Open Letter to Sir Charles

Dear Charles Barkley,

I am a great fan of both your basketball career and your sports casting, not to mention that you seem like an all-around great guy. You deserve to have more fun playing golf.

Here is how to fix your swing. It will take some drudgery, but nothing is hard.

Theory:

All of your problems are caused by your right hand. The kinds of things that go wrong in your swing are not left-handed problems; they are right-handed problems. Take your right hand off the club, and even a big monster like you cannot stop the club halfway down. The right hand may be not be the cause of your problem, but it is certainly critical to the implementation of your problem. You would be better off not touching the club at all with the right hand than letting the rght hand dominate the swing the way you do.

For a right-handed golfer, the left hand swings the club and the right hand hits the ball. The swing must dominate the hit. That is, the effort of the right hand must mesh with the timing of the swing. The swing is a train that the hit jumps on board.

When you stop your swing, you are saying that you are simply going to hit it, that you don’t need no stinking swing. If that was really the case, the answer would be to start your swing at your pause point. Everything else goes to waste as soon as you stop anyway.

Clearly, however, you need to swing because that’s the way the game is designed. Therefore, let’s make your swing more natural.

The first drill you need to adopt is the three o’clock to nine o’clock drill, sometimes called the Thumbs Up drill. You can do it with any club, but most people use a wedge. Address the ball, swing smoothly back until you arms are parallel with the ground and your thumbs are pointed straight up. You can stop right here to check your position if you want. Swing down through the ball to where your arms are pointed right at the target and your thumbs are once again pointed to the sky. Concentrate on making a smooth swing. Do not worry about the position of the thumbs at impact.

Do this drill for 15 minutes every day. If your swing goes wacko on the course, retreat to this restrictive swing and simply take one more club. You’ll do fine. You can always be master of the little swing.

That’s easy, but I know you want to smash the ball. We all want to smash the ball. You feel like a more highly evolved being when that ball hangs in the air forever, and you can’t get that feeling with the little swing.

The drill I chose for that will take longer to assimilate, but it should be well worth the effort. It is based on one of Johnny Miller’s practice routines. He used to hit five irons at a target 150 yards away with only his left hand. Johnny ranks up there with Ben Hogan and Tiger in the annals of deadly iron players, and I think this drill was a key to that.

There is a lot of value in swinging with just the left hand. You have to swing the club along the proper path. You have to get to the proper position at the top. You have to use your feet and your weight correctly. You have to turn through the impact zone. You have to swing all the way to the target. We all struggle to do all of these things with two hands on the club, but they are natural enough so that we can instantly feel what is going wrong and correct with one hand on the club. It works so well that I often do this with the weighted practice club to magnify the sensation.

Step One:

Just swing any club with only the left hand. Swing smoothly back to where the club is pointing at the target. Accelerate smoothly through the impact area and release to the target. The right hand never touches the club. Repeat until tired or bored.

You should do this exercise with all of you clubs whenever you get a moment. You do not need to hit balls in this exercise, but be careful. You will have a much wider swing arc with only one hand on the club. Make sure you have plenty of clearance.

When You get so that you can consistently make a smooth swing with just your left hand, gradually begin to increase the power you apply by increasing your turn speed. After a few weeks, you should be able to whip that club though the impact area like a backhand from a left-handed tennis player who discovered an unguarded alley. It’s all just practice and timing.

Step Two:

Once you get to that point, you are ready to start hitting balls. The right hand is still not touching the club! Using just the left hand, hit shot after shot until you can consistently hit the ball square with just the left hand. Make sure you strike down on the ball.

Because you’re bigger than Johnny, You should have no trouble getting your six iron 150 yards with just the left hand. When you can hit eight out of ten six irons past the 150 yard marker, you are ready to go to the next step.

Step Three:

In the next step, you can put your right hand on the club, but you cannot close it. As a result, you are still doing the entire backswing with the left hand, but your right hand can participate in striking the ball if it can stay in synch with the left. The left hand cannot stop if the right cannot close on it.

