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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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In this video, I share two great drills that help golfers take their hands out of the golf swing. These drills encourage more rotation through impact with quieter hands to improve consistency.

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In this video, I offer my simple formula on ball position that has seen my students produce more consistency. Watch to see how you can adapt your ball position to hit more shots on target.

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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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