I'M READY FOR MY CLOSEUP, MR. SMITH
Rick Smith, ranked among America's top five instructors by Golf Digest magazine, is back for the fall and winter teaching at Tiburón in Naples, offering his new video lessons program. Smith says video has been very helpful in his work with club golfers and his pro students, including two-time United States Open champion Lee Janzen, Phil Mickelson, Rocco Mediate and Matt Kuchar.
When I worked with Smith on the book How To Find Your Perfect Golf Swing, I learned that his strongest asset is helping a player hit the ball longer and straighter without totally revamping his swing.
"I look at a player's strengths and weaknesses, often depending on video to seek the truth, then make the least number of changes that will set off a positive domino effect and allow the swing to operate virtually on automatic pilot," he explains.
If you attend one of Smith's schools, get ready to be filmed and have your swing analyzed. If you're not ready for a golf school, you can have your videotaped swing analyzed by mail. Or if you plan to take lessons later this winter, send a video of your swing to Smith and have him review it and make comments, so that he's ready for you and you're ready for him when the time comes.
With his video, audio and graphics computer, Smith and his instructors will pinpoint which parts of your swing need improvement. The video will visually teach you how to get back on track by displaying frame-by-frame comparisons of the ideal positions employed by top PGA Tour pros and offering practice drills.
To avail yourself of this service, have your swing taped using a five-iron or driver. Use a shutter speed of 1000/second minimum. Set the camera to record at SP (short play). Send either VHS or 8mm format. Video your entire golf swing, from face-on (include a close-up of your grip) and down-target angles. Then send a check or money order, in the amount of $75, along with your videotape, to Rick Smith/Rick Smith Golf Academy, 2620 Tiburón Drive, Naples, FL 34109.
A quick course in golfspeak.
Banana ball: A shot that curves from left to right, forming the shape of a banana.
Duck: A shot that flies from right to left, or "duck hooks."
Flat: Description of a swing in which the club is swung around the torso and well inside the target line.
Hood: To tilt the club head downward slightly, toward the target, in preparation for hitting a low punch shot.
Steep: Swinging the club on an exaggerated upright angle or plane.
If you've ever been embarrassed by unknowingly breaking a rule, take heart. Millions of golfers make the same mistake, because The Rules of Golf, published by the United States Golf Association, are so darn hard to understand. Here's a look at the rule in one common course situation, as explained to me by Mark Russell, PGA Tour rules official and author of Golf Rules Plain & Simple.
Bending or Breaking Branches (Rule 13-2): If you break or bend the branch of a tree that impedes your swing, you have violated the rule. You are not permitted to bend or break anything growing or fixed if it improves the lie of the ball, your stance, or your area of intended swing. In match play, you automatically lose the hole for breaking this rule. In stroke play, such an infraction means a two-stroke penalty.
The next time you get in such a situation, consider these two alternatives: Play the shot in the best way possible in order to make solid contact, such as making a shorter or flatter swing to avoid the branches. Or you can deem the ball unplayable, penalize yourself one stroke, then drop the ball within two club-lengths of where it lies and no nearer the hole.
Top golf instructor David Leadbetter has an Academy at the Quail West Golf and Country Club in Naples. Although Leadbetter is a superb swing technician, fitness also plays a core role in his instructional repertoire.
Leadbetter's most successful student, Nick Faldo, became a technically sounder and stronger swinger by working out. These new strengths enabled Faldo to go on to win several major championships, including the 1989 and 1990 Masters championships. Strengthening exercises have also helped Charles Howell, another Leadbetter student and a young star of the PGA Tour, hit the ball a country mile.
The newest product Leadbetter is endorsing is The Core Golf Trainer, designed to stretch and strengthen vital golf muscles, particularly those in the back that help create and release power. This new hydraulic training aid, which is now a part of Leadbetter's curriculum, also helps groove good backswing and downswing positions at home, so that when you get to the course your action will work with ease. The Core Golf Trainer retails at $1,995 plus shipping and handling. For further information, call (866) 232-1095.
For some strange reason, I've noticed that women golfers are more likely than men to hit poor chip shots from around the green, mainly because they hinge their wrists too much on the backswing. Former CBS golf analyst Ken Venturi shares this super tip using mental imagery to cure the problem.
Whether you are a male or female golfer, if you feel you over-hinge your wrists on the backswing and fail to chip the ball close to the hole, either falling short or over-shooting the hole, imagine that your wrists are in a cast. Venturi's tip will encourage you to lock the wrists and swing the club back and through with your arms, so that you can let the natural loft built into the club's face loft the ball onto the green and roll it to the hole.
Looking to take a cool trip away from the hot Florida sunshine? Consider fleeing to a different West Coast golf mecca-Monterey, California, my favorite golf destination in the United States. Monterey possesses the quality golfers look for. And you don't have to play popular courses such as Pebble Beach to take in the experience. Here's a suggestion: Stay at the Scotts Castle that sits on a mountainside in Scotts Valley, and play golf at such course gems as Pasatiempo, designed by famous architect Alister Mackenzie, and Tehama, built by actor Clint Eastwood and overlooking the spectacular Monterey Peninsula.
Packages start at $689 per person (two days of golf, two nights' accommodation) and go up to $989 per person (three days of golf and four nights' accommodation) with large group outings available.
For further information, call Monterey Bay Golf outings at (888) 445-3010 or e-mail Rick Connelly at Marketinggolf@aol.com.
Southwest Florida's John Andrisani is the former senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, including The Tiger Woods Way and the recently released Think Like Tiger. Send questions and comments to John at email@example.com