Golf Insight Newsletter Oct/Nov 2013

Golf Insight Newsletter Oct/Nov 2013


“Not dead yet,” despite the hiatus.  Busy summer full of travel, teaching and transition, hence the absence of offerings.  Some exciting news on the Facebook front: I’m pleased to announce the launching of my Christopher Smith Golf page.  Unique, enticing and timely morsels for your game.  Taste it here:

In the mean time, plenty to catch up on and learn from…

These folks did pass on – but not without leaving much that can help us with our golf.

Ken Venturi

The voice of CBS’ golf telecasts for 35 years, 1964 U.S. Open winner, participant in “The Match,” and so much more (below borrowed from the August issue of Golf Digest):

  • Tour players today carry at least three wedges, and that’s fine.  But if you’re an average player, you might consider carrying one less and learn to adjust loft on the others by opening or closing the clubface.  For one thing, it’ll make you a better and more creative player.  It’ll also free you up to add a club for the 180-to-210-yard shots, which are real bears to play.
  • On all but the hardest chips shots, take the flagstick out.  The process of taking the pin out and looking at that naked hole increases you resolve to hole the shot, tightens your focus.  It’s psychological, and it works.
  • Hogan to this day is perceived as having a precise, mechanical, repeating swing that never varied.  It’s not true at all.  When Jules Alexander sent me a bunch of photos he’d taken of Ben and asked me to analyze them, I was amazed by all the different follow-throughs Ben displayed.  The follow-through is like the blueprint; it tells you what went on earlier in the swing.  With the irons, every one of Ben’s follow-throughs was slightly different.  He was a tremendous shotmaker who made all sorts of adjustments to make the ball fly high and low, curve to the left or the right, spin or not spin when it hit the green.  People think of him as a scientist, when really he was a great artist.

CS speed-reader takeaways:

- Most players who carry three or more wedges aren’t very good with any of them… Become proficient with one wedge – then add the others.

- Focus on holing shots from around the green.  Why not?

- With all the numbers, angles and research (science-based) in golf these days, let us not forget that hitting shots and playing the game is more art, than science.

Miller Barber

Mr. X.  Two-time Ryder Cupper, three-time U.S. Senior Open Champion, played in a record 1,297 PGA Tour and Champions Tour events – and more credence to the fact that YOU DON’T HIT THE BALL WITH YOUR BACKSWING.

Some “Barberisms” taken from his 2005 interview with Golf Digest:

  • There’s a lot to be said for taking a shag bag into an open field, alone, and learning on your own. From the time I was small through my years in the Air Force, I practiced using my own balls, and I got so much out of it. You pay attention to every shot because you don’t want to walk all over picking them up. When you’re retrieving the balls you have time to think about your swing, with no interruptions from some guy next to you.
  • Ben Hogan told me to keep a journal of my progress. It was very important, he said, that I organize it into two sections: the keys that worked in my golf swing when I was playing well, and the things that didn’t work at all—and why they didn’t work. The journal took me to another level because it stopped me from wasting time. Golfers often try things in their swing a second time, knowing it didn’t work the first time. They forget why it didn’t work and figure it might do them some good if they just give it another chance. They’re chasing their tails. Keeping a journal stops that nonsense.
  • For years I wore a magnetic bracelet on my wrist to fight off arthritis.  I didn’t have arthritis when I started wearing the bracelet, and I never did get it.  So the bracelet worked, right?

CS speed-reader takeaways:
- Neuroscientists would agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Barber’s protocol for practice: equipment specific, consequence for each shot, taking time to process and assimilate what has just been learned, and leaving “social hour” for the bar afterwords.  Has the modern-day driving range really helped golfers improve?  I have my doubts…

There is power in belief.  Believing in something – swing method, concept, one’s abilities, a piece of metal hanging on your wrist – is more important than it being ‘right’ or valid.

Frank Stranahan

The “Toledo Strongman” as he was known on and off the golf course. Stranahan was one of the games greatest amateur players, winning more than 50 events in the 40′s and 50′s – including two British Amateurs (then considered a major) – and a fervent advocate of bodybuilding and healthy living well before fitness became the rage at today’s professional level.  He also captured six PGA Tour events while devoting himself to muscle-building, something that athletes of his era shunned, fearing it would restrict their flexibility.  Runner-up once at the Masters and twice at the British Open, Stranahan was considered the world’s top amateur golfer in the period between Bobby Jones in the 1930′s, and Tiger Woods (like Stranahan, a weight-lifting devotee) in the 1990s.

