Wednesday, October 19, 2011

20 Questions With Martin Chuck

20 Questions With Martin Chuck
 When Stack and Tilt exploded into the golfing public’s collective consciousness, it also illuminated The Golfing Machine. Many people thought that S&T and TGM was basically the same thing. This could have possibly been from the emphasis on the forward leaning shaft at impact.  Great ball strikers have always produced this alignment position, but for some reason popular instruction has failed to recognize it as a fundamental.   The one golf mind that jumped all over the forward leaning shaft at impact craze is most recently a full time teaching professional at The  Sunriver Resort in Oregon and at The Raven in Phoenix.
Born in Toronto in 1968, an 8 year old Martin Chuck shagged golf balls for a guy named Moe Norman.  At the age of 9, he had his first golf lesson with Canadian golf legend George Knudson. He went on to work as a 16 year old conducting follow-up lessons for Mr. Knudson.  From there he went on to New Mexico State University as a member of the NMSU golf team from 88 until 92 where one of his teammates was future PGA Champion Rich Beem.  He also played on the Canadian Tour through 1996 with several Monday Qualifying attempts on the Nationwide Tour.  After Knudson’s passing in 1988, Martin took lessons from Mike LaBauve and spent a lot of time with Mark Evershed where he was introduced to The Golfing Machine. His first stop as club professional came in 1995 in Palm Dessert, CA with stops in Reno at ArrowCreek Country Club and at Tetherow GC in Bend Oregon where he was the GM from 2007 until this past April. He and his wife, Stacey, have two youngins’ Jackson 2, and Samantha 4. You can now find Martin teaching the lessons he learned at The Tour Striker Golf Academy at The Raven Golf Club in Phoenix, AZ.
Martin’s claim to fame is obviously the widely popular Tour Striker training device, which was introduced to the public in December of 2008.

1.       What was the genesis of the Tour Striker? Did you have dream or an Aha moment?

It was during an introductory lesson with a new member at ArrowCreek in Reno, NV. He was newly retired and wanting to learn golf. He had the typical “flip and fall back” look of a newbie trying to help the ball into the air. I like to show this type of player how to have a downward attack by putting a Sharpie mark on the third groove and hitting a shot to show how I can “smear” the Sharpie mark. That’s when it dawned on me that the bottom of the club was the problem for most players trying to learn the game. I decided to remove that portion of the face so they couldn’t get decent results and had to learn to have some downward attack and forward lean.

2.       How many prototypes did you go through before you knew you had the version that could be introduced to the public?

I made three different heads before I settled on a version(s) to send along to an actual club designer. Once I had the idea of taking off the bottom of the face, I realized that the hosel of the club was now in the way. I had an old Jerry Barber 7 iron, the “shankless” model, which allowed me to grind off the bottom grooves. I made the radius consistent from heel to toe. After some student testing with that head, I realized I needed to take off the toe of the club too as one of my test subjects brought the handle in high and steepened the shaft so much that he was able to get the toe of the club and some elevated loft to get the ball airborne. Then I was back to the drawing board. I then had a local welder add a ¼” steel plate to a Hogan 8 iron to get the face forward and I started grinding from there. That proved to be the answer for the toe relief and still allowed me to elevate the leading edge. Relieving the heel was done simply to add some symmetry to the funky looking face. Of course, I had had to take a bunch of weight off the back of that proto head. I owe a debt of gratitude to my father-in-law, Harold Haycraft, who owns Hannibal Machine in Hannibal, MO. He’s not a golfer, but he was great at taking that rough proto I made and creating some decent looking units with some odd club heads I sent him.

3.       What’s the most difficult step in the process of getting an invention to market?

Coming up with the cash!! As a club pro with a young family I wasn’t exactly rolling in dough. I did have some savings and my wife believed in the idea, so we took a shot. I’d say I invested $50K in attorneys’ fees (patents, etc.), investor packets, design and the initial purchase order. Obviously you have to see if you are infringing on somebodies intellectual property. That process is daunting and expensive. You can do it on your own, but it will take you forever and you’ll likely make a mistake. You need a good patent lawyer to give you the “go or no go.”

4.       Were you able to bring this product to market with the capital you had available or did you have to go out and solicit investors?

I brought it to market with my own money as noted above. Like most inventors, I was “scared” that I would be ripped off by some unscrupulous companies in our golf world and we know who those are. Once I realized that my product “had legs” and I could sell these as proven by the 2009 PGA Show, I then looked to take the product to a larger scale and brought in some investors. My goal was to establish the “Tour Striker” as a known entity before somebody who could bury me in attorney fees knocked me off.

5.       Did you have a number in mind of how many units you had to sell before you could commit to spending the money on an infomercial with a spokesman like Gary McCord, or was this part of the business plan to begin with?

Well before the infomercial I was marketing the Tour Striker for no money. I had a YouTube channel where I would post tips that would lead fans to check out my website and I would spend time on golf blogs offering advice to win fans. All of this free marketing helped drive a little traffic to my site and we started selling a few clubs each day. My goal was one club a day to start. A good day would be 10 clubs. While I wasn’t telling people to buy a Tour Striker, the blog sites caught on that I was encouraging people to check out my site by my online “signature” and they started asking for money or they would shut down the threads. It’s funny how everyone is looking for a buck or two.

At the 2009 PGA Show, a bunch of marketing companies approached me. After a long negotiation, my wife and I elected to partner with The Golf Agency. They are a one-stop-shop for all things golf sales and marketing related. One of my dear friends worked for them so I felt pretty good about the deal. They, along with a few small investors (buddies), infused the money to make the infomercial and media plan. Basically, I gave away 50% of the company but they do all of the work. At the time, with success of the Tour Striker still in question, it was a nice opportunity. It allowed me to take the brand to a higher status adding a level of protection.

