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Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

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Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Newton Hino

    Apr 6, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    Like Main stream media(NBC Golf Channel) they strive on sensationalism and outrages notions etc.
    Chamblee is no exception, they need controversy and ratings. So this won’t stop no matter how absurd.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Apr 6, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Authors note: I just got a call from Mr. Bob Toski complimenting this article. Bob, of course, is one of the legendary players and teachers of the game, and it was very nice of him to call and say thanks. We talked about individual methods, Jordan Spieth’s grip, and a bunch of his tour days. It was a pleasure to hear from him. He’s 93 and doing well! Thx again Mr. Toski.

  3. Dennis Clark

    Apr 6, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Author’s note: I

  4. Al Wood

    Apr 6, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    Ben Hogan was asked many times why he didn’t have a swing coach or teacher, and he said that he couldn’t find anyone who could beat him. He figured it out on his own. I think too many swing thoughts in your head causes bad reps. Play by feel and get up and wing it and you’ll play better for the average golfer.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 6, 2020 at 3:02 pm

      the answer is in the dirt! he was one of a kind

    • Evan

      Apr 7, 2020 at 5:23 am

      Hogan had plenty of lessons and influences in developing his swing-Stan Leonard, Sam Byrd, Henry Picard, Demaret…It was far from a home made swing.

      • Dennis Clark

        Apr 7, 2020 at 9:31 am

        Correct, No one is actually “self taught”. That description generally means “no formal lessons”. But nobody had formal lessons back then did they? That’s like “self help books” :). what does that mean? I’m guessing anyone who is good at golf got there with a decent starting point on the grip, and someone showed them that grip. I had no formal training but i know plenty of people showed me things along the way.

  5. Lessonswasteoftimemoney

    Apr 6, 2020 at 10:59 am

    After wasting years taking lessons(neighbour is a pga pro at top course in the country) I came up with the idea of just asking a good player on the range what I was doing wrong. Pros always want to totally change your swing rather than just tweaking it. Guy on the range said my practice swing was perfect, but with my actual swing I was trying to kill the ball and was getting off balance. Problem solved!! Just swing easy now and shots are amazing. I was surprised that they actually go farther!! Would have been nive ifmy neighbour the pro had noticed that years ago!!!!!

  6. Hoganben

    Apr 6, 2020 at 10:47 am

    I came up with the best way to help.my swing…instead of wasting more money on lessons from pga pros I just asked guys I saw hitting perfect shots on the range while down in Florida. I had wasted another $125 usd on a another lesson from a PGA pro who used to play on tour and had got nowhere again. My neighbor is a PGA pro at a top course in the country and he has been of no help over 15 years. On day.we.were.playing an d he said I used to play better…I.thought yeah before I moved next door to you! Pros always want to totally change your swing. Anyway one of the guys hitting ball on the range in Florida said my practice swings with my irons were perfect. He said when I took my actual swing I was trying to absolutely kill the ball which was true. So now my actual swing is nice and easy like my practice swing and I see that the ball actually goes farther this way

  7. Freefrompros

    Apr 6, 2020 at 10:41 am

    I came up with the best way to help.my swing…instead of wasting more money on lessons from pga pros I just asked guys I saw hitting perfect shots on the range while down in Florida. I had wasted another $125 usd on a another lesson from a PGA pro who used to play on tour and had got nowhere again. My neighbor is a PGA pro at a top course in the country and.he has.been of no help over 15 years. On day.we.were.playing an d he said I used.to play better…I.thought yeah before I moved next door to you! Pros always want to totally change your swing. Anyway one of the guys hitting ball on the range in Florida said my practice swings with my irons were perfect. He said when I took my actual swing I was trying to absolutely kill the ball which was true. So now my actual swing is nice and easy like my practice swing and I see that the ball actually goes farther this way

  8. Walter

    Apr 6, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Dennis, Are you saying Jordan’s grip is too strong or did I misread your intention. I look at his grip and if anything it looks very weak on the left hand and normal on the right hand. If anything seems weird is how long a left thumb he has in his grip.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 7, 2020 at 9:35 am

      too WEAK in my opinion. His upper body runs ahead of the golf ball starting down, a sign of a weak grip. he’s a VERY talented player though and he will be back. Maybe after a slight GRIP adjustment.

