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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

A conversation with a Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist

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I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend all of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National since the inception of this amazing initiative. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have attended the Masters each of the past 10 years that I have been a PGA member. Each year, I’m still like a kid on Christmas morning when I walk through the gates at Augusta National, but nothing compares to my first trip in 2010. I was in absolute awe. For anyone that’s been, you can surely agree that Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is pure perfection.

The past few years at DCP finals, I couldn’t help but notice the looks of sheer excitement on the faces of the young competitors as well as their parents. That led me to reaching out to one of this year’s competitors, Briel Royce. A Central Florida native, Briel finished second overall in the 7-8-year-old girls division. She is a young lady that I know, albeit, not all too well, that competes in some of my youth golf organization’s Tour series in Florida. I spoke to Briel’s mom at Augusta and then reached out to the family after their return to the Orlando area to get a better idea of their DCP and Augusta National experience…

So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?

Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”

What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?

Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”

How did you prepare for the finals?

Briel: “I prepared just like I did for every other tournament, practicing distance control, etc. But to be honest, you really can’t practice for this experience. The greens are like no other. The balls roll like they are on conveyor belts. I didn’t practice being in front of so many cameras, Bubba Watson, Condeleeza Rice as well as many other folks wearing green jackets. You need to practice playing under extreme pressure and scrutiny. When it is game time, you need to just do your thing and concentrate; have tunnel vision just like the ride down Magnolia Lane.”

What tour pros did you get to meet and talk to?

Briel: “WOW! I spoke to so many tour pros while I was there. I spoke to Keegan Bradley, Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Zach Johnson, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player and Patrick Reed. I also met up with the U.S. Woman’s Amateur Champion, Jennifer Kupcho, and 14-year-old baller Alexa Pano. I’m still in awe!”

 

How fast were those greens?

Briel: “Those greens were lightning quick. The balls rolled like they were on a conveyor belt; you didn’t know when to expect them to stop. Had I practiced these speeds a little more, I would have putted the 30-foot like a 15-foot and the 15-foot like a 6-foot putt.”

I also wanted to ask Briel’s parents a few questions in order to get a better idea from the standpoint of the mom and dad, on what an increasable experience this must have been.

So how cool was it driving up Magnolia Lane for you guys?

Mom and Dad: “Going down Magnolia Lane was a dream come true and we wouldn’t have EVER been able to do it without Briel’s accomplishment. Driving down was so peaceful; the way the trees are shaped like a tunnel and at the end of that tunnel, you see the Masters Flag and Founder’s Circle. Just thinking about all the legends, presidents, influential people driving down that road and we were doing the same thing was extraordinary. We appreciated how slow the driver took to get us down the lane for us to take it all in. A lot of tears. It was heavenly.”

What was the coolest part during your time at Drive, Chip and Putt and Augusta National?

Mom and Dad“The coolest part was seeing 9-year-old Briel compete at Augusta National! Seeing the whole set up and everything that goes into making this event what it is, we have no words. They made these kids feel like they were royalty. We are so truly blessed, thankful, and grateful for everything that was provided to Briel to make this a truly awesome experience. We don’t want to share too much as it needs to be a surprise to anyone else that’s reading this that may make it there.”

How impactful do you feel this initiative is to golf in general?

Mom and Dad: “You can’t possibly make any bigger impact on golf than to let golf’s future attend the best golf course and the coolest event, Drive, Chip and Putt at none other Augusta National during Masters week. The day after the event, we had a handful of people walk up to Briel to tell her that she was an inspiration to their older daughters who now want to play golf. They even requested a picture with Briel; how cool! This initiative is definately, without question, growing the game.”

It goes without saying that you were incredibly proud of your daughter but what may have surprised you most on how she handled this awesome experience?