6.       Did you have any clue that the TS would be this successful? Were you concerned that during the process that someone might steal your idea before you could get it to market?

As a teaching pro, I saw the merit in the tool right away. I have been inventing things for over 20 years. This is the first successful project in many failed attempts. Of course, I was concerned that I would get knocked off, so that is why I partnered with a powerful company to build the brand awareness. I was thinking of the future and adding my other “gizmos” to the Tour Striker name after I had a success product in the market.

7.       Was the Tour Striker your first idea for a training aid?

No, in college, I loved the “Power Swing Fan.” You know the thing that has the golf grip with four white plastic wings? Well, I wanted to make a portable version of this so golfers could store it in their apparel pocket on their golf bag. I went down the road, made a prototype and ran of money. I remember seeing that exact thing at the PGA Show some years later. All instructors have ideas, the key is to react and follow through! I’ve seen a few of my unfulfilled ideas come to light over the years at the PGA Show. I’m glad these guys showed the initiative to get things done.
8.       What’s on the horizon for the TS family of products?

I have three products coming out at the 2012 PGA Show. The TS driver is pretty cool. It looks like a top-line OEM driver with a decent graphite shaft, but just below the top line, the TS face characteristics take over. It really gives you an awareness of face, path and the importance of a high-centered strike. Anything on the heel, toe or below center on the face results in a total mishit. The head is 460 cc, but the striking area is only 1.68” wide, or the size of a golf ball. Yes, I’m evil. The driver will retail for $199.

I also have the Tour Striker “Educator” available. It is a simple and inexpensive tool that attaches to any club to help educate what your hands and wrists are doing during the swing. It will be $29 with a drills DVD.

I also have the Tour Striker “Unifier.” It is a swing harness that helps people unify their body and arm swing. This is a co-invention with a buddy, Mark Nelson, from my college days.

There will be more products in the coming years. The original TS will help pave the way to other products. I have one called “The Magic Wand” that should be out at the 2013 Show. That will be cool. I’m “JV’ing” with a guy on a cool rhythm device that will make people think I’m a little nuts, but the gizmo has serious merit. It might make the 2013 PGA Show as well.

9.       If Joe Teaching Pro has an idea for a training aid, how much capital does he need to get the product to market?
Depends on the intricacies of the product. Patent search will cost about $1000. Prototyping can be expensive, but you don’t need to make the perfect prototype. If you get something kind of close, “MacGyver style,” manufacturers overseas will help for free in many cases to get your business. Once you appear to have the “green light” you’ll need to come up with money for your initial purchase order. The more you order, the less they cost you. I started off by ordering 500 units. I sold them all at the 2009 PGA show. Boy, was I relieved! The PGA Show is expensive. The minimum booth is $5000 or so and you have the flights, signage, flyers, etc. You’d think the PGA Show would give a PGA member a deep discount. Not the case!

I have had 30 pros call me and ask for advice. I’m more than happy to offer suggestions or help if I can. In some cases I joint venture on projects under the TS umbrella. That way I use the channels I’ve already made and they make a few bucks without the headaches.

Most new inventors don’t realize that it takes time to get your idea to a saleable product. It took me 16 months to get the Tour Striker to market. That was working on it part-time as I was the lead pro at a Country Club at the time.

10.   What is the future of golf instruction?

That is a can of worms! The future of golf instruction should be to find the best way to instill confidence so people can perform better and enjoy their time on the course. That is a broad statement, but we all get so darn technical, when ultimately it is a stick and ball game. I am certainly guilty of dumping too much on a student and trying to give them “their moneys worth.” While highly technical, I do think that launch monitors can actually simplify the learning curve. Let’s face it, if we can fix face and path without guessing we can simplify the message we deliver to the student. I’m a big believer in getting the hands on the club nicely and showing the golfer how the club is supposed to work. Once they know that, I hope they create their own feels they can rely upon when on the course.

11.   Tiger or Jack?

Jack. He’s a class act and a great family man. I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I am with Tiger Woods. He had the World by the short hairs and let it get away. He went from the penthouse to the outhouse in my opinion. I do love watching him play and hope he can earn respect once again. He is the most exciting player that has ever played. He’s the Mike Tyson of golf. I can’t imagine he likes looking in the mirror these days. It is very sad for his family.

12.   Moe or Hogan?

Pure ball striking? Moe.
Player? Hogan

13.   Gretzky , Orr, Lemieux, Crosby, Ovechkin . Please rank them

Come on…Gretzky by a mile followed by Lemieux, Crosby and Ovechkin 

14.   Top 5 courses in Canada

I’ve been in the US for over half of my 43 years, but as I remember them:
1. The National Golf Club (Toronto)
2. St. George’s Golf Club (Toronto)
3. The Toronto Golf Club (duh…)
4. Beacon Hall (Toronto)
5. Capilano Golf Club (Vancouver)

It’s not fair if I don’t rave about the golf in Canada. If you readers have a chance, you really need to go on a golf trip to Canada. I will go on record and say that around Toronto you could play 40 mind-blowing courses in 40 days and another 40 nice courses the next 40 days. In my opinion (not worth much), the golf around Toronto is the best in North America. There is a great mix of classics from the early 1900’s to modern bears that are all bent grass from tee to green.

15.   List the top 5 ball strikers of all time.

1.       Moe
2.       Hogan
3.       Trevino
4.       Knudson
5.       Snead
16.   Teacher or coach?

Coach. I think the best players are helped, but they learn most of what they know on their own. If you own it, you can trust it. Teaching is what occurs in the first few minutes of a lesson. Coaching occurs for the rest of the time.

