Why I Believed Tiger Would Be Tiger Again

Why I Believed Tiger Would Be Tiger Again

Why I Believed Tiger Would Be Tiger AgainBy Mark Harman USGTF Course Director Ridgeland, South Carolina Brandel Chamblee said he couldn’t compete with today’s young guns. Greg Norman said he’d never return to his previous form. Woody Paige said he’d never win another tournament ever again. Jemele Hill said he should retire. Hank Haney said he had the chipping yips. Pundits everywhere had a field day doubting Tiger Woods the past few years. And yet here we are again as Tiger has returned to the winner’s circle in a major championship, capturing his fifth green jacket this past April at Augusta National. If nothing else, Tiger’s return to glory should remind all of us that prognosticating is often a worthless exercise, especially when it comes to what other people can and cannot do. How many times have we read stories about people who have suffered some serious injury and doctors telling them they would never again (pick one: walk, run, play golf, play tennis, go bowling…), only to see people defying what their own doctor, who’s supposed to be an expert, said. While Tiger’s tale isn’t as dramatic as perhaps someone being told they’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of their life only to run a marathon, it goes to show that the will of a strong-minded individual is often no match for what reality supposedly tells us. As Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” In the February 2017 edition of our monthly e-newsletter, I wrote the following of Tiger: “I think at minimum he will win two more majors before it’s all said and done, break Sam Snead’s Tour record of 82 victories, and become a top-ten player again…and I would not bet against him regaining the #1 spot at some time.” Unfortunately, in April of that year Tiger had spinal fusion surgery and made my own prediction look somewhat shaky. He even said himself later that year he was unsure if he would ever come back. But even then, I always thought he would come back and be a major factor again. Part of my reasoning was that Tiger is, well, somewhat of a drama king. I read about other pro golfers having the same surgery and they came back to play well, so I figured Tiger could, too. And with our modern medicine and fitness knowledge, I thought Tiger would be given a way to fully function again. Another factor in my belief that Tiger would become Tiger again is based on my own personal experience. In 2005 I won the United States Golf Teachers Cup for the fifth time at The Quarry in San Antonio, Texas, and in my victory speech, I said this might well be my last victory, as younger and better players were coming up through the ranks. Players like James Douris and Christopher Richards proved me right, as they captured multiple USGTF and WGTF titles the next few years. I was wrong on the younger part, though, as septuagenarian Bill Hardwick of Canada showed he was still capable of winning against the young bucks. However, I didn’t really believe what I said in San Antonio; I was merely trying to give credit where credit was due. Surely, I thought, I would win again. But year after year went by, and my old anxiety issues resurfaced around 2010 at the U.S. Cup in Primm Valley, Nevada. They stayed with me for the next five Cups after that, and I often was no factor in our national championship event. I really did start to believe I was done. And then in 2016 at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona, I teed off and my mind stayed surprisingly calm. I shot 71 the first round, and opened the second round with three straight birdies. When I learned I had a six-shot lead after 35 holes (I deliberately didn’t pay attention to what anyone else in my group was doing), I realized my own personal comeback was complete. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to win the U.S. Cup again, along with the World Cup and World Senior Cup. I say this not to brag, but to point out that we are capable of doing things we either used to be able to do or thought were impossible. So it was with all this that I thought Tiger, if he stayed healthy, would return to being a dominant force in professional golf again. The final piece to the puzzle of my belief system was that Tiger has been doubted over and over throughout the years, and yet always found a way to prove the doubters wrong. I realized that many people dislike Tiger for what he has done in his personal life, for his lack of decorum at times on the course, and for public acts like tipping servers poorly and being cold with the fans. I get that and cannot fault someone for not liking him for those reasons. But I also consider him an artist in the mold of Da Vinci and Michelangelo, and a generational athletic talent along with Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan (and I’m sure Geoff Bryant would want me to add Tom Brady to the list, so I will). We should all feel fortunate to witness such greatness and to awe at what’s possible in human achievement. I know I am.      