Mom and Dad: “We are so incredibly proud of Briel! She handled this challenging and overwhelming experience very well for only being 9 years old. She was cool, calm and collected the whole time. The atmosphere at Drive, Chip and Putt can chew you up if you let it, but she didn’t let all of the distractions get to her, she embraced them.  Out of all the competitions she participated in to earn her invitation to Augusta, we truly feel she treated this whole experience like she was not at a competition but a birthday party where she was having a blast. She made many new golf friends and we met amazing golf families we anticipate spending more time with in the future. You don’t get to go to many parties where Bubba Watson is hanging out with you like he’s your best friend.”

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep 76): Rees Jones on how Tiger won at Augusta and will win at Bethpage!

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The Open Doctor Rees Jones talks with host Michael Williams about the key holes that shaped Tiger’s win in Augusta and his chances for victory at Bethpage Black in the PGA Championship. Also features John Farrell of Sea Pines Resort (host of this week’s RBC Heritage Classic) and Ed Brown of Clear Sports.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Municipal golf matters. Here’s why

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With another golf season upon us, it’s the time for many to consider the options for how and where they plan to play their golf this season. A good number of golfers would have already started paying dues towards their club memberships, some are waiting to buy a pack of prepaid passes for their local course, and like many, I’m eagerly awaiting the opening of my local municipal golf course — my muni.

Growing up, my friends and I were what you would call course rats: kids who would be there when the sun came up and there as the sun went down. Spending hours on the range often picking our own balls to avoid paying for another bucket — since that meant an extra burger after practice. It was the best “babysitter” our parents could have asked for — endless hours spent outside day after day and for the low price of just $350 for the season — plus about $5 a day for that burger I was talking about. We all ended up being pretty decent players without much instruction, based on the simple truth that we were given the opportunity to play as much as we wanted, and we were always trying to beat each other — we learned to play golf, not “golf swing.”

Living outside of the city in a smaller town, this was a “mom and pop” course that is still around today and busy, but I often wonder now as an adult if other kids that loved golf got to share in the same experience. Looking back, I don’t think I could have gotten a better education in being polite, responsible, honest, and confident — I guess this was The First Tee before The First Tee. The memories from those summers are some of the fondest I have from growing up, and with so many young families living in cities, along with the high cost of organized sports, and the closing of golf courses, municipal golf is one of the last places where this type of opportunity is available to juniors and adults alike at an affordable price.

Municipal golf has been around for a LONG time, and in this day and age it has, for some cities, become a lightning rod for budget cuts along with concerns about tax dollars being spent to fund an “elite” sport. The issue I have is cities spend a huge amount of money to help subsidize other sports fields and recreation facilities including swimming pools, ice ricks, soccer and baseball fields yet none of these sports have the “elite” tag attached to them like golf — with a young family I utilize most of these facilities too. This could end up sounding like a blasphemous statement from a Canadian, but hockey, for example, has become a much more elite and expensive sport as far as access and barrier to entry, including equipment, yet a lot of (non-hockey playing) people would chain themselves to an arena to prevent it from closing its doors.

I’m not here to argue the merits of a city budget, but I am fully aware of the perception many people have about golf. Recently, speaking to one of the golf professionals at a city-owned course near me, he told me they are one of the few city recreational facilities that actually turns a profit thanks to high traffic the course sees, along with efficient use of the clubhouse facilities for events during the season, and in the offseason.

What I love about “muni” golf is that it really is the course for the people. St Andrews in Scotland, for example, is by definition a “muni” public golf course. The course and the “R & A Club” are separate entities, and if you can show a handicap card (and can get a tee time), you can play one of the many courses located in the town.

The munis I play the most because of proximity are Kings Forest Golf Course and Chedoke Civic Golf Courses in the city of Hamilton. The Chedoke courses are in no way a “Championship Test” heck, the shorter Martin Course tops out at just over a whooping 5,700 yards ( that’s a VERY generous number based of the tees actually used), but like St. Andrews it’s home to more than just golfers. Early morning and late afternoon you will find people strolling the paths, walking their dogs and just enjoying the green space — something that as cities continue to grow will be needed even more. It’s not closed on Sundays and doesn’t become a park like St Andrews, but even during winter you will still find dog walkers, cross country skiers, and people sledding down hills. That seems pretty multipurpose if you ask me.

