For years, Charles Barkley implored us that there was, in fact, a time that he was good at golf. Even his old buddy Michael Jordan famously vowed for him on The Oprah Winfrey Show. But that was becoming more and more impossible to believe each year when he hitched and triple-bogeyed his way around Lake Tahoe at the American Century Championship.
Then, in what can only be described as a miracle, the hitch suddenly disappeared, seemingly overnight. This was no overnight process, however. It took multiple years of work with former PGA Tour winner-turned teaching pro Stan Utley, who was best known as a putting and short-game guru before linking up with the Round Mound of Rebound and somehow fixing what’s widely regarded as the ugliest full golf swing on the planet.
How did Utley do it? Not only did he explain how in our latest edition of Golf Digest, but also on this week’s episode of The Loop podcast, where he revealed how he pulled off the unthinkable.
“I think I told it different,” said Utley. “Charles developed his hitch and his move based on a misunderstanding of a concept. Lots of us talk about the lag of the golf club, and if you asked 50 instructors what it means to release a golf club and lag a golf club you might get 50 different answers.
“So the students are really confused,” he added. “When he pulled the grip down, as long as the handle is going down the club can’t pass it. There’s a point where the handle has to tip up and the head goes down. With his hitch, he just kept making the handle —the butt end of the grip—it just kept getting closer to the ground and closer to the ground. If he keeps going down the clubhead can’t go by. I simply taught him how to use his wrists to get the clubhead swinging again .”
Sounds simple, though it was anything but. Utley said it took him two years to get rid of the hitch, then two more to start seriously improving his game again. “People don’t appreciate how many balls he’s hit the last four or five years,” Utley says.
While Barkley is now his star pupil, Utley says he was nine-time PGA Tour winner Jay Haas who originally put him on the map. He’s also worked with the likes of Rocco Mediate, Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia, who Utley claims has “the most perfect putting stroke” he’s ever seen. To hear why, listen to our full chat with Utley below, and please liek and subscribe to The Loop wherever you get your podcasts.