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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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For students wanting to experience how improving their impact will improve their games, Bobby suggests coming to his next Signature Golf School, creating your own private school for your own group, and/or signing up for a private lesson. Simply go to: www.impactzonegolf.com or call 239-236-5536. For those instructors who want to learn "Impact-Based®" instruction, Bobby Clampett now has a fully developed Advanced Level One online training fully supported by the PGA and LPGA with continuing education credits. For those who complete, Bobby and Impact Zone Golf are developing a Certification Program and ultimately a masters Program. Impact Zone Golf is ready to build an army of good golf instructors and rid the epidemic of frustrated golfers victimized by "style-based" instruction methods. Bobby Clampett is a well-known PGA Tour Winner and Longtime CBS Golf Broadcaster, but perhaps he will be best known for his discovery of Impact-Based® Instruction. His two golf academies are in Naples, Florida: Indoor Performance Studio (1040 Collier Center Way, Unit 14, Naples, FL 34110) and at the Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. Bobby is the first golf instructor in history to be a PGA Tour winner and earn PGA Master Professional in Teaching and Coaching. He and his team of Impact-Based® Academy Trained instructors offer year-round Golf Schools, Private Lessons, Women’s Programs, Annual and Seasonal Coaching Programs, Competitive Junior Training and much more. He now offers Instructor Training and Certification approved by the PGA and LPGA. Visit: https://impactzonegolf.com or call: 239-236-5536.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Billable Hours

    Jan 30, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Bobby Clampett loves himself some Bobby Clampett

    • gord

      Mar 6, 2018 at 11:35 am

      Is Bobby still a proponent of Homer Kelley and TGM.. the stupidest golf book ever written?

  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….

    • gord

      Mar 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Anybody who attempts to copy dopey Moe is a Moe-ron ….!

  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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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Wyndham Championship

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After one of the most exciting Sunday’s of the golfing year, attention now turns towards the race for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and the quest to attain a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. For the former, this week’s Wyndham Championship is the final opportunity for players to work their way into the top-125 in the FedEx Cup standings and earn a spot in the opening event of the playoffs. Despite many of the world’s elite understandably taking this week off, there are some big names in action here in Greensboro, with Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson all setting their sights on winning at Sedgefield Country Club this week.

Sedgefield CC is a relatively short par-70 golf course. It measures just over 7,100 yards, and it’s a golf course that doesn’t particularly favour the longer hitters. The rough is playable in Greensboro this week, and like most years at the Wyndham Championship, expect players who have their wedge game dialled in to thrive here at this event.

Last year, Henrik Stenson put on a ball striking clinic, posting 22-under par to win the title by one stroke over Ollie Schniederjans.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Webb Simpson 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 16/1
  • Henrik Stenson 18/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello 22/1
  • Brandt Snedeker 22/1
  • Shane Lowry 25/1
  • Billy Horschel 28/1

It’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Daniel Berger (35/1, DK Price $9,300), but the Floridian showed some very promising signs at last week’s PGA Championship. After opening his PGA Championship with a very poor round of 73, Berger then shined over the next three days. The American posted three consecutive rounds under par, two of which were 66 or better. It was enough to give Berger a T12 finish and plenty of momentum heading to Greensboro this week.

In St. Louis last week, Berger lead the field for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, gaining an impressive 8.5 strokes over the field. It was the second best performance with his irons in his career, and at Sedgefield, Berger is going to have hole after hole where he can attack pins with his precise iron game. The two-time winner on the PGA Tour has had a quiet year, but in a weakened field, with plenty of question marks surrounding those at the top of the market, he has a superb opportunity for win number three here in Greensboro.

A T31 finish at the PGA Championship last week means that Chris Kirk (80/1, DK Price $7,500) has now made the cut in his last ten events. From these ten events, four have resulted in top-25 finishes, and Kirk has been hitting the ball particularly well as of late. Over his previous 12 rounds, Kirk ranks fifth in the field this week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th in ball striking and eight in Strokes Gained-Total.

Kirk will cost you just $7,500 on DraftKings, and looking at some of the players that are more expensive this week, he appears to be a bargain. Kirk is three for three in cuts made at the Wyndham Championship in his last three visits, and the four-time PGA Tour champion looks in excellent shape to mount his best challenge yet in Greensboro. Over his last 12 rounds, Kirk leads this week’s field for proximity to the hole, and on a golf course where flushing short irons to close range is going to be key, the American looks to offer some of the best value around this week.

With 17 out of 19 made cuts this year, and arriving off the back of a T12 finish in his last outing, Rory Sabbatini (75/1, DK Price $7,100) looks undervalued once again on DraftKings this week. Over his previous 12 rounds, Sabbatini ranks 24th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and 10th in Strokes Gained-Total. What’s more, is that Sabbatini is coming to a golf course that he has played very well in the past. In his last two visits to Sedgefield CC, the American has finished in the top-10 twice, with his best result coming last year when he finished T4. Coming off a strong showing in Canada, and with his proficiency in making cuts and excellent course history, Sabbatini looks a great DraftKings option here this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Daniel Berger 35/1, DK Price $9,300
  • Chris Kirk 80/1, DK Price $7,500
  • Rory Sabbatini 75/1, DK Price $7,100
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The 19th Hole: Katie Kearney’s Insights from Inside the Ropes with Tiger Woods on Sunday

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“Tiger made the other players disappear!” Golf correspondent, Instagram star and St. Louis native Katie Kearney describes what it was like to be inside the ropes at Bellerive on this week’s edition of the 19th Hole with Michael Williams. Also featured are Golf Channel Contributor Ron Sirak, and Chris McGinley of V1 Golf.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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The Gear Dive: A roundtable with Mike Taylor and the Artisan Golf team

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Artisan Golf’s Mike Taylor, Dave Richey and John Hatfield speak on what it’s like being at the forefront of the “craftsman” movement, Tommy Fleetwood’s Irons, Tiger’s Nike wedges, and working with Patrick Reed. Get all the latest Gear Dive info @thegeardive_golfwrx on Instagram.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

  • 3:30 — How it all started
  • 12:15 — Checks and Balances
  • 15:20 — The Importance of a proper wedge shaft
  • 20:15 — Taylor on the high-toe trend in wedges
  • 24:00 — Patrick Reed
  • 27:00 — Artisan Putters and what makes the different
  • 34:30 — Dave Richey advice to young club makers
  • 38:00 — Tommy Fleetwood’s last set
  • 39:30 — Tigers TaylorMade Gear, “no comment”
  • 44:15 — Getting used to IG and Social Media
  • 52:00 — Mike Taylor on the power of knowledge
  • 53:30 — Mike Taylor on bounce
  • 57:40 — Tiger’s new wedge grind to cure his yips
  • 63:55 — Roundtable Favorite track
  • 64:20 — Roundtable Dream foursome
  • 66:10 — Roundtable If you had to buy a wedge/putter/irons
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