Improve Your Ball Striking with the Tour Striker
As you may recall from the Fitness and Training section of my 2009 Golf Gear Guide, I discussed the new Tour Striker training club. As a fairly poor striker of the ball, I was optimistic that the Tour Striker could be just the tool to get that part of my game (the part where you hit the ball with a golf club) moving in the right direction. Fortunately for me, Tour Striker inventor, Martin Chuck, offered to send me a Tour Striker to try out for myself. What was really cool is that Martin’s offer came with no strings attached; meaning I was under no obligation to actually write a review. That said, if the guys I play with on a regular basis are any indication, less than perfect ball striking is an issue that plagues more than a few of us mid to high handicappers. So while I have no great desire to be the poster child for poor ball strikers everywhere, having been presented with the opportunity to test out a possible solution to epidemic that is shoddy ball striking, sharing my impressions with other poor strikers of the ball seems like the right thing to do.
About the Tour Striker
The fundamental purpose of the Tour Striker is to teach you (force you actually) to strike the ball with a descending blow, while applying a forward shaft lean at impact. So what does that mean? In practice what the Tour Striker does is eliminate any thought or impulse you might have to try and get under the ball. Most of us…at least those of us with 12+ handicaps often feel more confident standing over a fluffy lie in the rough than we do trying to hit a 7 iron from a perfect fairway position. This is especially true for guys like me who came to the game rather late (I was 30 years old when I picked up my first golf club). I basically spent my entire life learning that if you want to raise something higher you need to get under it and lift. While this theory certainly holds true when your wife tells you it’s time to rearrange the furniture; golf, as it turns out, is a game of opposites. If you want to get the ball in the air, you need to hit down on it.
How the Tour Striker Works
Swinging without trying to lift the ball is perhaps one of the most difficult swing habits to break. My buddy Norm, for example, is fairly new to the game – and like myself had no formal training prior to stepping on a golf course. Like many self-taught golfers his swing is based largely on intuition and inference. While on our recent trip to Ocean City I commented that his swing looks as if he’s trying to slide the club under the ball as if he’s hoping the ball will stick to the clubface just long enough for him to fling it where he actually wants it to go. I’m fairly confident that if Norm had the opportunity to hit a few balls with the Tour Striker, he’d quickly understand that attempting to lift a golf ball into the air, much like arguing with my wife about furniture placement, will get you nowhere. In fact, the Tour Striker is designed such that the ball simply won’t fly high or straight unless you make contact with a descending blow and apply that forward shaft lean I mentioned before.
While in terms of length and loft, the Tour Striker is very similar to modern 8-iron, the design of the clubface itself is dramatically different. The Tour Striker has been crafted such that the face of the club doesn’t have any grooves below the sweet spot. Making it even more difficult to make solid contact is the exaggerated leading edge of the Tour Striker. That edge is round, bulbous and painfully unforgiving. The design looks a little strange, but I assure you, it’s highly effective. If the leading edge makes contact with the ball (which happens if you hit it thin, or try and get under the ball), at best the result will be a low stinger type shot. More often than not though, because of the curvature of the sole, the ball flies anywhere but straight. When I manage to put the grooves to the golf ball, the Tour Striker is as buttery soft as any iron I’ve ever played. Miss the sweet spot, however, and you might as well be hitting rocks. How’s that for feedback?
My Experience with the Tour Striker
I’d be lying if I said my first 3 or 4 dozen swings or so with the Tour Striker were anything other than painful or discouraging. I bladed several shots before making an adjustment that caused me to shank a dozen more. Another adjustment had me hitting balls off the toe. No matter what I tried, I simply wasn’t able to get my hands (and consequently the clubface) in the proper position to actually get the ball to fly where I wanted it to (or in the general direction anyway). At some point (most of the way through a bucket) in the process I smartened up a bit and decided that rather than try to change everything all at once, I should start small and build my way towards better ball striking (Tiger’s swing wasn’t built in a day either). To that end, I stopped taking full swings, instead opting for a series of chips, pitches and half swings.
