News & Opinion

Digging out from winter with golf’s secret

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – I found the secret of golf.

And I wouldn’t have uncovered it if it weren’t for the cold, rainy winter we’ve had here where I live, where there was almost no golf to be played.

I’m a golf junkie, no question. I soak up nearly all things golf – except “Morning Drive.” But there’s only so much golf on television, and there’s a limit to the number of college basketball games that I can watch after the first weekend of March Madness. I absolutely refused to watch Indiana vs. Wichita State in the NIT.

I’ve run through three seasons of “The Newsroom” in a week. I’ve started on the first season of “The Sopranos.” (Yes, I’m way behind on my TV viewing because I watched too much golf for the past 20 years.)

I didn’t mean to start surfing YouTube, but that’s how many addictions start. I read a great piece on Golf.com on George Gankas, an avant-garde golf instructor in Los Angeles. He teaches in shorts, flip-flops and flat-brim hats on a driving range with mats at a scruffy muni.

He teaches a couple of PGA Tour players and others who aspire to become college golfers or professionals. He gets $350 an hour and is booked months in advance. Gankas teaches Matthew Wolff, who plays at Oklahoma State, and caddied for Wolff earlier this season at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where Wolff made the cut.

Some of Gankas’ technique is way out there. You can see tons of it on YouTube (GG SwingTips Golf). He asks his students to contort their bodies in unconventional-looking ways. But I’ve not seen him teach someone older than 40.

After OD’ing on Gankas-ese, I found a guy named Brendon DeVore (Be Better Golf) who kept popping up on YouTube. He seems to travel the country, getting golf lessons. He spends a lot of time with Mike Malaska (Malaska Golf) in Mesa, Ariz., one of the game’s top teachers.

Malaska believes that the club shaft should be “tipping” out on the downswing instead of pulling down the handle and creating lag. Well, you’re not really supposed to do it; you’re just supposed to feel as if the shaft is tipping. I’d hit myself in the left ankle if I tried that.

DeVore also likes Monte Scheinblum, the 1992 World Long Drive champion, who started his YouTube channel by doing videos standing in a park green space wearing cargo shorts and a T-shirt, looking like a golf hostage video.

Scheinblum doesn’t believe in lag and promotes a “no turn and cast” drill, in which you feel like you set your wrists right away and then try to throw out the angle as hard as you can on the downswing. He says you’ll wind up with shaft lean at impact. He says.

You actually can be surprised if you surf long enough. There is a series of YouTube videos of a lesson that former PGA Championship winner Steve Elkington had with Phil Rodgers, the legendary short-game guru who died in June. Rodgers had his own theories about chipping and pitching, with a lot of wrist hinge and returning the club to vertical at impact. I lost six balls by skulling them over the practice green and into the trees.

Speaking of Elkington, he has a site called Secret in the Dirt (www.secretgolf.com), a pay site that features a number of touring pros, plus the legendary Jackie Burke, talking about all aspects of the game. There are some videos of Elk teaching former Super Bowl quarterback Trent Dilfer to do some crazy twirl with the club before taking his grip. I almost took out a lamp in the living room.

I hit bottom after spending an evening watching Lynn Blake (Lynn Blake Golf) on YouTube, learning way more than I ever wanted to know about “The Golfing Machine,” an absolutely unreadable book on the golf swing by Homer Kelley. There is a small but fervent Golfing Machine cult out there. Blake is not the king of the Golfing Machine. That title probably belongs to the late Ben Doyle. But Blake is the crown prince, an evangelist without equal.

I now know about basic motion, acquired motion and full motion. I know about vertical hinge, horizontal hinge and angled hinge. I know about power accumulators, extensor action and the No. 3 pressure point.

But after a couple of hours, I found it. I found the secret. It’s called the “line of compression” at impact. That’s what the Golfing Machine people call it. Some call it “shaft lean.” It’s the left arm, flat left wrist and the shaft in a straight line and ahead of the clubhead and ball at impact. Tour players sustain the line of compression well past impact. It’s how they hit the ball so far.

I was ecstatic. I believed I had uncovered the holy grail. It was going to change my life forever. But to my everlasting disappointment, I have yet to find anyone anywhere on YouTube to tell me how to achieve the line of compression. No one. It’s a secret that is destined to remain a secret, at least from me.

I can't tell you how relieved I am that spring is here. I don't know how much more of this I can take.

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: golfedit@gmail.com; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf