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.