- Stand on the first tee and just know that you can hit it dead straight.
- Know that you are going to hit it pure, without the need to hit loads of balls before a round...
- Say goodbye to misses that are left and long...
- Know what exactly you are doing when you are swinging the club correctly...
- Be able to start working on the curriculum from the comfort of your home...
- Stop being a streaky ball striker...
- Use the same basic motion from putter to driver...
- Know how to set up your gear so that every club feels the same and you minimize misses left or right...
- Embrace the feeling of tightening up under pressure...
- Learn from the best instructors...
- Improve efficiently using the module approach...
- Use the power of video reviews to make sure that you are on the right track...
- Learn how to self-diagnose your swing...
- Benefit from experiences shared by fellow students...
My dad started me playing when I was 4. My first club was a 1930’s 1 iron, I would tee it up really high and drive with it.. and he taught me to open the face and hit cut shots with it. Then I got a 7, 5 and 9 iron. Then a Junior Power Built 3 wood… I grew up playing at a private golf club called Sunset Hills CC just north of Los Angeles in Ventura County. It was interesting because Sunset Hills started as a par 59 course.. 18 holes, but lots of three pars which actually made the course tougher in relation to par because you aren’t flipping wedges into every hole or ever two putting for birdies. Eventually they added new holes year by year, and it ended up a par 71. It seemed to expand right with me as I was growing up. Dad was 5 times the club champion.. and there where some good players. Probably 4 or 5 guys scratch or better. I think dad got down to a plus one at his best. He taught me the value of hitting the ball straight, and playing strategically. I learned you don’t always have to hit driver off every tee. Every year he would be the underdog to win the club championship, which really was a big deal around there..because someone was always favored, but he would grind it out and take the title. It was match play, and he would just wear out each guy round after round with straight forward fairways and greens and a solid short game. The course was really really tight off the tee, many holes with OB both left and right, so the long ball guys would always hit a couple OB, and Dads name would end up on the trophy.
I shot 79 at age 11 and by age 13 I was beating dad which was really exciting for me and I shot my first round in the 60’s, a 68 with a choking bogey on the last hole in a tournament! I won the Southern California Junior Championship for my age 11 and under bracket. That was my first big competitive golf thrill.
How did you get introduced you to The Golfing Machine?
The timing was perfect, because I met Ben Doyle at age 14, at a time when my dad was shopping me around to different instructors. Once I was beating him, he knew I needed further attention.
The golfing machine story really is an amazing one. This story will appear to get off track but hang in there.. it will come full circle.. Dad would take me up to Pebble Beach every year to watch the pros at the Crosby, and they had friends that lived in the area.. not right in Pebble Beach but over in Laguna Seca near the speedway track. One of the players on my high school team when I was a freshman was a guy named Ted Lehman who took a scholarship to BYU after he finished his senior year. He was one of the top junior players in California along with David Games, Vic Wilk, Ron Commans and Corey Pavin.
Just to give you an idea how good our high school team was, I shot 68 in a qualifying and the coach left me at home!
Our team won the State Championship that year. Anyway, when Ted came home during the summer of 77, all he could talk about was this guy named Bobby Clampett who was on his team along with Keith Clearwater, and Rick Fehr. Clampett was winning everything, and he was taking instruction from this scientific teacher named Ben Doyle. He would talk about how pure Clampett hit the ball and Ted was really intimidated.
Now back to Pebble Beach. In January of 1978, we go up to watch the Crosby again… Mom and dad had good friends who lived up there that we would stay with. The first night we get in, have a big dinner with dad's friends.. and after dinner, dad would like to take a dinner walk around the block. So on the way back, we walk by this house which is almost right across the street from our friends.. and there is a driving net in the side yard, and on the front door there is a sign.. and it says "TheDoyles".. and my dad looks at me and says.. I bet you that is Ben Doyle.. you know the guy Ted always talks about. Well, we were really quite a long ways away from the main area of Monterey, Carmel, and Pebble.. but dad insists we give a knock on the front door. So we do.. and this nice lady answers the door,.. and dad says.. Hi, you wouldn’t by any chance be the wife of the famous golf instructor Ben Doyle would you? And she turns around and calls into the living room “Ben! some golfers are here to see you! I just couldn't believe it.. and this very soft spoken humble man comes to the door and invites us in. Well anyway.. we chat a bit, and dad talks about how we are staying across the street with his neighbors, who I don’t think they really knew other than a wave from the porch.. that kind of thing. So Ben says.. “let’s take a look at little Johnny’s swing”.
