In January, 2012, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jim Flick at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Part 1 of that interview was posted in February and can be read here. We discussed many important matters relating to golf and golf instruction in Part 1. But that was just a warm-up for the critical issue addressed in Part 2: Mr. Flick’s dog, Charlie.
Golf Conversations: How many dogs have you had in your life?
Jim Flick: I had one growing up; my granddad had one. A mutt – a lab-German Shepherd mix. With my first wife, we had a little poodle. And then Charlie. The others, I liked them. But as I said, with Charlie, I’m pathetic.
GC: What prompted you to get Charlie?
JF: Geri got Charlie for herself because she was lonely. She found Charlie down in Temecula which is a very hot city out in the desert. And with Charlie’s black coat, he was really struggling. So Geri fell in love with him when she saw him and wanted to get him to Carlsbad where the weather wasn’t so hot. He’s a Goldendoodle with very heavy, thick hair.
Carlsbad is really good for him. In the summertime, the minute he goes outside, he starts looking for the shade.
It’s amazing how they get in your heart, don’t they? I needn’t tell you – you feel the same way.
GC: Did you get Charlie as a puppy?
JF: He was 7 months old.
GC: How’d you find him?
JF: Found him in a newspaper ad. Geri did.
GC: She knew she wanted a Goldendoodle?
GC: Is your wife allergic? Is that why she was looking for a Goldendoodle?
JF: No. She wanted a dog that didn’t shed.
GC: Oh. So she found this dog in Temecula. How did you feel about getting a dog?
JF: I was ok with it because I thought it would help Geri. But I didn’t have any strong feelings about it.The family that he came from had 5 children and 2 other dogs. When Charlie came to our house he was very sad. Because he was missing his family.
I began to feel bad for him so I tried to pet him a bit and give him some attention and he got me.
GC: So he responded to you quickly?
JF: Well, it took him a couple of months. He obeyed very well, Robert, but with no outward emotion. He just did what he was told. There was no disagreement but there was no body language of him being happy.
GC: Many people have told me that it takes a long time to get used to you.
When you come home after being away from him for a few hours…
JF: Oh, my.
GC: …how does he react to you?
JF: The tail is going, he’s jumping up and down, leaning on me, circling around me.
GC: That’s great.
JF: I’m sure Wolfie does the same thing to you.
GC: Wolfie is more of a cat than a dog.
GC: Yeah. He’ll be upstairs and when I come home, he’s not coming downstairs to greet you. He’ll thump his tail but he’s not getting up. Wolfie thinks the whole world revolves around him. He’s like the Tiger Woods of dogs.
Have you taken Charlie to the golf course or to the range?
JF: Oh, yeah.
GC: Is Charlie allowed to go into “The Kingdom”?
JF: I’ve had him in “The Kingdom” 3 times. But I don’t make a habit of it.
GC: Obviously, you don’t want him there when you’re giving a lesson. But what was his reaction when he was on the range for the first time?
JF: He enjoys the range; he loves the grass.
GC: I think you could probably charge more for a lesson if you brought Charlie with you.
JF: Oh, there’s no question!
GC: Something to think about: make Charlie into a profit center.
Hey, does your wife play golf?
JF: She does, but she hasn’t played in 5 years.
GC: When you first met her, was she interested in playing golf?
JF: I wanted her to play but she doesn’t have any passion for it.
GC: She loved you for you; not because, “I’m having trouble cutting my 2-iron – help me!”
JF: No, no. A very independent lady. And very, very bright. Much brighter than I am.
GC: Well, of course. You’re a golf teacher.
JF: Right. Not a very bright guy!
GC: Did she know that you were a famous golf teacher when she met you?
JF: Yeah, I think so. But she thought Arnold Palmer was a sweater designer.
She saw his label on sweaters. She knew there was an Arnold Palmer but she didn’t know much about his golf.
GC: Earlier, you were talking about your chest facing the ball at impact. In Gardner Dickinson’s book, Let ‘Er Rip, in one of his drills, he tells you to imagine at impact, both shoulders are looking down at the ball. Which, I think, is similar to what you’re saying.
GC: He was a wonderful writer. I can read that book over and over.
JF: Gardner was a very bright man. His IQ was incredible.
GC: I believe he went to LSU and got his degree in Psychology.
JF: That’s correct.
GC: When someone who’s never played golf says to me, “Hey, Robert, I want to learn how to play golf,” I always recommend your book, On Golf. Or some of Bob Toski’s books.
But do you have certain teachers that you recommend if someone can’t get to see you in California?
