Hello again, Goodboys Nation weblog afficianados! Rich Lerner from Golf Channel here. I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of our Masters Week sit-down with Doug “The Great White Shank” Richard and his unique preparations for the 2015 Goodboys Invitational that includes yet another (and I’m sure he hopes the last) re-tooling of his golf swing. At that time, we were joined by those most responsible for these changes: Tony Bate, TGWS’s fitness instructor who provided the impetus for TGWS to get in shape and completely transform his swing, Hunter Mahan, six-time PGA Tour winner whose article in the February 2015 edition of GOLF Magazine provided the model for TGWS’s swing reconstruction, and Brady Riggs, a Top 100 GOLF Magazine instructor out of Woodley Lakes G.C. who serves as TGWS’s downswing instructor. Here is Part 2 of that interview, I hope you enjoy it.
RL: It seems that your commitment to getting in shape played a significant role in your decision to completely change your golf swing. What’s a typical week at the gym like?
TGWS: Typically, it’s a Tuesday / Thursday / Saturday kind of thing. Fifty-minute workouts that all start with a five-minute warm-up on the stationary bike followed by fifty simulated golf swings on the Bosu ball before I concentrate on a particular body area. On Tuesdays it’s focusing on my upper-body, mixing free weights with Cybex machines. Thursday is all lower body: two ten-minutes sessions on the Stairmaster bookending sets of calf raises, hip abduction, leg curls and leg extensions. Saturdays are core days with various exercises targeting my midsection – weighted pulls and turns, lunges, crunches. Unlike Tiger, I can tell you my glutes are always firing! [All laugh]
…It’s a lifestyle change – you know you’re doing something right when your body tells you after you’ve missed a day. Un
RL: So Hunter, tell us about how you and The Great White Shank hooked up.
HM: It’s a pretty strange story, for sure. It’s a Saturday morning and I’m enjoying breakfast with the family, you know, and my phone rings. I’ve got a few friends and business guys in the 480 area code, and I’m thinking it’s one of them calling, but it turns out it’s from The Great White Shank – I mean, the Goodboys Great White Shank. I’m floored. Turns out his secretary and my secretary have been playing phone tag for a week and he just couldn’t wait any longer. Six hours later we’re in Palm Springs having dinner at the Tonga Hut and he wants me to personally supervise the complete overhaul of his swing.
RL: Where did you start?
HM: Well, he’s all revved up about my “Seven Secrets to Better Irons” article I wrote for the February issue of GOLF Magazine, and he wants to start from scratch, so that’s what we did.
TGWS: Tony Bate my fitness instructor had already pointed me in a “Hunter direction”, if you will, when he told me about the flatness of my swing and my lateral movement. He said that with the exception of my set-up and address, takeaway, downswing, and follow-through my swing was fine. [All laugh]. But Hunter’s article about the takeaway and backswing were truly eye-opening: I mean, it was life-changing – as if the curtains were pulled back on something I had never even considered before. I realized that in 20+ years of playing I had never once had a consistent takeaway and backswing; I would just kind of feel my way through and hope for the best; I had never found a swing that was repeatable.
HM: Yeah, repeatable – that was our #1 objective over all. No more guessing, no more hoping. Slowly and simultaneously taking back the shoulders, chest, arms, hands and clubhead. And on the backswing, rather than what Shank had been doing for so many years, lifting and turning his right shoulder into his chin, rotate it under his chin to create steepness of attack so that at the top of the backswing his right shoulder is pointing near the ball, not well behind it. We worked a lot on his staying on top of the ball and creating a feeling of him pushing his entire body into the ground.
RL: Sounds simple enough.
TGWS: Well, it wasn’t – old habits are hard to break. It took several hard weeks of hitting balls to really trust what Hunter was saying. For a while it was a real slog – like Tiger, I was kind of stuck between two swings – but once I got back from Vegas I spent a lot of hours just taking swings on my torn-up front lawn without a ball and one day the light switch kind of turned on. Which is where Brady came into the picture.
RL: It seems strange that with Hunter working with you on your takeaway and backswing that you would have a different coach for your downswing.