So he hands me a club, and I take a swing in his living room. So of course being respectful I make sure not to hit the carpet, and Ben looks sternly at me says “Take a Divot”... always down and out.. so I take another swing, not taking a divot or hitting the carpet, and Ben says Johnny you have to take a divot.. so within few minutes, Ben has me ripping up his living room carpet.. and I am not kidding, I am tearing up his carpet!
And Ben looks at my dad and says.. Johnny’s got lag.. he’s got lag! So my dad is just shaking his head in disbelief over this whole scenario, and Ben tells my dad, “Ken, I’d like to work with Johnny.. so that basically is it. I would drive from LA area up to Carmel once a month for the rest of my Junior golf days,
Basically Ben completely rebuilt my golf swing and turned me into a Clampett clone.
That summer of 1978 I was winning all the Junior events in my area, I would play the county tournaments which were actually really well organized and some wonderful players such as Cory Pavin, and Steve Pate, the Stankowski brothers would play in those events too. I won 10 straight tournaments that summer, in my age group (13 to 14), so I think dad knew I was on the right track to improvement.. after he had taken me to a few other instructors without such stunning success. Needless to say, I never questioned Ben, and just did what he said, and I would watch Clampett on the range when he was around, and just do what he did. I had a great role model.
At age 15, during the summer of 79, I started playing in the bigger junior events down in Southern California, and I finished top for my age group continuing my successes using the TGM swinging protocol Ben had taught me. At age 16 I was the third ranked Junior for the 16 to 17 age group in Southern California only behind Duffy Waldorf and Dennis Paulson, who were a year older. So I was the top ranked 16 year old. At this point it was all about going to college, and I had my pick, going on recruiting trips everywhere including Oklahoma State which was #1 in the country, BYU, USC, and and a bunch of others. Oddly enough, I ended up going to Fresno State because when I really looked at it hard, they played the same schedule as USC and UCLA, and they played all these great courses,.. and Fresno was hosting the 1983 NCAA Championships at San Joaquin CC. Also, I was only a couple hour drive from Ben in Carmel, if I needed a tune up, and my best friend was going there too, Doug Harper who actually lost in a sudden death playoff for the NCAA title at San Jauquin when Jim Carter won a four way playoff that included Scott Verplank.
College golf for me was my first big wake up call. I was falsely sure of myself coming into Fresno State my Freshman year, and I quickly found out that this was not Junior Golf anymore. My first semester I couldn’t even crack the top 6 starting lineup. It wasn’t until January that I finally qualified to play in a tournament. However, my very first event I finished solo third place being paired in the final group with future US Open Champion Corey Pavin. That gave me a boost of confidence, and Harper and I traded off #1 and #2 spot the rest of the year. We were both Freshmen.
The next year we hosted the NCAA Championships in Fresno. A month before the event we hosted a premiere collegiate tournament and invited all the top schools in the country out to play San Joaquin. I won that event individually beating Mark Brooks and Brandel Chamblee head to head in the final round. That was another good boost of confidence for me at that time. Those guys were already big name amateur players.
A couple weeks later I played well again and tied for first place in the Big West Conference Championship, however, I signed an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified!. It was really shocking, and I still wonder how that happened. All the coaches, and a scorer were following us around.. and my scorer had my nine and 18 hole totals correct.. but there was a 3 somewhere on the card when I had made a 4, Both nines added up to my true score.. I didn’t catch it.. It was really pretty depressing at the time. I still think it’s a crap rule, because it’s not like I was trying to cheat. How could anyone anyway? With a gallery around, coaches and so forth.. it’s silly really… and it cost me All American honors that year, which is a big deal when you are in the college golf bubble. I did actually sign the card for the score that I did in fact shoot. I still don't like that rule.
That summer, I didn’t play a lot of golf.. just wanted to take some R and R, and do some other things like hang out at the beach with my girlfriend, and stuff like that. On a last day whim, I sent in an entry to the US Amateur… but I had a vacation booked over in Hawaii, so I ticked the Honolulu box as a qualifying spot. When I arrived there at Wailai where they played the Hawaiian Open for years.. it was the entire state of Hawaii for ONE SPOT! I hadn’t picked up a club all summer. It was a 36 hole day and I shot a pair of under par rounds and found myself in a sudden death playoff for the one spot against Wendel Tom a good local Hawaiian player. To be honest, I was hardly the favorite, as the Hawaiians were not too happy about some white kid mainlander coming over there to take their spot. I won the playoff with a birdie on the first hole and got the golden ticket to North Shore CC for the US Amateur, with a lot of not too happy Hawaiians.
