Fit To Be Tee'd

A look inside the TPI fitting experience

This Article Features Photo Zoom

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what does two-angle video reveal? Well, if Bobby Jones was around to take a gander at me, he’d be moved to say, “He plays a game with which I am not familiar, which makes sense since it bears a striking resemblance to lumberjacking.”

Welcome to my golf swing.

Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) is a cradle-to-grave interdisciplinary diagnostic and teaching program embracing fitness, flexibility, club-fitting, instruction and, in some cases, nutritional analysis. Participants can choose from some or all parts of the café plan, partaking of single-installment to multiday sessions. Yet all are grounded in the understanding that golf is a physical activity, and 45 days with Butch Harmon, Hank Haney and Sean Foley won’t a Tiger make if your body can’t do what the swing philosophies demand.

In one last desperate effort to get to “familiar,” I set an appointment for a half-day session of TPI therapy at Palm Desert Golf Academy.

We first began with some physical assessments. The good news, PGA Class- and TPI-certified instructor Paul Bucy tells me, is that I have excellent balance and lower-body strength. The counterweight comes in the guise of, well, excess weight, core instability, and shoulder, leg and particularly hip flexibility that are on the octogenarian side of the divide. He knows this from me grunting and groaning through a series of tests (stretches and static positions) designed to tell him what moves and what doesn’t. He says I’m far from atypical and that hips “are the number-one physical limitation, especially with men.” Misery loves company. The golf swing loves Elvis-ian hips.

After that, we hit the range and recorded my first hitting session. Head-on and down-the-line video reveals a solid starting position, and I hit my usual mix of notable and regrettable shots—a two-way miss of pull hooks and occasional weak, high blocks. Not surprisingly, the camera shows I’m off plane, my hand position is too high, and my posture goes on walkabout on the way back and never returns. “Fast hands and good timing,” says Bucy, “allow me to save shots.”

At this point, Bucy has been collecting data, both from my physical tests and real-live outdoor golf ball hits. He’s able to see right away that my swing flaws trace back to a deeper problem than just my current set of equipment and swing mechanics: sheer physical limitations on my part. I’m not an uncoordinated oaf or too dense to get the drill-instructor-like commands of myriad instructors. Instead, my body simply can’t do some of the things that are at the foundation of a good golf swing. Core weakness and inflexibility inhibit my ability to turn and to remain down and in position through the swing; I can’t help but hit the ball out on the toe, and sometimes all over the yard. Unlike a standard clubfitting experience, or even a regular golf lesson, I’ve actually learned that my body is the root cause of my swing problems, and my poor swing habits are compounding the problem.


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