In the Zone: A chat with Bobby Clampett
In the Zone: A chat with Bobby Clampett
The name Bobby Clampett is certainly well known both inside and outside the ropes.
Hot on the heels of a hugely successful amateur and college career, Clampett turned pro in 1980 after his junior year at BYU, playing 15 seasons on the PGA Tour and winning the 1982 Southern Open. He parlayed his Tour experience and tremendous knowledge of the game into a nearly 20-year run as a golf analyst and on-course reporter for CBS, TNT and Golf Channel.
The competitive urge led Clampett to join the Champions Tour in 2010. This season, he played in 17 events earning a top 10 at the Principal Charity Classic and nearly $170,000 for the year.
Always filled with a passion to teach, Clampett shared his knowledge in his 2007 book, The Impact Zone, co-authored with golf writer Andy Brumer. Following the overwhelmingly positive reception of the book, Clampett founded Impact Zone Golf in 2009 – a revolutionary teaching system that focuses on improving a players’ impact position rather than their unique individual swing style.
Having earned the status of Master Professional Of Teaching and Coaching with the PGA of America, the highest teaching credential members of the PGA of America can achieve, Clampett’s teaching skills are widely lauded.
I caught up with him recently to talk about the Impact Zone, innovation, teaching, time management and his future on the Champions Tour.
Talk about the impressive response to your book The Impact Zone and how that response manifested itself into Impact Zone Golf.
BC: That’s a great question and really I had no idea the response would be what it has been. When I wrote the book, I really had something on my chest that I had to get off. There was a message there that I felt the game of golf needed and that was my motivation for writing the book.
I think we’ve gone about teaching golf in a way that isn’t as effective as can be. The way we have been teaching golf is through what we call style-based teachers, who keep talking about positions. My a-ha moment was really looking at the best players of the game through the CBS Swing Vision camera while I was working full time at CBS and seeing so many different golf swings… the Jim Furyk swing, the Tiger Woods swing, the Sergio Garcia swing.
Seeing guys that are laid off, guys that are across the line, guys that are shut, guys that are open. Guys that have strong grips, weak grips, upright swings, flat swings, big shoulder turns, small shoulder turns, big hip turns, small hip turns. Move their head, others don’t. Some go up and down, some go sideways. Yet what they created in impact was virtually the same. Every time you go take a lesson, the instructor wants to say, ‘Well, what do you want to swing like?’ When we started getting a lot of feedback after writing the book, I felt it was necessary because so many of the instructors were saying, ‘This is the future of teaching. This is what the game needs.’
It motivated me and my wife, Marianna (who retired right at that point from a long and a successful career at SAS) to start Impact Zone Golf. That’s how the company began. We started implementing all the licensing, creating the website, and answering a lot of emails and phone calls from instructors and students alike. People who would read the book and say, ‘Hey my game’s been changed. You’re really on to something here.’ That’s when we started a certification program for the instructors and began doing some golf schools in which I would use the golf schools to help train the instructors to become master instructors, because I really needed to be hands on with all the master instructors.
It was soon after that the PGA of America invited me to do my presentation at the national show in Orlando and the response from that was wonderful. It’s just continued to grow from that.
Why the need for Impact Zone? What has the response been like?
BC: My realization in meeting thousands of golfers and now that I’ve played five full years on the Champions Tour is that I’m astonished at how none of them have ever heard about swing bottom, and what is the swing bottom, where should it be. None of them ever heard about what is proper impact? What are the conditions like? As I look at the golf swing, the purpose of the golf swing is to create effective impact. If you don’t look at the golf swing like that you’re really setting yourself up for failure because you don’t understand cause and effect relationships, you don’t understand how the golf swing works. You don’t understand how hitting the ball off a certain line can be different, and sometimes you have to change your swing bottom around to effectively do that, or when hitting the driver, why if you hit down on it, it spins more, if you hit up on it, it spins less. Understanding those types of things all relate back to impact. You slice the ball, well there’s a relationship between path and face.
All these things relate back to impact and when a person works on improving their impact, they improve their game. It’s really that simple. When a teacher is teaching, if he’s not teaching and making a change in a person’s golf swing for the purpose of improving that person’s impact and he’s just making the change for the purpose of thinking he’s improving the style, he’s really doing the student a disservice.
The response to all this movement has been unfathomable. We’re seeing some incredible, incredible results. Everything from the book to the new DVD training system to the golf schools, we have yet to have one dissatisfied customer in any of our golf schools. We’re getting all kinds of feedback from people who are so much happier. I cannot tell you how frustrated many golfers are. When they understand impact and how to improve it and they see the difference it makes in their game, they get so much hope and really the game takes on a whole new joy.
For me, this has been more of a ministry, and that is the reason why we’ve invested what we’ve invested in because my wife and I both agree that this is the future of teaching, this is what the game needs.
You are involved in so many things (Champions Tour, Impact Zone, teaching, wines…). How do you juggle all of your responsibilities and still find time for yourself?
BC: It’s called priorities. It’s actually affecting what I’m going to be doing on the Champions Tour next year as we have really reached some critical turning points and tipping points in the Impact Zone business that really showed up this year and made it difficult for me to find the time to work on my game.
Additionally, because I was a non-exempt player I was fortunate enough to get a lot of sponsors invitations but along with those sponsors invitations come a lot of responsibilities… extra Pro Ams, hosting dinner parties, hosting draw parties, sponsored tent visits, interviews… Some tournaments were more challenging in terms of time than others.
I love playing golf and I love the Champions Tour and want to give everything I can to do that but the reality is I can’t. I’ve made a decision to cut back some for next year. I don’t know how much I’m going to play yet but I didn’t go to qualifying school and we’re really going to spend a lot of time focusing on the business. It looks like we’re going to be opening our first academy soon and continuing to grow and network with lots of organizations and building the business.
This is why we’re doing what we’re doing and each day we keep increasing numbers of opportunities and have to decide which opportunities we’re going to pursue and which we’re not. Those are good problems to have and our hope is that golf will be better as a result of everything we’re putting into it.
Who are your customers?
BC: Really our customers are avid golfers. I would say right now our primary customers are probably in the 40-to-70 year old range. We certainly have customers outside that group. That is predominantly driven by the video system that we’ve created. The video system is designed to help people understand the game from a different perspective, through what we call impact-based teaching, and through an impact-based perspective.
Essentially our customers are anyone who wants to improve their golf game. We look at this as really growing. We are about to launch into junior development programs and competitive development programs. We have a goal of becoming the standard of teaching in the world of golf. I firmly believe that impact-based teaching is the future of golf teaching because it’s the only system that explains everything.
There’s always going to be room for style, there’s always going to be some instructors that say, ‘Sergio Garcia’s swing is better than Justin Rose’s swing,’ or vice versa. They’re always going to be debatable. There are going to be people who say, ‘Well, upright swingers are better than flat swingers.’ There are going to be people who say, ‘Well, the more you move left through the ball, the better player you are,’ but it just goes on and on and on. The bottom line is, it gets back to impact, creating dynamic impact, and creating it consistently.
What makes you so passionate about sharing your experience and insights with others as a teacher?
BC: I believe we can really help golf. I believe firmly that we are living in a day where people are leaving the game because they’re frustrated, they don’t understand how to improve their game, they really have no hope, and they want to be good golfers. They understand the game is hard, but they really don’t know.
They’ve been told things like, ‘Keep your head down, keep your left arm straight, swing smooth,’ all these other things, and it isn’t helping them at all. The sad thing is everybody swings exactly how they’ve been taught, but the way they’ve been taught isn’t very good and it’s not reaping very good results for them. This is really what makes me so passionate about this, and I understand that there are lots of people that are already taking a lot of this information and utilizing it for themselves sometimes as hurtful as that can be, and to even see some people giving the wrong person the credit for it.
It’s rewarding to me to know that even when those things are happening, they’re helping people play better golf. They’re utilizing what I have come up with and what I have discovered to help other people play better golf. I’ve got such a great team built of great instructors and they are so passionate about this movement and continue to help drive my passion and also give great insight. Collectively as a group, we’re really gaining so much strength and knowledge as we grow and that’s going to continue.
Talk a bit about the importance of impact position as opposed to how a player actually swings the club and how you developed this concept.
BC: It really goes back into my history. When I was in college I was First Team All-American my freshman year when I was 17. Then when I was 18 and 19, I was College Player of the Year and won the Haskins Award at Brigham Young.
I got out on Tour with a lot expected of me and I performed pretty well. After my first win at the Southern Open I felt like my game had plateaued and I wasn’t really improving much. I always sought to get better and decided I should perhaps investigate some of the so-called best teachers of the game and see what they had to say. The first one looked at me and basically shook his head and said, ‘Your swing’s got more moving parts than an erector set. We’ve got to make some big changes.’ We began implementing a lot of these changes and the reality is I became a 74 and 75 shooter very quickly.
I realized that wasn’t taking me anywhere and so I went to another so-called great teacher and he looked at me and said, ‘Listen if you want to get better, you’ve got to empty your mind, forget about anything you’ve ever learned about the game and start all over.’ I was foolish enough to believe him and went a through a process of trying to completely redo my style of golf swing. The results were I never cracked the top 80 even after 12 years of working on this stuff. A long time. I left the game, went into golf broadcasting and that’s when I had that a-ha moment.
What I learned from that is that all the teachers wanted to change my style of swing and that wasn’t working and yet it was just that teacher’s opinion about what he felt was the best style of swing. There are lots of opinions out there and when I started to look at things more scientifically, it led me to this study of impact and I started to realize that a player’s ability to create dynamic impact is really what the whole purpose of the golf swing is. Then once you’re able to create that, to create it consistently.