North Shore ended up being one of the best or most memorable weeks of my golf life. I was only 19 years old, and after qualifying for match play, I took out the runner up medalist in the first round, then faced former champion Nathanial Crosby in the second round. Nate being the son of Bing, was obviously the crowd favorite, and that was my first time playing in front of really big galleries.. I am talking tee to green 3 people deep kind of thing. I was one up on Crosby going into 17, and I remember the gallery was stretching the yellow ropes down about 50 yards off the tee trying to get a view, and all I could think about was aiming my driver about 3 feet from this guys head as I needed a low draw that started down the gallery rope line. I don’t think they had any idea how nervous I was, and all I could remember was swinging and hoping I didn’t kill someone. I was simply too nervous to talk to an official and just really focused on making good contact which I somehow did. But that really made an impression upon me.
I birdied 17 and put Crosby away 2 and 1 to a very disappointed crowd. That was the first time I got mentioned in Sports Illustrated! But that round was another huge confidence booster to me. I knew then I could play under really extreme pressure IF I was on my game.
My third match I played Billy Andrade, and it was just one of those days.. I was on, and Billy was off, and I beat him 6 and 5. I remember Davis Love coming out to watch us, and we were already walking in from the 13th green, and Davis seemed ready to congratulate Billy, but Billy was shaking his head at Davis who is in disbelief and in good jest, pointing at me, and signaling that he got his ass kicked. Billy was one of the top ranked amateurs in the country at the time. So things where changing in my head really quickly. I started to think, am I really as good as these guys?
My quarterfinal match was against Chris Perry, who was the NCAA Collegiate Player of the Year, so I am sure everyone thought it would be a blowout match. I really played good, we both played good, and I dunked another birdie on Perry to go one up on the 17th green. You have to remember, that back then , the final 4 guys got invitations to The Masters.. so I mean this is really big stuff for anyone, yet a 19 year old California kid. 18 is a long 4 par, and I hit a 4 wood into the left edge of the green, and Perry hits one long to the back edge of the green. I putt first and lag up for a gimmie. So Perry has this 30 foot huge left to right slider, straight down the hill. If he misses it, I win the match. He hits the putt, and the ball is turning so slowly you can see Titleist gently rolling around on the ball, and it takes this huge break and he just walks this thing into the hole. I have never heard such a roar of a crowd, because we were the last group on the course, so everyone was there.
In the playoff, I was so pumped with adrenalin I bombed it 40 yards by Perry. He is hitting 6 iron and I’m hitting wedge. Hit leaves it well short on the front edge, and I hit a nice little shot right into the pin but for some reason it hits really hard and skips just past the pin into the back rough which is about 4 inches deep. Perry putts up for a gimmie, and I hit a really nice blast from the rough that lands on the fringe but trickles down about 6 feet past the hole. My putt hits firm into the right lip of the cup and does a 180. Match to Perry. It was really emotional for me, because in one way, I felt like a ticket to The Masters was robbed from me on 18 green, but then again, I was pretty much a nobody on the National scene that just took this hot shot player 19 holes in a really big event.. so I think I walked away pretty proud for a 19 year old. I mean at that age, stuff like that is really big in your head, because we all feel we have an axe to grind, to prove ourselves. But this week was really big for me because I knew I could play under big pressure, and that never leaves you. Think about Tom Watson in 09 at the British. He hadn’t been in that situation in what 25 years? You really do get to keep that stuff.
I came back to school, and with Harper tying for first in the NCAA Championships, and my play at the US Amateur, the joke around campus was that the two of us would not be able to fit our heads inside the same apartment.. (we were roommates!)
I red shirted the next year, meaning I would be on the team but not play any events so I could get scholarship money for 5 years, because there was no way I was going to graduate in 4 years and I didn’t want to have to come back to school for another year after I was done playing. It was a good move.
My play in the US Am got me into all the big prestigious amateur events like the Porter Cup, The Western Amateur, Sunnehanna, all that stuff, and I spent the summers of 84 and 85 playing those heavenly events.
My Junior year in 85, I had my best run of collegiate golf, finishing solo third in three of the biggest events and finished off the season winning the individual conference championship down in Las Vegas when UNLV hosted the event. It was really a great win because it literally put the whole signing the scorecard ghost behind me, and I received All American Honors, and was presented the award with Arnold Palmer there at Wake Forest. I then came back that fall and had another strong finish in the prestigious Sun Bowl Classic finishing 5th in the strongest field in college golf, shooting 67 the last day and I had also won the pro am shooting 66 at El Paso CC.
Now that all sounds great and I did play a lot of very good golf, but I never felt solid about my golf swing. There were a lot of weeks in there that I was spraying the ball all over the lot and not playing well. In the back of my mind I had always really questioned my technique. I was your classic streaky ball striker.
Junior golf and my first few years at college I was a model TGM swinger, a true Clampett clone, and I think other than Bobby, I probably had the best TGM golf swing of the hard core guys that actually really worked with Doyle or McHatton, that could in fact play a bit.
