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Hankering for a better swing

CARLTON — Golf is as simple as the No. 3.

That’s how Hank Haney broke it down during his golf clinic Wednesday from his driving range at Black Bear Golf Course in Carlton.

The former swing coach of Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara, to name a few, and star of the “Haney Project” on the Golf Channel was in town as part of an 18-year anniversary and Media Day for the course located behind the Black Bear Casino.

Haney broke down the golf swing so simply that it ruined me for the rest of the day and had Staples-Motley head boys and girls golf coach Glen Hasselberg wishing he had taped the presentation for his students.

Hasselberg, who is reaching 40 years of coaching, has tried to communicate the golf swing and course management to hundreds of students. He said he has heard numerous people try to explain the golf swing and they all say the same thing. He said the key is how they say it or how they present it and Haney aced his presentation.

Haney sprinkled in humor, no look swings and a dazzling display of shots on demand. He joked that the two things he hates to hear from people are “keep your head down” and “my swing is too fast.”

He went on to say that the golf ball isn’t moving anywhere and the place where you want to hit the golf ball isn’t moving anywhere so there is no need to keep your head down when hitting the ball. Then he proceeded to hit balls while looking at the crowd. He said if anything a player should keep their eye on the ball and follow it right off the clubface into the air. He said that promotes a proper and healthy follow through.

Concerning swinging the golf club too fast, he said you’re supposed to swing it fast. That’s how the ball goes anywhere. The faster the swing the farther the ball will go on good contact.

But good contact was the key. He said about 85 percent of people slice the ball and you can’t go from a slicer to a straight ball hitter. A slicer has go from being a slicer to a hooker to a straight ball. Make sense? While Haney described this, he hit a slice, then a hook, then a fade and then hit one straight as an arrow.

He went on by saying if someone swings the club back too high, the club is going to come down too steep and that causes a slice. Someone who swings the club back too flat is going to hit a hook. The key is to find the happy middle where the club rotates perfectly around the body and comes back toward the ball with a square clubface and a swoosh.

It all just seemed too simple for me.

In concluding his presentation, Haney said for better scores a golfer needs to eliminate three things. Yep, just three things.

No. 1: A player needs to eliminate penalty shots. Those includes lost balls in the woods and in the water. He went on to say that the winner of this weekend’s PGA Championship will have no more than one penalty shot if any.

No. 2: A player needs to eliminate what he calls the double chip. That means make sure you get the ball on the green as fast as you can. Get out of the sand trap with just one shot instead of two. Chip it on the green in just one chip, not two.

No. 3: A player needs to eliminate three putts. He said if an amateur is more than six feet away from the hole, then they should only worry about the speed of the putt.

I took all three things to heart as we went out on our round following the clinic. I shot the best score of my life with a six-under-par 66. It might have been a scramble and my shots may not have counted that often, but I didn’t take a penalty shot and I never double chipped. Hasselberg did three putt once, though.

The day’s best moment came on the par 5 18th. Hasselberg was lining up his second shot around some boulders. His ball flight didn’t take the shape he had pictured in his head as the ball a skipped dribbled along the grass 100 yards down the fairway.

It was one of Hasselberg’s worst shots of the day, but it was the only shot Haney saw from our group. Needless to say he didn’t stop and offer us any advice.

But Haney’s main piece of advice and one I’ll leave my readers with is this, “Whenever possible — putt.”

jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at or at 855-5856.