Using shorter swings it didn’t take long at all for me to get a feel for the Tour Striker. What’s more, it didn’t take long for that feel to translate into consistently solid ball striking (up to half swings). On that first trip to the range I bought a 2nd bucket and continued working towards full swings. Although I definitely never came close to 100% success, I was able to hit more than a few outstanding shots that not only went where I wanted them to, but also felt as good as any balls I’ve ever hit in my life.
I’ve been working with the Tour Striker once or twice a week (I wish I had more time) for about a month and a half now. What’s great about the Tour Striker is that it can work with almost any golf swing. You don’t need a perfect swing, or even a good swing. As long as you’re able to to put the face of the club on the golf ball, the Tour Striker will allow you to work with what you’ve already got. To be sure, however, there are some exceptions to the every swing rule. If you’re swing is fundamentally flawed, you will need to make adjustments before the Tour Striker will work for you. As an example, I have an on again off again swing flaw where, despite my best efforts, I’ll “dive” into the ball during the downswing. When this happens, the clubhead will actually move as much as two inches outside of where it started. With irons the result is very often the dreaded shank. With the driver the same flaw results in an off the heal fade. If you’re having a day where the best you can muster is a series of hosel knockers, the Tour Striker won’t help. If you can’t put the clubface on the ball with the swing you’ve got, your money may be better spent on a lesson or two. If, however, you find yourself hitting the ball a bit thin, or even a bit fat, but otherwise making tolerable ball contact the Tour Striker can really help improve your game.
Where I Am Today
As I said, my game is very much a work in progress. I’d be stretching the truth if I said that the Tour Striker dramatically changed my ball striking over night. What I can say is this: My short game has improved exponentially since I started using the Tour Striker. While the short game improvement is largely unexpected (it’s not really discussed anywhere in marketing info), no doubt the time I spent getting a feel for the Tour Striker with shorter swings has paid huge dividends. It doesn’t seem to matter which club I’m using. Pitches, and chips up to half swings with anything from a 5-iron to my lob wedge are much crisper than they’ve previously been. My ball frequently stops close to the pin (ask me about the tricky little down hill chip I stuck a foot from the pin on the Man “O War course in Ocean City), and I’m hitting far fewer disaster shots. Simply put, when it comes to the short game, I finally get it. I can stand over the ball with the confidence that I can hit it almost exactly where I want it to go. It doesn’t matter if I need to hit a bump and run with a 7 iron, or a high flop shot with the lob wedge; I know I’m going to make solid contact every time…well…almost every time.
While in truth not every shot is exactly what I would want it to be, my very best shots are better than they’ve ever been, and for the most part I’ve avoided blading shots over the green or skulling chips shots into opposite side bunkers. I’m also taking appropriately sized divots, which is something I almost never did before beginning work with the Tour Striker. The improvements have forced me to make adjustments to the way I play the game as well. Because of my less than perfect ball striking, I previously struggled to hit my lob wedge more than 45 yards (although I’ve always hit it high). More reliable ball striking has turned my lob wedge into a 65 yard club, which has helped to close the distance gap with my 56° sandwedge (which I routinely hit 85 yards).
So what about the rest of my irons? As I said, my work with the Tour Striker is ongoing. I still hit balls thin, I still hit balls fat. I still hit the occasional shank, and unless I’m having a really good day on the links, I still very often prefer the look of a fluffy lie in the rough to a tightly mowed fairway. That’s not to say things aren’t getting better. As with the shorter clubs, my best iron shots on any given day are consistently better than they’ve ever been. I hit fewer thin shots, take the occasional divot, and truly relish the feeling of a ball struck flush on the clubface. As I said, there are some other kinks in my swing that I need to iron out. When I get those fixed, I fully expect I’ll see even greater improvement as a result of using the Tour Striker.
