I took lessons from Ben Doyle in the early 1970’s and I learned a lot about The Golf Machine. It’s amazing how many young teachers are still using that book and that precise terminology that was written 50+ years ago. Most of them think it’s “all new, cutting edge information”. Actually the terminology and odd way the book was put together in a manual form remains highly interesting to a group of young teachers who have dabbled in physics or engineering. Recent US Amateur Champion Bryson DeChambeau, is a physics major and has used parts of TGM to build his very unique way of swinging the club and building his set up clubs, wedge through putter. He’s obviously a very smart young man and definitely uses facets of TGM, the parts I believe are the most important aspects of a golf swing he learned from that book.
I went to see Homer Kelley at his Seattle home in 1977 and spent a day with him. He’s the author of the Golf Machine book. Homer wrote the book and then became friends with the much more credible golf professional, Ben Doyle had the ability and credibility to bring it to the golf world. I spent many hours in the garage with Homer Kelly where he had all of his gadgets, tools, and the swing plane “sheet of plastic”. Mac O’Grady made that same trek to meet with Homer and got a lot out of the time they spent together. Mac O’Grady built most of his theories on that book and he became a tremendous ball striker. I knew Mac when his name was Phil McGleno and we played on the same 6 month NGA mini tour in Southern California. Now Bryson is doing something similar to O’Grady, so we will stay tuned to his progress. I’ve already had a few highly interesting talks with Bryson about TGM and the way he thinks of his swing.
Ben Doyle brought The Golf Machine to the world, but Mac O’Grady did too. More recently Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer, who teach Stack and Tilt, used huge amounts of information they took from Ben Doyle. They bought all of his teaching aids and visited with him numerous times at his California driving range. But they basically took one page from TGM book, as Ben Doyle said to me.
I went to see Ben Doyle in California prior to the 1st stage of the 1973 tour school and I’ll write about that in following paragraphs, but working more extensively with Ben after missing the final stage of tour school, I started to drive the golf ball poorly. Then my long game gradually got worse practicing the TGM, and I drifted off many of the ideas Ben stressed so hard to me. I came to realize that some of the basic ideas taught by most Golf Machine teachers turned out to be highly detrimental to a good player, while at the same time most of the ideas are actually very good for the basic chopper (high handicap player). I’d have to say that this was part of my process of teaching golf differently to low skilled players, to mid range players, and then to high grade players. It’s a piece of the teaching system I developed for instructing golf at all levels of competency.
The ideas put forth from Homer’s book were not original but were instead gleaned from books he had read and studied. The ideas Homer Kelly penned did not come from actually speaking to other teachers or top players, but rather from Homer’s adaption of what he read and observed in photography. The way he wrote the book, however, was unique. Do your own reading and find out for yourself. Bryson DeChambeau and his teacher definitely took a far different route than any Golf Machine teacher I have ever seen, or heard of to date. I know Bryson has done serious work with his teacher and others he trusts on his golf swing. They built “his swing”.
Regarding where the information originally came from to write TGM, specifically the ideas Homer wrote came directly from the writing of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Percy Huggins, plus others I am probably missing.
After Homer gave me one of his TGM books I went over it with my father, who was a Boeing engineer and also a very fine golfer. He could understand it easily.
Homer Kelly was a terrible golfer. I wonder if people know that! Yet he put together an intriguing book full of engineering terms and put it into a detailed manual form that still captures the minds of young teachers and those looking for the scientific secrets to golf. There are lots of interesting subjects in that book, but he had no bibliography and credited no other teachers. The idea of two different swing ideas was written far before the swinger and the hitter in TGM If you look carefully at the other previous works I mentioned above you would see the same basic ideas encased inside TGM. Homer just put some of those words into different terminology and sometimes into different terms within his book. I don’t think Homer played much golf and he was not a golf instructor. His bag of clubs were on a pull cart in the garage and were of poor quality.
Ben Doyle,on the other hand, loved to teach and play. I knew Ben at an early age from playing tournament golf in the Northwest and when Ben was the head pro at the prestigious Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle, where I played from time to time. But I didn’t take lessons from Ben until my early 20’s down in Monterrey, California. He had moved there and was teaching at Carmel Valley Ranch in Carmel, California. That’s where I first met a young Bobby Clampett. Ben taught Clampett, and Bobby would become an incredible amateur and win an event on the PGA tour.
My teaching time with Ben Doyle went like this, I had already been an All American at the U of Houston and those teams had won the NCAA twice and finished 2nd the other two years. I had won just about everything on the West Coast as an amateur and would later go into the Northwest HOF for my playing record. But going into my first tour school I wanted to get better, so I stopped to see Ben who was building a fine reputation in California. I was amazed at all of his contraptions and his new unique golf language. I was mesmerized. He was teaching dawn to dusk and we hit it off really well. We remained friends the rest of his life and he even did a few schools with me at my Texas facility in 2012. Ben always wanted to convert me to a GM teacher, but that never happened. Having studied intensely with great teachers like Carl Welty, Ken Venturi, Jackie Burke, Gardner Dickinson, Al Mengert, Claude Harmon, and my Dad I saw long ago obvious holes in that book and the over complication of golf machine teaching terminology was unnecessary for most golfers, in my opinion. Plus I had been to Homer’s house and spoken with him about teaching. I just could not compare him to the great teachers and players I had played and studied under. No way.