The two-way miss is a player’s tendency to miss shots both left and right with equal unpredictability. You hear golf commentators and swing gurus mention it all the time: “He’s got the dreaded two-way miss going.” The two-way miss is a player’s tendency to miss shots both left and right with equal unpredictability.

Eliminating the two-way miss for a tour player means almost everything. Some will say, “I’ve taken the left side out of play so I didn’t have to worry about the water over there.” You might consider that eliminating the two-way miss is something that only a good or even a tour player can do, but in fact, it is also something that an average player is capable of.

A lot of amateurs are under the impression that if they didn’t hit a ball close to where they were aiming, the shot was automatically a poor one. To a certain extent, they may be right. And too many teachers may fall into the same trap of believing that a shot that did not end up close to where the student was aiming was a poor shot. One of the reasons for this is that any less-than-perfect contact is easily felt by anyone who is a bogey shooter or better. But was the shot really that poor?

Instead of striving for no misses – which is impossible, of course – or even fewer misses, it might be better to strive for the “one-way miss.” With a one-way miss, it is easy to plot course strategy and tactics.

Take our hypothetical tour player who doesn’t have to worry about water to the left of the fairway. Maybe he has honed a reliable fade so that the ball never goes left of its starting line. Or maybe he has a draw but knows how far left it will go in the worst-case scenario.

Jack Nicklaus was a wonderful example of the latter. He played a fade, and using the example of a fairway that is 40 yards wide, he said (paraphrasing), “When you play a fade or draw, you can aim down the edge of the fairway and have 40 yards to work with. When you play a straight ball and aim down the middle of the fairway, if it goes left or right you only have 20 yards to work with.”

Nicklaus makes a great point, and one that is often ignored by amateurs. A lot of slicers always seem to aim down the middle of the fairway, and how many times have we seen a right-handed slicer wind up in the right rough? Plenty. And yet, if they were to aim down the left side of the fairway, they can watch their ball curve back into the fairway most of the time. When you ask a slicer why they just don’t aim down the left side, some of them will actually say that the point is to hit a straight shot, and allowing for the slice is mentally allowing for failure!

This brings up the concept of knowing where your ball is going to wind up, not only if you hit a good shot but also a bad one. It’s called a “window,” and is really possible only if a one-way miss is happening. Slicers actually have a great advantage if they only would swallow their ego and allow for their natural curve to work to their advantage. For example, on an approach shot with the pin on the right side of the green, a slicer has a green light to curve the ball into the pin. But as with tee shots, too many of them might aim at the pin, hoping against hope that this time the ball will fly straight. Of course, more often than not it will wind up right of the green, short-sided, and now they face a difficult up-and-down.

What about our better students who can and do hit a straight ball most of the time? For them, it is imperative to know which way their predominant miss tendency is and plan accordingly. Many tour layers have a ball flight that is incredibly straight on a solid shot, but they also know which way the ball will go if they do not hit a perfect shot. Suppose one of our students, a good player who hits it relatively straight, faces a long approach shot with the pin on the left side of the green. His “window” should be from the pin to the right edge of the green. Let’s say he knows his miss tendency is to the left. In this case, it would be foolish to aim at the pin. The better play would be to aim between the pin and the right edge of the green. Conversely, if his tendency is to miss to the right, he can go ahead and aim at the flag stick with the confidence that the ball will not wind up left of the green.

All execution errors cannot be avoided, of course, but developing a reliable shot that rarely misses both ways is critical for players to play their best golf. At some point, players and teachers may need to abandon the quest to hit straight shots and realize that a reliable fade and draw, and sometimes even reliable slices and hooks, can be very playable.
I Tested It: Equipment Beliefs

I Tested It: Equipment Beliefs

By Mark Harman USGTF Course Director Ridgeland, South Carolina

We’ve all heard teaching pros and regular golfers alike expound on and repeat beliefs regarding golf equipment: “Regular shafts go longer than stiff shafts, but stiff shafts are straighter”…“Tour balls are shorter than ‘distance’ balls,” etc.

