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Bobby Clampett: Why I Could Never Go Back to My Old Swing

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In my last article, “Why Tiger and I Could Never Find a Golf Coach,” I described my journey of working with many of the top golf coaches in the world. They all wanted to change my “style” of swing without focusing on how the style change would affect my impact — the only thing that really matters in improving one’s golf game.

Times have really not changed since I began that journey midway into the 1983 PGA Tour season. Style-based teaching is still an epidemic in our game. Golfers rarely improve through traditional instruction because it isn’t focused on improving impact — just the “style” or preferred “style” of a given instructor. This epidemic has pushed countless golf stars right off the tour. David Duval, Ian Baker Finch, Mike Weir and many more all ran into style-based issues once they were influenced by this type of teaching.

In a previous GolfWRX article, one reader asked a very fair question: “Why didn’t you go back to your old swing”? He was referring to the fact that my original swing was good enough to be the No. 1 amateur in the world, earn two Fred Haskins Awards, win a record-setting 12 NCAA tournaments in three years and be a top-20 money winner in my first two years on the PGA Tour. I could write a book on this topic, but I’ll keep the discussion short for the purpose of this article.

The answer is that I probably could have, but in and of itself, it would have been quite a long process. I spent many years on the PGA Tour trying to build new golf swings. By the time the late mid 80’s rolled around, I was settling into one instructor’s style and was committed to it. I started to have a little more success and remember shooting a final-round 66 in Phoenix to finish T6 in 1987. In mid 1987, I decided to work less with a coach and be my own coach, but I still committed to the swing changes I made. I nearly won the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic at Kingsmill in the summer of 1987. I actually set a new tournament scoring record, shooting four-consecutive rounds in the 60’s, but I was beat out by a shot by Mark McCumber.

I continued on that journey like Tiger is doing now without a swing coach, choosing to focus on scoring and playing. I wish I had my understanding of Impact-Based instruction back then to guide me, but I was still searching for the elusive perfect swing. I was a hard-worker, but I still struggled and my frustrations continued to mount. By the time the 1989 season was over, my energy for playing was waning.

There was a time that I could have made the decision to go back to my old swing, but the changes were pretty grooved after seven years of trying different swing styles and ultimately settling on one. It would have taken a herculean effort to revert back to the old swing, and it certainly would have looked different. My body had changed, and the “muscle memory” or brain mylan supporting the new swing was now engrained.

Fortunately, legendary television golf producer Frank Chirkinian came to my rescue and offered me an opportunity as a television broadcaster at CBS in 1991. The pressure to perform on the PGA Tour was off, and I could focus on studying the best players in the world through the lens of the CBS cameras. I was fascinated by what I saw. All the top players have very different styles of swings — some were even darn right ugly. Upright, flat, laid-off, across-the-line. Cupped, flat and arched left wrists at the top. Big and little hip turns. Short and long backswings. Stationery and moving heads… on and on and on. The best players in the world had movements in their swings that I was trying to remove from my swing. I was intrigued and had to figure out why.

When CBS developed the Bizhub Swing Vision Camera, I had the opportunity to study the golf swing very closely — and I did. It hit me like a 2×4 across the head. Impact was virtually the same for the world’s best players, but how they got there — their individual “style” — was completely different. All the instructors were teaching styles of swings that many of the best players weren’t even using. What if I started to work from impact and go backward with my swing? What if I could be released from worrying about my style and work on impact alone?

My energy for playing the game started to return. It was the late 90’s. I was raising three small children and traveling 30 weeks a year. I had almost no time to play golf. The U.S. Open was scheduled for Pebble Beach in 2000, so I gave myself a two-year goal to try to qualify since Pebble Beach was my home course growing up. I gave myself what time I had, 10 minutes a day to practice. I wasn’t hitting balls; I simply worked on grooving a style of swing that I could own, kind of a morph between my old swing and my new one that would be good enough to produce the kind of impact I knew I needed — the impact all the best players have. I gave myself the freedom to let go of my previously held convictions that there was an ideal style of swing.

This was the genesis of my five dynamics that are illustrated in my book, “The Impact Zone,” and the cornerstone of Impact-Based instruction. After taking months to groove my swing, mostly indoors without hitting a ball, I started to hit my first shots. I would allow myself one hour per week to hit balls and would start to play on the course one day a month. That’s all the time I had for golf. I focused intently on my impact, studying my divots and watching my ball flight. I didn’t have the luxury of the technology we have today like high-speed cameras, accurate launch monitors and force-plate systems that make studying impact so much easier.

I played a six-round golf marathon one day, helping to raise money for a friend. In the final round, I shot 63 playing in less than 2 hours by myself. Months later, I qualified for the U.S. Open. I led the tournament through much of the first round and made the cut, finishing T37. When I shared the story with the press after the first round, they were amazed that I could have performed this well on 10 minutes a day of practice, a bucket of balls a week and a round of golf a month after not having competed in two years. The key, I shared, was focusing on my impact and letting go of my swing style.

I’ve never looked back with regret, and I have learned so much through the process. I joined the PGA Champion’s Tour in 2010 and played 87 events, earning more money than I did in my 400 events on the PGA Tour. My biggest passion, however, is sharing my discoveries with others in hope that frustrated golfers will be a thing of the past and others will realize the lasting improvement Impact-Based instruction brings. That’s why I left playing the Champion’s Tour three years ago. I went on to become the only PGA Tour winner in history to attain the PGA of America’s highest level of teaching certification, Master of Teaching and Coaching. I’ve discovered that if you improve your impact, you improve your game. It’s really that simple.

