Born in Haydenville, Massachusetts, Bob Toski was one of nine children raised by his father after his mother died when he was six years old. Two of his older brothers, Jack and Ben, assistant professionals at nearby Northhampton Country Club, would take young Bob to the club, where he caddied and learned to play. Bob joined the PGA Tour in 1949 and gradually worked his way to the top. Five years later he became the leading money winner for the 1954 season.
At his peak as a player he weighed only 118 pounds — with his trademark white cap on — and was best known as the longest hitter pound for pound in pro golf. But with three young children of his own, he chose to leave the Tour when he was only 30 to spend more time with his family. He moved to South Florida and took a series of club professional jobs in Miami and Key Largo. Later jobs took him to North Carolina and Wyoming and then back to South Florida, where he now lives in Boca Raton.
While his playing career was a success, it was his second career as an instructor that truly brought him fame. Toski was the teacher sought out by touring professionals. He helped dozens of the world’s best players including Tom Kite, Judy Rankin, Jane Blalock, Pat Bradley, Bruce Crampton, and Bruce Devlin.
With an animated style and a healthy dose of showmanship, Toski became a media darling. Since 1960, his instruction has appeared on scores of magazine covers. He has written all or part of more than a half-dozen books and was starring in videos before most people had seen a VCR. He also was a pioneer in bringing golf instruction to television: In the late ’70s, he was a regular on NBC golf telecasts, dispensing tips to millions. His celebrity status traveled well, putting him in demand in places as far away as Japan. By the early ’80s, Toski had become the undisputed dean of golf instruction worldwide.
Even after more than 100,000 students, Toski still enjoys the challenge of helping others improve. At 72, he continues to teach, albeit on a limited basis.
Beginner’s Guide to Golf, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1955
The Touch System for Better Golf, Golf Digest, 1971
Bob Toski’s Complete Guide to Better GolF
(with Dick Aultman), Golf Digest, 1977
Golf For a Lifetime, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981
How to Become a Complete Golfer(with Jim Flick), Simon and Schuster, New York, 1984
How to Feel a Real Golf Swing(with Davis Love Jr.), Random House, 1988
Find Your Own Fundamentals (with Jim Flick), Golf Digest, 1992
Any discussion about golf with Bob Toski quickly focuses on the fact that it is not a game of brute strength. “It would be if the club were heavy and the ball were heavy,” he explains, “but, in fact, the club and the ball are light and the body is heavy. Speed is what creates power. Deer-like strength is 10 times more important than hippopotamus strength. We play golf with deer-like strength. An ounce of touch is worth a ton of brawn.”
From this belief came Toski’s philosophy that the golf club should be moved with a swinging motion that is created through the movement of the hands, wrists, and arms. The body simply turns and shifts to support the motion of the hands and arms. The swing creates a turn; the turn does not create a swing.
Toski notes that most golfers use their hands only to hold the club. In reality, it’s the hands that control the swing. They are the primary speed generators; they control the clubface; and they shape the swing’s path.
Here are some of his favorite insights and drills to free your swing, taken from his book with Davis Love Jr., How to Feel a Real Golf Swing.
HANDS AND ARMS CONTROL THE SWING “Freedom is the key to both swing speed and power. Here’s an exercise to demonstrate how, once you’ve created that free arm motion, your body will follow it. Without a club, take your stance at address and align yourself to a specific target. Swing your arms back and forth toward the target as if you were going to hit the ball with your arms only. Get into it and make it easy and relaxed. Notice how your shoulders follow your arm swing and bring your torso into the swing.
“Suddenly, ‘shifting your weight’ and ‘pivoting’ aren’t such a chore — you’ve let your hands and arms lead. Doing this exercise with a club in each hand will further emphasize the point. It will also demonstrate how the pace of the arms either supports or undermines the natural sequence of hand, arm, and body motion. Try it now. Holding an iron club in each hand make three-quarter swings, keeping your arms parallel to one another.”
GRIP PRESSURE “Hold one iron club by the clubhead in each hand. Point the grips toward the floor and tap them together. Not as easy as it looks, is it? Tap them together until you make dozens of taps in succession. Notice that it becomes easier as you ‘soften’ your hands and let the feel of the movement take over.
“When you are doing the drill well, observe your grip pressure and the flexibility in your wrists. Stiffness and pressure may at first feel like controlÃ‚Ã‚â€¹but they only make the task tougher.”
KEEP ARMS RELAXED “Tension is the enemy of speed. In golf, your arms allow your hands to create swing speed; relaxed arms mean faster hands. Here’s an exercise to underscore the point. Pick a spot on the carpet (or put a tee in the ground) and swing an iron back and forth at the spot, trying to brush the spot or club the tee. You’ll find that hitting the spot becomes easy and you can swish the club quite fast if your arms and hands are relaxed. Tighten them and suddenly it’s very tough.”
GLUE YOUR GRIP “Some teachers talk about having a ‘long’ or ‘short’ thumb in your grip, referring to the distance the thumb extends down the shaft. I don’t think you have a choice. The thumb must be Ã‚Ã‚Å’long’ enough to give maximum gripping control with the last three fingers of your left hand without reducing wrist flexibility. If the thumb is too long or too short the fingers will be pulled out of place.
“I recommend that you grip the club as though you were gluing your hands to it. You want complete contact. Every bit of the insides of your fingers should be touching the rubber grip. No gaps. No air pockets. No spaces.”