What happens here is that you should still hit the ball pretty well if you continue to hit it with your left hand, and there is nothing to stop that. Getting the timing right when you apply the right hand will determine how much power you can add as the timing is far more important than the input power.

Step Four:

The right-hand may now close on the grip as lightly as possible. The right hand is a bit player here, providing gentle guidance to smooth the swing and a bit of extra acceleration at impact. This is still a swing done with the left hand, and the right hand is a friendly hitchhiker.

Completion:

The swing is still mentally left-handed, and the right had still grips very lightly. The right hand just rides along until the last possible moment, then it explodes into action at the ball. You can have a really good golf swing without that explosion and you can have that explosion in a poor golf swing, but what you want is the explosion at the right time in a good golf swing.

Your irons shots will be as good as you ever want them to be before you get to this stage. You really only have to master this stage if you want to hit the ball over the horizon.

A concerned fan,

Al Corwin

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The Tiger Woods Brand — At Work and Growing

I am a huge fan of Tiger Woods, and that goes well beyond what he does on the golf course.  I’d be pretty happy if I could handle the typical par four like Tiger handles an interview, for example.  He’s amazing!

Many professional golfers are pretty good at giving interviews and handling press conferences, and Tiger does have the huge advantage of constant practice, the confidence of the best golfer in the world, and everything that goes along with just being Tiger Woods.  Tiger Woods would be a brand even if he didn’t know he was a brand, and he knows.

He may know better than anyone.  He obviously studied Michael Jordan and Jack Nicklaus.  I bet he has studied everyone who has ever been a brand.  He’s not only been a brand for a long time; he’s been famous for being a brand for almost as long.  And like everything else he does, he keeps getting better at it.

Hosting his own tournament at age and having it be signifcant official event is quite an accomplishment at 33.  Many of the all time greats have their own tournaments, but they were all much older.  Tiger started this several years ago, just looking and waiting for a chance to make it an official event.

Now that preparation has paid off.  The Tour needs events and sponsors for the first time in years.  They not only made his event official, but he has the Fourth of July weekend in Washington, D.C.  honoring the Armed Forces at a storied golf course under the brutal heat of the Washington summer.  And if you still aren’t thinking that Tiger is the second coming,l active miltary and kids under twelve are admitted free.  Finally, the name of the tournament is carefully crafted to maximize the way it extends the brand: The AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods.

It is instantly the most significant event between the U.S. Open and the British Open, and it reduces all of the other events in this period to second tour events because they are automatically relegated to the second tier if Tiger doesn’t play.Tiger won’t play between the U.S. Open and his event because he’s involved in the hosting preparation,  He won’t play between this event and the British because he’s getting ready for the British.

The television ratings will demonstrate once again that there are Tiger events and golf events.  When the Tiger events are spaced out and signaled well in advance.  The size of the Tiger audience will grow and the size of the golf audience will shrink.  Professional golf will more than ever have to ride on Tiger’s coattails.

I think Tiger really likes this position.  He is obviously a person who likes being in control, and this gives him even more control.  None of this happened by accident, and none of it happened in secret.  Tiger did it all, carefully and completely, right out in the open.

Was he lucky to get the Fourth of July weekend?  Somehow, I don’t think luck had anything to do with it, but the financial crisis has made the PGA Tour that much more willing to go along with anything that Tiger wants.  They know the tournament will make them far more money than anything else they could do in that time.

He’s also nice to children without being creepy about it.  The Tiger Woods Foundation is all about helping kids to make the most of themselves.  If there is anything people like more than being helped to suceed, it is getting their children to succeed.  Tiger makes children, your children, all children, part of his brand.

Capping off the tournament, Tiger follows a wounded veteran that they are honoring down the eighteenth fairway as he marches his way to victory.  Hunter Mahan shoots a 62 in the final round, but Tiger had to beat him.  He’s still building the brand.