There are a number of equipment beliefs and sayings that are taken as gospel. Some are grounded in sound science, while others may be more anecdotal. Being naturally curious about this, I decided to test some of them out. Keeping in mind that I am not a robot, I tried to introduce some sort of consistency in each of the tests I did so that they, while not being perfectly scientifically precise, will allow some real-world insight into how equipment differences affect a real person.

Belief: Tour balls spin more than distance balls

Tour golf balls are made with softer urethane covers, while distance balls have firmer ionomer covers, usually consisting of Surlyn®. (As a side note, golf balls back in the day were often marketed as having Surlyn covers, but the material became associated with hardness, so the term “ionomer” is used today.) They may also differ in core construction and material. I tested the belief that tour balls spin more than distance balls. For this test, I hit balls with a 56° wedge and all balls landed between 51-55 yards, using a GC Quad launch monitor. Only solid strikes were recorded, three shots each.

Conclusion: The two tour balls, the Callaway Chrome Soft and Bridgestone BX, had the highest spins rates, which was to be expected. The Bridgestone e6 Speed and Callaway Superhot, the distance balls, had lower spin rates, but surprisingly, the Superhot had a spin rate very comparable to the premium tour balls. I hit the Superhot three more times to see if this was some sort of aberration, but came up with similar results. There are likely other balls considered “distance” balls that also offer good spin on wedges.

Belief: Clubs with regular shafts go farther than clubs with stiff shafts

For this test, I used a Titleist AP2 7-iron and a Ping G400 Max driver to test both iron and driver shafts. I used the stock True Temper AMT White shaft for the iron test and a Ping G400 Max 10.5° with the stock Alta shaft. Three solid shots with each shaft were recorded. Results of the iron test:

For the driver test, I made sure my clubhead speed was between 94-95 mph each time, again using three solid strikes for each shaft.

Conclusion: There were virtually no differences in performance between the iron shafts. The peak height of the balls for both shafts was identical, 31 yards. There was also no difference in dispersion, either. As for the driver test, my swing speed averaged 94.9 mph with the stiff shaft and 94.5 with the regular. The stiff shaft’s ability to lessen backspin was the main factor in increased distance. Why there was a difference here and not in the iron shafts is something on which I can only speculate.

Belief: Lower-kickpoint shafts launch the ball higher than higher-kickpoint shafts

Here, I used the same Titleist AP2 7-iron with an AMT Red shaft, which is the lowest kickpoint shaft in the AMT family, while the White (used in the previous test) is the highest.

Conclusion: Surprising! The shaft with the lower kickpoint actually launched lower and with less spin than the higher kickpoint shaft. But again, I am not a robot, although I felt like I made similar swings with each shaft. The shaft did produce a higher ball speed and lower backspin, and thus more distance.

Belief: Choking down on the grip reduces distance

Choking down on the grip lessens the swing radius and theoretically should result in lower clubhead speed and distance. Using the Ping driver with the stiff shaft, I choked down 1 ̋.

Conclusion: Choking down does indeed result in a loss of clubhead and ball speed, but if control is gained, this may be a good tactic in given situations.

Belief: Distance balls go farther than tour balls

The driver tests already mentioned were conducted using a Callaway Chrome Soft ball. Because the Bridgestone e6 Speed spun noticeably lower in the wedge test, I used that ball for this test. I used the stiff shaft, and I made sure the three swings I used had a similar clubhead speed as with the above test to make sure I was testing the ball and not the club. (Please refer to the driver shaft test for tour ball data.)

Conclusion: Given similar ball speed and launch angle, the lower backspin literally carried the day for the distance ball, producing four more yards of carry distance.

Belief: Iron lie angles influence left-right ball dispersion

Iron lie angles that are too upright will result in a clubface that is aimed more closed, while iron lie angles that are too flat will result in a clubface angle that is more open. I used three different lie angles in this test with that being the only variable. I was drawing the ball this particular day, but I did manage to record three good shots with each lie angle.

Conclusion: Iron lie angles definitely affect the direction the ball takes because this is a geometric fact. Although it is theoretically ideal to have a lie angle that produces a flat clubhead to the ground at impact, some players may need to deviate from this to produce the desired ball flight.