As much as I pick on, and use my local Chedoke as my example, I do it out of love, like a little brother. The Martin course is a Stanley Thompson design with a bunch of very cool holes build into the Niagara Escarpment. It’s a ton of fun to play.

What makes muni golf accessible for so many players from juniors to seniors and everyone in between is the affordability. Sure the conditions might leave something to be desired on a day-to-day basis, but it’s understandable when you have a course staff of 5-6 versus more than a dozen like at high-end facilities. At the end of the day, it’s 18 tees with 18 greens and the company you are with that makes a round of golf, not the height of the fairways or rough or the occasional bunker in need of a good raking.

Locally, a junior membership is right around $500 bucks and that gets you unlimited golf with no tee time restrictions. It’s a pretty nice deal if you ask me. What makes golf different from other individual activities and team sports (something I would like to note I was very active in as a younger person) is that it can be played at any time, and you can easily be pair up with three other random people to just play the game together regardless of gender, age, or skill. It’s often those rounds that are the most fun. No scheduled practice and “game days” like other sports. That means seven days a week access, not just a few hours here and there like many other organized sports.

If we look at the bigger picture and data from the National Golf Foundation (2017), there are just over 11,000 PUBLIC golf facilities in the United States. The average price paid for an 18 hole round of golf was only $34 at these public facilities, which sounds to me like a very reasonable cost. If the “average” golfer plays 10 times a year, that’s only $340 (yeah, I know I’m good at math) and with the buyers’ market in the used equipment space, even if you need a full set up of clubs to get started it can easily be had for less than $400, and you can have those clubs for a long time. A true recreational player will have just as much fun with a 580XD, and 3-PW set of Ping Eye 2s, as they would with a shiny new set of clubs.

Whats even more interesting is there are recent examples of municipal/small, privately-owned golf courses making big comebacks thanks to passionate individuals and cities willing to understand the value a course really has.

The best two are Goat Hill Park and the Winter Park 9 – I’ll let Andy Johnson from The Fried Egg give you the rundown: The Fried Egg Profiles Winter Park. Two courses on opposite sides of the country achieving fantastic results and offering extremely affordably priced fun golf to boot. It’s the sense of community that these places created that make them beacons in the landscape. I may be an outlier but I know that if given the opportunity to volunteer at my course for a few hours once a week to help fix a bunker, clean up fallen branches, or just help with general course maintenance in exchange for the ability to golf I would be first to sign up.

It’s a program like this that could also work for juniors (within a reasonable age obviously) to not only help grant more access to golf but teach about agronomy and respect for the course itself. I can only imagine that this type of “education” and team environment would help create more life-long golfers. (Please remember this would be 100 percent voluntary and open to both kids and adults alike. I’m not asking or suggesting free hard labour.) Some retirees already do something like this as course marshals.

At this point, I think it’s important to state that I am NOT anti-country club and private course; I love private courses too! Conditions are top notch, the architecture is in most cases primo, which also has a lot to do with the land they were put on when they were founded (especially in North America) rounds are played quickly, perfect practice facilities, I could go on and on. I have a lot of friends that are members at clubs, and like many people in the industry I know a lot of pros that are happy to grant the occasional access on slower days to “friends in the industry.” I love playing golf one way or the other, but at heart I’m a muni kid that has a huge amount of respect for the game and both sides of the fence, regardless of where someone started in the game, or where you choose to play now, we’re all playing golf, and that’s the most important thing.

Sure the pros on T.V. play high-end often expensive and private courses, which is great for entertainment and sponsorships, but municipal golf where you are going to find the largest percentage of golfers who are really the heart and soul of the game. If we really want to #GrowTheGame (a phrase used way too often) and maintain some semblance of accessibility for the next generation of “muni kids” having municipal golf is a critical part of that.

Ask your local course manager or pro how you can help, attend city council meetings. I know I have many times to listen to arguments from both sides and to participate in the discussion. Golf as a whole will be better off for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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