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Opinion & Analysis

How about that latest swing tip you just saw?

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When I hear that golf is too hard, I reflect back to the hundreds of conversations I have had with pro-am participants with whom I played and observed. Having recently played in over 200 pro-ams during my five years on the PGA Champion’s Tour (that’s 800 golfers) and with my experience teaching clients in golf schools and private instruction, I feel I have a good sample of golfers from which I’m basing the following theory. What I discovered was an increased frustration level among golfers when their games were not improving over time as they had expected.

Many had tried lessons that didn’t help. Most were listening to various television programs, watching YouTube, getting email tips or reading golf magazines and trying to apply those tips to improve their games. All of that wasn’t necessarily helping, however, and in most cases it was making their games worse. So… why is that?

Golfers have been bombarded with information about how to improve their games. Today, there is more information available at your fingertips than at any other time in golf history. Much of this information is contradicting and conflicting. One instructor suggests that the bowed left wrist position at the top is preferred, while another suggests a flat wrist or even a cupped position. Similarly, one instructor suggests that the proper plane of the backswing is with the shaft pointing outside the target line, while another suggest inside or pointing to the plane line.

Some of the information out there could be helpful, but golfers generally aren’t able to discern what information is pertinent to them without help. Confusion results; they don’t improve and their frustration level grows.

Recently, one of my pro-am players had read an article and watched a video that claimed the key to game improvement was “going left through the ball.” The instruction he received was telling golfers to get the hips to move like the tour players, rotating strongly to the left through the ball and letting the hands go with it. Clearly, Tour players exhibit this kind of move and the instruction isn’t wrong. But this particular player who watched the video had an “over-the-top” swing path, which was then exacerbated when he tried to rotate the hips more and move the hands more left through the ball. He didn’t understand how to apply the lesson, and therefore the result was a bigger slice, weaker shots and more inconsistency. He was clearly frustrated with his game.

Another frustrated student read an article that suggested making a bigger shoulder turn would increase clubhead speed and add distance. Again, this isn’t necessarily wrong advice, but in this student’s case, a bigger shoulder turn put his hands and arms out of sequence, moving his swing bottom farther behind at impact. The result for him was an increase in fat and thin shots — ultimately less distance and more inconsistency.

The key to understanding if a tip or move will be beneficial for YOU is in understanding your impact and then relating what affect a move change will have on your impact. If your impact is improved with this move change, one’s game will improve. If the move change is being done because it’s what the pro’s do, chances are it will make things worse.

I’ve seen golfers improperly interpret and apply information for years, and I’ve witnessed the frustration that results. One can enjoy the entertainment of reading or watching all of these instructional tips, but remember, swing tips will only improve your game if they improve your impact.

The key to playing better golf is to work with a qualified instructor; one with whom you really connect and has a proven track record of helping all types of golfers lower their scores. In my opinion, the instructors who will help you the most are the ones that won’t make you conform to their preferred style of swing (which I can tell you can be a very arduous process), but rather will focus on what changes you can do to specifically improve your impact conditions.

Good instructors have the ability to relate the movement change they want their student to make to what aspect of their impact they want to improve. Good instructors understand all those elements of impact, as well as where the student is deficient and how to most effectively change the swing pattern to fix that aspect of impact.

Golf is a game of “impact” much more than it is a game of “style.” The greats of the game have had some rather strange swings, but they all share great impact dynamics. Poor golfers can even have a pretty looking swing, but their impact conditions are often very different from the best players. Technology can now illuminate this and should only be used by good instructors who can interpret the data correctly to support, measure and verify that the student’s impact is improving.

I’ve seen it over and over again; improve a student’s impact and they shoot lower scores. Conversely, work on their style of swing to make it look better and it may or may not improve their impact. Good instructors understand the difference and can prove to their students whether they are getting better or not.

When students become familiar with all the aspects of their impact and begin to improve each aspect, they become empowered. They begin to understand that golf is no longer a mysterious game full of subjective opinions, but rather a game that can be completely understood, rid of all enigmas. This is the cornerstone of true game improvement. The golf ball goes where we hit it… every time! It is the conditions of impact that our swing creates that send the ball exactly where it goes.

So, enjoy watching those shows and videos, and reading the latest tips, but don’t run off to implement them until you visit your trusted coach and instructor.

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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.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. david

    Mar 8, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Thanks Bobby, echoing an above sentiment, this is the ONLY instruction article I’ve read that’s worth reading!

  2. Ray Bennett

    Mar 7, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Finally an article on instruction worth reading. True old teachers taught learning impact positions in the short game before moving on to the long game.That is how most professional golfers learnt to play at an early age. Those coming to golf as adults from other sports learn the game from the other end, thinking that if hey can master the long clubs everything else will fall into place. Good luck with that!!

    • steve

      Mar 7, 2018 at 11:45 pm

      Adults taking up golf want instant gratification, just like kids. Harvey Penick said it best in his Little Red Book… “Golfers are gullible.”…. and boy does it show up on this gearhead forum.

  3. Bob Jones

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Or the tip might describe something you’re already doing but aren’t aware of, and you end up overdoing it and think you shouldn’t do it at all.

  4. Brett Weir

    Mar 6, 2018 at 9:09 am

    You’re my hero Mr. Clampett.

    • gord

      Mar 6, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Is Booby Clampett still a proponent of Homer Kelley’s TGM – the stupidest golf book ever written? :-p

      • hal

        Mar 6, 2018 at 12:21 pm

        Real golfers don’t read books…. they find The Secret in the Dirt…. along with pigs and burrowing creatures.

      • Nick

        Mar 8, 2018 at 4:51 pm

        I think Clampett does a good job distilling TGM down to key points. The stupidest book ever written is “What Happened” the stupidest golf book was Square to Square.

  5. acew/7iron

    Mar 6, 2018 at 7:42 am

    The “Secret in the Dirt” is in one of those youtube videos…You just have to find that needle in the haystack.

    • gord

      Mar 6, 2018 at 11:30 am

      sure sure… just bury your head in the dirt and hope….

  6. OB

    Mar 6, 2018 at 1:42 am

    If your body is not athletically conditioned and trained for rotary motion you will never “improve”. You can’t just patch in a golf “tip” for instant success, and no amount of lessons will rescue the golf swing of a decrepit person. That’s the brutal bitter truth.

    • hal

      Mar 6, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      ‘truth’ on a golf forum? you gotta be sick.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf

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I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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Opinion & Analysis

By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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