  9. david goodman

    Apr 6, 2020 at 10:17 am

    I enjoy listening to Brandell, and Johnny Miller was my favourite. For the most part I agree with Chamblee’s article, and I also agree with what Dennis has to say here. I am also a teacher, and only my students could say if I’m good or not. but I have listened to some teachers near my on the range giving instruction and I’ve rolled my eyes. As said, people who paint with a broad brush always get it wrong. A couple of comments here stated that all teachers suck and can’t play, absolutely incorrect. It IS about ball flight as John Jacobs said,(who I spent some time with, and thought he was brilliant). The only area of disagreement I might have with Dennis Clark is the value of trackman to golfers other professionals. But the key is to find the teacher whose language you understand and identify with. Faldo knows golf, but on the surface they’re too technical for me as a student; I’d rather have Penick as a teacher. Again it’s all a question of your own style of understanding.

  10. Evan

    Apr 6, 2020 at 7:30 am

    Good to see you back writing here Dennis. There are great teachers out there for sure, such as yourself, however there are plenty who aren’t. On balance, however, I think the game has been taught poorly and that undoubtedly is a factor in the game’s decline in popularity.

  11. TacklingDummy

    Apr 5, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    This is a good take on the situation because Clark looks at the entire picture rather than take offense by one controversial statement. Nowadays, people seem to judge someone on a few statements and don’t look at the 99.9% of statements they made before. However, Chamblee could have made his statement more tactfully and would of delivered his message better.

  12. Raj lp

    Apr 5, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve liked Chamblee’s take on most topics. Not to say I always agree with it but he speaks so openly about most topics. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to walking on egg shells. I’ve had lessons from great teachers who have told me something like “keep your foot planted” which have salvaged a season and those that have tweaked the backswing, the impact, and the follow through in a single lesson which have cost me 2 years of misery.
    The best teachers will get you to a great impact position regardless of what template suits you.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 7, 2020 at 9:41 am

      The idea is WHY did he/she say keep your heel planted. If the teacher cannot explain the reason your lifting your heel is affecting IMPACT, then it not germane to the issue. Should jack Nicklaus give back all his majors? Or Snead all his wins? The left heel like so many things is a preference not a principle. Thx for reading

  13. mikeyC

    Apr 5, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    In golf, more than any other sport, commentators are afraid to be critical of the games stars. Who is the Stephen A. Smith of the Golf world? When did it become a sin to criticize someone in sports for their performance? Brandel is a breath of fresh air for his candor. Plus he does his homework and knows what he’s talking about.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 5, 2020 at 4:38 pm

      He’s not being critical of the stars; he’s being critical of a trend if golf instruction which he feels has misdirected some stars. Again, too broad a brush. Many of us do not instruct by how “pretty” swings are, but how well they are getting to good solid impact. If a golfers is spinning around three times and falls down when he hits it, BUT HAS GREAT IMPACT CONSISTENTLY, leave that swing ALONE, that is HIS best swing

  14. Chip2win

    Apr 5, 2020 at 7:19 am

    So, my take from reading this article is that Dennis thinks that Brandel is MOSTLY right.

    • Scott McDonald

      Apr 5, 2020 at 12:02 pm

      Agreed and I believe that he has made some great points. Chamber has a right to his opinions impact is impact but you must get the ball in the hole. Never used Trakman and have little interest. Hard to believe that PGA award winners are not visited but many do section programs where info is shared. PGA is on the hot seat now. Don’t talk about growing the game. DO It. Play with members and show them a great time. Get out and be seen in the community..