Stranahan was tutored as a teenager by Byron Nelson, one of the greatest players of all time and the club pro at the Inverness course in Toledo.  He also developed a specialized weight-lifting regimen that would be suitable for a golf swing by making sure he did not overdevelop his chest muscles or biceps, though his son recalled that when his weight lifting became known, “he was told if he wanted to pursue golf, this was a major mistake — in golf, it was unheard-of.”  Stranahan persisted, taking weight-lifting gear to tournaments because there were few fitness centers for workouts on the road.  “We look at the athleticism of our players today and can say that Frank was truly before his time when it came to golf and fitness,” Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, said in a statement.

CS speed-reader takeaways:

- Feedback and coaching, through competent and experienced eyes, is paramount and accelerates the learning process.

- What’s “poo-pooed” at one point in time may be readily accepted in the not too distant future.  All great innovations, at the start, are great disturbances.

CS Update

Spent a couple of days with colleague and friend James Leitz a few weeks back, outside of New Orleans, after a quick stop for meetings in Ft. Worth at the The Oven (Nike Golf’s R & D facility).  Some fantabulous offerings coming your way from Nike Golf in 2014, and beyond:  Equipment so good it helped earn Tiger Woods the PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time – despite only playing with his “B game (he won’t say it, so I will).”

James spends a fair amount of time with Tiger’s coach, Sean Foley, and is the only individual on both Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers and Golf Digest’s Top 100 Clubfitters lists.  The true Trackman and D Plane guru – but more importantly, a great human being.  Need some help understanding why your golf ball flies the way it does?  Take a few minutes to educate yourself on some ball flight facts:  One thing even Trackman cannot capture (for now) is just where on the clubface the ball is struck, or ‘impact point.’  This is crucial in optimizing many parameters, including launch angle, spin rate and ball speed (image below).

How to go about determining impact point?  Grab a can of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder or a dry erase marker, apply it to the clubface and take a swing.  You’ll see instantaneously where the collision between ball and clubface occurred.  Not exactly where you want it?  Take some smaller, easier swings and learn to capture the feel and essence of what brain, body and club must do to strike the ball more in that proverbial “sweet spot.”

World Speedgolf Championships at Bandon Dunes

It’s that time of the year again, where the performance benefits of playing faster – much faster – are truly showcased at the World Speedgolf Championships at Bandon Dunes Resort, October 26 & 27.  And this year, we’ve got quite the field: two Olympic medalists, Bernard Lagat and Nick Willis, Karl Meltzer (arguably the greatest ultra-marathoner of all-time)  last year’s winner Chris Walker, runner-up and longtime Speedgolf crony Tim Scott, former Speedgolf icon Jay Larson, and a handful of really fast, really good players.  More here:



We’ll see what sort of golf games the runners have… But from a mental toughness standpoint – such a critical piece to good golf – these boys undoubtedly have the goods.  Ever feel like quitting because you’ve hit a couple of pitiful shots, or played a few bad holes?  Add sheer physical pain to that equation and you can fathom what an elite runner goes through.  In running, physical conditioning is obviously important, just as in golf, your swing mechanics, efficiency and overall skill are keys to shaving strokes.  But without courage, heart and intestinal fortitude, you got nothin’…  Catch the action LIVE here:


“Mental toughness is to physical as four is to one.”

– Bobby Knight

                 ~ CS ~

About Christopher Smith

Christopher has presented numerous teaching, coaching and playing seminars and workshops for the PGA of America, as well as being featured in articles in GolfWeek, Golf Digest, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of I’ve Got 99 Swing Thoughts but ‘Hit the Ball’ Ain’t One (Crown, 2007), and the creator of the neuro-scientifically based Better Golf audio CD. Christopher is a PGA teaching professional holds the Speed Golf World Record Holder. Nominated by Golf Magazine as one of the Top 100 Instructors in America, and Pacific NW Section and Oregon Chapter PGA Teacher of the Year.

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