TGWS: Well that’s not entirely true, but I had read a tip from Brady in the January issue of GOLF Magazine that really got me stoked. It was a move I had already tried with my old swing before I even saw Hunter’s article in February and found really useful even then.
BR: It’s a great tip for golfers everywhere, but I’m honored that The Great White Shank thought enough about it to contact me personally. It’s really pretty simple…as I wrote then:
…as you swing into the hitting zone purposely slow the handle of the club to a virtual halt. It’s counter-intuitive, but this transfers the energy to the clubhead, making it whiz past your hands – and through the ball – at the bottom of your swing like the crack of a whip. The trick is to make this move while keeping your upper left arm tight to the left side of your chest and continuing to rotate the clubface all the way through the shot. At no point should your upper left arm and chest separate. You’ll know you did it correctly if the whip-like action of the as it passes your hands causes you to hinge the club up in front of you in your release, with the shaft directly in front of your chest [i.e., pointing at the target].
Anyways, The Great White Shank wires me $175 dollars, and a $450 flight later we’re having drinks at the Tonga Hut, listening to Tikiyaki Orchestra CDs. He thanks me for the GOLF Magazine article and we get to work building upon what Hunter had started with. Two days later he gives me $20 to use for a snack box and drinks on my Delta flight back. A real gentleman.
RL: This is pretty amazing stuff. When did it all start to come together?
TGWS: Well, it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that things have really come together. I mean, during my practice sessions at Papago it would come and go, but it wasn’t until after I had sent Hunter and Brady some video of me taking swings in my front yard that they were able to pinpoint the “death move” that had plagued me all my golf life – jumping at the ball with my shoulders moving quickly. I mean, there are two things that can result from the “death move” – you come outside in and pull the bejeezus out of the ball long and right, or, more often for me, coming inside out and make contact with an open clubface causing a big push/banana slice to the left. I mean, I knew it was there, I just didn’t know how to recognize it and stop it.
HM: Well, and the fact Shank was still falling into an old habit of playing the ball too far forward on everything…
BR: …which also contributed to a lot of thin and fat hits.
TGWS: Geez, fellas, I feel I’m doing the golf equivalent of an intervention at the Betty Ford Center! [All laugh]
BR: …so the fix was to intentionally slow down Shank’s downswing and drive down and into the ball – not through (that swing thought causing him to want to turn his shoulders) with his weight shifting from his back leg to front. The results were almost immediate. I mean, it seemed so simple but it worked.
RL: Well it sure sounds pretty impressive. Shank, what about on-course strategy? Has your new swing changed your thinking about the goal of playing bogey golf, like last year?
TGWS: Yeah, that turned out really well, didn’t it? [Sighs] My only goal this year is to hit fairways, period. No more caring about scores or bogey golf or whatever, my only concern now is to hit every fairway I can. If I can hit fairways I’m in a position to make good second shots that, even if not on the green, ought to allow me to use my short game to full advantage. If I can do that, the scores will come.
RL: I understand you’ve already played two nine-hole practice rounds at Stonecreek Golf Club. How did they go?
TGWS: Well, like Tiger was prior to the Masters, my short game is still pretty rusty from all the work I’ve put in on my basic swing, but it’s coming along. I’ve already got as many birdies this year as I did all of last year and my iron play has been really crisp – without a doubt the best I’ve ever had. And between my fitness program and making batter overall contact I’ve definitely picked up distance on all my clubs. Hitting my irons better means incorporating my sand wedge into my game more when I’m 50-70 yards out – last week I missed an eagle on a long par 4 by two inches. The tee game is still a work in progress but getting better all the time. More than anything else, I’ve got a swing I can repeat at will and it has held up really well. I’m in a good spot right now with three months to continue refining and sharpening my game.
RL: Well this has been a truly enjoyable time. Hunter, Brady, Tony, Great White Shank, thank you all for taking the time to join us at Golf Channel for an incredibly enjoyable and insightful discussion. I know I can’t wait until the 2015 Goodboys Invitational weekend!