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 5, 2020 at 4:47 pm

      I made it clear what I agree with and what I don’t. He’s referring to method teaching and a “trend” in something he calls golf instruction. Every teacher should work with students individually, not a use a Method for every one. And he’s not giving Trackman enough credit; it does serve a goof purpose.I really don’t know what Brandel knows about teaching. Can he stand behind someone who’s hitting the ball on the hosel 4 out of 5 times, and correct it? We wouldn’t know because he doesn’t do that, no record to judge.

  15. steve

    Apr 4, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    Not a fan of Brandel, seems to make bold statements, even if valid, for his profile, ratings, and clicks…I’m even wasting my time now reading and writing about him, I tune him out when he’s on TV.

  16. Mitch

    Apr 4, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    None of these teachers can play worth a crap themselves , so why listen to them

    • John

      Apr 5, 2020 at 11:39 am

      This is so true. I have had contemplated lessons, and have asked instructors if I can see them hit. Many has said “I don’t think so. I don’t really play, I teach now. blah, blah, blah”

      I will say, I have had really bad lessons before. I had a really bad grip, and three instructors missed it until I found one who was like, “wait, your set up sucks. You can’t do anything in golf until grip is fixed.”

      grip fixed, body lines fixed themselves, and finally progress.

      bottom line, there are bad teachers out there that are terrible. They teach one swing, and don’t fix basic issues. I wish I could get a refund.

      • Dennis Clark

        Apr 5, 2020 at 4:53 pm

        RUN! A teacher who cannot demonstrate good solid golf shots has no credibility whatsoever. I’m 71, can shoot my age, hit high draws, low cuts etc on command. Not bragging , just saying we owe that to students.

    • chip75

      Apr 5, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Conversely, many of the best players aren’t exactly great teachers either. A lot of television analysis is basically filling dead-air. How many times have you seen Tiger’s swing taken apart, for a myriad of faults when his swing is basically identical to the one they’re comparing it too? Strike is king, but we rarely hear modern commentators say that a player just mishit it.

      As to Spieth, who knows? You find over time tried and trusted feelings or swing keys stop working, players can tie themselves in knots looking for answers, but golf is a game where a couple of inches in ball position can make the difference between striping it or hitting it out of bounds. Our bodies are the same lose 10 pounds, gain ten pounds, everything changes.

  17. Brad Worthington

    Apr 4, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    Dennis,

    Well constructed article with sound discussion points. I’m glad you took the time to write it!

  18. Baba Booey

    Apr 4, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    One thing I’ve learned about this latest Brandel episode is most instructors are snowflakes (and to an extent this author too).

    • A. Commoner

      Apr 4, 2020 at 7:23 pm

      Some people can be glad they don’t have to write for a living.

  19. GolfMan

    Apr 4, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    I agree with Brandel Chamblee’s comments. I believe golf instruction has gotten worse bc teachers aren’t as experienced as they once were. Back in the day, most of the pro golfers were teachers as well. Think Sam Snead. Just bc you have a PGA degree in teaching golf doesn’t mean you will be a good teacher.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 5, 2020 at 5:01 pm

      By the same token, Snead never spent 8 hours standing behind students watching thousands of swings for years and years. Teaching does take experience which only comes from TEACHING. I had Sam, God rest his his soul, to a club once to do a clinic and the hour was one of the least informative sessions I’ve ever witnessed. Telling golfers what YOU do because you are so accomplished at the game, does very little for them. Thx for reading.

      • GolfMan

        Apr 5, 2020 at 9:06 pm

        Perhaps Sam Snead wasn’t the best teacher, but he certainly knew what it took to be a good player. Nevertheless, you can’t be a great teacher by simply teaching methods learned in a book. A great teacher has an understanding of the game beyond what the book says. A great teacher knows the strategy of the game, has played golf at a high level and knows what works under pressure, and through many hours of practice knows what works and what doesn’t. Sure a teacher with little experience could teach someone the proper grip and setup and some fundamentals, but not much beyond that. It’s hard to teach a language when you don’t know the language yourself.

