creating The Tour Striker.

I’ve been teaching for 32 of my 48 years. I started as a range assistant for Canadian Legend, George Knudson. I was always amazed at the intent of the player. We’ve all been told to “let the club do the work,” but that means different things to different people. One day in 2006 while coaching a really intelligent, retired new golfer, it dawned on me that no matter what I said to him about typical impact alignments and allowing his weight to rotate and relocate to his lead foot, he was going to try and hoist the ball off of the ground and arrive on his trail foot. My instruction couldn’t overwhelm his instinct. Between fat and thin shots, he could actually hit a “decent” shot from time to time, while prying it off the grass with the bottom of the club.

That lesson inspired me to go to my cart barn where we had a work bench with modest tools. I took an old Jerry Barber “Shankless” 7 iron that had lived in the lost and found barrel for longer than my time at that golf course. I began grinding. I ground off the bottom grooves of that iron, occasionally hitting a few shots to make sure I could still get it airborne with a decent swing. The following week when it was time for our lesson together, I handed him the club and asked him to hit it. He said, “I can’t hit that?!” as he looked at the oddly shaped club. I calmly took it back out of his hands and hit a normal-looking 7 iron. At that moment, I could see the light go on for him. I explained that effective strikers have figured out a way, their way, to get the club swinging through a forward-leaning condition during the moment of the strike. I wish I could tell you that he now shoots par, but that’s not the case. He did immediately change his intent and start hitting more powerful shots. His body dynamics improved as well. Once he had a better understanding of impact, his game improved.

2) Why is there a need for this training aid? 

Most of the thousands of golfers I’ve coached over the years lack body awareness in some way or another and I’m at the top of that list. Golfers go into a “black out” mode during their swing. It’s hard to feel what is going on during the 1-1.3 seconds of a decent swing.

As a coach, I use “awareness aids” so golfers can have certainty in their practice goals. The Tour Striker Smart Ball has been a well-received product by some of the best players in the world. Marc Warren, a Scottish Tour Professional and member of the European Tour, gave it credit for righting his game at a critical time during the end of the year, allowing him to retain his Tour Card. British Open Champion, Darren Clarke, uses the Smart Ball regularly during practice to avoid getting his trail arm stuck behind him. I can’t begin to tell you how much it helps beginners and those who struggle with intermediate wedge shots. It almost guarantees that your arms and body work together allowing for a more reliable impact. Some of my more limber students can mash full drivers with the Smart Ball. Best of all, I don’t need to be with them and they can practice effectively on their own.

3) Does this apply to all players? What about the ones who have too much lag? 

I think it is impossible to have “too much lag” if the body is working properly. The modern phrase “handle dragging” is all but impossible if the player’s lead shoulder is raising and working behind them as a result of effective use of the large muscles. I do see some people try and stay down too long and force the handle awkwardly “down the line.” If they hit it too low, I’ll encourage them to let the club “overtake” the hands during the swing, but that overtaking progression includes some forward lean during the impact interval. After the strike, the club should free-wheel and the hands/wrists can go where the physiology of their body takes them. Thankfully the army of coaches out there these days aren’t telling people to keep their head down to a fault any longer.

4) How has the “business side” of the instructional business shaped your future?

Being a teaching pro isn’t for sissies! I’ve always loved being a teacher, but it isn’t that easy to earn a great living. After my playing days, I became a Head Professional. I had the security of a day job and could teach for the love of it. A stand-alone teaching pro is a tricky gig! You either work at a country club with an audience, a public range where you kill what you eat, train a young player who becomes a world beater… you get the idea. You have to absolutely love it and be prepared to starve.

I was very lucky. I had a great intro to the teaching world when I was young and never lost my love for it. Through my good fortune with Tour Striker Training Products, I was able break away from the “day job,” guaranteed to feed my family and through the urging of Momma Striker, my wife Stacey, I left the club management role and started a Golf Academy six years ago. It has been a blast and I’ve been very fortunate.

At around the same time, I started on as a Faculty Coach for an online platform called Revolution Golf. They have done a wonderful job attracting viewers, so a lot of people around the world are exposed to my teaching style. It’s been the catalyst for my successful golf school. I’ve learned that to be a sought after coach, you have to put yourself out there. Meaning you can’t be afraid of success or criticism. If people don’t like you, grow a thicker skin. If you are genuine and care about the journey of the golfer, you’ll do great.

5) What other issues needing training aids do you see in the future?