These tests produced some results that conformed to long-held beliefs and some that did not. It is always good to question these beliefs and better yet, test them in a real-world setting. As we are all individuals with different reactions to the equipment in our hands, these results will not necessarily apply to every golfer we come across. It is quite possible – indeed likely – that another golfer will obtain different results than I did. This experiment shows that our students must test equipment before they buy…and we should, too.
The Vision Telescope

The Vision Telescope

By Norm Crerar, USGTF Contributing Writer Vernon, British Columbia

I have been in the recreation business for over 50 years, both actively and lately as a consultant. Most of my time was spent in the ski industry as an active player and the golf industry a participant and consultant. I ski recreationally – and still do some teaching – and golf recreationally. As a result of my unique background, I have trouble just going out there with a clear mind just skiing or golfing. I am constantly looking around at what is out of place, asking myself why doesn’t someone fix this or adjust that, make a subtle change here or there that would give the visitors a better experience, or save the company some money. I love it! I am concerned, though, as both the ski industry and the golf industry are suffering from the same thing, declining numbers of participants. Some of this was due to the economy, but most is due to the Baby Boomers getting older or disappearing for health reasons. Shockingly, there are very few programs designed to get more people skiing and/or golfing more often.

Back in the 1970s, skiing had a program called GLM (Graduated Length Method). The clients started on very short skis on very gentle terrain, and as soon as they could turn the skis easily, they graduated to slightly longer skis and were taken to the top of the mountain, where they skied down a specially-tailored run that got them to the bottom quickly and safely. This was instant success for almost everyone. These thousands of people were the ones who bought the first condos at Vail and Whistler and allowed the ski industry to really take off. This same age group took up golf and found the time and money to take lessons, buy memberships, rent carts, hit thousands of range balls, find new and better equipment and buy resort properties. Both industries are now struggling to find new members and new markets.

Most of the early golf and ski resorts were started with a person or a few persons with a vision and little money. As the Baby Boomers passed through, both industries matured, the ski lift systems and grooming got better, and the golf courses were greener and opened earlier and closed later. Both were able to employ and train professionals, run things more efficiently, buy bigger and better equipment, add services, etc., but the prices started to rise and have continued to do so.

Now both the summer and winter resorts are heading in a difficult direction. Look at this as a triangle: The very few at the top do not care what the cost is; they pay their money and are off to play. The ones in the middle can afford to pay and play but decision time is around the corner; the many at the bottom will drop off at the next price rise, leaving the triangle smaller and with fewer people. Enter the accountants. Their training is to count beans. When the beans are black, they are happy. When the beans are red, they know only two things, raise prices and cut expenses (which means cutting services). People drop off the bottom line of the triangle. The triangle is now smaller. Cut expenses again. Smaller triangle, and on it goes. Sadly, this is where the “telescope” comes into the equation. For some reason, the accountant types have only been trained to look from the big end to the small end of a telescope and only see the very small picture, usually only the bottom line.

The USGTF was started with a vision born from necessity and opportunity. Looking from the other end of the telescope, your current president could only see the big picture, found a few like-minded people, offered some courses on learning how to teach golf, and the rest is history.

But the challenge remains. Both the golf industry and the ski industry need the same thing. They desperately need people to look out of the right end of the telescope and see the big picture and need to find ways of getting more people skiing and golfing more often. Doing nothing is hard, because you never know when you are finished.

What end of the telescope are you looking through?
When Adversity Strikes

When Adversity Strikes

Why then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

Sometimes we are forced to play in adverse conditions, but this article isn’t talking about the weather. No, we are talking about something that is rarely spoken about except for perhaps at the 19th hole after the round – people who are difficult to play with.

Difficult playing partners run the gamut with all sorts of behavior. We can let it affect our own games or we can ignore it. Granted, ignoring certain behaviors can be quite hard to do, but if you or your students want to play your best, you’ve got to figure out a way to work your way through it.

Let’s keep in mind that, absent any sort of physical altercation or making noise in your routine or swing, what someone else does has no direct bearing on what we are doing. We can only let it affect us when we put a negative judgment on a person’s actions, as Hamlet stated. And once we make a negative judgment, it tends to get into our psyche and then, by definition, we are focused on that person and their behavior. When we’re trying to put up a score or just have fun on the golf course, that goes out the window when we do that.