17.   Please prioritize these 8 areas of the game for the average golfer as it relates to scoring.
Ball striking, Driving, Putting, Chipping/Pitching, Wedge Game 60 to 100 yards, Fairway woods/hybrids, Course Management, Specialty Shots ( greenside bunkers, fairway bunkers, knockdowns, recovery shots etc.)  Please list these areas for the elite player.

Average Player
2. Driving
3.Chipping Pitching
4. Wedge Game 60 to 100
5. Course Management
6. Ball Striking
7. Specialty Shots
8. Fairway Woods/Hybrids
Elite Player
1.       Course Management
2.       Putting
3.       Driving
4.       Chipping/Pitching
5.       Wedge Game 60 to 100
6.       Ball Striking
7.       Specialty Shots
8.       Fairway/Hybrids

18.   What advice would you give parents that have a child that is 6 years old that displays some special talent for the game?

Keep things fun! Teach them the honor of the game and do your best to instill the desire to compete. Win with honor, but win. Swing really hard; you can always learn how to back off! Work on your putting and chipping!
19.   If Tiger called you tomorrow and said “ Martin, I need your help, do whatever you have to do to get me back to the number 1 spot in the world” How would you go about it?

If he was still on the phone after me sharing my thoughts about his behavior I would teach him how to “swing the club” again. He needs to adjust his left hand position (see a couple of knuckles like he did when he was a kid), add a little cup at the top to get a less laid off and balance the club then release the darn club. As he “matured” and got bigger and stronger, his lower body move overpowers his arms/club and the clubs inertia gets stuck behind him too often with longer clubs. It’s a rhythm thing, but it would be easier if he fixed his grip. When he was younger, he swung the mass of the club much better and it brought him to a full finish. Now, he fights the finish a lot. He’s still very good with the shorter clubs, as the inertia isn’t as much of a challenge. Also, I’d make him play 30 events in a season. He really needs to save face and get back out there. He should have played all of the Fall Series events. He’s never going to get back to #1 unless he starts playing successive weeks to get his touch back. He talks about “reps” and doesn’t play!

20.   I taught for nearly 15 years thinking there was a “ secret “ to golf before I realized that I had known what it was all along. In your opinion, is there a secret or does everyone have Their Own secret?
Yes there is a secret to golf: move the club with a path and power source that provides for a predictable ball flight. It really doesn’t matter how you do it. I know that is not what people want to read, but it is THE SECRET. The key is to find something that does the above you can trust.

Everyone has their own secret that works for them. I have spent a lot of time with a lot of guys that are in the Hall of Fame, or soon will be, and they all do it differently. The only thing they have in common, or close to in common, is that the club arrives to the ball in a similar position at the moment of truth. They all feel the swing differently, hold the club differently, explain the swing differently, use different rhythm, but the only thing they really do the same is program the balls flight really well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

20 Questions With Chuck Evans

I’m really excited about the opportunity to interview Chuck Evans for 20 Questions With…
A native of Kansas City, Chuck  is one of only 31 Teachers in the world to hold the designation of “Doctorate in Golf Stroke Engineering”,  he is one of the most highly sought after instructors in the world not only by players but other teachers as well and is known as the Teacher of Teachers!
In addition to Chuck’s instruction he has produced, directed, and starred in over 200 golf instruction videos.  Chuck has written countless articles for regional, national, and worldwide golf publications and his book, “How to Build Your Golf Swing” is in the libraries of amateurs, playing, and teaching professionals alike.
Chuck has been the Featured Speaker at 39 of the 41 PGA of America sections, covering subjects that range from the science of the golf swing to  business and how to effectively communicate through golf. He has also spoken on creating Junior Golf programs and how to give back to one’s community. Chuck is an experienced, comfortable and motivational public.

Much like me, Chuck thought his calling was going to be football, where he was a free agent with the Redskins while George Allen was the coach. His influences include Hogan, Trevino, and both of the Canadian legends, George Knudsen, and Moe Norman. The latter of which Chuck had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with.

1.      What is the future of technology in regards to how juniors are developed? 
I think, that if used correctly, 3D radar technology – like Trackman and Flightscope, can help all players to examine their tendencies and then make adjustments to get whatever ball flight they want.  I had a 10 year Junior that could tell within 2 degrees whether he was too much in to out.  Not only could he “feel” the differences he could make changes almost at will!  The kids in our Junior Programs love working with Trackman.  They like to see the graphs and then start to apply whatever changes necessary to reach their full swing goals.
But I also believe there is a tendency to “over” teach Juniors.  Trying to get in all of the so-called “correct” positions, emulate some PGA Tour Player and the like.  I believe that the game should be taught from the green back to the tee.  This helps to create a scoring attitude instead of a “mechanics” attitude.
Are mechanics important?  Yes, to some degree.  But at the end of the day it is all about getting the ball into the hole.  Every week there are players shooting low scores and winning tournaments with mechanics that would make most of us scratch our head.  I’m not saying that good mechanics are not important, they are.  But the only mechanics a player needs to understand are those that produce what they want!
Players should also understand why doing certain things with the pivot, arms and hands create different swing planes, different clubface motions and different swing paths.  Without this knowledge they are defenseless in their quest for improvement.
2.      Please prioritize the 8 areas of the game in order of importance in regards to how an average golfer can improve his overall game.
(4)Ball Striking, (5)driving, (2)putting, (1)pitching/chipping, (8)hybrids/fairway woods, (6)Game/course management, (7)specialty shots, (3)wedge game.
Actually I think that players should start with the short game – putting, chipping and pitching – move into full swing, followed by course management.  By my estimate -  driver, wedge and putter make up 78% of all strokes.  Some teachers like to start with full swing and then work into the short game.  That IS one way to do it.  But you can be the greatest putter in the world but if the putt is for a 12 then it really doesn’t matter!  So there is validity for either “method.”
3.      If a complete beginner comes to you and says; “ I’m a blank slate, do what you do” What is the priority?
As I mentioned above, my first priority is to build some successes for their “memory bank.”  It’s a lot easier to get them to hole a few putts early on then to hit a 300 yard drive!  By working on short game first it also allows the player to learn “alignments” much easier.  I define alignments as clubface to path, hands to clubface, body to hands.  As the player starts “getting it” we can then move along to a bigger stroke.  But if the player is struggling with maintaining alignments with small shots they are certain to struggle with full swings.
4.      How important is it for the average golfer to understand ball flight laws, and the science and physics of the game.
I don’t think the student needs to understand all of the science involved in a golf stroke but they do need to fully understand ball flight and the science that produces it.  There is so much instruction available today for players – and teachers – that it can be overwhelming!  For example, a player that is studying the Golfing Machine can easily be caught up with all of the jargon and really not know what it means, what it looks like, and even worse…how to produce whatever it is they are reading.
I can’t tell you how many AI’s have come to my teaching workshops that don’t have even have a basic understanding of what Mr. Kelley wrote…yet they are AI’s!  There are also a lot of “naysayers” of TGM that profess to “know the book.”  Yet, somehow missed the part about ball flight, the D-Plane, etc.  It’s all in there, IF you know where to look and can comprehend what Mr. Kelley had written.