I’m not a rocket scientist, so my training aids are very simple. To this date, no batteries required! My studio is pretty “tech’d” out with Trackman, Gears, BodiTrak, JC Video and other gadgetry. I am excited to see what happens with the breakthroughs in “virtual” golf. I think there will be some cool awarenesses occurring by looking at yourself virtually in real time from different angles. Almost like being your own coach. At worst, you might choose to not wear a certain shirt/short combo down the road.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. John O

    Mar 13, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Fantastic guy and still one of the best and most popular in the Revolution Golf line-up. I have some of his videos and would love to participate in one of his in-person coaching weeks. I heard he has made the Top 100 coaches list, totally deserved.

  2. Ross Freedman

    Mar 13, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Martin is a phenomenal teacher of golf. He uses aids as a tool to help students understand what he is trying to convey. Martin helped me recover after three years of horrendous golf. I cannot thank him enough.

  3. Chris

    Mar 13, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Always liked his approach to things. Wish he would have gotten the Golf Channel gig a few years back. The Tour Striker got me started on my path to better golf. Thanks Mr. Chuck!

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Instruction

Golf 101: 3 fundamentals to straighter shots

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Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kyla Carlson (Alaska), Hayley Mortensen (Oregon), Garret Howell (Arizona) and Seth Abrahamson (Guam), four students in New Mexico State University’s PGA Golf Management Program.

It is our belief that the majority of golfers are looking to achieve a straighter ball flight at a more normal trajectory. To accomplish this, we put together three fundamentals to help golfers improve. They are:

  1. Contact the Ball with the Center of the Club Face
  2. Contact the Ball when the Club Face is Square to the Target Line
  3. Swing the Club along the Target Line

Below, we take a step-by-step approach to helping golfers achieve these fundamentals so they can hit straighter shots.

Fundamental #1: Contact the Ball with the Center of the Club Face

In the photo above, Hayley demonstrates the circular nature of the swing as she maintains her balance.

Setup: A balanced setup is one where your weight is evenly distributed between your feet (50 percent on your right foot, and 50 percent on your left foot) and evenly distributed from heel to toe. The reason for the balanced setup is that it creates a radius between you and the ball. By maintaining your balance, you maintain the radius of the swing. Therefore, the center of the club face will return to the ball.

Swing: It is important to remain balanced throughout the swing. Be sure not to slide the weight of your body from left to right, as we want a balanced, circular rotation, not a swaying motion.

Fundamental #2: Contact the Ball when the Club Face is Square to the Target

In the photo above, Garret demonstrates holding the club with the grooves vertical. In addition, he demonstrates holding the club face “open” and “closed.” respectively.

Setup: To confirm that you’re holding the club with a square club face, stand up and hold the club out in front of you so that the shaft is parallel to the ground. From this position, the grooves of the club should be vertical.

A neutral grip gives the player the best chance to return to the point of impact with a square club face. A neutral grip is one where your palms are facing each other. In addition, the palm of the right-handed golfer will face the target. The club should be positioned behind the ball so that the club face is square to the target. Then, set your body so that you’re square with the grooves of the club face and so your club is in the center of your stance.

Grip Check: With your normal grip, stand upright with the club out in front of you and allow a friend to hold the club head with his or her index and middle fingers. Once he or she has a hold on the club head, relax your joints and lean back. This will mimic the centrifugal pull that is created by the swing. Depending on the position of your hands, the club head may twist one way or the other. If it does, adjust your hands (clockwise or counter-clockwise) until the club doesn’t twist. A neutral grip will not twist.

In the photo above, Henry does the grip check to confirm that Garret is holding the club with a neutral grip.

In the photos above, Garret and Henry also demonstrate the effects of holding the club with a “strong” and “weak” grip, respectively.

Swing: The club face should maintain its relationship to the player as it swings. The player should make no attempt to twist the club face. Holding the club face with a neutral grip will allow centrifugal force to square the club face at impact (as long as the player started the swing with the club in the middle of his stance and maintained balance throughout the swing).

Fundamental #3: Swing the Club Along the Target Line

In the photo above, Kyla demonstrates swinging the club along the target line. Notice how the shaft of the golf club tracks the target line as it swings around her body.

Setup: Set the club face so that it is perpendicular to the target line (Orange Line). The shaft of the golf club should also be perpendicular to the target line. Then set the feet and shoulders so they are parallel to the target line.

Swing: The shaft of the club should track the target line and point directly at the target just prior to 9 o’clock in the forward swing. Thinking of the shaft as a fire hose or telescope can be a helpful visualization for a player to understand this concept. A drill that may be helpful is to swing a short pool noodle along the target line, stopping before 9 o’clock to look through the hole and confirm that its pointing at the target.

By understanding and practicing these fundamentals, you will experience straighter shots and have more fun playing this wonderful game.

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Instruction

Davies: The Trail Elbow In The Downswing

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In this video, I discuss the role of the trail elbow in the downswing. I also share some great drills to help golfers deliver the trail elbow correctly, which will help improve distance and contact.

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Instruction

The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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