Extra Spin

Nine Questions with @TrackmanMaestro, Twitter's Favorite Teaching Pro

Photo: @TrackmanMaestro

Joseph Mayo is the director of instruction at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, and on Twitter (@TrackmanMaestro) he has gained a following from dispensing swing tips and unfiltered analysis about the golf swing. We tracked down the Maestro for a few questions about how he handles Twitter trolls, what Tiger Woods should do to fix his swing and how technology has changed his job. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @TrackmanMaestro.

Let’s start with a super-loaded question. How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

My teaching philosophy would be definitely centered around the flight of the ball. I think understanding the ball flight laws and what makes the ball fly the way that it flies is critical. And if you really understand what's taking place at impact, what causes the ball to start where it starts, and then curve the way it curves, and if you understand the way the human body is designed, then it becomes very easy, actually, to correct ball flight. It becomes very easy to help golfers to truly improve.

Would it be possible to teach the way you want to teach without technology?

Without question, there have been great teachers in the past that didn't have technology. And to say that you cannot help golfers without technology would not be a fair statement. But what I will say is, technology, without a doubt, makes us all better. Technology allows us to see things that we absolutely cannot see with the naked eye. It gives us information that we can't possibly know without having that technology. And on the flipside of that coin, having the most up-to-date technology will not make you a great instructor. It definitely will not. But it will make everybody better. No question about it. 

Is it possible for an elite amateur or a tour pro to reach his or her full potential without using a launch monitor?

That's a fantastic question. And my answer is going to be a little bit out there. There's no way that you can make the statement that player “X” can't reach his potential without technology “Y.” You can't make that statement. That's not a fair statement to make. But what I will say is this: If a player has all the technology available to him, which means, in a way, you could say he has more answers, he has more information, then I think every player could improve. It might be a half a shot a tournament. It might be a tenth of a shot a tournament. But at the end of the day, I don't think I could make that statement, that it's impossible to reach your potential without [technology]. Because we've had the Jack Nicklauses, the Arnold Palmers, the Sam Sneads. They didn't have that technology. And that's an argument that I get all the time. "Hey, Ben Hogan didn't have TrackMan." Or, "Jack Nicklaus didn't have TrackMan."And my rebuttal to that is this: Those are the most gifted athletes that have ever played the game. And they instinctually discovered a technique that worked for them. But “John Smith” down here on the range, he doesn't have that instinctual ability. 

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Old-school instructors are worried that the game is becoming overly technical.  Tiger Woods is a great example. He’s perhaps the most gifted athlete in the game’s history, and he seems to be relying more on technical precision than feel.

You're absolutely correct on that one. And unfortunately, Tiger carried so much weight in the game of golf that anything he does or doesn't do, or any success he has or doesn't have, is amplified a million times over. Because what people fail to actually look at is, this guy is now 40 years old. He's not the same golfer, physically, anymore. The body's not the same. He's not the same golfer, emotionally. And to expect him to play at the level today, at 40, that he did back in 1999, which is over 15 years ago, it's not realistic. But to get more specific about what you're saying, I don't agree [that golf has become overly technical]. It seems that there is a group of instructors out there that fear technicality. They fear knowledge. And I don't agree with people getting too technical. I think that everybody learns differently. No question about that. But fear of knowledge, and fear of technical expertise is not the answer.

What do you think Tiger needs to do?

I have no idea. It's hard to armchair quarterback Tiger. And his situation is an impossibility. Because once again, dealing with someone like him, who is under the microscope, where everything he does is amplified, I have no idea what I would do with him. I would have to spend time around him. But I will say this much: I was on the range with one of my players at the PGA Championship at Valhalla, and he hit it beautifully on the range. Obviously, he struggled on the golf course. I've seen him hit it perfectly in practice, and then struggle, or shoot a high score when he gets out on the golf course. And I know his instructor, Chris Como, very well. But for Tiger to hit it the way that he does on the range, and struggle the way he does on the golf course, it's shocking. It truly is. And I know that this is not the popular opinion, but I will say, because I have to be honest, he'll never play the level of golf that he did 15 years ago. But he shouldn't be expected to. That's not fair. 

How did you come up with the name "TrackMan Maestro?”

To be completely honest with you, when I came up with that name, it was me and a couple of my guy friends, and we were sitting around and we were joking about it.  It was meant to be kind of a farce, completely corny and ridiculous. And I think, believe it or not, that the fact that it is so ridiculous, it actually got people interested, and I started gaining followers left and right. And I thought, "Wow, this is pretty cool." And then here today, what, four years later, I guess, it's closer to 14,000 followers. I enjoy being on Twitter. I enjoy trying to help people. I enjoy trying to answer questions. Every now and then, there'll be some people that get a little bit agitated on there, but I guess that's social media. You have to take the good and the bad. 

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What gets people fired up the most?

Tiger Woods will get people fired up quickly. That's why, if you notice, I stay away from him. Believe it or not, Ben Hogan does too. He is the golf swing anomaly of the past. Obviously, Tiger Woods is the golf swing anomaly of the present. If you start chatting about Ben Hogan, about what he did and didn't do, and what he thought and what he didn't think, you could get some people that are very passionate about that. And they'll get involved rather quickly. Ben Hogan has loyal followers to this day. And a lot of the old-school golf instructors and golf swing theorists still look to Mr. Hogan as the model, as the way that it's done. If you start disagreeing with Ben Hogan's topics or faults in public, you're setting yourself up for a catfight.      

So how do you effectively deal with "haters" on Twitter?

I don't have as many as I once did. Or at least, they don't publicly spout off like they once did. To be honest with you, I think that the haters of two, three, four years ago, I think they're saying, "Wait a second.  Maybe this guy's on to something." Because without question, five years ago, TrackMan was the elephant in the room. Everybody was, like, "Wow, what is that?" Now, there's TrackMan everywhere you go. You've got the club manufacturers doing it. You've got the ball companies testing balls with it. The players have it. The instructors have it. It's everywhere. And obviously, I'm much more than just that radar. That's just the name I used to get this thing started. But my instruction was much deeper than just that. But at the end of the day, I think that the haters have calmed down. Because I said some things that were rather radical. And that got people fired up. And they were ready to go to war with it. But I think now, they're, like, "Wait a second. Maybe this guy isn't so crazy after all.  Maybe what he's saying is true."

Does Twitter take up a lot of your time?

It could. Obviously, I've got to go on my phone, like we all do. So when I'm sitting around, I have to stay away sometimes. But when I go into my clubhouse around lunchtime and having something to eat, I'll pop out 20, 30 questions real quickly. In the evenings when I come home, I'll do the same thing. And in the mornings when I wake up, I'll pop on and see if there's anything noteworthy going on. And it makes it seem like we're on there all the time, when obviously we're not. But if I wanted to, yeah I could literally sit on that thing ten hours, because there would be that much interaction.

All right, last question: is that Barney Fife in your Twitter profile picture?

You better know it! I was born and raised in Tennessee. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, and they were huge fans of the Andy Griffith Show. And I realize that means that I'm almost as old as dirt. But being 42 years of age, the Andy Griffith Show was very popular back when I was a little boy, and living with my grandparents, they watched it all the time.  And I just grew to love that show. I've watched every episode, probably, 50 times each.  And I think Barney Fife was the greatest character in sitcom history. 

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