PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Charlie King, director of the Reynolds Plantation Golf Academy in Greensboro, Ga., is not your typical teaching pro.
In 2008, King concocted one of the wittiest videos in the history of golf instruction, guiding golfers through the finer points of properly throwing a club. It was, of course, a tongue-in-cheek production from one of golf’s most brilliant teachers.
Now King is running for President and has a Web site (charliekingforpresident.com) to manage his campaign. That would be the fictional position of President of Golf Instruction.
I suppose he could name comic Bill Murray as his Vice Presidential running mate, because King likes to make people laugh before hitting them over the head with a serious message.
Throughout his career, King has maintained an unwavering belief in simple and repeatable golf instruction.
During U.S. Open week, while many teachers were occupied with high-profile touring pros, King continued to talk about golf for the masses – for beginners, for kids, for women, for all who struggle with their introduction to the game.
As President, King would institute Free Golf Lesson Month. He would concentrate on teaching solid contact. “That magic moment,” he calls it, “the feeling that addicts people to the game, the ability to hit it solid.
“There’s no way they’re going to do it on their own. It’s so mysterious. There are so many instinctive things that get in the way.”
Without being critical of his fellow instructors, King took a long look at the history of golf instruction and analyzed what he saw.
“I don’t think we ever got the meaning of golf,” he said. “Golf is a motor skill, a motor movement. Our paradigm didn’t develop that way. People who didn’t make it as players became teachers. They taught their own method.
“I’ll give you an example. I’m not trying to be disparaging to Ben Hogan, but let’s be honest. People talk a lot about Hogan clearing the left hip. Well, clearing the left hip is not good for a slicer. If you hook the ball, Hogan’s book (Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf) is a great book to read. If you’re a slicer, there’s very little in there for you.
“Hogan told us in that book what it felt like to him to hit a golf ball. If you don’t know that whole story in terms of the development of his golf swing, it’s not going to make a whole lot of sense.”
King has always been critical of stylized analysis of the golf swing.
“If you can’t hit it, what difference does it make how you look when you come into impact?” he asked. “We spend way too much time in what I call style teaching. We show students how they stink compared to those guys (tour players). And the golfer ends up thinking, ‘Wow, there are 18 things wrong with my swing.’ It’s not true. Some of those things just don’t matter to the ball. There are plenty of examples of golfers who did many things wrong and still managed to play very well.
“We need to be skills teachers and get away from being style teachers.
“The biggest barrier, if you ask me, is the ability to hit it solid. It’s that simple. I’ve talked and talked and talked about this, and I’ll keep doing it.
“Look, we definitely can grow the game of golf, but we can’t do it if we continue down this path. The answer is not some star standing on television saying, ‘Play golf, America.’
“The answer is to determine the factors that motivate human beings. In golf, we start with solid contact. Everybody wants to do that. They get enthusiastic about golf.”
Spoken like a President.