Carlsbad, Calif. – About three months ago, I took a playing lesson from Jim Flick. I figured his genius was knowing how to play the game -- how to get around the golf course -- as much as it was how to swing the club.
Looking back 22 years, to 1990, I knew Flick had told Tom Lehman, “You can be the best player in the world.” For a short time, Lehman probably was.
So what was he going to say to me? I had visions of something like this: “Jim, you can be the best player on your block.”
Flick, of course, was better than that. He was a brilliant man -- a master psychologist as well as an extraordinary golf teacher.
“You don’t know how good you can be,” he said. “You’re going to play better than you ever dreamed.”
Flick and I had talked many times before this lesson. He knew I had low expectations for my golf game. A lifetime of weak, blocked shots will do that to you. He was smart enough to express his optimism in a general sort of way. He didn’t predict I would win the Florida State Senior Amateur. He simply said ...
ORLANDO, Fla. – Question: What’s the one phrase you’ll never hear from most golf instructors?
Answer: “I don’t know.”
Too many golf instructors talk as if they know it all. Their mouths are perpetual motion machines.
And then there’s Sean Foley. Despite the fact he teaches the world’s most recognizable golfer, Tiger Woods, Foley might be the most humble, self-effacing instructor in golf.
Sure, sometimes Foley gets so enthusiastic that he transforms a practice range into an outdoor amphitheater, waving his arms like a symphony conductor high on Mozart. At heart, though, Foley is thoughtful, introspective and intellectual - a philosopher in golf clothing.
“You can’t learn if you talk all the time,” Foley said Thursday at the World Golf Fitness Summit, being held here at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes. “It’s important to listen.”
It’s important to be fashionable, too, and a tattoo is visible on Foley’s upper left arm as he gestures.
Foley appeared for an hour on the main stage with fitness instructor Craig Davies. The two often work together as they counsel some of the best golfers on the planet, including Woods, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose.
Woods was ...
Nike Golf has partnered with the Gray Institute – a performance analysis and training entity – and launched a smartphone app to give consumers access to golf-specific fitness regimens.
The alliance is an element of the NG 360 initiative, which Nike is describing as a “holistic approach” to improve performance through physical evaluation and training, digital tracking applications and custom fitting.
The golf program designed by the acclaimed Gray Institute of Adrian, Mich., which educates practitioners such as trainers and physical therapists as well as works with elite athletes, has been in the making for two years, according to Nike officials.
“The Gray Institute is the expert in the study of body movement in sport. This program will transform human potential because it will help golfers physically move better to play better,” said Kel Devlin, Nike Golf’s director of global athlete development, in a statement.
Explaining Gray Institute’s philosophy regarding body movement and improving performance, Gary Gray, the institute’s CEO, said: “Deficiencies in flexibility, strength or balance, anywhere in the body, will result in an ineffective and inefficient swing. It is essential that these deficiencies be identified and resolved so that each golfer can maximize their full potential.”
DALLAS – Cameron McCormick won’t let Jordan Spieth watch video of Spieth’s old swing. It’s a way to block out the bad memories. Spieth’s swing has changed in myriad ways since he and McCormick began working together in 2006.
“There was some idiosyncratic movement that went on there,” McCormick said with a hint of understatement. “It was something to look at.”
Or not, apparently.
Spieth’s old swing was steep, and he had a pronounced reverse pivot, requiring a dramatic change in his swing plane between his backswing and downswing.
He became an accomplished player with that old swing, but only because of raw talent and good timing. Spieth, then 12, won his age division at his last event before visiting McCormick – the Starburst Junior, one of Texas’ top junior events – by 19 shots.
There were some tough times as McCormick made dramatic changes to Spieth’s swing, which is now a traditional, on-plane action.
Spieth started the change by performing just one drill – swinging with a rubber ball between his arms – for several weeks. This helped him swing his arms on the proper plane, but the early results weren’t pretty.