      • GolfMan

        Apr 5, 2020 at 9:35 pm

        Perhaps Snead wasn’t the best teacher, but he certainly knew what it took to be a great player. Nevertheless, you can’t be a good teacher by just reading a book. A great teacher has an understanding beyond what the book says. A great teacher knows the strategy of the game, has played golf at a high level and knows what works under pressure, and through countless hours of practice has figured out what works and what doesn’t. Sure, a teacher who relies on methods from a book and has little or no experience playing the game at a high level may teach you a proper grip and setup, but not much beyond that. It’s hard to teach a language when you don’t know the language yourself.

      • Keith Finley

        Apr 6, 2020 at 10:13 am

        Anecdote about Snead- when asked how he draws a shot, Sam replied, “I think draw”. Hmmm

  20. ChipNRun

    Apr 4, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    My history: I have a hot-cold golf swing and – until the last 10 years – moved around USA quite a bit for work. So, I have had golf lessons from quite a few different people.

    A good instructor is one who can see his student’s swing problem, and help the student improve. (If a student has a motivation problem – doesn’t like focused practice – the instructor can’t do much.) Some instructors, we just didn’t connect. Others we connected quiet well.

    Some instructors had “one way” they thought all golfers should swing – a way that had NOT worked for me in the past. On other occasions, a post-round tip from an 8-HDCPer was immensely helpful.

    For an instructor to be “good” requires: 1. flexible knowledge of the game + 2. good interpersonal fit with student + 3. willing of student to practice effectively.

    On Jordan Spieth’s swing: When JS’s tee shots start going awry, the PGA broadcast’s slow motion video often shows a torso too quiet on downswing, with the arms taking over and delivering something to the LEEEFT!

    JS is a top golfer who has a recurring swing problem that shows up on slo-mo a couple of times a season. Like many top golfers, JS moves in and out of the ZONE on a month-to-month basis.

    Too much nit-picking can lead to “paralysis by analysis.” When I have a mid-seasons lump, if I take a week off I can usually get on track in half a bucket of range balls. I just had too much mental clutter to swing smoothly.

    Sooner or later, you just have to line up your shot and hit the ball!!!

    • Joey

      Apr 5, 2020 at 1:24 am

      Ummm Isn’t Jordan’s miss alway a push fade? Can you clarify what you mean here?

      • ChipNRun

        Apr 6, 2020 at 12:38 pm

        At the 2019 AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach missed tee shots way left on the Saturday back nine: No. 13 to another fairway (double bogie) and left into ocean on No. 18.
        https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/golf/2019/11/26/column-shots-that-defined-the-year-in-golf/40710713/

        For shots missed right, look to 2017 and back-to-back missed cuts in the Players and the AT&T Byron Nelson. He shot 75s on both Friday rounds, including a 9 on the Par 5 No. 17 at AT&T/Byron: Two tee shots blocked OB right.

        But, Spieth did rebound a month later for back-to-back wins at the Travelers and the Open Championship.

        To quote the old Jerry Reid song: When you’re hot you’re hot, when you’re not you’re not.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 5, 2020 at 5:16 pm

      His grip is notoriously weak. If you add a weak a weak grip to a steep transition, you get an OPEN face which you are compelled to turn into the shot and swing left. Also when the grip is weak and the transition is steep, we have to “BACK UP” to get the golf club back on plane and into a hit position. I agree that his transition was flatter, lower earlier in his career, but look at Phil’s transition; it’s likely the steepest of any GREAT player, but he uses his hands brilliantly, not quietly. Those two MATCH, right now Jordan’s two moves DO NOT match. But again, he is a GREAT PLAYER who will find his way back.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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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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