Within a span of seven years, I undertook an extensive project in 2002 that surpassed any research and development that I did during my 33 years of working as a transmission line grid engineer for a utility in Mississippi. I was committed to develop the basic fundamentals and techniques needed to allow the golfer to make a systematic and consistent golf swing, without having to think about their mechanics. I wanted the golfer to be able to take their baseball-type swing from the batter’s box to the tee box with the same amount of confidence. I wanted a system that allowed the golfer to have an automative process, based on muscle memory. I even went back to school to take Kinesiology and ergonomics classes to equip myself for this work and to teach linemen proper techniques to perform repetitive tasks.
Later in 2003, I had a rare opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime. I met a P.O.W. Vietnam Veteran in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who helped me confirm some of my initial procedures and theories that I was starting to develop in 2002. During this same time, I was assigned to a special joint task committee to look at safe work practices for special high line work, as noted in the photograph above.
In addition to being a grid engineer, I was assigned to also develop written procedures and techniques for the committee to teach our linemen about energized work, or hot line work, and aerial line work, referred to as the “Short Haul Process.” This took a significant amount of research and development to develop procedures supporting these technical and hazardous tasks. The photograph is of the Short Haul process, allowing linemen to work areas that are inaccessible with normal equipment.
One of the honors that I had while building transmission lines was talking with experts in these fields to develop the procedures to ensure the safe completion of work. I had the opportunity of traveling the nation and speaking with some of the best minds in the field of aerial line work. One of these experts was Mr. Joey Deuer from Dayton, Ohio, who is the president and owner of Tuff-Tug Industries. If you’ve ever been in a Tractor Supply Company store, TSC, and seen the come-a-longs, you’ve seen part of his product line. But, he also supplies fall protection equipment to utilities and the wind turbine industry.
As honored as I was to work with these individuals, nothing could compare with a happenchance conversation that I had with a former P.O.W. named Colonel George Robert Hall of the Vietnam War, while attending a meeting with one of our major suppliers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Colonel Hall was raising money for the local Veterans Association, when I had the opportunity to meet him at the Hattiesburg Country Club and talk to him one-on-one over a glass of ice tea to compare notes about our golfing techniques, after I learned who he was.
Colonel Hall was held for seven-and-a-half years as a P.O.W. in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he credits his survival to his golf game. Before he was sent to Vietnam to fly bombing missions, he was the captain of the golf team at the Naval Academy, where he had a four handicap. After Colonel Hall was shot down on September 27, 1965, he was held at the infamous Hanoi Hilton until his release on February 12, 1973. Within six weeks of Colonel Hall’s release, he played in the Greater New Orleans POW Pro-Am, where he shot his handicap, of four recording a score of 76.
Colonel Hall was able to turn his seven-and-a-half square foot prison cell into what he called his Pebble Beach. He kept unbelievable mental notes of his techniques that allowed him to play his virtual game of golf. Below are some of the questions that I had the opportunity to ask Colonel Hall and his answers to these questions:
Question No. 1
Boatright: “What did you use as a golf club?”
Col. Hall: “I used my left thumb to represent the handle of the club, and placed my right hand around the left thumb. This also gave me the opportunity to maintain the correct grip pressure on the handle of the club and preset my wrists, as I did when I played golf on a regular basis.”
Question No. 2
Boatright: “What was the key component in your golf swing to give you the most realistic feel, since you did not have a golf club or experience the results of your golf shots?”
Col. Hall: “Everything had to be associated with my hands and wrists. I could not think about the floor as the ground for my point of reference. If I could preset my wrists in the proper sequence, based on how I played golf prior to my deployment to Vietnam and my capture, I could feel how the forearms and wrists reacted during my golf swing.”
Question No. 3
Boatright: “So, your point of reference was waist level at your hands?
Col. Hall: “Yes, to be more specific, my thumbs. I kept all the impact, essentially, at the level of my hands, similar to how a baseball player uses a bat to take batting practice.”
Question No. 4
Boatright: “I have centered my muscle memory development on two points, the base of my wristbands and the base of the thumb and palm, called the Hypothenar. Did you focused on, or keyed in on, a particular muscle to execute your golf shot?”
Col. Hall: “Yes, I read about how Ben Hogan described his Hypothenar as being a key part of his golf swing to pronate and supinate his wrists and hands to open and close his clubface.”
Col. Hall’s Question: “How did you determine the significance of the Hypothenar in the golf swing?”