“I was chunking it, skulling ...
Charles Howell III is getting back to what works for him. Howell relied almost exclusively on a fade when he was one of the game’s hot young prospects. After developing some bad habits while trying to incorporate a draw into his arsenal, Howell is back to the reliable left-to-right ball flight.
Instructor Kevin Smeltz started helping Howell return to the fade last year. The change is paying off.
Howell finished in the top 25 in 12 of his first 20 starts in 2011, and entered the Open Championship with three consecutive top-5 finishes. He has earned more than $1.7 million this season, and entered the Open at No. 84 in the Official World Golf Ranking after starting the season 158th.
“Hindsight is 20/20, but I think a much more efficient way to play golf is from a little bit of a fade,” Howell said. “In the fade, I’m working to stabilize the face instead of letting the face roll.
“The greats played a fade, especially the guys that were best for the longest periods of time.”
Hitting the fade has helped all facets of Howell’s game. Long known for his ballstriking – he led the PGA ...
Nathan Smith may not make any money for his on-course exploits, but he outperforms many PGA Tour players in at least one category: number of Masters invitations received.
Smith, 32, recently competed in his third Masters (and second in a row).
He shot 75-77 and missed the cut for the third consecutive time. This career amateur, though, has had his share of highlights at the golf season’s first major.
Smith, a Pittsburgh native, was paired with Arnold Palmer for the first two rounds of the 2004 Masters. Last year, Smith was 2 under par and in the lead through his opening 12 holes. He missed the cut by two shots in each of those appearances – not bad for a man with a day job.
“The first time’s a blur,” Smith said. “You blink your eyes, the week goes by. You’re kind of in awe floating around. But it never gets old. It always feels like your first time.”
Smith has never turned pro. He was an NCAA Division III All-American at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania before getting an MBA from Clarion. An investment adviser by trade, he gave a different kind of advice at this year’s ...
ORLANDO, Fla. – Gary Gilchrist was instructing Yani Tseng’s opponent when he watched the compact 15-year-old from Taiwan win the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. Gilchrist was at Golden Horseshoe in Williamsburg, Va., to watch his pupil, Michelle Wie, but he remembers being impressed by Tseng’s game.
Tseng was 4 down to Wie, then a 14-year-old phenom, in the morning round of the 36-hole match before winning, 1 up.
“You could see how she just kept fighting her way back,” Gilchrist said. He remembers Tseng, then 5 feet, 4 inches, outdriving the 6-foot Wie on several holes. Tseng won with a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole. “She just got over it and – boom! – in the back of the hole. That showed me she was determined to be a great player.”
Tseng and Gilchrist started working together in December 2009. Gilchrist’s goal with Tseng was to help her keep the club in balance throughout the swing.
“I feel like I have more control,” Tseng said. “I trust myself more.”
• • •
Two-club drill: Keep club in balance
To help teach Tseng the proper takeaway and wrist hinge, Gilchrist had her make practice swings while holding a ...
D.A. Points' victory at Pebble Beach will be remembered for his eagle hole-out on the 14th hole in the final round. Brian Mogg, founder of the Mogg Performance Center in Windermere, Fla., is the man who helped hone the swing that led to that shot.
Their teacher-student relationship, which has lasted about five years, is helping Points to a career season. Pebble Beach was Points' first PGA Tour victory, and earned him his first Masters berth. He's finished fifth, 18th and first in his past three events and is No. 2 on the money list.
Mogg said a large part of their time together has focused on ensuring that Points does not get steep on his downswing.
"He hates being steep on the ball, because when he's steep he backs out of (the shot)," Mogg said. A steep downswing leads to Points leaving too much weight on his right side and standing up through impact.
To keep from getting steep on the downswing, Points wants to feel "a slight hesitation at the top of the backswing, so he doesn't get his shoulders moving first on the downswing," Mogg said. Points wants to feel the club shaft ...
