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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 at Combine Performance in Scottsdale, Arizona. 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 60 people in the world.

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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

A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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Instruction

6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Instruction

Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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