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.