I’m not saying that TGM is 100% correct, NOTHING is!  But there is enough great information in that yellow book to help build champions! 

5.      Hypothetical situation: A golfer comes to you with an “over the top” move of say, 15 degrees outside in. He hits it solid but it’s a pull slice of about 30 to 40 yards.  How do you go about correcting that? Assuming he wants to ;-)
When there is an issue with a player’s motion I always give them options.  In this case the options are fix the path or fix the clubface.  I’ll have the player hit shots using both and then let them decide which one they can most easily replicate time after time.  It’s NOT my preference that needs to be adjusted…it’s theirs!
6.      It’s popular these days in popular instruction to overlook the grip because the instructor doesn’t want to “lose” the student and his $$$ If the player doesn’t have the handle placed properly in the left hand, it’s very difficult to hinge the club properly. Why would you not address the issue?
There are “strong” grips that fade the ball and “weak” grips that hook the ball.  Of all the changes that can be made to a player the grip is the toughest one for them to get past.  Now I WILL change the location of the hand on the grip it is too much in the palm or fingers.  But rarely will I change the hand angle to the grip.
But again, IF the grip is causing the issue then I’ll give the player options, have them shots, tell me what they are comfortable AND most likely to repeat!
7.      In regards to putting, What is your opinion on priority, green reading, aim and alignment or speed?
It’s well documented that ALL players rarely aim the putter face correctly. Even the ones that do rarely roll the ball on the aim line.  Somehow they must manipulate either the stroke or the putter face to make the putt.
Once the player has made up their mind about the putt they need to forget the line and focus on the speed.  The average player almost never hits a putt 5 feet right or left of the hole but frequently miss the putt either 5 feet short or long. Those of us that grew up playing golf as kids had no fear when it came to putting.  We’d look at it, maybe make a couple of rehearsal strokes, stand up and whack it!  If we missed, and ran it by 4 feet, we usually walked up and knocked it in!  Really great putters have no fear, they have great touch and can “feel” the putt even before they hit it.
Out of all the players I’ve tested over the years only TWO aimed the putter properly…and they were Junior golfers!  If a player aims to the left of the hole, assuming a dead straight putt, that means they would have to “open” the face during Impact and separation and “push” it to the hole.  If the player aims to the right then they will need to “close” the putter face during that same interval.
8.      Tiger or Jack?
9.      Arnold or Jack?
10.  If  Tiger called tomorrow, and said “ Chuck, I’m a blank slate, I don’t care how long it takes, but I’m going to let you do what you do no matter what it is” How are you going to approach it?
First, Tiger already has within him all of the information he needs.  He just has to decipher it, throw some out and leave some in place.  But Tiger has always had the same issue.  He gets “stuck” so the only advice I’d give is to work on either slowing down the pivot or speeding up the arms. In other words his sequencing has always been suspect.
Basically Tiger’s pivot has never been under control and it has caused the majority of his ball striking issues especially when it really tried to hammer it!
11.  If you are Presidents Cup Captain, do you still choose Tiger with one of your captain’s pick?
Yes – even though the intimidation factor isn’t what it used to be he still is Tiger and he is hungry!
12.  Let’s say a year goes by and Tiger has still not found his game, would you still pick him for the Ryder Cup team at a venue like Medinah where he has had a lot of success?
Not unless he is showing signs of his game improving.  I think the Presidents cup will either wake Tiger back up or it could be his taming!
13.  Teacher or Coach?
If you are starting to work with a player and making changes then you must be a teacher.  Once all of the changes have been made and the player fully understands and can perform, then it’s time to be a coach. 
14.  Why do you think the European, Australian, South African, and Asian players are better ball strikers than the American players? Or is this urban golf folklore?
I don’t think they are better ball strikers but they do have more shots in their arsenal because of the conditions they learned and play in.  Darren Clarke is a prime example.  He won the Open this year because he controlled his ball better in the conditions.  He hit tons of knock down shots with some running and some spinning to a stop.  In America we play the ball in the air and in Europe they play the ball on the ground.
The old time players here in the US would never hit a shot flying it to a back pin!  They would hit something lower to the middle of the green and chase it back.  Today’s players, for the most part, fly their wedges to the hole.  Junior players think every wedge shot is a 60 degree lob!  This goes back to playing the game we discussed earlier.  As teachers we need to spend more time out on the course with our players teaching them the art of scoring then we do in the laboratory!
15.  With all of the information about Trackman, 3D, D-Plane, and all the advances in technology, I still notice a majority of the players, young and old, veterans and rookies on Tour, still curve the ball the way they always have. By stalling the hips and timing the release for a draw, or aiming left and holding off the face to hit a cut. Do you think the next generation of elite players will continue to play that way or hit it straight using the technology that many internet gurus say will revolutionize the way we teach?
