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Avid Golfer

8/20/11 3:55 PM

By Mark Button Photography by John Everett :

Jim Hardy

Some people forge moderately profitable careers out of being at the right place at the right time. Theres nothing wrong with being blessed or lucky. Others, however, chisel Hall of Fame-type legacies not because of serendipity, but by squeezing the most success out of each opportunity they encounter. Go ahead and firmly plant Houstons Jim Hardy in the second category. The man certainly has basked in good, if not great, karma for more than half a century. Hes been adorned with the types of friendships, mentors, professional relationships and plain old good luck for which most men in the golf industry would pay handsomely. Theres no doubt that Hardy is a better man because of golf. The twist, then, is that golf its teachers, students and the game itself is better because of him. One of GOLF Magazines Top 100 teachers and a three-time Golf Digest Top 50 instructor, Hardys life work has been grinding achievement out of potential. In doing so, literally millions of golfers worldwide have benefited. Not only has Hardy instructed some of the worlds top golfers, such as Peter Jacobsen, Paul Azinger, Dave Stockton and David Duval, the former Oklahoma State All-American also has taught teachers Hank Haney, Jim Murphy, Martin Hall and Roger Gunn, to name a few. More than a swing doctor, though, Hardy has unwillingly been labeled by some as one of the more controversial personalities in the game today. His groundbreaking book, The Plane Truth for Golfers (McGraw-Hill, 2005), which debunks the theory that there is only one set of golf swing fundamentals, has polarized the golf-teaching industry. Many believe Hardys contentions are nonsense. Others swear theyre revolutionary. Regardless, The Plane Truth for Golfers was the nations best-selling instructional golf book last year, according
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to Mark Weinstein of McGraw-Hill. Its been reprinted six times, and is now available in Spanish, French and Korean. In May 2005, Golf Digest ran a special 16-page excerpt of Hardys book; it was the most space the magazine had ever dedicated to a book excerpt. What made and still makes The Plane Truth for Golfers so popular is the notion that Hardy unlocked a secret door which leads to a new understanding of the golf swing. Most teachers preach one basic set of fundamentals; Hardy instead invites the idea of two sets of golf swing principles. Further, he insists there are two distinct styles of mechanics the one-plane swing and the two-plane swing. Armed with this knowledge, Hardy writes, golfers can decide which swing model matches theirs. At that point, they can work toward improving it with the correct set of principles for their specific swing type. The two swings are so disparate from each another that theyre nearly opposite, he said. If you start borrowing elements from the one-plane swing and add them to somebody who has a two-plane swing, youre going to cause more problems than you fix. Hardy doesnt profess one swing type is better than the other. The key, he says, is understanding the difference. (He does note that the one-plane swing is better for back pain relief and prevention.) Hes received so much positive feedback on his book that hes written a second one: The Plane Truth for Golfers, Master Class, due on bookshelves April 1, 2007. For all of this, hes been canonized by his believers and ridiculed by skeptics. The word controversy has been thrown into discussions of Hardy and his findings. That just makes the whole story a classic paradigm.

For centuries, if you recall, millions of humans thought the earth was flat. The people who consider me controversial are those who havent read my book or watched the DVD, he said. Im not trying to change the golf world; Im trying to end some confusion. And Im not trying to appeal to everyone. Im only trying to appeal to those with open minds. Years from now, Hardy should be remembered as a pioneer, the man who stood behind his convictions about the golf swing and in turn helped generations of golfers make more birdies. Thats a likely scenario, but heres hoping the golf purists will remember Hardy for more than his books.
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Avid Golfer

