Jim Flick may be the hardest working man in golf instruction. This work ethic, along with his vast knowledge of the golf swing, has earned him a spot in the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame. Flick, who we’re proud to say is one of GOLF Magazine’s Master Teaching Professionals, has been teaching almost non-stop since 1952 and has appeared on GOLF Magazine’s cover nine times.
|Jim Flick is one of GOLF MAGAZINE’s Master Teaching Professionals.Ron Ramsey|
When GOLF Magazine recently contacted Flick to set up a photo shoot, he looked through his calendar for a three-hour block of time, and said he could fit us in on Monday morning — in seven weeks! Even at 72, Flick usually teaches or travels seven days a week, always up for the challenge of helping the next golfer, no matter his or her level of play.
The World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame was established four years ago by GOLF Magazine to ensure that the theories of the game’s greatest instructors live on. As the ninth member, Flick joins Tommy Armour, Percy Boomer, John Jacobs, Ernest Jones, Davis Love Jr., Harvey Penick, Paul Runyan, and Bob Toski. He was elected from nearly 40 nominees by GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers and a panel of golf historians and journalists.
A native of Bedford, Indiana, Flick began teaching in his home state and later moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1972 he started working in golf schools, and over the past 30 years has taught more than 1,000 three-day programs. Since 1991, he has been the principal instructor for the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools, an affiliation that developed from his relationship coaching the Golden Bear himself.
Besides Nicklaus, Flick has been a longtime instructor to 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman. In all, more than 150 Tour pros have sought out Flick for advice. When not on the lesson tee, Flick is usually inspiring other instructors: He has been a speaker at more than 100 PGA and National Golf Foundation seminars.
At the heart of his methods is the idea that feel is golf’s soul. “Golf has been taught as an exercise in mechanics,” he explains, “when in fact it is a game of feel.” For Flick, this means helping golfers reduce tension and raise awareness for what the clubhead is doing during the swing.
In His Own Words
Swing, Don’t Hit
The idea is to swing the golf club, not hit the ball. A hit requires a sudden application of power. A swing involves a gradual acceleration of speed that culminates at the most desired time, which is impact.
Am I saying that the golf swing is exclusively the work of your hands and arms? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that the turning elements — the shoulders, hips, and legs — should respond to the swinging elements — the hands, wrists, arms, and the instrument [the golf club].
Simply put, the swing turns the body both ways, backward and forward. The body does not turn the swing.
Feel the Clubhead
Hold the club straight up with the shaft perpendicular to the ground, and feel the weight of the clubhead. Can’t feel the clubhead at all, right? Too light.
Hold the club in front of you, parallel to the ground. Causes a little pull at the top of your wrists, right? Too heavy.
Hold it pointing halfway between the first two positions. Close your eyes. Focus on the weight you feel: just right. That’s the weight you want to feel throughout your golf swing.
Fingers Secure, Arms Relaxed
Start by identifying the grip pressure that lets you feel the clubhead’s weight. Now feel the clubhead’s swinging force. As the clubhead approaches and strikes the ball, let your hands and arms become aware of the minimum amount of tension required for solid contact.
Do this, and you’ll be able to sense the desirable amount of sensitivity in your hands and forearms. Become aware of how “light” your arms can be; what you’re looking for is “Fingers Secure, Arms Relaxed.”
I don’t like the term “takeaway,” as it suggests forceful control, and that means tension. I prefer to call the first move the “swingaway,” because the hands and arms should sweep the club away from the ball as the bigger muscles react and support.
In an effective swingaway, the hands nudge the clubhead back to start the motion, and then the arms pick up the responsibility for moving the club into the backswing. This motion sweeps the clubhead away from the ball on a slightly inside path and starts the shoulders turning. Get this right, and you’re on your way to a position at the top from which you can easily swing the club back to the ball.