CARLSBAD, Calif. – The way he’s moving around The Kingdom, across the street from TaylorMade-adidas headquarters, belies the fact that Jim Flick is on the verge of becoming an octogenarian.
“This is my 54th rookie year of teaching golf,” said Flick, who coached Jack Nicklaus, among other top players and countless other less-profile names through various programs and the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools over the years.
Flick’s reference to being a rookie is not based on age, just a willingness to continue learning, something he feels every good teacher of the game should be doing. “Each year, I feel like I understand the swing better,” he said.
Experience is a solid foundation for a teaching career, but an open mind is a sign of passion for the profession, something Flick has plenty of if this day is any indication. The worst thing that can happen to a teacher, he says, is getting stuck in a rut and becoming apathetic.
“It’s the experience you use that determines how good you’re going to get. As a teacher, we are all influenced by our experiences, our mentors and what we’ve gone through to become better teachers and some guys want it a lot and other guys, they just want to slide through and not work at it and teach everybody one way.”
Flick, on the other hand, believes that you can’t mass produce golf swings by using the same formula on everybody who comes for a lesson. A great teacher is one who observes, one who asks questions and one who has it clear in his/her mind that the student is there to enjoy the game more.
Golf teachers, he says, can be divided into three categories.
“The first are educators. They pass out information. If (the student) is lucky enough that it happens to fit, then you’re okay,” said Flick. “The second group is teachers. They fit the information that you need to you.
“I want to be a coach. I want to give you the information in a way that you play better. That’s the name of the game is playing better,” he said. “If you try to give everybody the same information, then you’ve got a problem. You’re going to help a few, you’re going to hurt a few.”
“The job of a teacher is to teach the students in front of him, so that he plays better. It’s not to try to fit every student into a system. That’s my concern,” said Flick, adding that too much emphasis is placed on the athletic swings of touring pros.
“Our studies here at the Kingdom show that 10 per cent of the distance you hit the golf ball can be added by the proper release with the forearms, so people who are older, people who can’t move their body fast enough, shouldn’t be trying to do the tour swing,” he said.
Flick, a regular on the seminar circuit for the PGA of American and National Golf Founation, admits that new technology in golf equipment and better fitness in the general population have improved matters, but injuries can still be a concern if people are trying to mimic the big hitters on tour.
“If you try to do all the rotation that the (tour) swing requires, you need to have the muscles around your spine so strong or you’re going to injure yourself,” said Flick, adding that the one swing fits all swing doesn’t even apply to tour players.
“Let’s go back and look at all the great players in the history of the game. Have we ever had two swings alike? We haven’t, have we?” he said. “We’ve had some that look similar, but to say that there’s only one swing that works?
“Can you imagine trying to put Tiger Woods’ rhythm on Ernie Els’ mind and body? You think that would work? It wouldn’t work at all, would it?
“If we try to make everybody fit into one model, are we taking away their individuality and their creativity? You’ve got to find a swing that fits your mind, your body and your desired ball flight,” said Flick.
It’s like the difference between street smarts and book smarts. The first is based on experience, the second on theory. Both can work to a teacher’s advantage if each is applied to the right degree based on each situation.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The PGA Tour and golf in general breathed a sigh of relief with the recent announcement that Tiger Woods is returning to this week’s Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson after a long absence due to knee/leg surgery after his win at the U.S. Open in June.
It’s one thing to cheer the return of the world’s No. 1 player but is the tour and the golf industry using Woods as a crutch to revitalize interest? Tiger brought casual fans to the game in droves, but has golf done enough to capture those casual fans and turn them into the hardcore fans/players that are its foundation?
Your comments please.