As hard as it may be to not get upset with certain people or their actions, it is imperative that we stay in our own world when that type of adversity strikes. There are several types of difficult playing companions that all of us have encountered at one time or another:

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga The Club Thrower

Let’s be honest. Most of us have tossed a club in the past. Rory McIlroy famously hurled his 3-iron into a lake at Trump Doral in Miami during the tournament, and other examples abound. Club breakers also fall into this category. But most of us either matured or realized that our stature in the game demanded a better showing of class, so we no longer do it. If we’re paired with a club thrower or breaker, instead of putting a negative spin on it at the time, we have two choices: to let it affect our game negatively or not. Of course, if the club thrower is firing clubs left and right and endangering others, this is not to be tolerated, and at that point we might have no choice but to get worked up about it. But most club throwers are only making fools of themselves, in the end.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga The Rules Expert

From anecdotal evidence, it appears women are more guilty of this than men. Stories about where a strict adherence to the Rules of Golf is demanded by the matriarch of the group, and even the most minor violations are met with great scorn and the figurative hammer. If you are the victim of a USGA and R&A wannabe, simply thank them for their information and move on. You’re not going to get them to change their ways, and just make it a point of not playing with them anymore. If they’re part of your regular group and this can’t be avoided, they’ve surely annoyed others, too. A group intervention should be convened for the sanity of all.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga The Golf Instructor

You lifted your head” is something you may hear after you hit a poor shot, especially one that was topped, as if that was the sole cause of your poor shot. If keeping your head down was the magic secret to golf, there would be no need for real golf teaching professionals, and everyone could enjoy magical ballstriking for the rest of their lives. Even if you’re not taking lessons from a golf teaching professional (and plenty of teaching professionals take lessons from other instructors), just inform the person you’re working with so-and-so and you and your teacher/ coach are aware of the problem.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga The Chatterbox

Some of us are extroverts; some of us are introverts. Some of us take time to warm up to people; some of us can be lifelong friends after five minutes. Some of us are serious on the course; some of us are fun seekers. Those who tend to be quiet can be very easily rattled by someone who is not, but rarely is vice versa the case. Jim Peters, the winner of the 2018 Harvey Penick Trophy for Excellence in Golf Teaching, said some of the best advice he ever received was that we have two ears and one mouth, so use them in proportion. If you’re paired with the Mouth of the South, let him or her ramble on. Or, with the acceptance of listening to music on the course these days, you can pop some ear buds in and tune them out.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga The Narcissist

This person thinks mainly of themselves, both through their words and actions. If you’re in the same cart and he’s driving, he’ll often drive right by your ball and go directly to theirs, nevermind that your ball is 30 yards back. Or, at the slightest hint of being in trouble, they make a beeline to their ball, all the time lamenting how he didn’t keep his head down or his left elbow straight. They keep up a running monologue of their game and sometimes their life. It can be exhausting to play with such a person, but remember that you’re not going to change who they are in one round of golf. As best you can, put your focus on something else, maybe the beauty of the course or the interesting design of your current hole.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga The Complete Hacker

People new to the game are not going to be very good. There are also some long-time players who aren’t very good, to put it mildly. If they keep it moving, fine. But if they insist on looking for every errant ball and refusing to pick up when they’re on their 10th stroke 100 yards from the green, you have every right to say something, even to the point of abandoning them and going ahead.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga The Cheater

There is a difference between cheaters and rule breakers. Cheaters deliberately break the rules, while ordinary rule breakers do so unknowingly. If you’re simply playing a casual round, it’s not a big deal. However, if you’re in a tournament, it can, of course, become a very big deal. But surprisingly, it also may not be.