There were other guys that had great looking swings on video or those old graph check cameras but they weren’t winning anything. Ben used to come over to me on the practice range and show me Bobby Schaeffer’s still photos, and say I needed to be more like this, with ungodly lag angles, and I think that was not a good idea.. for Ben to do that, because I could beat Schaeffer all day long.. so I think that was the first time I questioned Ben a bit. Schaff and I are friends, and I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that his action was a Doyle - McHatton catastrophically flawed science experiment gone wrong, taking Hogan like angles and then throwing them into a TGM dual horizontal hinge action. I think he toned it down years later and became a better player.
I was using super late snap loading backswing, maximum swing radius stuff. I mean my wrists would not cock until the last 6 inches of hand travel with my hands like a tower above my head.. a ton of extensor action, a very slow backswing where I could feel the club like it was this super heavy weighted sledgehammer feel on the way back, then I would do a big sit down, and pull the club down with steep shoulders, and just do the big full roll dump release into a full dual horizontal hinge with totally dead hands that was just wonderful as long as my downswing was slow, steady and evenly accelerated. Arms would just fly way off the body, and my clubface was pointed at the ground at the 4th parallel. A great technique? Questionable in hindsight. I really love watching guys that do it well, it’s really a thing of true beauty. But I think it’s better to stay in the science lab. But let me say this.. I usually had to beat balls to keep this machine swing timed or I could absolutely hit the ball sideways. . and as my career developed, I found out the hard way that when you add in the rigors of the road, and a bit of adversity, and get outside the comfort of the college golf fantasy life, golf takes on a whole new dimension.
After finishing up school I turned pro quickly to give that a try, and spent time hustling around Fresno drumming up money to get out there. I learned quickly that I wasn’t going to find sponsors playing in the local money games with good players, but found it better courting the members at the various Country Clubs around town. I would call out to one of the clubs, and ask the pro to put me in a group with a member with deep pockets, then I would shoot 65 playing with them from the white tees so they could really see how good I was, then when we were having lunch after the round, I would wait for them to start asking what were my plans.. and I would reach into my back pocket and pull out my prospectus and slide it across the table and say… “well, since you are asking!” that really worked wonders.
Back then you didn’t have all these corporate sponsors, and everyone on tour had someone back home footing the bill for them.
It didn’t take a lot of looking around to see that there were a lot of local guys that really had game that were not on tour for one simple reason. No backing. I had no interest in playing mini tour golf, and decided I would play on real tours or not at all. I wanted 4 day events, with a pro am with at least $100,000 purses each week. I really didn’t want to get comfortable playing tournaments where you ride in carts, play crap courses and make some mini tour promoter a bunch of money. It seemed really shady to me. I didn’t feel a pro should have to put up their own money to play the game for a living. I could make much better money getting into the big money games down in Los Angeles and Texas if I wanted that and I did have offers to do that.
I decided to play a bit abroad, and my first stop was the Canadian Tour qualifying. It was at Thunderbird CC in Toronto, and I think it was the first time I ever played golf out of the country. I played well enough to get my card on a first try, and played the tour up there in 1987. It was atThunderbird that I first met Moe Norman. I was walking back to my car when I saw this big circle of people on the range and one of the players said, hey, you got to check this guy out.. he’s amazing.. so I went over there and watched for the first time.. a TRULY great ball striker. I had never seen anything like that before. Not even close, I really had no idea that a human could control the golf ball like that. I sure couldn’t. Moe was completely on another level. 5 levels up from where I was. But let me say this.. I picked his brain every chance I could in the 7 years I played in Canada. I was smart enough to know there was a lot to be learned from Moe, and I quickly became very interested in what he was saying . You have to realize that in 1987, Very few south of Canada know about Moe. At this time he was a 50ish year old guy sleeping in his car, that never took a shower, and to most of the pretty boy rich kids on tour, no matter how good he hit the golf ball, his life condition screamed loser… and I remember most all the guys would not give him the time of day. It’s funny how all these people come out now and praise Moe. A couple of the older tour vets would go around with a hat and try and collect 5 bucks from everyone to give to Moe, and I saw a lot of guys walk away and not pony up anything. It was really pathetic. I lost a lot of respect for a lot of the tour guys when I saw that crap.
The Canadian Tour, you got to see two things. The guys getting ready for the big time like Di Marco and Weir , and the guys coming down from the big time like Halderson and Barr. The rest of us just played the waiting game. Canada was the first time I got to play against world caliber players.. this was not college golf anymore.. these were real players. The talent was deep, we had guys like Billy Ray Brown, Bradley Hughes, Craig Parry.