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Its only part of the story. It begins on Feb. 25, 1943, the day he was born to parents Joe and Rachel Hardy. But its not so much the when and to whom Hardy was born that set off the series of kismet-like events that shaped his incredible life. It was where Hardy was birthed that turned out to be most critical. Hutchinson, Kansas. Know of it? You should. Golf course junkies know Hutch is home to Prairie Dunes Country Club, one of the most awe-inspiring and unique courses youll ever see. Only 23 courses ranked ahead of it on Golf Digests 2005-06 list of Americas Greatest Golf Courses. A pure links design built in 1937 by Perry Maxwell, it recently played host to the 2006 U.S. Senior Open. Tom Watson called it, A touch of Scotland in the land of Oz. Ben Crenshaw said, This is golf of the first order. That was the case for Hardy, who spent much of his youth among the sand dune-lined fairways. I grew up in a town of 32,000 people that had five golf clubs, Hardy said. Golf is the game in Hutch, and it always has been that way. In the early 1900s, Hutchinson was the source for about 90 percent of the free worlds industrialized salt. Not evaporative or table salt; rather, the kind used for traction on snowy roads the big blocks and chunks. Because of the prospering salt mines, several prominent, progressive American families made their homes in Hutchinson. This group included the Carey family, who donated huge amounts of money to local charities. They also built two golf courses: a public one named Carey Park and the private Prairie Dunes. Carey Park is a wide open course where you kind of just see how far you can hit it, then go chase it, Hardy said. Prairie Dunes is precisely the opposite. If youve had the good fortune to tee it up there, then you know what an anomaly it is for that part of the country. Instead of feeling like youre in rural Kansas, Prairie Dunes time-warps you to 19th century Scotland. Maxwell, who built Colonial and Southern Hills and redesigned Pine Valley and Augusta National, created a masterpiece inside the sand hills of Central Kansas. You keep walking up over these dunes sand dunes looking for the ocean, Hardy said. It is a pure links golf course. Its one of the great phenomenons in America. Hardy grew up playing baseball he was a catcher and basketball. He didnt hit his first golf ball until he was 15, but once he did, he was hooked. It was love at first sight, he said. As a catcher, I was used to seeing a baseball go 450 feet for a home run, and that was a monster hit. Then all of a sudden you see a golf ball go 750 feet [for a 250-yard drive]. Feeling the power in hitting a golf ball was overwhelming. His father was a grain operator and had a membership to Prairie Dunes. A self-proclaimed loner, Hardy was drawn away from baseball and basketball to golf in high school because he could play the game alone. I like the challenge of being self-reliant, he said. I love the fact that the greatest opponent you play against in golf is yourself. Something else happened during Hardys formative 15th year. The Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championship came to Hutchinson, and a cocky, blond-maned 19-year-old won the event. His name was Jack Nicklaus. He beat the fella I was caddying for that day, a guy named Pete Dye, Hardy said. Hardy had just gotten lucky in earning Dyes bag that day. Hardy stood in the golf course parking lot for hours, asking every player who passed for a job. Along came Dye, who didnt have a caddy. Dye hired Hardy on the spot, and the two became fast friends. At the time, Hardy
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obviously had no idea that hed one day follow in Dyes footsteps with a career in golf course architecture. I was in the right place at the right time, Hardy said. He was also a natural at golf. Hutchinsons two diametrically opposed golf courses immensely helped Hardys development. Carey Park was a bangers course, wide-open and there for the taking. Prairie Dunes was narrow with trouble lurking everywhere. Hardy said he learned to play offensive golf at Carey Park. He mastered target and defensive golf at Prairie Dunes. Spoils soon followed. Hardy won the city amateur at age 16 and finished second in the state amateur event two years later. Led in large part by Hardy, Hutchinson High Schools golf team won a pair of state championships. Hardy landed a scholarship to Oklahoma State, one of the nations college golf powerhouses. Okie State won the NCAA Championship in 1963, Hardys freshman year. He went on to make the second-team All-American team as a senior in 1966. While in college, he played for Labron Harris, the legendary OSU coach. Hardy credits Harris for instilling in him a voracious appetite for competition. He was big, physical man, Hardy said. You just didnt mess with him. He didnt get out there and give you a