There are two things that I really love about the Tour Striker. The first is that you can hit balls with it. It seems obvious enough, but there are more than a few training clubs that simply haven’t been designed to hit an actual golf ball. Developing the feel for a well struck ball is, to me any way, a crucial part of improving my overall ball striking ability. The Tour Striker gives me that. Along the same lines, once you’ve hit a handful of solid shots with the Tour Striker, you’ll be able to stop thinking about things like “hands in front of the ball”, “forward shaft lean”, and “descending blow”. Your body will quickly learn what it needs to do to put the face of the Tour Striker (or any other iron) on the golf ball. Not only will that allow you to avoid potentially disruptive swing thoughts while you’re practicing, but that muscle memory will carry over to the golf course, especially if you hit a handful of balls with the Tour Striker immediately prior to starting your round.
While this post was in the draft stages, I had another practice session with the Tour Striker followed by 23 holes of actual golf. I started a bit slowly (51 on the front 9), but had a solid back 9. Including the extra 5 holes, I played the last 9 holes at around 5 over. While those types of scores won’t get me out on tour any time soon, it’s clear my game is improving. There’s not a doubt in my mind that the Tour Striker is a huge part of the reason why.
As you may have noticed, we don’t really have any sort of rating scale here at Qwowi. There is no 4 out of 5 stars, or 8 out of 10 rating system. Instead I like to focus on simple things like, do I enjoy using the product?, does it work?, and perhaps most importantly, would I recommend it to a friend?. In the case of the Tour Striker, the answer to all three of those questions is yes – although the first two come with caveats. I do enjoy using the product, but it was exceptionally frustrating for the first 50 or so swings. Get in a groove, however, and you’ll fall in love with the Tour Striker. The Tour Striker does work, however; it’s a gradual process. That’s not to say you won’t see improvement your first time on the course after training with it. I’m simply stating that if you’re expecting the Tour Striker to shave 10 strokes off your game after an hour of use, well, you’re going to be disappointed. I absolutely whole-heartedly would recommend the Tour Striker to my friends. In fact, while I’ve seen some benefit from weighted golf clubs, and high tech gadgets like the GyroSwing, the Tour Striker is not only my favorite of the training aids I own, I think it’s also the one that’s made the biggest difference in my game.
In these reviews I generally try an include some minor gripes to balance out the positives. This time around, however; I’m hard pressed to find much of anything negative to say about the Tour Striker. As I said, it won’t work over night (not that Martin claims that it will, but in a perfect world…). It ships with an instructional DVD which contains everything you need to get started with the club, so I really can’t complain about that. There’s actually only one (barely) legitimate complaint I have. I really don’t like the grip. There, I said it. I’ll probably spend the $5 to replace it. Oh the humanity!
My personal preference for a different grip aside, the Tour Striker is great little training club, that will (assuming you don’t expect shortcuts and are willing to put in the time to work with it) dramatically improve your ball striking. I highly recommend you give it a try. The Tour Striker is a product I really believe in.
Watch as inventor Martin Chuck discusses and demonstrates the Tour Striker
The Tour Striker is available from the Tour Striker website for $99. Customizations such as lie angle, shaft length, and grip changes can be made for a nominal fee.
It’s also worth mentioning that Tour Striker inventor, Martin Chuck, is the Director of Golf and General Manager at Tetherow Golf Club just outside Bend Oregon. Tetherow was designed by David McLay Kidd who also designed the famed Bandon Dunes course. Tetherow opened last season, was the very first course in Oregon to become a Certified Audubon International Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International. It was recently named #1 Best New Course You Can Play in The Country by Golf Magazine. A round of golf at Tetherow will run you between $115 and $175 depending on the season. If you’re window shopping for golf courses (as I often do), I suggest you take a look at the Tetherow website. I love classic links style courses, and am hoping to get out to Bandon within the next couple of years. If I do manage to get to Oregon I’ll have to add Teherow to my itinerary.