There is this big illusion created by the PGA Tour that if you are good, you must play the PGA Tour. But that is not reality. I’ll give you an example. Jim Benepe won the order of merit up there in Canada, and no one had heard of him in an American living room. He gets a “one off” sponsor exemption into the PGA Tour Western Open back when they played it at the tour’s toughest course, Butler National in Chicago. And Benepe in his very first tour start, goes out and wins the event beating Greg Norman coming down the stretch.
My point is, there were guys all over every bit as good as the guys you’d see on TV making millions. There were Canadian players who just played their tour, year after year, and were every bit as good as the so called name US players. Guys you never heard of would go out and shoot 62 on tough tracks with persimmon. It was really impressive, and my hats off to all those guys who really played for the love of the game.
In college you could shoot a few under and win a tournament. Of course this was back in the age of persimmons, balatas and blades. It was a totally different game back then when we were all hitting it 250 off the tee.
Turning pro was my second big wake up call. I would shoot 72, 69, and I would be looking at the board on Friday afternoon to see if I was going to make the cut, instead of seeing my name on another golf trophy. I just couldn’t believe how low guys would go on some pretty tough tracks. You’d have to shoot 12 under to get even near winning and often go much deeper to actually win an event. 66 didn’t mean you could shoot 74 the next day and still be in the lead.
I think I finished around 30th on the money list my first year, so that was good enough to get me an exemption through the Australian Tour Q school, so I basically went straight from Canada down to Australia and right onto that tour which really was wonderful. My first event was The Australian PGA Championship, and I made the cut and then just kept making cuts, and picking up checks and really enjoying that whole experience. I think I was 23 and as young as I was, I did feel like I had enough experience to feel I belonged out there, but I was clearly not a standout. Australia was the first time I got to play against the really big names.. like Norman, Lyle, Woosnam. These guys were just playing golf at totally different level. I really felt just honored to get to play in events with these guys.
One week I played well and found myself paired with David Graham who had won the US Open, and Bob Shearer who was also a very successful player who had won on the PGA Tour and everywhere else in the world, and had Greg Norman playing right behind me. That was the first time I remember feeling like I had reached the big leagues. I never thought of the Australian Tour as a second rate tour. The events were first class, full national TV coverage, big names every week, and good money for back then. I must say, I really fell in love with those golf courses and that style of golf. I don’t know how it is now, but I really felt like the Australians had a lot more integrity with their golf, because they would hold their events on their nations best courses, lot of classic Alister MacKenzie designs, and those courses where really tough. Things were not as commercialized back then. It was about golf, not selling home lots after the event was over. The Australians would walk too, and not take golf carts back then.. so the courses weren't littered with cart paths which was great.
I really didn’t like the direction the PGA Tour was going with Stadium golf courses, and all those silly Pete Dye designs with all the island greens and railroad ties that you would bounce your ball off. I never thought railroad ties had any business on a golf course. So I think that playing the Australian Tour was the most fun thing I did in golf. I never won down there. I did pop up on the leader board a few times on Sunday, but I didn’t have the ability yet to beat those guys. I just didn’t have the game to beat guys like Peter Senior, or Greg Norman on a week they were playing well. I couldn’t even get close to them. These guys would shoot 64 on US Open type golf courses… and do it often, sometimes two or three times a week. Even if I could learn to hit the ball that good I don’t think I could ever putt that good. You still have to make the putts even if you pepper it in there 15 feet all day long.
I still get asked why I didn’t pursue the PGA Tour here like most others did. For me, golf was never about only money. If I could play 4 round events on golf courses that excited me, pay my caddie, hotel bill and put gas in the car or a plane ticket to the next event, I was as happy as one could be. I did try a couple times, once missing at the finals down in Houston at Woodlands. The three stage thing was a drag, and it would eat up three months while good events were going on in other places like Australia. For me it was never the only place to play. If you turn pro and like competitive golf, there is always somewhere to measure your ability level and more than likely get your head handed to you on a platter. The PGA Tour is just one of many tours. When it’s all said and done, it’s about the experiences you had, not how much cash you have in the bank. Some of my best memories are off the course stuff.
So I think it was at the Australian Open at Royal Melbourne in 1987, that I really had a huge epiphany. I was hitting balls after the first round between Greg Norman and Sandy Lyle, and I mean these guys where compressing the golf ball. It was the first time I really heard “The Sound”.. that I would later learn was the sound of holding shaft flex all the way to the ball and beyond. This was top shelf stuff. And Peter Senior was just an amazing ball striker, and he is still around, I think of him as one of the last great old school ball strikers. He would beat Norman by 8 shots while Norman was #1 in the world. When I came home to the states, no one had ever heard of him. I quickly realized the PGA Tour was a bit overrated as I mentioned before.
