Getty Images

Matching 'feel' and 'real' creating new distance explosion

By Brandel ChambleeJuly 6, 2018, 6:46 pm

One of the most common refrains in teaching, “Feel is not real,” is a teacher’s way of breaking the bad news to a student, that despite their persistent efforts to coerce their limbs into a new order, they can look at the video of their swing—the way a radiologist looks at a mammogram— and not one bit of difference will be visible. Which seems impossible to the student, because they are with every bit of resolve they can muster telling their brain to send a message to the specific body part or parts to move this way or that, positive that every order is being followed, only to look at the video and see the same swing they were making before the orders were sent; it’s only then that one comes face to face with the reality, that what one feels in the golf swing is not what is actually happening.

This is not an affliction unique to poor golfers either; on the contrary, the most intelligent, dogmatic superstars who have ever played this game have made the most ludicrous of claims about their own swings. I say ludicrous, because video of their swings shows quite clearly that these superstars are not doing what they say they are doing; that they say is of paramount  importance that YOU do. For instance, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus both maintained that swinging around a steady head was what they did, that “keeping your head still” was a fundamental even, and hugely important to playing great golf. Except that neither of them did this.

Ben Hogan wrote in “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” that one must restrict hip turn, and then turn the shoulders against that restriction to create tension or coil which in turn would give them power. Indeed one can argue ( as I have ) that the whole restricting of the hips movement that now pervades the Tour can be traced back to this “feeling” that Hogan had, that he wrote about and that then became gospel in the game. Except for one problem, Hogan did NOT restrict his hips. They turned an enormous amount.

To be clear, I am not saying that Palmer, Nicklaus and Hogan were purposely trying to deceive the rest of the golf world; what they were feeling was real enough to them. But the great golf shots they hit did not come about because they were actually doing the things they felt but perhaps because their own innate athletic ability was overriding those feels. The minutia was unknown to them, but it didn’t hurt their golf. Or did it?

This is what makes teaching so hard, because how can we learn from the best players, if they in fact are not doing what they say they are doing?

This is why I believe teaching golf has been so controversial over the years, because there has been so much confusion over what in fact the best players were actually doing. Of course with each technological breakthrough in cameras each generation has thought they found the secret. One hundred years ago, the innovative teacher Alex Morrison wrote that slow motion video had made it very clear to him etc… and his student Henry Picard taught Jack Grout who taught Jack Nicklaus, so something must have been clear to him. Or was it that great athletes simply found a way to hit great shots, regardless of the misinformation?

Recently cameras of a very high shutter speed have captured arms and hands, legs and feet and hips at full speed in the swing almost as if they were posed. Technological devices have allowed a forensic look at ballistic characteristics for every imaginable shot, obliterating previous thoughts about impact conditions. Pressure plates have allowed a precise tracing of the movement patterns unique to short, medium and long hitters, obliterating previous thoughts about where distance came from.

Are we, like Alex Morrison, of the false belief that our current technology has given us all the tools necessary to actually know what the best players are doing, or do we in fact have all of the necessary tools to know for sure? One never knows what they do not know. I do know, however, that there is a tidal wave of speed about to wash over golf unlike anything that has ever been seen and it is not because of better balls or better golf clubs, but because of a better understanding of how to move one’s body; of how to swing the club.

As I write this, there are 94 players averaging over 300 yards on the Web.com Tour, led by Cameron Champ, who is averaging 339 yards. This year’s Haskins award winner Norman Xiong, who at 19 made his pro debut at the U.S. Open, supposedly has a swing speed of 133 mph. When you consider that the line in the sand for distance improvements in balls and clubs was drawn more than 10 years ago, you see just how impactful the understanding of how one needs to move to create speed in the golf swing has been and is about to be, and perhaps for the first time in history, players are beginning to match up their feels with what they are actually doing. 

Getty Images

Inside Attica: Interviewing Valentino Dixon

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 2:00 am

By RYAN GRIFFITHS

Some stories stick with you longer than others. First time you get to do a feature. First time you meet a sports legend (it was Allen Iverson for me). Seeing a championship isn’t bad, either. Been there, done that. Lawnmower museum on the east coast of England, tsunami survivors in California, re-connecting Al Geiberger with his lost 59 tape, all good, but no story or environment has stuck with me like going to Attica Correctional Facility in 2013 to tell the story of Valentino Dixon.

For starters, I’d never been searched before setting up for an interview. Not just me, everyone - all three cameramen, Jimmy Roberts, the guy escorting us in who worked there. Everyone. Attica trusts no one. Can’t blame them after 1971, when inmates protesting living conditions took members of the prison staff hostage. The ensuing police response left 29 inmates and 10 hostages dead.

Attica has a "shank wall," a collection of homemade weapons seized from inmates and displayed like baseball cards in a plastic case on the wall outside the guards' lunchroom. Prison interior decorating at its finest. Nice touch.

We went to do a story on an inmate who was introduced to the world in a Golf Digest article by Max Adler in 2012. "The golf artist who had never stepped foot on a golf course - Valentino Dixon.: He was in for murder. Second degree. You know, your standard golf story.