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Impact Zone Golf: 1040 Collier Center Way, Unit 14, Naples, FL 34110 Call: 239-236-5536 Visit: www.impactzonegolf.com Career Objective To make a difference in growing the game of golf by helping people of all ages enjoy the game through instruction and coaching, which enables them to consistently better understand and improve their game. Instruction Personal Achievements: • In 2013, became the only person in history to be both a PGA Tour Winner and a PGA Master Professional in Teaching and Coaching • PGA and PGA Tour Lifetime member • Author of ‘The Impact Zone," a best selling and ground-breaking golf instruction book • Founder of Impact-Based® Instruction and Instructor Training Curriculum Golfing Achievements: • Only golfer to ever win two Western Golf Association titles in the same yea: Western Junior Championship and Western Amateur Championship (1978) • In 1978, #1 ranked amateur in the United States by both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest • 1979: youngest to ever finish in the top 24 in the Masters. Record still stands today, (18 years old) • 1982 U.S. Open, Pebble Beach, 3rd Place • Set NCAA record, won 12 collegiate golf tournaments in three years. Only two-time Fred Haskins Award winner in NCAA history Professional Golfing Achievements: • Member of the California and Utah Golf Hall of Fame • In 1982, became the Youngest PGA Tour Professional in history to earn over $500,000 in Official Prize Money • Winner 1982 Southern Open • Member of the 1982 U.S. Professional World Cup Team • Member and Individual Champion in the 1981 U.S./Japan All-Star Match • Lifetime member of the PGA Tour, earning $1.4 million and compiling one win and 33 top-10 finishes (396 events) • Total PGA Tour Cuts Made: 232 • Earned nearly $1.5 Million in PGA Champion’s Tour earnings (86/87 cuts made) and had 7 top-5 finishes 2010-2014 Television Broadcasting Experience: • CBS Sports (1991 to Present) • Turner Sports (1991 through 2007) • Member of two Emmy-Award-winning teams – both at CBS Sports and Turner Sports • Have commentated over 300 golf telecasts (mostly PGA Tour events for CBS Sports) including 26 Masters, 27 PGA Championships, 16 PGA Grand Slams of Golf, 6 President’s Cups and 5 British Opens Education and Certifications: • Robert Louis Stevenson School, Pebble Beach, 1977 • Brigham Young University, AA in French, 1980 Other notable facts about Bobby: • Enthusiastic pilot with over 5,700 hours of flight time. Owns a Piper Malibu • Owner of Clampett Cellars – 8 Fine Crafted Estate wines from both Monterey County and Paso Robles • Highly involved throughout his career in many charitable ventures • Speaks French Fluently • Presented over 1,000 clinics/hosted golf outings and played in over 1000 Pro-Ams in his career

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Billable Hours

    Jan 30, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Bobby Clampett loves himself some Bobby Clampett

  2. SV

    Jan 30, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Studying divots and watching ball flight, pure John Jacobs teaching. It was good 40+ years ago and is good today.

  3. CB

    Jan 30, 2018 at 1:49 am

    Just gotta have bloody good and strong hands, is what I read from Clampett’s musings

  4. Mark

    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Not only do I find the subjects of his articles to be interesting but I also enjoy reading them. His standard of writing is so much higher than the many others who write for GolfWRX (editorial staff most definitely included).

  5. Reeves

    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Had you just watched Moe Norman for 10 minutes you would have seen clearly how you got to impact was up to you. add to that 2 minutes of John Daly and Lee Trevino in their prime and impact would clearly be the only similarity….

  6. Scott

    Jan 29, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    thank you for sharing

    • Ben

      Jan 29, 2018 at 5:01 pm

      I hope Bobby shares his thoughts on TGM as well.

      • Engineer Bob

        Jan 30, 2018 at 10:43 am

        I can tell you what I think of TGM: IT’S TOTAL RUBBISH!!!

  7. the dude

    Jan 29, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    ….and if you want to know more…..buy my Impact golf DVD…..all the secrets are in there…

  8. Brett Weir

    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Thank you Mr. Clampett for your philosophy of being impact oriented. For years and years I’ve been focusing on having the perfect backswing, downswing, and follow through and never broke 80. I almost quit the game until I came across your teachings and focused on impact. For the past 2 years I didn’t care what my backswing and follow through looked like and focused on impact (keeping the clubface as square through impact for as long as I can with a lot of shaft lean). Because of that, my scores are in the 70s. One day, I decided to video my new swing and to my shock, my backswing, downswing, and follow through were the most ideal I’ve seen in years. You will naturally have the ideal swing for yourself if you focus on having the ideal position at impact.

    • Ben

      Jan 29, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      ” For years and years I’ve been focusing on having the perfect backswing, downswing, and follow through and never broke 80.”
      This suggests to me that you were overly conscious about your swing rather than swinging free of swing thoughts. IOW, you were trying tho think your way through the swing. By focusing your thoughts on impact you liberated your conscious mind and went into automatic mode. Your swing became more natural and simply, worry free.

  9. Allan

    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Interesting insight into your swing evolution. Could you tell us how your swing was influenced by Homer Kelley’s The Golfing Machine. You were a proponent of TGM but now you seem to have found your own golf swing philosophy. What changed? Thanks

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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Podcasts

Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

Listen to the podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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19th Hole

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