In some cases players do stall the hips but for the most part I see that as part of the kinematic sequence.  Pelvis fires, then stops, thorax then fires, then stops, arms then fire, then stop, and finally the club fires and outraces everything before it all catches it again.  Davis Love and Dustin Johnson are just a couple of the guys that do an excellent job of firing then stopping.
If a player is curving the ball either way then they must open or close the plane line to accommodate the curvature.  Otherwise they would miss right or left.  Players that are drawing the ball simply have the clubface closed in relationship to the path.  But here’s the kicker…If they start aimed parallel left of the target – common in a lot of teaching – then they MUST swing out to the right as part of the equation to draw the ball.  Path to the right, clubface closed to path.  When they do this they have actually rotated their plane line to the right.  So the choice would be to either rotate this plane line during the stroke OR set up closed to begin with.
Technology has a way of changing things, some for the good – some for the bad! While the advent of Trackman, SAM Putt Labs, Aimpoint have all contributed to the education of players and teachers I don’t see technology bringing players into the game.  That is the job of the teacher.  Most high handicap players are intimidated by information, they only care about getting better and don’t really care about how or what is used to accomplish that goal!
There are teachers that have all of this great technology on their lesson tee and their business is horrible.  Then there are teachers that have information, but none of the technology at their disposal but their books are full!
16.  Rank the Top 5 teachers of all time.
Henry Cotton, Homer Kelley, Seymour Dunn, Percy Boomer, Tommy Armour
17.  Who is the greatest ball striker you have ever witnessed up close and personal? Putter? Chipper and pitcher? Driver of the ball?
Ben Hogan, Moe Norman, Lee Trevino and George Knudson were the best ball strikers.  Trevino as wedge player and chipper, Ben Crenshaw as a putter, Greg Norman as a Driver of the ball – long and straight! 
18.  Who was your biggest influence in this business?
Homer Kelley taught me what to teach, lots of great teachers showed me HOW to teach!  Martin Hall, Davis Love, Bob Toski, Chuck Cook, Mike Bender, Ron Gring and Mac O’Grady are just a few.
19.  What do you think the young instructors just getting started in the business should do to ensure that they are the best they can be?
First of all DO NOT sit in front of your computer reading all of the trash that is floating around…all of the “I’m right and you’re wrong” type of trash!  When I was first starting out I went and watched the best teachers around teach, talked and asked questions.  When I ran out of them locally I started going to the best teachers in the US and asking them questions and observing.  Be a sponge for information, they will get some good and some bad but will learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.
Learn to take time for yourself and your family.  Lots of younger guys, and gals, want to change the world and work, work, work.  I did that too for almost 40 years.  7 days a week with no time for me or the family.  You’ve got to remember that your family is your support group, get away from business and spend time with them or lose them!
20.  How can the old school teachers improve themselves and stay current without rushing out and dropping big time $$$$ on technology?
“old school” teachers don’t need to mortgage the farm to get up to date, if that’s what you want to call it.  Spend time with your peers that do have the latest and greatest, ask questions, watch them teach, find a mentor that will share information with you, work with you if necessary.  Basically do what the new generation is doing and that I suggested…go out and talk to teachers you respect, the ones without an agenda.  It’s the old saying, “seek and you shall find.”
Bonus Question:
Since you have been selected by your peers to the The Top 100 list of greatest teachers, how much has that meant to your career? Being selected is certainly an honor especially when it is by your peers. 
Double Bonus Question:
Butch Harmon has seemingly been firmly planted in the number one position for as long as I can remember; will he die in the number one position? Because it seems like no matter what his students do he’s not going anywhere
Butch get a lot of “face time” and seemingly endorses everything…he doesn’t, it just seems that way!  He has lots of great players both on tour and off. 
Some guys spend their entire careers trying to work with Tour Players and think that will launch them into some sort of upper echelon.  I can tell you personally that working with Tour players brought NO business to my lesson tee.  I have a couple of fellow teachers that have experienced the same thing. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

20 Questions with Darren Hopwood

I'm really excited about my next 20 Question with interview. I decided to go across the pond and get another perspective. Age 39, Darren Hopwood is the PGA UK Head Professional at Penwortham Golf Club in Preston.
Since turning professional in 1996 Darren’s main duties have been as a Club & Teaching Professional in and around the North of England, however as a player he did enjoy some success on the mini tours in and around the UK as well as national PGA events, providing him with a well rounded perspective of the game. Along with improving his students mechanics Darren is also keen to work on the mental game and is a qualified mental skills coach his main goal with any student is to make them a better player, not just a better swinger.

It’s safe to say that Darren is a Stack and Tiltist. As in cultist ;-) He coaches all levels of golfers and focuses on teaching and coaching players to play golf and not just improve the golf swing.

A big fan of The New Ball Flight Laws, Darren’s influences include, Andy Plummer, Butch Harmon, Jamie Edwards, Dave Pelz, Ben Hogan, and Seve Ballesteros.

  1. What are the biggest misconceptions Americans in general have about golf courses in the UK, in particular the Open Championship Rotation?

Depends on the player, Ask Tom Watson and you’ll get a totally different answer than from Bubba Watson, the more you play them the more you love them but they can’t be learned in a week so keep coming guys. Having played the majority of the courses on our Rota I can say with confidence that the conditions and challenge offered are (although different) second to none. Best for me would be a tie between St Andrews & Royal Birkdale.

  1. What do you think Americans fail to understand about how we are perceived across the pond as it relates to sportsmanship.

I'd tend to say that, in my own experience, the Americans in general get an unfair deal in regards to this, most of the players attending The Open or other events (including the Ryder Cup) conduct themselves impeccably. Yes there is the odd “situation” but I think that’s true on both sides of the pond. My main criticism of the  American players as a whole would relate to the amount of travel outside the US the majority partake in.

  1. How bad do you guys want to pound us in the Ryder Cup?

You are kidding right? We want to whoop you bad (and id imagine you boys want the same) that’s the way Ryder Cup is and always should be.

  1. Why do you think American players are not on the same level as the rest of the world?

 First of all id say you have got a lot of good players however the PGA Tour is no longer an American strong hold therefore players from overseas now feature more heavily in the tours top 50. I think the initial reaction most people have is to question the toughness of the American players although I personally don’t think that’s the case, my own take would be that the vast majority of American Players are not as well traveled as the Asians, Europeans Australians etc as a result they lack somewhat in regards to their Golfing education. Add to that a massively different demographic within your tour and peoples perception of the American players is bound to be different.

  1. How would you rate the countries in order of dominance on the world golf stage?
America, Britain, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Korea, Japan, The rest ( Canada, Germany, Mexico, South America )

Tricky as in depends on what you base the rankings on. At the moment the world rankings suggest a European dominance within the top 10 however does that then transcend down to the top 100? Do you look at Majors or week to week events? My own feelings would be in regards to dominance would be:
1: Europe 2: America 3: South Africa 4: Asia 5: Australasia 6: South America.

This is based more on week to week over last few seasons. (Maybe the stats show different but that’s my perception of events)

  1. The Office UK or The Office US?

Neither, much prefer Family guy ! Stewie G all the way for me.

  1. Who is the best teacher in the world?

I would have to select Andy Plummer & Mike Bennett however as a European I do feel that Pete Cowan is way underrated your side of the pond. Ultimately I’m not a fan of such polls as it is heavily biased on what works for each student.

  1. Who is the best teacher in America?

See number 7

  1. Of the Eight areas of the game, list them in order of importance of scoring 1 through 8

2. Course/Game Management
3.Ball Striking (I'm a S&T guy this is a fundamentalJ)
4. Putting
5. Chipping and Pitching inside 50 yards
6. Wedge Game
7. Fairway Woods and Hybrids
8. Specialty Shots

  1. Jack or Tiger?


  1. What’s the most important major championship as it pertains to boosting a players career?

 In regards to boosting his career worldwide I’d say the Masters

  1. Open Championship or Ryder Cup?

Open Championship

  1. US Open or Masters?
  1. Zeppelin or Stones?

  1. Path or clubface?
 Both (bit like France without Paris)

  1. You have a golfer come in off the street and he is out side in 15 degrees, Coming right over the top of it and hitting a 30 yards pull slice. How do you go about correcting that?

First port of call in this situation would be to explain what is going on at impact and clarify what actually starts the ball and what actually bends the ball so that the student has a better understanding of impact and what is required of them. Once the understanding is there then id begin work on improving his overall action

As with any golfer the changes applied depend on the individual and his/her tendencies ball location, weight location, basic movement etc would all be assessed before moving on however the bulk of the work initially would relate to path & face.

Path or face 1st ?  in this situation I’d have to say a little of both, my initial suggestion would be to calm the clubface down so that the “need” to come across the ball is reduced, however at the same time I would be blocking the outside so as to improve the path. The remainder of the session and changes made would then depend heavily on the student’s reaction to the initial changes. Some guys get it straight away others take more “convincing”.

  1. What’s all the rage in regards to technology in European instruction?
More and more coaches now use FlightScope or Trackman as an integral part of their coaching, The Online support is becoming increasingly popular and beneficial. K-Vest & other 3-D analysis is available however not at most facilities.

  1. Why do you think there is so much criticism of Stack and Tilt and is it as hostile in Europe?

Stack & Tilt is criticized largely due to individual’s ignorance and or unwillingness to embrace new information. If you ask most coaches and so called “experts” to explain the basic pattern they would be so far off its untrue, or would decline (based on a lack of knowledge). I think that one of the main criticisms S&T encounters relates to its “unsuitability to hitting Driver” this is largely due to the void of information out there relating to the changes required to hit Driver within the pattern, things are also is not helped by the media’s constant misrepresentation of the method.

  1. Would you rather qualify for the Open Championship as a player or have a student qualify for the European Tour?

That’s cruel !! I’m going to be honest and say both, however ones “the dream” and the other is more of a reality. As a Coach getting a student on tour would be very satisfying especially if the student was someone whom I’ve worked with from the very beginning.

  1. Coach or Teacher?


Bonus Question-
In regards to putting, what’s most important- Stroke mechanics or Green reading and alignment?
Green reading (provided there is a basic stroke in place)

Double Bonus  Question-
Is there any such thing as golf specific fitness training or is that like saying jumbo shrimp ? J  Before you answer, I’m a TPI guy.

Lol …..Jumbo shrimp please ;-)

Yes there is golf specific training, as to how much of an impact this would have on the overall performance of a player would depend heavily on the individual. I think the biggest impact such training can have is on injury prevention and longevity, I know the TPI guys will not like me when I say this but I think it’s a bit over played at the moment in regards to its overall impact on a players score.

