When the Champions Tour’s ACE Group Classic begins Friday in Naples, Fla., a fellow who was expected to make a major impact on the game will be in the field. That’s Bobby Clampett, who shot 69 earlier this week to tie for second in a qualifying round and get in the tournament.
Clampett, 52, once dominated the amateur game, winning 12 NCAA tournaments in three years while attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He turned pro and led the Open Championship at Royal Troon in 1982 by seven shots until he triple-bogied the sixth hole in the third round. Clampett won the 1982 Southern Open, but his only PGA Tour victory. His comprehensive website is a useful place to learn more about him.
Clampett has played as much as possible on the Champions Tour since becoming a member. He finished 45th on the money list in 2010, 57th in 2011, and 39th last year. Only the top 30 maintain exempt status for the following season. Clampett is dependent on sponsors’ exemptions, getting into tournaments as an alternate, or playing his way in via qualifying rounds.
Clearly, Clampett would like to make an impact on the Champions Tour. I caught up with him at the recent PGA Merchandise Show, and his passion for competing was evident. He also wants to make a big impact as an instructor. In fact, he’s been making a lot of headway in that direction via his Impact Zone Golf schools. Yes, impact zone.
Clampett was a disciple of The Golfing Machine, which he learned mostly at the hands of the instructor Ben Doyle in Carmel, Calif. The Golfing Machine approach was based on the book of the same name that Homer Kelley, a Boeing engineer, developed. His book The Golfing Machine, first published in 1969, has had a significant and continuing influence on instruction. It’s a highly technical approach to the swing, but, after all, the swing is a motion. Principles of physics and geometry must apply. Many instructors acknowledge a debt to Kelley. The list includes, among other swing coaches: Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer of Stack & Tilt; Sean Foley, who works with Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, and others; and Grant Waite, who is working with Mike Weir.
Clampett found plenty of success working with Doyle, but he ultimately became confused, perhaps overwhelmed with information. Information isn’t always knowledge or self-awareness, and doesn’t necessarily lead to insight. He eventually left Doyle.
“Ben taught me a swing style,” Clampett said when we spoke at the PGA Show, as he greeted one person after another who had stopped by. Many were at his Impact Zone booth to hear Clampett discuss his views on impact in golf. He’s come to see that the key to better golf lies in creating the proper conditions at impact. Every tour player looks different, because swing styles differ. But tour players are alike at impact - the moment of truth. They “sustain the lag,” to use a popular term. They deloft the club at impact rather than adding loft to it.
Clampett’s thinking led to his working with writer Andy Brumer on The Impact Zone : Mastering Golf’s Moment of Truth . The book was published in 2007; I read it then and felt it was the best instruction book of the year. The book continues to sell well. Moreover, its success led to Clampett creating Impact Zone Golf. Some 150 teachers are now certified to teach Impact Zone Golf. Clampett has just launched an advanced teaching program.
“Our system is taking the student to understanding where they are and where we can take them,” Clampett said. “If a 90-year-old who has an arthritic hip comes to us, we’re not going to teach him a hip turn,” he added, to make his point. “But we can get him into a better impact position.”
Nike recently hired Clampett as part of its long-term research team. Master clubmaker Tom Stites is his boss. Nike, of course, makes the equipment that Tiger Woods and now Rory McIlroy use. Clampett is excited to be working with Stites and the rest of the team. One question is obvious: What is the most effective way to make a clubhead so that the golfer has the best chance of creating the optimal impact position? A player’s hands should be ahead of the ball, thereby creating forward shaft lean.
Clampett told me that it was in 2005 when he really started to become clued into the degree to which impact matters more than other factors, because of the SwingVision camera. Clampett was working with CBS on its golf telecasts, and was able to examine, inspect, and dissect swings slowed down to 1000s of frames per second. Peter Kostis has long used the Konica Minolta technology to analyze swings during CBS telecasts.
“It showed us how different players swung the club in vastly different ways,” Clampett told me, “but they were all the same at impact.”
So began Clampett’s quest to understand and teach impact, which led to his book and to Impact Zone Golf. He came out of swing fog and had many moments of clarity. One such moment occurred last year when he started his Champions Tour season in a threesome with Jim Thorpe and Fuzzy Zoeller.
“We all swing so differently, yet impact is the same,” Clampett said. “We all shot almost the same score.”
Clampett is a certified PGA of America instructor. He said that in a few weeks he would become the first PGA of America certified Master teaching professional who is also a tour player. His new four-DVD set The Impact Zone Training System, which includes a half-day clinic that he gave, has just come out. An article that he wrote with Ron Kapriske in Golf Digest’s February 2013 issue has reached a wide readership. The article is titled “How to Flush It.”
In golf, flushing means hitting the ball with a pure strike. It means hitting the impact zone. It’s what Clampett is all about these days, and it’s what he means to show on and off the course, via playing and via teaching Impact Zone Golf, and certifying teachers in the approach so that he can reach golfers everywhere.
If he can do all that, he will make a very big impact indeed.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein