My Day with Chuck Cook and Stan Utley

Utley, Cook and Rice I was recently invited to present at the Illinois PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit alongside Stan Utley and Chuck Cook. Besides it being a tremendous privilege for me the day was both educational and entertaining. I thought it would be beneficial to relay a few of the nuggets they shared during the course of the day.

Chuck Cook

The theme of Chuck's presentation revolved around what he teaches and why. His themes were:

  • a flat or bowed lead wrist
  • a straight plane line (similar to the "one-plane" look, but with the elbows staying in front of the chest like Jason Dufner)
  • lag is a major power source - use it, don't lose it!

A few important ideas he shared with the group were:

  • There has never been a swing method that has lasted
  • If the face is shut you need to outrun it with something
  • The weight moves where the hips are pointing
  • I don't like a lot of hip drive
  • Both feet should be flat on the ground at impact with irons
  • To make any golfer better, take their weakest element and turn it into a strength
  • Let juniors smash the ball with all they've got until they stop growing - then work on technique

Here is a swing by Jason Dufner, one of Chuck premier students - this swing seems to epitomize so much of what Chuck stressed as he spoke about the swing...

Jason Dufner

Stan Utley

As you may well know Stan's teaching focuses primarily on the shortgame and putting. Here are some of the important principles Stan shared in his presentation:

  • Putt with dead strength - he described "dead strength" as being similar to dropping your limp arm against your side
  • Let the putter drop and crash into the ball - I love saying it that way!
  • An important point in both chipping and putting is to put pressure on the ball
  • He is an advocate of wristy putting with soft, loose elbows
  • Where you strike the ball on the face vertically with the putter is very important
  • Finish the putting stroke with the putter low and the right shoulder high
  • Have the handle travel more slowly so the clubhead can travel faster

I really enjoyed so much of what Stan had to say as he seemed to be a proponent of so much of what I preach in both the shortgame and putting.

It was great to listen to these exemplary teachers, but the highlight of my day was being able to present my teaching approach to the Illinois PGA membership. Thanks to Nick Papadakes and all the staff at Olympia Fields CC for a very cool experience and I look forward to my next opportunity...

The Golf Swing - Right or Wrong?

In 2010 the player on the left, Jim Furyk won the Fedex Cup and the player on the right, Matt Kuchar won the PGA Tour money list. Can you tell which arm position at the top is correct or better?

My opinion is that both are correct and neither is better than the other. The swing methodology a player uses means very little in my honest opinion - it's all about what the golf club makes the ball do. Does it work or not? These guys only split $20 million in 2010 so there is nothing wrong with what either of them are doing! Don't get caught up in what the arms or the legs or body are doing unless there is a problem with the ball flight. The swing may be unique, but if it works, keep it.

If either of these players came to me for a lesson I would find footage of when they felt like they played their best and work them back towards that particular swing.

Don't get too caught up in what the text book says you should do - work towards whatever results in better golf shots for you.  If you feel that you know will win the Fedex Cup next year and would like to place an online bet, visit TopBet Sportsbook. The swing that does not work is wrong and the one that consistently works is correct - no matter what it may look like.

Function vs. Form

 When I first got into teaching golf I learned a particular method of swinging the club - I was very much a method teacher.  I believed there was an ideal pattern to be followed and all golfers would have been better if they could learn to swing the club and move their body in this manner.  At one point I even went so far as to say that in a few more years there would never be another "homemade" golf swing on the PGA Tour!  There was only one, ideal way to swing a golf club and I wanted every student I taught to get to this ideal.

That phase of my teaching career came to an abrupt end five years ago when I started a self-education project to study the swings of golf''s all time greats.  As I researched and broke down these championship swings the very first thing I found was that not a single one of them had a swing that was similar to another.  How could this be?  I had spent the first fifteen odd years of my career teaching golfers a certain swing method and in the space of  one month had figured out that no great golfer used the same method as any other great golfer.  What did that say for my, or any other, method?

Think of the foursome you play golf with most often - there could be a multitude of body types, age groups, and personalities in every group on the course.  And I, in all my brainwashed brilliance, had been trying to get every one of them to swing in the same fashion.

Little did I know that my self education project would turn my teaching upside down.  I now know that there are many ways to swing, yet very few ways to hit - and all the greatest golfers employ those same narrow parameters to hit repeatable, quality golf shots.  My research project actually culminated in the book "It's All About Impact".

Early in my career I attempted to achieve function or peak performance by improving the look and form of a golfers swing.  Can you imagine what I'd have done if Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Nancy Lopez, Hubert Green or Jim Furyk had come to me for help early in their careers?  I'm thankful for their sake that they hadn't as you might never had heard their names.