Maybe Jonathan Byrd’s recent success shouldn’t come as a surprise. Byrd, winner of his past two PGA Tour starts, is one of the most consistent iron players on Tour.
He ranked 20th in greens in regulation in 2010, and fifth the previous year. He also was No. 1 in the PGA Tour’s top ballstriking statistic (which combines GIR and total driving) in 2009.
Byrd’s swing has undergone dramatic changes since he began working with instructor Mike Bender two years ago. Bender also instructs Zach Johnson.
• • •
The key to Byrd’s strong iron play? “The hands and the club shaft are on plane throughout the whole swing,” Bender said. “If the hands are working on plane around the body, you’re going to hit it really well.
“It’s like putting: If you’re putting, and your hands are on plane, the putter head is going to work on plane. But most people, when putting, they look at the putter head. They don’t look at their hands. The golf swing is the same way.”
Bender measures the proper plane by drawing an imaginary line from the ball to the butt of the club at ...
ORLANDO, Fla. – Down with duck feet!
That was the message of the anti-duck man, a.k.a. Mark Verstegen, at the World Golf Fitness Summit.
Although many golf instructors tell their students to flare one or both feet outward at address, Verstegen believes this creates a power leak.
And he is backed by a measure of support among fitness experts. Pete Egoscue, who has advised and trained Jack Nicklaus, among others, has said the same thing. So has golf instructor Roger Fredericks, known as one of the world’s foremost authorities on stretching.
Still, it pays to be careful.
Some golfers, because of physical limitations, cannot play with their feet aimed straight ahead (at a 90-degree angle to the target line). They cannot rotate their bodies without turning their feet outward at address.
Others are simply not comfortable following Verstegen’s philosophy, which he outlined Friday during the three-day Summit at the JW Marriott Orlando Grand Lakes.
Here is Verstegen, who is founder of the network of Athletes’ Performance sports training centers: “With your feet turned out, you are robbing yourself of the potential for hip speed. You are limiting your ability to store energy in the powerful muscles of ...
This story appeared in the Sept. 3, 2010 issue of Golfweek
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Scott Langley is not a technical player.
“When my fundamentals are in place, I have a comfort level with my swing. I know I’m not going to miss too wide if I do miss,” said Langley, the reigning NCAA champion from Illinois who travels with a copy of Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.”
That is why his relationship with instructor, Brian Fogt, and college coach, Mike Small, works so well.
At the first lesson, Fogt asks his students, “Have you ever lied to your parents?” This exercise isn’t to embarrass the student but emphasize the importance of good fundamentals.
“When you tell one lie, then you have to manufacture another one. The same thing happens in the golf swing,” Fogt said.
Small, a three-time PGA Professional National Championship winner, has had success as a player despite limited practice time, which has taught him how to practice efficiently. Small emphasizes the short game, which is the area Langley has improved the most since he came to Champaign.
Here are some simple keys that Langley and Small have focused on en route ...
This story appeared in the April 23, 2010 issue of Golfweek
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Matt Kuchar is starting to have the success that many predicted for him after his impressive summer of 1998. It may have come later than expected but it has arrived nonetheless.
Kuchar won the 1997 U.S. Amateur, then was low amateur at the ’98 Masters and U.S. Open, finishing T-21 and T-14, respectively. He won his first PGA Tour title in ’02, at age 23, but didn’t win again until last fall’s Turning Stone Resort Championship.
In the time between victories, Kuchar never worried that he wasn’t living up to expectations but did know he was capable of playing better, which is why he started working with instructor Chris O’Connell in ’06. Kuchar, who was mostly self-taught, regained his PGA Tour card via the Nationwide Tour that year.
“He always comes across as optimistic, as looking forward, not backward,” O’Connell said. “He has a fresh exuberance about him.
“But he has been honest with me. After he won early in 2002, he said, ‘It would’ve shocked me if you told me it would’ve taken seven years ...