When it’s not a natural movement and something that you’re completely fighting your body to create, you’re not going to be able to repeat it consistently especially under pressure. That’s what really led me to produce a swing that was more natural to me, something that let my body go where it wanted to go as opposed to trying to manipulate it. Then really allowing myself to embrace that natural style of swing that was naturally me and focusing on allowing that swing to create proper impact.
That’s how I developed the concept of the five dynamics to creating this and really it became the cornerstone for how I taught myself and how I worked with others. I actually started working and coaching my son’s junior high and then high school golf team and saw the results we were having with these kids who had hardly even played golf.
I really saw that it could take a team that was this little small private school that never made it to state’s in 16 years and in two years we finished, I think, third in the state. These kids were just improving so quickly and I actually used that time of teaching these kids to develop the whole concept. It was in that time that I was writing the Impact Zone with Andy Brumer and allowing a lot of the things I learned from teaching the kids to be in the book.
Discuss the importance of “innovation” to you and how you work to be innovative in a marketplace chock full of training tools and aids.
BC: I think most training tools are style based. We’re working on developing some of our own training tools as we move forward and new programs again with the whole motivation of helping golf. That is what we desire to do especially for people who can’t afford to either go out and play golf a lot or don’t have a lot of disposable time.
In 2000, when I was a full-time announcer and miraculously qualified for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that year it was a time period where I had literally quit golf for two years. The only thing I started doing was I started drilling. It was in that time period of developing my material for The Impact Zone I discovered that I could really help my own game in five to ten minutes a day swinging in the house. I trained myself and taught myself how to do that working on improving my impact.
Literally when I went out to play I was shooting in the 60’s almost every round. I qualified and went through local qualifying, went through sectional qualifying and had a terrible start. I was two over after three in the sectional qualifier and I think I was 11 under par the last 33 holes to get a qualifying spot and go to Pebble Beach. Then I was four under par after 10 holes in the first round of the U.S. Open that year, two shots ahead of Tiger Woods who of course won by 15. It really revealed to me, I was playing golf maybe once a month. Maybe hitting a bucket of balls once a week and even right up to the US Open that’s all I was doing.
I was in the middle of building a house. I was doing a full time on CBS. I had no time to play golf yet was able to get my game to a pretty good competitive level in five to ten minutes a day. I believe there are lots of innovative ways to help golfers improve their games in very limited time especially because we’re able to zero in on the importance of how to improve your game through better impact.
What sets you apart from the competition?
BC: We’re the only what I’d call a training system. We have standardization. We have an online program now that every instructor has to complete which not only takes them through the information in the impact zone but takes them through the advanced training module which is about 35 different modules on how to implement that into teaching so that when a person completes our training they really have a perspective of impact-based teaching.
The difference of impact-based teaching is it’s verifiable. It’s standard. It’s not based on relative opinions and thoughts. It’s based on absolutes. This is what really sets us apart from the competition. Everybody else is teaching a style of swing whether it be one plane or two plane or stack and tilt or rotate the face or getting left through the ball and now you’re getting lots of instructors that are getting combinations of all of these.
Again, it’s all style based. We are the only impact-based instruction model and because of that we’re going to be able to have a consistency model that is beyond anybody’s dreams of what they’ve been able to produce in the industry. When somebody goes to an advanced impact zone certified instructor they’re going to get a very consistent approach and viewpoint of how to teach the game as opposed to when you go to a lot of current academies there might be six or seven instructors there but they’re all teaching different things.
A person asks them for help and he has no idea where to turn because one teacher is saying one thing and another teacher is saying another thing. It’s the same issue that we have and the confusion that exists in the golf marketplace today. The struggling golfer turns on the Golf Channel and he hears an instructor saying ‘this is the magic move’ and then he goes and takes a lesson from his pro and the pro says ‘oh no this is the magic move.’
Then he picks up a golf magazine and there’s an article there that says ‘oh no, no this is the magic move’ and on and on and on. He keeps looking for that magic move which doesn’t exist. Unless it improves your impact it’s not going to improve your game.
What do you enjoy more: playing or teaching?
BC: I enjoy both. It’s hard to say which I enjoy more. I’m really passionate and perhaps a little more passionate about the teaching aspect. I feel like I can have a greater influence of helping golf through my teaching versus my playing. That at the current time is really motivating me. Not that I don’t enjoy playing, I enjoy playing a lot. I really enjoyed being out the last five years on the Champion’s Tour and being with my buddies and doing that.
Any plans for expansion into other products or offerings? Another book perhaps?
BC: Absolutely. Another book? possibly. Again, it becomes more about time. The book took a lot of time. It took Andy and I two years to write that book. We had a very limited budget. I think as we move forward we’re finding that the videos are much easier for me to do and I’m able to utilize what I’ve learned as being a CBS golf announcer for 24 years and being in the television industry. I’ve learned how to communicate to people. It comes pretty naturally and easy for me. To be able to use a video format is very time effective and it gets the message across and less expensive to create than a book.
But, clearly we’re open to other books in the future. The sales of The Impact Zone continue to grow every year.