For instructor Hank Haney, simple approach helps golfers most
By Pete DiPrimio
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Even for PGA Professional Hank Haney, one of the world's top golf instructors and the keynote speaker at this week's Northern Indiana Golf Show at the Memorial Coliseum, the sport remains as mysterious as the Mona Lisa's smile.
Take, for instance, the number of hit balls needed to properly change a swing or fix bad fundamentals (see Charles Barkley for the definition of bad).
Some suggest 10,000. Others double that or half that.
As for Haney, well, he knows what he doesn't know, and that makes all the difference.
"There is no set rule. Sometimes people change quick," he said. "Sometimes it takes a while. Some mistakes are easier to fix than others.
"When they say somebody has minor surgery, it's minor when it involves somebody else and not you. I wish you could say, you need to swing this many times to get it, and then be able to get it. It doesn't work that way. It's hard to change. If you knew after 10,000 swings you'd have it, everybody would suck it up and make those 10,000 swings.
"I do know this – if you work on the right things, you can improve. That's what I try to focus on. Keep it simple," he explained. "Fix one thing at a time. Prioritize so that whatever you're working on will have some influence on your ball when you hit it.
"At the end of the day, it boils down to what the ball is doing.Nobody has a perfect swing. Nobody will not miss a shot or hit every shot well. Everybody makes mistakes. It's how can you work around them? How can you pick one or two things out to make a big change, and focus on that?
"That's what I try to do."
The 60-year-old Haney, a Scottsdale, Ariz., native, has done it well enough over his 39-year career to have worked with more than 200 PGA Tour players, highlighted by Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara. His players have won major events such as the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship.
Beyond that, Haney has helped countless amateurs. Last year he worked with more than 15,000 people during various clinics around the country. He's hoping to do more of the same this weekend in Fort Wayne.
"Hopefully I'll tell people how they can play golf better and enjoy it more. That's always my focus. How they play adds something to how much they enjoy it," he said. "When they play better they seem to play it more and enjoy it more. I try to give people an idea of what they need to do to get better, and how to take their game to the next level."
While Haney no longer works with PGA Tour players (Woods was his last student; that six-year relationship ended in 2010 when Woods decided to go in a different direction), he still has the teaching passion. He has a daily show on SiriusXM for PGA Tour radio. He writes articles for Golf Digest. He's been featured on the Golf Channel's "The Haney Project." He does many clinics all over the country. Golf Magazine rates him as one of the nation's top-100 instructors. He's written multiple instructional books, including "Essential of the Swing," "Fix the Yips Forever" and "The Only Golf Lesson You'll Ever Need."
Finally, he runs Hank Haney Golf Inc., which designs golf courses.
"My career has gone full circle. When I first started, I was helping beginners and less experienced players," he said. "Then I was fortunate enough to work with touring pros for 30 years. Tiger Woods was my last student.
"Now I'm back to helping amateurs and people just getting into the game.
"It's been great. The last few years of my career have been as rewarding as anything I've done," he added. "I feel as though the years teaching touring pros gave me a chance to build up a name and a brand. I have a bigger reach than I would ever have dreamed."
That reach will put him in Fort Wayne for the first time.
"I'm looking forward to coming. I know it's a great golfing area."
Has technology forced Haney to alter his teaching methods?
"You hear about how the equipment has changed," he said, "but I don't know if it's easier for the average player. It hasn't changed how the average player has played. The handicaps really haven't changed.
"Without a doubt the equipment has changed how far you can hit a golf ball. It's more so at the highest level, not so much at amateur level.
"The teaching has changed because there is all the video cameras, launch monitors, all the devices that can measure everything from where the weight is on your feet to where the pressure is," he added. "We're getting a good bio-mechanical analysis of what the swing is doing. That has made it better for teachers. They can analyze a little easier.
"But at the end of the day, you still have to communicate and be able to put things down into a concise plan that people can understand."
Because this is golf, that is often as challenging as solving a Rubik's Cube.
"I try to make it as simple as possible," Haney said. "Sometimes you make it what you feel is very simple, and people still look at you like you're talking Greek. Without a doubt, the game is hard. My philosophy is make it as easy as you can."
Professional golfers hit balls so far that officials have had to lengthen courses. That includes Augusta National, the home of the Masters, where officials are again considering lengthening the par-5 13th hole, long considered one of the world's best. It already has been lengthened from 480 to 510 yards.
"It is one of the greatest holes in the world," Haney says. "Par is just a number. You could make it whatever. It's like they do at the U.S. Open. They take away two par 5s, make them par 4s and make it a par-70 course.
"That changes the winning score relative to par, but the winning score is still the winning score," he said. "To me, that's a great hole whether it's a par 4 or par 5. I don't know why you have to change it."
Along the way, golf remains a sport that flirts between exhilarating and maddening, and oh, so addicting.
"The scores are still the same," Haney says. "The game has gotten more difficult, and it's mainly the speed of the greens. Back in the old days, the greens weren't rolling at a 13 or a 14 on the Stimpmeter (regular course ratings are a 9 or a 10 – most pro events are at least a 12) like they are now. That makes everything harder – the chipping, the pitching, the getting the ball close to the hole.
"The game is different. I don't know if it's better or worse. It's just different. Either way, it's a great game."
Mona Lisa couldn't have said it any better.
This article was written by Pete DiPrimio from The News-Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.