In my teaching now, I work to get golfers to squeeze the most out of what their unique bodies, minds and experiences will allow.  It is all about function and very little about form.  I often say to a student, "If I could get your swing to look worse and have you shoot five strokes lower, we'd both be happy campers."  I will do whatever I need to do to get my student to get the club to do what they want the ball to do...regardless of how it looks.

We are all different physically, mentally, emotionally and experientially - how can we possibly swing a golf club with the same form?  The answer is - it cannot be done! Stop trying to swing like your favorite player and start learning how to hit like your favorite. Understand that you're different and unique and if you can deliver the appropriate set of physics (forces and angles) to the back of the ball with your swing - it will follow the desired trajectory to the desired location.  Isn't that what you're after?

I believe so strongly in providing my students with an understanding of what the "appropriate physics" at impact are that I have purchased a TrackMan unit.  TrackMan is the ultimate in functional teaching as it measures all the factors that lead to ball flight.  The radar unit tracks clubhead speed, swing plane, angle of attack, club path, face angle and dynamic loft all at the most important part of any golf swing - impact.  Now, as golfer, imagine being able to know which of the previously mentioned measurements are stumbling blocks for your golf game. Wouldn't it be great to know that you have to worry about nothing else other than the club path being too far from out to in? Or perhaps your attack angle is too far down and you need to feel like you sweep each iron off the ground?

My goal with any student is to change as little as possible and it often works that way, but sometimes we need to change quite a lot.  The objective is always the same - influence the club at impact in order to make the ball what we would like it to do.

If you come to me for a lesson you will not be taught a method of swinging a golf club, but you will be taught a method of hitting a golf ball.  None of my students will ever have golf swings that look similar, unless by accident, but many of them will hit shots that look and sound alike.  You will leave the lesson knowing what you need to do to hit better shots - and you will also leave hitting better shots.

TrackMan arrives in early October at Berkeley Hall.  Call Andrew at (843)247-4688 to book a lesson.

Swing Methods and the Fifteen Second Flameout

Butch Harmon

Have you ever noticed how various swing fads seem to come and go?  It seems like just the other day that Bennett and Plummer's "Stack and Tilt" swing was the only way to hit a ball properly.  How about David Leadbetter?  When was the last time you heard from him or one of his players?  Do you remember Jimmy Ballard and "connection"? What about Jim Hardy and his "One Plane Swing"It boggles my mind how these methods pop up, become the hot item and then flare out almost as quickly as they arrived on the scene.  They all have one thing in common that led to their 'success';  a tour golfer who wins an event or two with this 'new and amazing swing' they just learned.  The golfer, feeling indebted to the teacher, proudly proclaims that they could not have achieved their success without this newly discovered way to swing.  Please!
Understand that most of these ideas are thought up by very intelligent and well educated golf teachers.  The problem I have with these methodologies, however,  is that they set their own style of swinging the club.  In other words, the club must be swung in a certain fashion for it to work or function correctly.  I say an emphatic, "Nonsense!" I do not claim to know everything about the golf swing, but I do know that every great player has a different swing that produces fantastic results - or they would not be great!  There cannot possibly be one 'correct' way to swing the club!            

David Leadbetter

 It's a classic case of putting form before function!  "If you swing this new and amazing way you will achieve desired results!"  The best players of all time have always had a knack of getting the club on the ball correctly and the game today is no different.  A feathery needed to be stuck the same way a ProV1X needs to be hit.  Well almost!  If every golfer out there could understand impact and physics that make the ball go in the right place AND the wrong place they would be far better off.  What difference is perfecting the wrist angle at position seven in the moveaway going to make in your game and ability to compress a golf ball!  Form will always follow function.  Just ask Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd, Bobby Jones, Nancy Lopez, Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke.......
Function must be King when you work on your game.  Get the ball to sound, feel and fly like you want it to and you are a happy, and very good, golfer!
Things to Ponder:
  • Watching the AT&T on Sunday looked like the King (Tiger) was taking his young Prince (Kim) out for a little schooling.
  • Anyone got an over under on the number of days before Carolyn Bivens is out as the LPGA commissioner?
  • Why when a golfer sets up with their body aiming left it is an 'open' stance and when their clubface is aiming right it is an 'open' face?  Blame the Scots and single malt whiskey for that one.
  • I have a feeling Paddy Harrington will be back in contention at next weeks 'Open' Championship.
  • A claim could be made that Phil has choked away both majors so far this year!?

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