Crane dishes on golf fitness, fundamentals

Ben Crane during the Asia Pacific Classic.

Ben Crane during the Asia Pacific Classic.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Video Boy, fresh off a $1 million victory in the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, made a cameo appearance Nov. 13 at the Titleist World Golf Fitness Summit.

Also known as Ben Crane, Video Boy surprised an audience of 500 with his appearance at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. The unannounced session turned out to be as enlightening as Crane’s recent golf training video, which is a fitness parody and has become a huge attraction on the Internet.

That video actually was supposed to be unveiled at the Fitness Summit, but it went viral after being surreptiously posted on the Web.

Crane is a complex guy. He is very intelligent. He is very witty. Alternately he can be extremely serious and extremely mischievous. Thus the extremely humorous video.

At the Fitness Summit, Crane showed up with his short-game instructor, James Sieckmann.

Those who keep track of teaching gurus should add Sieckmann to the list, because he is a short-game genius. A failed professional player, Sieckmann first gained attention by working with touring pro Tom Pernice Jr.

Crane, realizing the deficiencies in his short game, went to Pernice for guidance. In turn, Pernice sent him to Sieckmann, who is headquartered in Omaha, Neb.

Here are some of the highlights of the Crane-Sieckmann session:

• Crane, a Titleist staff player, made a special trip here because he believes golf fitness training in general and the Titleist Performance Institute in particular saved his career. Crane, who skipped the season-ending PGA Tour event at Walt Disney World, finished 23rd on the 2010 PGA Tour money list.

“I wouldn’t be on Tour today without TPI,” Crane asserted. “Five years ago when I first saw Greg (Rose, TPI co-founder), I had severe back pain.”

• Today Crane has a nine-member team, including himself, trainers, medical experts, instructors, a manager and a sports psychologist.

A nine-member team? Well, the days are long gone when a superstar such as Ben Hogan would go solo in the world of professional golf.

• “We’re all about process and not the result,” Crane said, repeating one of the mantras of contemporary golf. (Tiger Woods, are you listening?) “We (touring pros) can have control of our mental game. We can predetermine how we’re going to feel on the golf course before we get out there.”

• Crane is not reluctant to discuss his shortcomings. “Four years ago, I was a terrible ballstriker and a great putter,” he said. “With my wedges, I couldn’t get consistent contact.”

• And that’s when Sieckmann entered the picture. “The No. 1 thing (in wedge play) is consistently solid contact,” Sieckmann maintained.

• Other Sieckmann fundamentals: “Narrow stance, left knee and foot turned out (for right-handed players), a real soft left arm, and relax, relax, relax.”

• On the mental side of the short game, Sieckmann said, “You have to know whether you are doing it right or not. You have to have that knowledge and that confidence.”

• Sieckmann talked a lot about swinging on plane, even on the shortest of wedge shots. He affirmed that the clubface rotates more in the short game than on full shots.

“You learn one swing, and you set up differently, essentially,” he said of shots around the green.

• Although it can be difficult to visualize without a golf club in hand, Sieckmann talked about “being weak on purpose, which is the opposite of full shots.”

Weak in this case can refer to several factors, including the grip and the role of the hips in the swing.

• Sieckmann stressed the importance of balance in the short game. He asked the rhetorical question, “Can you balance on one leg?”

• Crane revealed a simple tip for sand shots around the green. “The higher you want to hit it,” he said, “the lower the handle goes (at address).”

• Fitting wedges properly can be an art, and Sieckmann urged caution. “Too many people fit wedges for the full swing, and I think that’s wrong,” he said. “My irons are one degree upright, but my sand wedge and lob wedge are one degree flat.”

• Finally a simple method for learning the distance of different wedge shots: While practicing, set up cones or stakes at 10-yard increments. Go up to 100 yards. Keep notes on how far the wedge shots fly in the air.

That’s straight from the Video Boy practice routine.

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