An example of the latter is a cheater or rule breaker whose score is not going to win them any prizes in the competition. After the round is over and the scorecards are signed, you can advise them of what the rule is that they broke. But be careful that you are 100 percent — and we mean 100 percent — certain that you are giving the correct information. If the cheater/rule breaker is violating a rule and they are in contention for a prize, you have an obligation to say something on the spot. After the scorecards are signed is not the time to speak up. Yet, even here it may be inadvisable to say something. We hate to separate rules into “minor” or “major” categories, but if the person gained absolutely no advantage (such as having his son carry his putter to the green while employing another caddie, a violation of the one-caddie rule), then it might be best to remain quiet. Cheaters/rule breakers who are called out almost always react in a volatile manner, so this definitely calls for extreme discretion and diplomacy.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pga Wrapping Up

We are not advocating condoning rude or ill-mannered playing partners. But we are saying that there is often little one can do to change the situation for the better, as we’re dealing with people with long-ingrained habits. Speak up when appropriate, as when someone damages the course or other course property, but keep in mind that most behavior we find distasteful is simply annoying. Play your game and enjoy the rest of the day by focusing on those aspects you find satisfying. Your sanity might depend on it.
Hogan’s Five Lessons In Our Modern Game

Hogan’s Five Lessons In Our Modern Game

Sixty-two years after its release, it still remains the game’s most groundbreaking book. Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf resulted from a series of articles in Sports Illustrated and is still the holy bible of instruction for many who read it.

Today, we have super-slow-motion video, force plates to measure weight distribution throughout the swing, biomechanical studies of the “ideal” swing and the use of technology to measure the kinesthetics of the swing. This begs the question: How valid is Hogan’s instruction in our modern game with our modern understanding? Here, we examine a few of Hogan’s ideas and what we believe today.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pgaSwing plane
The most enduring contribution Hogan made to the modern school of thought is the concept of the swing plane. Hogan described it as a line extending from the ball through the top of the shoulders, and the idea was for the lead arm to remain below this line at the top of the backswing.

Hogan used the image of a pane of glass to illustrate this point.

Today, we have a somewhat different idea of what the swing plane is. Most teachers use the initial shaft plane at address – assuming the student has a proper setup.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pgaThe idea here is, at the top of the backswing, the lead arm would be parallel to the initial shaft angle at address, as represented by the blue line. Coming down into the ball, the shaft would at some point get parallel to the blue line, resulting in a swing path that should go towards the target at impact.

Verdict: Hogan’s idea of the swing plane works for some people, but not all, as shorter golfers tend to go above that plane and taller golfers below. The more modern understanding works well for the vast majority of players.

usgtf golf teacher certified golf coach pgaGrip
Hogan advocated a grip that was fairly weak by modern standards.

He wanted the top-hand V to point towards the rear ear and the lower-hand V to the middle of the chin.

Today, most golf teaching professionals want to see the Vs pointed more toward the rear shoulder. Dr. Ralph Mann, who pioneered extensive research of the golf swing, found that the average  touring professional pointed their top-hand V between the chin and rear shoulder, while the lower-hand V was just inside the rear shoulder.

Verdict: Hogan fought a hook for much of his career and developed this grip to combat it. Most golfers today, including tour professionals, would fade or slice the ball with his grip.

On the backswing, Hogan said the hands moved first, followed by the arms, shoulders, torso, hips and legs. On the downswing, the hips led the action with the torso rotating next, followed by the arms and hands. Hogan said the hands should do nothing active on the downswing until just above hip-height, carried there by the turning of the hips.

Today, the school of thought on the backswing is for the hands, arms, shoulders and torso to rotate virtually simultaneously. The modern tour professional, while still starting the downswing with the lower body, doesn’t do it nearly as early as the golfers from Hogan’s era.

Verdict: Hogan’s ideas on the pivot retain great value today. The most highly correlated mechanical factor between skill levels is how well someone transitions from the backswing to the downswing. The better the player, the more likely he or she is to have passive arms and hands starting down, with the lower body leading the way.

These are three of the main ideas Hogan gave us, and much of what he wrote has great importance to today’s teacher and student. This classic book is available at bookstores and online, and is likely to never go out of print. If you haven’t read this timeless tome, do yourself a favor and pick one up as soon as you can. It remains a highly compelling read.