So it quickly dawned on me that this TGM stuff I was doing, dump it into the ball with dead hands and a big timing pivot move was not going to cut it at this level. And I realized that I needed better instruction, but I was NOT going to take lessons from someone who couldn’t at least beat me once in a while. I did take a look at Mac O’Grady’s stuff, but I found that I had already come to the same conclusions about TGM that he had on the major points, and I personally think Mac spends way too much time talking about stagnant positions and angles. The golf swing is a dynamic flowing motion, and as good as Mac swings it, there are other guys who hit is just as good and don’t think about any of that stuff. I’d talked to Mac about a few things back in the 80’s but what I see him doing is not what I see him teaching his students. Mac had one of the most powerful post impact pivot thrusts of all time.. and that is why his action worked. The secret to Mac’s action has nothing to do with his set up, or how he loads it up, or the general look of it.
So I just decided to go out on my path of discovery alone. I got one of the early 10,000 shutter frame cameras, so it left nothing to the imagination, and I shot everyone I could. I was very clever about it.. and would set it up on the range and point it at one of the great players pretending I was filming myself!
I really studied things from a different light.. when I let go of my own dogma, I opened myself up to seeing the truth. Once I realized that these freak show golf swings like Senior, Moe, Trevino, Allen Doyle, and others, were actually much better more sophisticated golf swings than the pretty stuff you would see in golf magazines, that’s when I really started to get it.
The TGM stuff taught by Doyle, McHatton and I assume Lynn Blake, whom I have never met.. is good stuff, but it’s not going to get you to the top shelf. No way.. not going to happen… not in the age of persimmon and blades, when golf was much more of a ballstrikers game.
These guys were looking at the swing in a very close minded way that eventually was not healthy for me, and Clampett came to the same conclusion, and that is why he jumped ship, because the thing with TGM is not that it isn’t correct on a lot of things, it is simply an incomplete book. Mac knows this too… and that is why he started his Morad stuff. And that is the reason I am doing what I am doing with ABS
It started to sound like religion, because they would keep saying things like, “well, so and so just has educated hands”, or some other vague stock response that told me they didn’t really understand things as much as I needed them too.
I have never been a great putter, not bad, but not great… so I realized if I was going to win on this level, I was going to have to do some serious upgrading to my golf swing, because I always won with ball striking not putting. There was no way I was going to win spotting everyone 2.5 strokes a round on the greens which was statistical fact. That’s 10 shots a week, which meant I had to strike it REALLY good.. and Mac O’Grady knows exactly what I am talking about. I think Mac at times was spotting the field 4 shots a round. It’s incredible he ever won a golf tournament, and I mean that with the up most respect for his ball striking.
So when I realized that these great strikers were holding shaft flex, I realized that was the key to the golf swing. Not many guys do it really… and after a lot of experimenting and trying to figure out how to do it.. I finally realized that you simply can’t do it with dead hands. You have to fire the hands hard through impact to hold shaft flex. There is no other practical way to do it. And then once the hands fire, you have to really finish it off with post impact pivot thrust properly supported by ground pressures.. which is not easy stuff I can assure you.
So basically I had to open my eyes, and I became much more interested in what really goes on in a great golf swing, and I got close enough to that stuff to really get a good look at what was going on, and not just swing mechanics but the whole picture.. and that includes having a swing that travels well, and enables you to flush the golf ball without having to beat golf balls all day, and the ability to work the golf ball left and right properly and not the way TGM teaches you to do it. I can assure you, if I knew then what I know now, at say age 20, I would be a historic ball striker, I have now doubt.
I didn’t really learn to swing the golf club until about 1989 after I completely rebuilt my golf swing during 1988. I did it in about 14 months. After I realized that even the TGM version of hitting was not really hitting, I went with the real hitting procedure. The one where you really hit.. with the hands and the body, not the right arm.. that’s a technique filled with landmines. Snead talked about it.. and Hogan wasn’t lying to us either about wishing he had 3 right hands. The arms don’t really have much of a place in the golf swing. The elbows bending really just allow for some swing plane shifting which we all have to do. There is no such thing as a one plane golf swing. Not for a full swing. Moe did that the best and even Moe was not on one plane. I spent a lot of time with Moe and I know how he did it. He told me a lot of stuff over the years.. there’s no big mystery there.
I really believe that once you really know how to do something, you own it. And I have no doubt that the hitting procedure used by Hogan, Snead, Knudson, Palmer, Player, Trevino, that’s the way to do it.
Once I learned it.. I took my ball striking to a new level and only then was I able to win.
