Local pro invents a teaching club
By Zack Hall / The Bulletin
Published: July 26. 2009 4:00AM PST
Martin Chuck racked his brain trying to find a way to teach one of his students how to make solid contact with a golf ball using an iron.
His student was afflicted with the same tendency many of us golfers are troubled with: trying to get "under the ball" to elevate it into the air. The problem is often called a "scoop," and it is a bad habit that is rampant in golf.
And nothing the longtime PGA teaching pro tried seemed to improve his student's swing, he says.
"He was not very good," says Chuck, the director of golf at Tetherow Club in Bend. "I could not get him to take a swing and finish on his (left) target side. Everything he tried to do was to elevate the ball off the ground. He would top it, pick it, and (the length of his golf shots) were very, very short."
Then, Chuck went to the cart barn and with a grinding machine ground off the bottom four grooves of a 5-iron.
The idea was to get his student to understand that the "sweet spot" of an iron is actually higher up on the club face than many golfers think.
Anything that was hit near the bottom of the modified club face would not get off the ground.
"If you had that in your mind, your body would then do some positive things," Chuck says.
His student quickly began to make proper contact, allowing the ball to compress and explode off the clubface, Chuck recalls.
"Immediately, he saw how to use from the sweet spot up, rather than from the sweet spot down," Chuck says. "And when I saw how his body responded, then I thought: 'Well, I've kind of got something here.' "
Chuck enlisted a professional club designer to help him create a training device based on the ad hoc club he had engineered in the cart barn.
After more than a year of tweaking, Chuck finally had a finished product: The Tour Striker, and its latest incarnation, the Tour Striker Pro.
Unveiled at January's PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., the club — a modified 8-iron (Tour Striker) or 7-iron (Tour Striker Pro) — is grooveless on the heel, the toe, and the bottom of the club face.
So far Chuck, with help of his wife, Stacey, have sold about 700 of the clubs. And the Chucks have plans to launch an infomercial in the coming months.
"I like to think that I took away the part of the club that gives people a false sense of security," Chuck says of the Tour Striker, which retails from his Web site, www.tourstiker.com, for $99. "They can't scoop it and get it airborne."
The idea is to utilize the same instincts that get a golfer into bad habits.
Many golfers are pragmatic when it comes to their golf swing. They will force themselves to swing in a manner that will work in the moment, rather than finding a swing that will help them get better.
For a lot of golfers, that means subconsciously scooping at the ball to get the ball in the air.
The Tour Striker, though, will turn those scooped shots into ground balls.
And Chuck's idea is that golfers who use the device will eventually force themselves to swing in a way that will work.
But with the Tour Striker, getting the club to work will create a good habit of meeting the ball with the sweet spot, says Chuck, a 40-year-old former New Mexico State University and Canadian Tour golfer.
"When you change somebody's intent, it's their own personal change," he says. "It is not just a teacher saying, 'Here, do this.' They can get the club in the right position by doing whatever they feel they need to. Once you can do that, now you have a sense of ownership."
The Tour Striker is not really for tour players — which makes me a good test case.
Increasingly, like many golfers, I have begun to prefer fluffy lies and the ball perched nicely on a tee. And I sometimes get nervous over short shots in the fairway, a telltale sign of a scooper.
Recently, I tested the Tour Striker Pro at Tetherow's driving range, to see if it would correct my problem.
The club has a strange feel, and an even weirder appearance that takes a little getting used to.
In fact, I made a lot of worms nervous with my first four or five swings.
And then, jackpot. I launched the ball off the mishapen clubface into the air with a nice little draw — a ball flight I see only occasionally these days.
After a couple more worm-burners, again, my optimal ball flight.
I repeated this drill for about 20 minutes, with the proper flight becoming more and more common.
I then grabbed my REAL 7-iron, to see if the experience translated.
The first hack was perfect, and the ball exploded off the club face.
Not bad for a first try.
For me, the club has yet to produce that perfect swing over and over. After all, there is no one single device that can cure what ails me.
Enlisting a good psychotherapist — to rid me of my endless negative swing thoughts, especially on a tight lie — to go along with such a device might be a good idea.
"A tight lie doesn't make a good ball-striker nervous," Chuck says. "A good ball-striker PREFERS the ball to be on a tight lie. I'd rather hit off a cart path than hit it out of thick rough, because at least I know how far it is going to go."
Zack Hall can be reached at 541-617-7868 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. 2008