Skip to main content

Fixing Barkley

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. ' Hank Haney has been here before. Hes had students, more to the point a student, who has embraced his philosophy of the golf swing. From there, Haney has learned by way of his 50,000 or so golf lessons hes given in is career, that its only a matter of time and reps before concept becomes clarity of thought.
At ease with this knowledge, Haney ponders the question: Can he fix Charles Barkleys golf swing ' the premise behind the new Golf Channel series The Haney Project Charles Barkley which premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET.
Charles Barkley
Is Hank Haney facing Mission: Impossible with Charles Barkley? (Getty Images)
Its just a process. I know his swing can be fixed and I know Charles, and he can be good, Haney says. I cant tell you how long its going to take. Its the same thing with Tiger (Woods). He was on the right path and everyone was asking why hes doing this or doing that? It just takes time.
Of course, Woods ' that other guy with the 14 major championships and 65 PGA Tour titles ' had a pretty grasp of the golf swing before teaming with Haney, whereas Barkleys swing is best described as a bevy of moving parts. An upright, over-the-top, out-of-balance action that is considered by some the games worst.
Everybody sees the hitch in Charles golf swing. I see a terrible swing that has a hitch, Haney says. I dont want him to stop hitching but still shoot 100. Thats not going to do much. I want him to play the game like I know he can play. When I see him on the range I see a good player.
If Haneys assessment seems a bit on the rosy side of optimistic, hes earned some leeway. Hes also got perhaps the most dedicated pupil this side of Isleworth Country Club. The duo has gathered for five two-day meetings to shoot the seven episodes of The Haney Project. Haney calls the meetings sessions, but they have more of a boot camp feel.
The seeds of The Haney Project were born from a chance encounter at Woods 2004 wedding in Barbados. Barkleys game had gotten so bad he limited his golf to two celebrity events a year, and Haney thought he could help.
Tiger said to me, You know you have to work with Hank. I was like, cool. I thought that was going be like an hour, Barkley says. We go out there, five hours later my back was hurting. I needed traction for like a week.
But an undersized power forward ' hes listed at 6-foot-6 ' doesnt become one of just four players in NBA history to compile 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists without a healthy work ethic and an unwavering determination. On a warm December afternoon at Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., its what drives the 11-time NBA All-Star to pound the turf like he used to pound the offensive glass.
The session begins at 8 a.m., features nine intense holes under Haneys watchful eye followed by a short lunch and an even longer session on the practice range with Barkley rifling through rows of 125 golf balls at a time.
The Project is neither sport nor science and perhaps best dubbed Infotainment , complete with the ultimate odd couple. Haney, the taskmaster, pushing Barkley, whose random thoughts, more so than a structured reason, seem to dictate his actions.
During the afternoon session, Barkley pauses midway through a line of range balls, towels the sweat from his forehead before noticing a sign posted on a nearby water cooler. Eating ice from water cooler may be dangerous, the sign reads.
People been eating ice for years, Barkley reasons. How come that ice can kill ya?
Haney doesnt answer, choosing not to play along before the session continues into the Arizona dusk.
Both Haney and Barkley concede improvement has been slow coming, but Haney remains optimistic, citing Barkleys athleticism and a golf IQ that is far beyond what his handicap may suggest.
Truth is, the one-time Round Mound of Rebound was once a decent player, playing nearly every day and regularly posting rounds between 78 and 84, Barkley says.
Where things went south is something of a mystery.
I dont know what happened, says Barkley, a legitimate 11 handicap before a combination of over-analysis and self doubt made his swing a YouTube staple. I wanted to get better and a guy gave me some advice to pause for a split second on my backswing. The rest is history.
From that tip was born one of the worst hitches in the history of the ancient game. Whether Barkleys action can be remade into something resembling a golf swing remains the ultimate in golf reality. Whats not lost in the ambiguity of swing fundamentals and flaws is the entertainment value of pairing Barkley with one of the games most respected swing coaches on the golf course, on the practice range and beyond.
If hes not better I get voted off the island, Haney smiles. It is not possible for anyone to work harder than Charles. Hes a good a student as youll ever ask for.
Related Links:
  • Golf Channel's 'The Haney Project'