In 1989, I should have won the New York Open, but lost in a playoff, after my opponent made a miracle birdie from deep in the left pines off the first playoff hole, after he chipped in. I played the hole much more correctly than he did. But that’s golf.. in my mind I won the event.
Then in 1991, I took lesson from legendary Canadian putting legend Alvie Thompson, and 6 weeks later after a good finish at the Winnipeg Open I shot 17 under down at the Windsor Charity Classic and beat two time Australian Masters Champion Bradley Hughes by a shot.
That week I hit 18, 17, 17 and 16 greens each round… and was knocking down pins coming down the stretch, not spraying the occasional shot and having to make miracle up and downs to hang on for a win which is what I was usually up to.
I love playing golf, but now I do it only on my terms. I only play when I want to play and I only play golf courses I feel genuinely excited to play.
I just play for fun now, and I hit the ball better than most, and I NEVER hit balls or practice. I play less than once a week. I played 28 rounds last year, and 42 the year before after leaving the game for 15 years and my stroke average is 71.3…with the old stuff. I still play only persimmon and rotate between about 10 sets of my favorite vintage iron sets. I have them all, Hogan PT, and Bounce Soles, MacGregor M85’s and DX stuff, 59 Dynapower’s stuff like that. 50s Spaulding Tournament Models..
I still like to complete and I’m heading off to Vegas next week to defend my title in the Las Vegas TRGA Classic. The TRGA (trga.info) events are great, because we play a much more interesting version of golf, using persimmons, blades, no cavity backs or long putters. We actually have to play the golf course the way it was originally intended to be played. Fairway bunkers, all that stuff come back into play.
Right now, I basically teach online, because I can see what is going on with the protocols that I put forth through my Advanced Ball Striking biomechanical module work. It’s really wonderful because I can work very closely with students on other continents and make the knowledge that I have acquired over the years available to anyone with an internet connection and a nearby hardware store. I do occasionally teach out on my back deck at home for those brave enough to make the trip out to San Francisco. Some students have traveled over seas to get here. I live on a canyon so we can fire a few balls out into a nice landing area out there if we need to take some real time footage. But to be honest, I have zero interest in watching a student hack their way through a large bucket of golf balls which has been and continues to be the standard protocol for golf instruction.They know and I know, they can’t hit the ball straight. I don’t need to see it anymore than they do. That is not what the student needs.. they need to move their body correctly and understand the proper sequencing of events to get the club moving through impact correctly before they have any business putting a club on a golf ball. I gut the student right down to the basics of impact forces and dynamics.. not positions or alignments.When the forces are in place, the lines are all good. I teach movement, pressures, and how to create dynamic opposing forces to lock things in.That's the right way to do it. Cotton knew this in the 1930's.
Who has had the greatest influence on your teaching ability?
I think the “who” is more of a “what”,
That’s a very interesting question… because without the internet, I would not be teaching golf. My ability to teach is rooted in access to the internet, because everything I have developed has evolved around a student being able to send me very detailed videos of there module work, and my ability to analyze it from the various camera angles I instruct them to shoot from. I am very strict with them and we do things correctly to very tight tolerances. I send them a video that explains things like a homework assignment, then they do anywhere from 3000 to 5000 reps over time to really learn and work this stuff into their swing DNA.. so that it really has a good chance to stick.
My personal ability to communicate comes from my ability to strike the golf ball well. I really understand what things need to feel like within the body.. not just observations about how things are supposed to look or how most instructors think it should look.
I also find it very important to keep an open mind, and also keep my own game relevant because I still discover things, and always will, so that gives my students a chance to learn things hot right off the burner if I figure out an better or more practical way to go about things.
In your opinion, what are the biggest obstacles to improvement facing the average golfer today?
It’s three things..
Inadequate instruction, poor equipment, and endless over analyzing
Most golf teachers can’t hit the ball good enough to really understand the deeper under laying forms of how the golf swing really needs to feel from the cockpit. So instruction ends up being observation based like Kelley’s work, and although he did an incredible job, better than most from that limited perspective, I would much rather pick the brain of a guy like Hogan or Moe. I am much more interested in what the golf swing needs to feel like from the inside out, no matter how bizarre or counter intuitive the perception of that might be.And no one is better to tell you that than a great ball striker.
The belief that you can learn the golf swing from understanding scientific pie charts and graphs is a real black hole of anti progress. This is absolute fact, because history has shown us that the greats are not scientists.. and scientists are usually 15 handicappers. I have a friend Ken Harrington, a fine player who is a 1 handicap and also a professor of mathematics at The University of San Francisco. Ken's a brilliant guy, and the course record holder at Lincoln Park in SF to boot. But he won’t even discuss physics stuff or swing geometry .. because he knows that this really is a dead end for the golf swing. He only talks feel and how the body moves, and how you need to shape your shots. He still plays the old school gear, and his 60 out at Lincoln was played with a set of MacGregor persimmons and 1950’s Silver Scot blades. That record still stands in the face of all the so called game improvement modern gear.
The problem is that to do things right, things often have to feel totally wrong, completely foreign if not bizarre at times.. for the simple fact, we should be swinging the golf club much closer to a 45 degree angle than all the upright stuff that is still going on today.
Nearly all the great strikers played off very flat lie angles. Trevino said he could beat Nicklaus because his wedges were way too upright and Jack would pull a lot of wedges long and left… so Trevino would just kill him from short range, even though Jack was 30 by him off the tee.
The advantages of shallow lie angles are huge if you really understand it, but most people don’t.The equipment companies are making gear way too upright, to try to please the hacker so they won’t slice the ball so badly which is the completely wrong approach if you actually want to improve your ball striking for real.
The drivers now are too long which makes sequencing the pivot much more difficult.
Clubs are too light which creates an over acceleration dilemma that plagues everyone from the hacker to the tour player, and slowly the muscles in the body weaken because they don’t get the proper load put on them to activate the correct muscle groups to strike the golf ball correctly.
The heads are too big diluting the sweetspot, so players don't get proper feedback to the brain, therefore the swing gets lazy, less precise and halts improvement. The improvement happens the day you buy the club. Then the deterioration process begins. I’ve been moving my tour players back into heavier gear.
Golfers are fooled daily by these velocity meters at the ranges. Nothing could be farther from the truth about how you need to strike a golf ball. It’s amazing that somehow the “m” has disappeared from the basic law of physics regarding momentum, p=mv. The idea that if you decrease the mass you can speed up the the velocity is the biggest scam of all time. Yes you gain velocity, but you lose what counts.
And if you're really are serious about golf, then you play by force, and you use f=ma. This is the formula for the greats. Mass times acceleration.This gets into the real nitty gritty of what you need to do.
Mass with acceleration though and beyond lowpoint rules this game, not velocity alone. And you have to train the body to do this. It’s not going to happen by reading another swing graph printed out by a computer, or memorizing chapter 2 in TGM. Not going to happen.
Another problem is that golfers are too obsessed with their set up and backswings. The idea that if somehow these things are done correctly, everything else will naturally fall into place. This basic platform of “grip stance and posture” being the basic fundamentals of a good golf swing is absolute garbage. We don’t hit the ball on the backswing. We don’t. History shows us Nicklaus was upright and crossed over the line, and Hogan flat and laid off. Knudson and Palmer whipped it inside; Trevino looped it out to in. Snead and Moe Norman both had a slight "tug it over" move.People waste years working on this stuff.. Even good players.. there are much better things to be working on I can assure you.
The first thing I teach my students is to properly release the golf club, then we go right to ground pressures, and how to properly power and accelerate the club through the impact arena, locking in a swing plane based upon the application of opposing forces, not trying to guide or aim it down using dowels or flashlights. I can't think of anything worse than using those flashlight drills, it puts all the emphasis on the hands and not the body. Now that is bad science.
These laser yardage scopes are another nightmare. Today I played with a really good college player who used one all day, while I never once stepped off a yardage, I just eyeballed everything. As far as distance control, I was inside him 14 times during the round. He’s a good player, but most of the greens he missed were long or short.. because we was not taking the time to feel the shot. It’s no different than lag putting, you have to feel it. You can easily set mental parameters by looking short of the green and knowing that if you hit say an 8 iron you will not reach the front of the green, but you can also see that if you hit a 5 iron you will certainly go over. So then you just decide to hit a firm 7 or back off a 6, and start wrapping your mind around the shot.. not the yardage. How are you going to shape the shot? I hit a cut a different distance than a draw.. and wind and lie, and temperature,
And trajectory, all that is where your head needs to be, not on to watch a tour event, and you will see those guys coming up way short or long a lot more than you would think. And even if you watch them shag balls, no one lands every shot the same distance anyway.. their balls will always be dispersed in a circle not a straight line perpendicular to their target. Getting a general yardage if fine.. but from there it’s up to you to feel the shot into the target. Hogan didn’t use yardages and neither did Moe, and these were guys that could land the ball on a lunch plate from 180 yards. You don’t step off your putts, and then calculate the degrees of slope and grain, then decide if you should use a 2, 3, 5 or 8 inch backstroke. You feel it in with intuition. Striking the ball is no different.
The more you move golf out of an internal feeling, and move your shot focus away from intuition, the worse you get, and the slower your improvement will be.