I saw lots of good professional players go to Ben Doyle, and other GM teachers, and most not improve. What I saw on the positive side was his work with juniors, beginners and intermediate golfers. Why did good players often get worse? The killer concepts for good players were the center post key idea, (which no good player does), the idea of hitting the inside quadrant of the golf ball, and hitting inside out. Again these were good ideas for higher handicaps encouraging an inside out attack and reducing a lot of unnecessary lateral movement, but that inside out action is highly dangerous for the better player. Another bad idea was/is the concept of lagging the club “as much as possible”. This old lag idea has been taught “to an extreme” in most TGM teaching. A positive note on this subject, is that a young junior golfer cannot hold the lag too long. The club shaft will always catch up and release. So that’s OK. However an older, stronger player can over lag the club head. A high handicap golfer or short hitting amateur almost always needs more lag, but a strong young, talented golfer can over lag the club and really damage the trajectory of long iron shots and for sure hurt their driving. That’s what happened to me and it’s my own fault. I worked on absolutely zero head movement and massive lag and I pretty much achieved it. I worked on those things very hard. Like some other golf machine students I worked on the wrong things. I started hitting low drivers that sometimes went not only too low, but also right with a fade. That’s a killer shot for a player with good speed. Lots of young teachers are hammering these three dangerous terms to everybody they teach to this day.
Golf Machine teachers have often taught no weight shift (the centered swing) or in some cases even a reverse weight shift (keeping weight on the forward leg during the backswing). That’s just one page out of The Golf Machine book. You can hit great irons with this method, but it’s terrible for driving. See Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Rory McIIroy, Bubba Watson, Jordan Speith, Henrik Stenson, Colin Montgomery, Adam Scott, Davis Love, Vijay Singh and all the great drivers who make wide takeaways and have obvious weight shift. They all get behind the ball on long shots. Slam dunk.
Golfers love methods. Modern methods lean more and more to equations, formula’s, detailed biometric answers and often “The Golf Machine” complicating instruction. What readers don’t see in The Golf Machine is that Homer Kelly actually wrote that there were millions of golf swing combinations. Yet most GM teachers still focus on small sections of the book when they teach that golf swing version to everybody. Maybe that will eventually change as minds open and golf research gets a whole lot better. For sure the modern teacher has so much more to use in analyzing golf swings and understanding the physics involved in the swing can be highly seductive. I see numerous teachers giving out super technical information. Yet for top teaching it’s always how much information you give a student, and when you parcel it out.
TGM is a very mechanical way of learning the golf swing and even though it contains great ideas, many teachers leave out the feel and intuitive part of great golf. The Golf Machine may always remain as a cult book, but to believe it completely you have to ignore what great pro players truly achieve in their swings. It’s also a very tough method on the body (particularly the back), putting major stress on the golfer trying to stay under and behind the ball through impact and finish.
Here’s a few things no PGA tour player really does in their swing:
1. Nobody has a totally stationary head. This was taught by every TGM teacher forever.
2. Nobody swings inside out across the target-line.
3. All tour players release the stored lag they have in their golf swings. They don’t over lag the golf club driving the hands and shaft far ahead of the ball with a block.
4a TGM instructors usually taught their students to keep the back heel on the ground at impact. Just check out the top tour players hitting full shots. Back heel is off the ground. I think this is gradually fading away. Dying a slow death. I note that a few tour players do,in fact, have the back heel on the ground. So I noted the (a). Not any of the young guns though.
There are tour players who have gone to TGM full out and ended up off the tour, or at least became worse ball strikers than they were even as junior golfers. They did not get better if they went to it after being on the tour. I know quite few players have tried these ideas or gone to Golf Machine ideas when their games waned, but I’ve seen no miracles.
The idea of a bent right wrist release (for a right handed golfer) at and past impact is one way to play for sure, but the great drivers don’t have a backward bent trailing wrist for long after impact. Keeping the lag deep into the follow through is a weaker way to play for sure. The bowed lead wrist and the bent right wrist leads eventually to a drag and flip release on long shots and also to much inside out.
A little bit of The Golf Machine can be very good, but jumping in head first has ramifications that golfers don’t expect. I certainly learned many things over decades from GM teachers I’ve known. I had a long relationship with Ben Doyle, who just passed away this last year. I miss my talking with him. I also had another great friend, Dave Collins, who knew a
tremendous amount of TGM and a lot of Mac O’Grady. Dave taught with me for a long time. Mike Bennett took lessons from Dave Collins when Dave worked for me at Sleepy Hollow CC in New York. Many other JMGS teachers also know a lot of TGM. I encourage this because there is so much useful information to learn and glean. But too much scientific information in teaching the game of golf can be very dangerous. We all know the “paralysis by analysis” analogies. “Over teaching” is almost always bad. Over thinking is bad! We all know that in extreme cases it can even lead to “the yips”. Trying to be to perfect has brought down many a golfer. Golf is an athletic endeavor that requires tempo, timing, and feel, all of which can disappear in having an algorithm in your brain for every move in the swing. Sure there is trigonometry, geometry, swing plane, swing vectors, and analytical equations possible to explain in a swing. Since Homer Kelly there has been many more additions to golf swing mechanics, especially with 3D biomechanics and pressure mapping. All leading to increased intellectual knowledge. The knowledge of what should happen is, however, quite different than actually being able to do it yourself. For example a tremendous biomechanics person might be able to explain the golf swing with incredible precision. It’s great that they can explain every move you should make but why is it that they themselves might not be able to hit a decent golf shot? Explain that? Line up the top 20 players in the world and just look at the size difference, hand size, shoulder width, shoe size, arm length, and leg length to name just a few differences. Golf is an outdoor game played by human beings in all kinds of varying conditions. Every person themselves is just a little different everyday, too. How much can you think about in the 1 second of a golf swing? How much do you want to think? A big increase in a new golf language started with Ben Doyle way back in Seattle, Washington because he believed so much in Homer Kelly and TGM. I’m glad I knew him.