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the recurring themes of the 2010 U.S. Open was the existence of swing thoughts and how to manage them.
Mike Weir set the tone early in the week, saying, “You have to find a way to get from the practice tee to the course without all those swing thoughts. Otherwise you can end up thinking too much and playing golf swing, not golf.”
All golfers have played golf swing – concentrating almost exclusively on swing thoughts and swing positions and largely disregarding the score.
“The range is for practice, and the course is for playing the game, and you’re dead if you can’t separate the two,” said Mike Wilson, director of instruction at The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif., and Weir’s instructor. “It’s my job to help you figure out how to do that.”
So how does a successful golfer separate the two?
U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell: “You turn off your mind. You feel your golf swing without really thinking about it. It’s almost like you you don’t think at all. Maybe you have one little thought, and everything else becomes automatic.”
One little thought ...
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 ...
Golf videos are everywhere. Formerly sold in VHS format, they are now primarily available as DVDs. Subjects range from instruction to entertainment to history.
“DVD is a great medium for golf instruction, and our best sellers deal with instruction,” says Robert Kraut, president and CEO of The Booklegger, a Grass Valley, Calif., company that has been a golf-only outlet for books and videos since 1974. You can slow it down, you can stop it, you can watch it in slow motion, and you can see it very, very clearly.
“We sell a lot of DVDs from teachers like David Leadbetter, Hank Haney and Jim McLean. That being said, there are some wonderful DVDs out there that don’t necessarily deal with instruction.”
Case in point: “The Fairway Gourmet” series, which originally appeared on TV on PBS. Adventurous chef Jacky Pluton delights at collecting recipes from far-flung golf destinations.
Kraut, unable to obtain Pluton’s phone number, ended up with an e-mail address. He wasn’t sure it was valid, but he sent an e-mail anyway.
Voila! “He called me back from a motorcycle in France,” Kraut says. “He was delightful, and we struck a deal right then and there.”
Recent Instruction Videos
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We sit down with David Graham, a certified instructor at the Faldo Golf Institute, to chat about how to practice.
PGA Tour winner Gary Woodland shows off his swing from multiple angles.
We sit down with David Graham, a certified instructor at the Faldo Golf Institute, to talk about the roll illusion.
Nick Faldo takes you through a putting lesson.
Nick Faldo talks about the best swing advice he has ever received in his career.
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The Faldo Golf Institute shows us some tips on how to draw or fade the ball.
GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach Dusty Oakwood walks through a personalized club fitting session with a GolfTEC Player to find the best driver for his game.
Need more power and consistency in your shot? Mike Ellis, Senior Golf Instructor at Faldo Golf Institute at the Shadow Ridge Golf Club in Palm Desert California, shows us some tips to fix a poor pivot.
A GolfTEC Player polishes his backswing with GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach Dusty Oakwood, learning how to rotate more in the arms and the hips. Coach Oakwood also goes over the game plan for sequential lessons.
A GolfTEC player gets started with a Swing Evaluation from GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach Dusty Oakwood, learning exactly what’s going right and wrong with his golf game.
Ever struggled with controlling the distance of your chip shots? It may be something as simple as club selection. Faldo Instructor A.J. Gaul show us how to control our chipping distance, simply by changing our club.
Stephanie Meadow, along with instructor Colby Huffman, displays a drill that helps to maintain an in-sync downswing.
Instructor Gary Gilchrist shows how pupil Morgan Hoffmann is able to generate so much club head speed due to his "powerful setup."
Instructor Colby Huffman and student Stephanie Meadow demonstrate a simple 3-ball drill that will help improve putting touch.
Morgan Hoffmann and instructor Gary Gilchrist discuss a method to train yourself into more effective drawing or fading of the golf ball.
Michigan teaching pros Dave Kendall and Lynn Janson share their methods for creating a more balanced backswing.
Top Michigan teaching pro Lynn Janson shares a tip that will help with your short-range chipping.