Boatright: “In Kinesiology, my professor, Dr. Bunch, stressed the importance of two muscles used in the baseball-type swing that could help linemen reduce injuries to the wrists. These were the Brachio-Radialis muscle and the thenars, particularly the Hypothenar. Both are unique in that the Brachio-Radialis muscle can both pronate and supinate, and the thenars are the strongest and most dexterous muscles in the hand.”
Question No. 5
Boatright: “Have you ever read or seen a video series by Mr. Eddie Merrins, aka The Little Pro, where he focused on swinging the handle of the club and not the club, similar to how you use your left thumb to represent the handle of the club and the right thumb to represent the clubface?”
Col. Hall: “No I haven’t, but that is interesting how you use your right thumb to represent the clubface. The more I think about it, that goes along with the same technique of having a strong or weak grip by the placement of the right thumb. I was doing the same thing, but I did not consciously go to that level of detail, like you are doing. However, I think it is a great concept”
Boatright: “If you think about the difference between the weak and the strong grip, most generally, it entails the placement of the right thumb on the handle of the club. That was the reason I think swinging the handle of the club is an important part to improving the golfer’s game and swing that you proved.”
Question No. 6
Boatright: “So you interface with your golf swing by moving the golf ball from the ground, up to your hands also?”
Col. Hall: “I found out by moving the ball from the floor to my thumb that you have a better point of reference to how you’re executing the golf shot, and you have a better chance of making a realistic and solid golf shot.”
Boatright: “You definitely proved that during the Pro-Am.”
Question No. 7
Boatright: “I’ve got to ask this question. What were your guards thinking when they saw you making a virtual golf swing with your hands, arms, and shoulders?”
Col. Hall: “Probably, they were thinking that they have finally broken me, and I lost all touch with reality.”
Boatright: “If I had been your guard in a country where golf wasn’t a popular sport, or even heard of, I would think the same thing. That you lost your mind!”
For a more in-depth story of Colonel Hall’s story as a P.O.W., please refer to my article written in November of 2015: http://goo.gl/W1jAuC.
Talking with Colonel Hall provided me the important background confirmation that I needed for the main theories in my book, The ESPY Golf Swing Coach. One of the biggest obstacles in golf is correlating perception with reality. What the golfer thinks works one day doesn’t even work the very next day. That’s one reason why I had three Xerox boxes full of data and results, with two boxes labeled, “THIS DOES NOT WORK.” The half-filled Xerox box labeled, “THIS WORKS,” were techniques I was able to replicate day-after-day, without fail, for a consistent golf swing.
What Colonel Hall provided me with was over seven years of substantiated data that he repetitiously practiced in his prison cell and proved on one of the biggest stages in golf at a Pro-Am, just six weeks after his release from North Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton P.O.W. prison.
Colonel Hall also proved that downtime, or not being on a golf course, does not have to limit your golf practice or workout routine. This also proves that Yogi Berra’s quote that “Baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half is physical” was more than just a line he believed in.
The quote that golf is 90 percent mental should be encouraging for most golfers who are trying to improve their golf game, in that we all can improve mentally, as Colonel Hall proves that playing golf is 90 percent between the ears. We just need to figure out how to use this huge resource. My book, The ESPY Golf Swing Coach, proves the necessary tools and techniques for the average golfer to improve his/her golf swing.
A similar technique that Colonel Hall and I used was explained in Sports Illustrated Golf Magazine April 2015 issue on page 48. Instead of focusing on the arm, I focus on the thumbs and wristbands.
By: QATSPY GOLF Approach
Charles W. Boatright
The ESPY Golf Swing Coach– Price for Paperback $15.75 and E-Book $8.99, Hardback is also available on my website: www.espygolfapp.com/store OR your local bookstore and also:
Lulu Publishing: The ESPY Golf Swing Coach, Charles W. Boatright
Once you learn WHY, you don’t forget HOW!
Two decisions that you can make for yourself and your kids are to get a copy of my book and place the book and a golf club into their hands. You will never look back, but only forward. You will not miss with this for yourself and/or your kids.
A Recommendation for your Golf Game:
I would like to recommend a wonderful radio program that I regularly listen to on my I-Heart Radio app on KARN 102.9 FM station, out of Little Rock, AR. They air a golf show called “Arkansas Fairways and Greens,” at 7:00 AM CT each Saturday morning, hosted by Bob Steel and Jay Fox. Bob occasionally has on his show a guest named Shawn Humphries, a Professional Golf Instructor from Dallas, Texas. One thing that Mr. Humphries stresses is the mental part of golf, not focusing on the results but the process.
Until next time– Be Synched, Tee-to-Green, with The ESPY Golf Swing!