Wrongfully imprisoned man freed after nearly three decades


Dixon, a former aspiring artist before getting caught up in the Buffalo drug-dealing scene, started sketching photos from Golf Digest for the warden. I’ve never been to prison, but from what I have gathered from watching The Shawshank Redemption some 8,000 times, getting in the warden’s good graces is a smart habit to pick up if you’re doing serious time.

Dixon's art was insanely good. Even more so because he did it all with colored pencils. No paintbrushes allowed (see shank wall above). Jimmy, the crew and I stopped for a good 10-15 minutes to marvel at his creations before continuing with the interview.

We spent a solid 40 minutes talking to the man who supposedly killed a man 20-something years prior. In that time, he pleaded his innocence to us over and over again. He spoke like a man who had rehearsed every angle of his story over and over and over again. I give him credit - there were no holes in his story. I consider myself a pretty good judge of character, and he didn’t look like a killer, didn’t sound like one. either. But what did I know? I’d never met one - that I know of. And if you were stuck in prison for 20-plus years and all of a sudden had a camera in front of you and a platform to plead your innocence, wouldn’t you do your best to try to get out of there?

Since the guards wouldn’t allow any food, the crew and I stopped at the first deli we saw on the ride back into Buffalo. After we were done eating, we all looked at each other, knowing what we all were thinking: "Do you think he did it?”

Didn’t matter what we thought, we were just there to tell the story. On Wednesday, however, people whose opinions mattered made a decision and allowed someone who loves the game of golf, but has never stepped foot on a golf course, to do just that if he so chooses. That's a story that will stick with him for the rest of his life.

Getty Images

Wrongfully convicted inmate who turned to golf artistry freed

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 12:35 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A New York prison artist who never played golf but became known for drawings of lush courses he could only imagine was set free Wednesday after authorities agreed that another man committed the murder that put him behind bars for nearly three decades.

Valentino Dixon walked out of Erie County Court into bright sunshine and hugs from his mother, daughter and a crowd of other relatives and friends, ready for a meal at Red Lobster and vowing to fight on behalf of others who are wrongly convicted.

"I love y'all," Dixon shouted after trading the green prison uniform he wore in court for jeans and a T-shirt. "It feels great."

Earlier Wednesday, a judge agreed to set aside Dixon's conviction in the 1991 shooting death of 17-year-old Torriano Jackson on a Buffalo street corner and accepted a guilty plea from another man who had confessed to the killing two days after it happened.

"There was a fight. Shots were fired. I grabbed the gun from under the bench, switched it to automatic, all the bullets shot out. Unfortunately, Torriano ended up dying," Lamarr Scott, who has been in prison for 25 years for an unrelated attempted murder, told the court. "I dropped the gun and ran and it was over and done with."

Scott said he had gotten the gun, a Tec-9 semi-automatic, from Dixon and the two men had driven together to the crowded corner where the fighting broke out. Scott was given a sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison, concurrent with his current term.

Judge Susan Eagan let stand a count of criminal possession of a weapon against Dixon, and its 5- to 15-year sentence, which she said he had satisfied.


Inside Attica: Interviewing Valentino Dixon


"You are eligible for release today," the judge said, igniting applause and shouts from courtroom supporters.

"Mr. Dixon is not an innocent man. Don't be misguided in that at all," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told reporters after the hearing. He described Dixon as "an up-and-coming drug dealer in the city of Buffalo" at the time of the shooting and said Scott was Dixon's bodyguard.

"Mr. Dixon is innocent of the shooting and of the murder for what he was found guilty of," he said, "but Mr. Dixon brought the gun to the fight. It was Mr. Dixon's gun."

While behind bars, Dixon rekindled his childhood passion for drawing, often spending 10 hours a day creating vivid colored pencil landscapes, including of golf courses, while imagining freedom. Articles in Golf Digest and elsewhere have drawn public attention to Dixon's case. NBC Sports' Jimmy Roberts spotlighted Dixon in a 2013 segment for his "In Play" series on Golf Channel.

“I’ve worked in this business for close to 40 years, and this is the most consequential thing I’ve ever been a part of," Roberts said after learning of Dixon's release. "I’m a sports reporter, but we helped get a man out of prison. I’m humbled and dumbstruck.”

Georgetown University students made a documentary as part of a prison reform course last spring. The class worked with Dixon's attorney, Donald Thompson, to have the conviction overturned.

"It went so far beyond reasonable doubt that it's pretty outrageous that he would have been convicted and it would have been upheld," said Marc Howard, director of the university's Prisons and Justice Initiative. Howard taught the course with childhood friend, Marty Tankleff, who also spent years wrongfully imprisoned.

Dixon said he will keep drawing, while working on behalf of other prisoners.

"If you don't have any money in this system, it's hard to get justice because the system is not equipped or designed to give a poor person a fair trial," he said. "So we have a lot of work ahead of us."

His daughter, Valentina Dixon, was a baby when her father went to prison. She brought her 14-month-old twins, Ava and Levi, to court from their Columbus, Ohio, home.

"We're definitely going to go shopping and go explore life," she said. "I can't wait to get him a cellphone and teach him how to Snapchat."

Dixon's mother, Barbara Dixon, said she was in shock after relying on her faith while fighting for his release.

"We're going to Red Lobster," she said when asked what was next. "And everybody's invited."

Getty Images

Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

Getty Images

Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.


Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.