In a quest to create a device that will enable a golfer to build muscle memory for an efficient and repeatable swing, inventors often take flight over the Cuckoo’s next. By the time you’ve strapped one of their neuro-gyroscopic retro-encabulators, locked the five collapsible joints in the shaft into place and aligned the precision-arrowed shoes toward Latitude 56.20 N and Longitude 2.48W, you’re looking a lot like Rene Russo and Kevin Costner in a couple of Tin Cup’s sillier scenes.
With more than a year on the market now, the Tour Striker training clubs are proving that simplicity can be the mother of the better invention. Designed by PGA Teaching Profession Martin Chuck – – the former director of golf at Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon, and now the head of the Tour Striker Golf Academy at the state’s Sunriver Resort – – the Tour Striker features a design that forces golfers to intuitively find the sweet spot of the face, hitting down on the ball with a forward shaft lean, the key to expert ball striking. Indeed, while Jim Furyk’s swing bears little resemblance to that of Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson or Ricky Fowler, all strike iron shots in this manner.
“I found myself teaching so many golfers who were trying to scoop the ball at the bottom of the swing,” explains Chuck. “That was how they tried to get the ball in the air.” Modern irons do enable players to put loft into shots, even if the golfer is picking the ball off the fairway, or taking a divot before striking the ball. And yet, such hits aren’t crisp, miss the heart of the sweet spot and thus don’t gain the maximum distance from the energy put into the swing.
While trying to get yet another student to grasp the idea of hitting down on the ball with shaft forward, Chuck came upon the idea of grinding off the bottom grooves of a 7-iron. He handed it to the student and said, “Here, hit this.” The golfer struggled at first but before long was finally hitting crisp iron shots that went a whole lot farther and straighter.
The ubiquitous Gary McCord promotes the club on infomercials and on the Tour Striker’s helpful instructional DVD. The former PGA Tour player and CBS analyst says that most average players have their shafts leaning away from the target at impact. “It’s counter-intuitive for them to hit down on something and make the ball go in the air,” he says. “That’s the mindset of most every amateur golfer in the world. He or she doesn’t get that. They all want to lift it and help the ball go up.”
There are more than a half-dozen models of Tour Strikers, including 8-irons, 7-irons for players of different ability, a wedge and variations designed for women and children. Each retails for $100. It also comes with a 35 minute DVD, in which Martin Chuck reviews pointers about the grip, a full body pivot and other basics of bringing the clubhead down on the ball with the shaft pointed to the target.
I demoed a Tour Striker 8-iron on the range at the Marin Country Club yesterday and purposely started by trying to help the shot into the air. Without much of a sole and the heal and toe rounded off, the shaved off face produced nothing but dribblers and worm burners. Then, mimicking the motions from Chuck’s instructional, I hit down with the shaft forward, pretty much as I do when my regular clubs are crisply hit, and the divot taken is in front of where the ball was resting. And with this trusty motion . . . I got a line drive that faded.
OK, the Tour Striker will take some practice.
What’s more, because the club’s driving range was in a matt’s only phase while the grass is given a week to re-grow, it was unusually difficult to get the Tour Striker’s face on the ball given the firm and tight surface. I snuck up on the grass for a few dozen shots and with a slightly more forgiving sub-strata was soon getting the same trajectory and distance as my normal 8-iron. So, the club clearly works, but is was also clear that to capture and lock in the essential muscle memory needed for golf’s most basic swing, multiple sessions on the range would be needed.
Tens of thousands of Tour Strikers have been sold since its introduction in 2010, and I hope that not all of them are sitting in closets. No training device – – even shoes that point to St. Andrews – – is going to make your game better unless it’s incorporated into a regular practice regimen for weeks, even months. The Tour Striker, however, is relatively easy to build into a routine, given its simplicity personified.
Just remember to take the 15th club out of the bag before tournament play.