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.