golf swing lesson. There was no such thing. He just created an environment of lets go compete. Through Harris, Hardy met Don Sechrest, an OSU assistant coach. During the mid-1960s, Sechrest left coaching and got into golf course architecture. His first project was the Stillwater Golf & Country Club, and he offered construction jobs to several members of the golf team during the summer between Hardys junior and senior years. Hardy seized the opportunity, which sparked a flame for golf course design. His time with Dye and the work for Sechrest planted architectural seeds that would sprout and flourish years later. After graduating with a pre-law degree, Hardy spent two years in the Army. He then breezed through the PGA Tours Q-School in 1968 and played on Tour for the next seven years. His best finish was a second-place tie at the 1972 Quad Cities Open. I was a wonderful iron player, and I could hit the ball a long ways, but I was a horrible putter, he said. I knew that I could stay on Tour and be a grinder, but I had no desire to do that. I came face to face with the fact that if I had a 3-foot putt to win a golf tournament, I could not make it. And I knew that. Once you come to that realization, then, what the heck? Why are you still playing? Once Hardy quit the PGA Tour, he landed at Exmoor Country Club, a famed Donald Ross course set on the banks of Lake Michigan just north of Chicago. He met and groomed a young golfer there named Hank Haney, and soon learned that he had a passion for teaching the game of golf. As for the rest of his responsibilities ... he loathed them. It was a wonderful place with wonderful people, he said. There wasnt anything about being a club pro that I wanted to do. I loved the people at Exmoor, but all these things I was supposed to do I didnt want to do any of it. He just wanted to teach, but he didnt know how to make a living at it. So the hopeful teacher became a student. He bought every golf instruction book he could find. He took speedreading classes to devour the information more expeditiously. He did field research, too. I got the idea to watch other teachers teach around Chicago, he said. I watched guys like Bob Toski, who was the Butch Harmon of his day, the No. 1 teacher in the world. He invented the Golf Digest instruction school. There was Emanuel De La Torre, Jim Flick, all these guys helped me tremendously. Around this time the mid-1970s Hardy met John Jacobs, the legendary English golfer. A two-time Ryder Cup captain and former director of the European Tour, Jacobs also was one of the great golf writers of his time. He was a genius at understanding golf, Hardy said. He was the Einstein of golf. [Bob] Toski was a great teacher a great, great teacher. But Jacobs was light years ahead.
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In 1976, Hardy and his college roommate, Shelby Futch, started the John Jacobs Golf School. The company flourished in the states and expanded globally to places such as China, Germany, Spain and Portugal. Ever the introvert, Hardy sold his half of the company to Futch after four years. Despite the success, he wanted to embark on teaching solo. He also wanted to work with professional players. From 1979 to 1983, Hardy lived in Palm Springs, Calif., teaching Tour pros such as Dave Stockton and Donna Capote of the LPGA. It was during this time that I became curious about the one-plane swing, Hardy explained. Jacobs taught what you clearly call a two-plane swing: Turn your shoulders on one plane, swing your arms on another plane. Then one night over dinner, Hardy asked Jacobs about the swings of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, who clearly had flatter swings than the traditional two-plane model. Jacobs exact quote to me was, They swung the whole mess in one plane, Hardy said. The whole mess, huh? Hogan and Snead seemed to make due with it. Between the two icons, they only accounted for 145 professional victories and 16 major championships. Maybe there was something to this one-plane swing, mused Hardy, who had a passable relationship with the Hawk before Hogan died in 1997. Hardy immersed himself in the one-plane swing during the next several months. He didnt teach it, however; he just experimented with it himself. In 1983, Hardy struck up a friendship with Peter Jacobsen during the week of the PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club. It was early in the week and I was hitting the ball poorly, Jacobsen said. I asked Jim for help, and by the weeks end ... I was standing on the 72nd hole of a major championship tied for the lead. Despite a closing-round 65, Jacobsen finished third. So encouraged by the progress made with Hardy, however, Jacobsen enlisted him as his teacher. His strength lies in communication, said Jacobsen, a seven-time PGA Tour winner and the 2004 U.S. Senior Open champion Ive worked with a lot of the top teachers, some of the