I want to apologize to Darren for just now getting around to publishing this interview. He was kind enough to take the time to allow me to conduct it nearly two months ago. I really appreciate his time attention.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

20 Questions With Don Parsons

This edition of 20 Questions especially useful because our subject is not only an outstanding instructor, but was also an elite level amateur golfer back in the days of covered wagon, the gutty and sand tees ;-)
He also provides some interesting insights into golf fitness, technology, and and junior golf.

 Don Parsons is the owner and DOI at The Studio at Twin Lakes in Santa Barbara, California.

In my opinion he has created the standard for golfer development. When I opened his website gallery page, I just said, "Really?" He has created  what I have always wanted- an indoor facility with the technology and resources to make people drop their jaw and say- "WOW!" It has everything, putting lab, club fitting equipment, 3-D motion capture, and a golf specific fitness center. He is a Level 3 TPI professional as well as a Level 2 certified bio-mechanisist.

The 4-Time Northern California PGA TOY and the 2003 Southern California TOY, has touched every base on his way to his current heights in the business. After realizing that he wasn't quite talented enough to QB the Dallas Cowboys, the native of Fort Worth, Texas and his father moved back to California where his folks purchased a 9 hole executive course. After watching David Graham win the US Open the last time it was played at Merion, he decided to go to the golf course instead of surfing. After watching a local high school kid shoot 72 that day he was hooked and played 45 holes a day for the rest of the summer. In three months he went from shooting 120 to 81. 

Don played collegiately for the Gauchos of UC-Santa Barbara where they climbed to number 18 in the country. As a senior he qualified individually for the NCAA tournament. In 1988 he won the California State Am at Pebble Beach. Can you imagine having that experience and memory to carry around in your hip pocket for the rest of your life? He competed in all the major amateur events including the US Am, Sunnehanna, Porter Cup, Pacific Coast Am, and the Rice Planters. He made this very telling comment to, " If I could continue to coach, I would regain my amateur status in a heartbeat to compete in the amateur events, I loved the competition and camaraderie of it all."

After college he turned pro and realized just how brutal living on the road was going to be. In fact, he had to WD from his first pro event because he had a car accident on the way to his final practice round. He still feels the effects of the accident in his neck to this day.

In his first pro start he was a shot off the lead and went out in the last group with two guys named Tom that he had never heard of. One of the Tom's shot 64 and illuminated the reality that their were guys that he had never even heard of going very low routinely.  One of the Tom's was Tom Silva. The other? Tom Lehman, eventually won the British Open.

By 1990 Don had come to the realization that professional golf was not for him. His aching back made the decision to get a day gig a lot easier. He took a job at a 9 hole course in Santa Barbara which he is part owner of to this day. He was elected into membership of the PGA in 1992 and became a full time teaching professional. He has always been somewhat of a tech nerd and builds custom speaker cabinets. He built his first video cart for the range in 1992 using dry erase markers to draw lines on the monitor.

He has produced over 60 collegiate golfers. This past year producing in his opinion the best crop with four players ranked in the top 50 in the US. The four have gone to play collegiately at Stanford, Northwestern, Norte Dame, and UC Davis.  Of those four, one was honorable mention All-American, and two others Big West and Big East Freshmen of The Year. He has two players that have won the California State Am. His long time friend and student John Pate has played in 16 US Amateurs and 12 Mid-Ams.


1. What is the big difference between the games of the elite amateur and the tour professional?

From a statistics standpoint I would say it is normally wedge play and putting. There are a lot of elite amateurs that are fantastic ball strikers 

2. Video or launch monitor?
I use video because it is a medium that most players are accustomed to. I would love to get hold of a Trackman someday.

3. 3D or launch monitor?
3D it is what I am used to and what I own. Plus, I believe that the motion of the body controls the movement of the club.

4. Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman?
Roger Staubach. Aikman took my dream job.

5. You  have one of the most impressive arrays of technology for just a relatively small facility. Is there anything you don’t have or wish you had?
Since I pay for all of my technology, I have had to compromise to a degree. I would love a Trackman, an AMM 6 sensor, and some force plates.

6. What is around the corner in regards to teaching technology?
I think it is a matter of time before we have really convenient and portable 3D technology. Sensors woven into clothing that would give us some really great 3D info.

7. Mike Bender told us a story about how when he was on tour in the late 70’s and was getting pretty bored and lonely out on the road, and one of the other guys on tour told him the place to be was up stairs in Mac O’Grady’s room. He went up there and Mac had an early VHS recorder on one of those big Sony VCR’s recording swings while hitting into the mattress they had taken off the frame and leaned on the wall. He said that that was the possibly the beginning of in depth video analysis and pop instruction out on tour. He said that anytime Mac conducted one of his clandestine clinics it was like AREA 51 that required a secret password to get in LOL. Do you think Mac still has a secret or it the cat out the bag?
Lol, I used to hit balls into the mattresses when I was playing the mini tours.  I have never met Mac and can’t really comment on what he knows or doesn’t or where he keeps his cat.

8. You mention in your bio that you built your own rig and used dry erase markers on the monitor screen. What were your primary teaching points back in the day and what lines did you draw?
Slide and sway lines, swing plane lines, and the dreaded circle around the head.

9. How has your teaching evolved over the last 30 years? 
The biggest change to my teaching happened when I met an athletic trainer named Kevin Brown in 1999.  Working as a team to address our players’ needs really changed our effectiveness and allowed our whole to be greater than the sum of our parts.  I understood for years the effect that club fitting had on performance this was just the next step in the process. Finally, what this technology and team work has done for me is help me return to what made me a good teacher early on and that is coaching my players to become better players: teaching them to hit shots, to manage the course, to PLAY the game. But, I am doing this with better prepared athletes who possess more tools to pull it all together.

