The lowest amateur round at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., isn't held by some hotshot with a seven-figure trust fund, but by the course's owner—a smooth 66 from the gold tees at a length of 6,900 yards. Yep, Donald Trump is that good, and it's your first clue that golf isn't something the man behind The Apprentice and his own real-estate empire has simply stamped his name on while building an 11-course portfolio.
Golf is Trump's game—an endeavor he takes as seriously as he does the multitude of business ventures that has made him the world's most recognized billionaire. When Donald hired me as senior director of instruction for all Trump properties, I figured we'd spend a lot of time together on the lesson tee. Not a chance. Other than a brief warm-up before teeing off, Trump rarely practices, and any advice I lend him is usually during a quick nine holes or over a meal in the grillroom. He's too busy, which probably describes your life when it comes to finding time to build the swing you want. Here's where you can learn a lot from Trump—how to score low with simple, effective mechanics.
Forget a moment about the hair, the dollar signs and the ubiquitous "you're fired!" sound bite. Donald Trump is just like you—a golfer in search of a consistent swing and lower scores. He's also like you in that the golf cards are stacked against him; he has little time for practice and even less time for lessons. So how is it that Trump's golf has actually improved over the past few years and he's now playing the best of his life?
Part of the reason why Trump is able to post good numbers (he's a legit 3.7-handicap) has a lot to do with his innate abilities. At 6'3" and a solid 225 pounds, Trump is an athlete. He played prep-school football, soccer and baseball at New York Military Academy, winning the Coaches and MVP awards while captaining the baseball team. You can see his athleticism in his swing, mainly in his strong left hip turn through the ball and in the way he takes the club back flat and to the inside, like a baseball swing in reverse. When he combines these moves with solid fundamentals and a knack for knocking bunker shots close and holing almost every putt he looks at, he's tough to beat. "Trump may not win every time," he proclaims, "but Trump wins most of the time."
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The other part of the reason is that, unlike most recreational players who fight to reach certain positions, Trump plays to his strengths, swinging the club using his most natural motion. "I try to keep it simple," he says. "If I didn't, I would have stopped playing years ago." This alone makes Donald's swing distinctive and machine-like, which is very good news for you—you don't need a Tour-quality game to enjoy solid rounds. Just follow Trump's lead and start going low, even as the responsibilities of life loom larger than ever.
1. A Solid Grip
"I don't win club championships with practice, but with a good grip."
Trump places his hands on the handle following proven fundamentals, with nothing either too strong or too weak. This allows him to re-create the arm hang established at address when he strikes the ball—a great way to hit consistent shots. His grip pressure is just firm enough to keep his hands from breaking down either at the top of his backswing or at impact (it's a solid 8 on a scale of 1 to 10). You won't see a lot of hand flipping—Trump keeps his hands quiet and lets his body turn square the clubface.
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2. A Strong Turn
"I'm a hip player. The strongest part of my swing is my body turn."
Once he completes his backswing, Trump brings the club back down by strongly pulling his left hip behind him. Because he emphasizes his lower body rather than his arms, he delivers the club into the slot consistently instead of throwing the club out with his hands—the over-the-top move that cause slices, pull-slices and other shotmaking misery. If you're prone to slicing, copy Trump's swing. It's hard to come over the top when your turn is this good.
3. Killer Bunker Shots
"I'm better out of the sand than anywhere else around the green."
Many of the same elements that make Trump's full swing work also make him an excellent bunker player. His strong left-side move eliminates deceleration, which is the number-one reason amateurs leave their first shot in the sand. If you slow down as you approach impact (for fear of hitting the ball too far), you have almost zero chance of getting the ball on the green. Trump may shorten his backswing to control length, but he'll always accelerate and hit "through the shot," not "to the ball."
4. A Confident Putter
"If I don't beat you with the short ones, I'll beat you with a bomb."
Trump is a brilliant putter, a trait built on experience and an uncanny ability to "will" the ball into the hole. One of Donald's recent opponents, NFL Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, commented after their match, "Yeah, he beat me. He made absolutely everything. He kept rolling in 20-footers." If you're looking for Trump's putting secret, you'll find it in the fact that he truly believes he can make every putt. That's a powerful state of mind before any shot, especially on the greens.
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