top 10 in the world, and Jim Hardy is easily among them. Ive seen him fix players in three golf swings. On the Champions Tour, Ive had 20-25 players ask me about Jim and his teaching. Today, Hardys students include 2005 PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year Olin Browne, Tom Pernice Jr. and Paul Azinger. Like Jacobsen, Pernice, who jumped from 127th on the PGA Tour money list in 2000 to 39th in 2001 after working with Hardy, is baffled as to why other credentialed golf teachers wont open their minds to Hardys information. Those who dont believe in what Jim is saying are just jealous because they dont have the information he does, said Pernice, who ranked 24th on the 2006 money list with in excess of $1.8 million as of Sept. 9. Ive never seen one student who didnt get better the first day they met Jim. Before he was inspired to write The Plane Truth for Golfers, Hardy quit teaching golf. He got into some television work for NBC and ESPN, and although he worked with Jacobsen, Duffy Waldorf and a select few others, Hardy stopped giving golf lessons. Thats when he started building golf courses. In the early 1980s, he was introduced to two Houstonians who had started a real estate development business called Kindred-Watts. Neither had experience in golf, and they approached Hardy about heading up their golf division. I was very interested, Hardy said. All of a sudden I had a chance to get into golf course design and construction. Hardy stayed with Kindred-Watts for three years, and then started his own company. Eventually, he linked up with Jacobsen and formed Jacobsen/Hardy Golf Course Design. After a few initial projects The Oregon Golf Club
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and Genoa Lakes in Lake Tahoe among them Jacobsen/Hardy started tearing up dirt in Houston. They designed BlackHorse Golf Club, then the Member Course at Redstone Golf Club, which played host to the Shell Houston Open from 2003-05. We were involved in Shadow Hawk and the Houstonian, too, Hardy said. We had these projects going in Houston, but we werent going to design all of them. I was the one who said to hire Rees Jones. To date, Hardy has built or contributed on no less than 60 designs, and he and Jacobsen have opened 14 courses with several more under construction. The genesis for his book arrived in the early 1990s. Jacobsen kept asking Hardy to teach his friends on Tour. Hardy kept saying no. Then, Hardy was invited to speak at an international conference for golf teachers in 1996. He popped in and out to speak at the 1991 summit, but in 96 he stuck around to listen to some of his peers speak. I was horrified, he said. Everything I had learned from the great teachers in golf and everything I had found out on my own ... it was just bizarre what they were teaching. There was a lot of poison out there, and these teachers were teaching it. After discussing what he had heard at the teachers conference with Jacobsen, Hardy finally got serious about writing the definitive instructional book that detailed the two opposite sets of fundamentals for the one-plane and two-plane swings. The millions who have read his work must feel like Hardy did when he first struck down on a golf ball back in 1956. Or maybe they feel like he did when Pete Dye said, Sure, I need a caddy. Lets go. Wherever and whenever they were, theyll know they were in the right place at the right time. From there, its up to them to use the newfound lessons to their advantage. Just like Jim Hardy would. IN THE BAG JIM HARDY Age: 63 Occupation: Golf course architect, author, TV commentator, instructor In the bag: Titleist 905R driver (8.5-degree loft), Titleist 3-wood, Cobra 18-degree hybrid, Titleist 735 irons, 3-PW, 55-degree PingEye2 SW, 59-degree Titleist Vokey wedge, Scotty Cameron Futura long putter Low round: 60 twice. Both were shot in the late 1960s, one at Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington, N.C.; the other at Carey Park Golf Course in Hutchinson, Kan. Designed courses: Ive been involved in the design of more than 60 courses. Ive done 14 with Peter Jacobsen that are open for play now. Houston club affiliations: Champions Golf Club, Redstone Golf Club, The Houstonian Golf & Country Club, Shadow Hawk Golf Club. Favorite Houston-area courses: My two favorite nines are the front nine of BlackHorse North and the back nine of BlackHorse South. I also love the Redstone Member Course and Bear Ridge in Waco. Other favorites: Ive played all the great courses ... but Ive never been to Australia. Id like to play Melbourne Country Club. Best quick tip: The easiest way to play golf is to make some baseball swings with a circular motion then stand over the ball and take the same swing. Get smart: For more information on Hardys groundbreaking book, The Plane Truth for Golfers, visit www.planetruthforgolfers.com.

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