10. I  taught for nearly 15 years before I gave my first video lesson, then I took a job with a popular indoor teaching franchise. I learned more  about the golf swing in those 2 years than I did in the first  15, but I turned into a teacher of the golf swing instead of a teacher of the game of golf, thank God I got fired! LOL What is the balance that young teachers need to have to not get too focused on the golf swing and ensure that they develop well rounded golfers?
Remember that the swing is just one of many tools that are needed to play the game. Having a good tool box full of tools allows your players to get the job done in a variety of ways. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

11. In the northern locales, where we teach hitting into a net 18 feet in front of the player and in domes, I see players that won’t take lessons and just beat ball after ball and have no clue what the ball is doing. Once spring arrives they can’t take a divot and barely get the ball airborne. What’s the answer to keep this from happening?
This goes right back to #10. Why on earth would you work hard on ball striking into a net? There are other skills players can be honed during the off season: mobility, stability, strength, speed, putting. Work on new movement patterns, learn about your mental game, take lessons on concentration and focus. I talk to my players about making the most of their time with the assets they have. I would not recommend spending a lot of time hitting into a net, or practicing putting on a punched green. There has to be better things to do with your time.

12. In my teaching there are 8 areas of the game, please prioritize these areas in regards to importance to scoring:
Putting-Driving-Ball Striking-Wedge Game- Chipping and Pitching inside 50 yards-Specialty Shots ( fairway bunkers, greenside bunkers, trouble shots, recovery shots) Ball Striking-Game and Course Management
Chipping and pitching inside 50 yards
Game management
Course management 
Wedge game
Ball Striking
Specialty shots

13.The only area that players can control 100% is Game and Course management. I have all my new students prioritize these areas before we start any lesson program , and not one student has ever made it Number 1. Wouldn’t the one thing you can control 100% at least be in the top three?
Most players  think they already do a good job of managing their games and the course, but also lack the knowledge of how to improve it. Unless they can play with great players or teachers and learn these things it is really about the school of hard knocks. 
14. I’m a big believer  in playing lessons. I try to make them affordable but it’s tough for a lot of teachers  because most teachers don’t have a facility that will allow them.  How can those teachers fill that void in their teaching programs.
Playing lessons are valuable on two levels; as an evaluation tool to decide what is important and for the ability to teach people how to play. Stats are a good way to assess and evaluate performance. I have been to tournaments to watch my competitive players play under tournament conditions which is illuminating to say the least. Finally, make a deal with a local golf course to allow you to play with 3 players at a time. Money is tight, many courses will encourage the incremental revenue.

15. You have had huge success with your juniors. How fulfilling is it to see those kids grow and mature into elite players and more importantly human beings and citizens?
Watching my players excel is hugely gratifying and I have developed long standing relationships with many of them that have spanned the 20 years I have been a full time instructor. In fact, my senior instructor Chad Beuoy started taking lessons from me 18 years ago when he was 13. Cash was tight for him back then so he trenched my yard for a sprinkler system in exchange for lessons. I have always admired his work ethic.

16. What is the ideal age to get a youngster started in the game?
As soon as they show a love for the game.

17. Coach or Teacher? What’s the difference?
I prefer coach because I feel like I am helping them to discover what works for them. I help them to see a trail that they must blaze. They do the hard work and determine their level of success.  

18. OK, here is a touchy subject. Two part Question- A. In your opinion, what  % of swing faults  are physical causations?   B. I’m a certified TPI Fitness Professional, I’ve done a great deal of physical screens since I was certified in September of 2009 and I’m not convinced that most golf pro’s are qualified to just go through the certification process and be cut loose to perform  screen’s without the sophisticated technology that something like K-Vest or AMM provides. Yet, in the eyes of TPI I am? What say ye?
I would say that at least 50% of swing issues have a physical component. The swing and every other movement pattern will follow the path of least resistance.  There is so much information out there about how to swing that most people know what they are trying to do. Whether they should be trying to do what they are trying is another question. I would say that if a player comes to you and says, “I’m coming over the top, I know what to do and just can’t stop.” There is probably a physical component to it.
I say you will be much better at it in six months than you are now and that you are  much better now than you were two years ago. I was level 3 certified in 2007 and worked with my trainer/therapist closely for 11 years and I am getting better every day. I love  technology and think that 3D is an incredibly powerful tool, but in the end we are the people who are doing the coaching. The more tools we can use to evaluate the better. I think where golf professionals fail is when they try to become fitness trainers because they took a TPI seminar. That is not what it was meant to teach you. 

19. A high % of average golfers early extend the spine through and just prior to impact, yet I’ve tested those same golfers and they can perform a full deep squat. On the other hand, I have seen elite players that can’t come close to performing a full deep squat, yet they can get their hips 50+ degrees at impact without early extending the spine and have no problem keep their trail foot on the ground with that trail knee moving toward the lead knee with ease. Can you explain this to me like I’m a 5 year old. LOL
I cannot. Early extension (the linear movement of the pelvis towards the ball before impact) continues to elude me as far as being a movement pattern that I have success changing while maintaining tournament performance with my players.  If I can get players controlling the pelvic movements of rotation, tilt, and side bend within the parameters we establish, and they can accelerate their torso efficiently, I find they hit the ball well and minimize early extension. Just because someone has a swing “fault” doesn’t mean it warrants fixing if there is something else that will be more effective use of time with regards to lowering score.

      20. Zeppelin or Stones?
Black Sabbath!
Bonus Question:
Klipsch or JBL?
Neither I make my own :-)

Thanks to Don for taking the time to participate.