JF: There aren’t many guys that I really trust. There are a few. But not many. They don’t have the experience, they don’t make the same judgment calls, they don’t have the same priority list. It’s a very good question because it’s hard … I don’t know, Robert. I’m gonna have to think about that one a little bit.
GC: Ok, that’s fair. But as I said, I always recommend On Golf. It’s fun; it’s got a nice tone to it as well as being instructive. Oh, that reminds me: In On Golf, when you talk about the sand game… you say to open the club face, have the shaft pointing a little bit backwards…
GC: …I don’t recall you saying anything about the stance. Often they tell you to open your stance when you’re playing a sand shot.
JF: I think that’s kind of negotiable. Some guys that get the club too inside, yeah, I would open them up. Other people, I don’t get them too open. The thing about writing a book is … you just can’t express it so that it’s broad enough to take care of everybody. That’s the scary part. The truth is, I think people are better off if you start them with drills and the short game area.
I think Bob Toski said it better than anybody: you learn to play the game from the green back to the tee, not from the tee to the green.
GC: Which is what Mr. Penick said as well.
JF: Did he?
GC: Oh, yeah.
JF: I 100% agree with that. I think you’ve got to teach people to feel and use the golf club where they can conceive what they’re doing with it. Putting and chipping first.
GC: Not sexy enough.
JF: Not sexy enough, that’s right. You’re right. That’s why I’m kind of hedging about the way to start people. Because I think they’re better off with doing some short game stuff. And getting the feeling of swinging the club. And the sense of feeling the energy that the ball gets through the use of a putter.
GC: What do you think about this belly putter craze of the last few months? You don’t look happy with that question.
JF: I’m not too sure I think it’s the right thing to be happening. But it’s been in play too long now for it to be changed. I read something that Al Barkow wrote in one of the magazines: he feels like the long putter makes you use your dominant arm. I think that’s a very good point. I know Jack feels like his right arm controls the speed of his stroke … as does Tiger. Stockton will tell you it’s your left arm. I’ve always taught left arm but I’m beginning to believe that maybe that’s not the only way to do it.
GC: Did you hear about the proctologist who invented the rectal putter?
You insert it back there, it’s affixed to your body, and all you do is swing your hips.
It takes your hands out of the putting stroke!
JF: Oh, yeah.
GC: If you can attach the putter to your belly or to your chin, why not back there? I can see you 3 o’clock in the morning selling this in an infomercial.
JF: Oh, yeah!
GC: Yeah, that would be great for your reputation!
That would be the end of you!
JF: You are so right!
GC: Ok, let’s leave the rectal putter behind us. Would you care to share with me your top-ten favorite golf courses?
JF: #1 is Royal County Down in Ireland. #2 is Ballybunion. #3 is Cypress Point. #4 would probably be Shinnecock Hills. #5, probably Pebble Beach. #6, maybe Turnberry. #7, The National up in New York.
GC: You’re a real links guy, aren’t you?
JF: #8, Milwaukee Country Club.
JF: It’s a really special golf course.
GC: Is that where Manuel De La Terre teaches?
GC: He’s an Ernest Jones guy, right? “Swing the clubhead?”
JF: Yes, he is. He’s an Ernest Jones guy; you are correct. I have not played San Francisco Golf Club. I hear it’s a very nice golf course.
GC: San Francisco Golf Club? Not Harding Park?
JF: No, no. San Francisco Golf Club. It’s a very special, blue-blood club.
GC: No wonder I’ve never heard of it.
JF: I’d probably say Pinehurst No. 2 would be ninth. And #10 might be the Irish Course at Whistling Straits.
GC: When I was there, I only played Whistling Straits.
JF: I liked the Irish Course better. It’s a little more right in front of you. You know exactly what you’re getting when you’re playing.
GC: I do remember being on the tops of many hills looking for my golf ball at Whistling Straits.
JF: So many of the fairways are at angles, Robert. If you don’t know the golf course, you don’t know where to try to drive your ball.
GC: Well, I did have a caddy. He said, “You want to go that way” and of course, I’d end up going in the opposite direction. But it was a beautiful course. And the best damned bathrooms I’ve ever seen. That Mr. Kohler … oh, does he give you a shower!
JF: He’s a pretty clever guy.
GC: And he’s got that hotel at St. Andrew’s.
JF: And he’s making a lot of money there.
GC: Good for him. Do you have a favorite golf club in your bag? One you feel really confident about?
JF: It used to be my 6-iron. When I was a decent player, I was a very poor driver. Now I’m enjoying driving my ball as I’m making some progress with my golf swing. I feel like I’m using my feet a lot better and I’m driving my ball much better.
GC: Speaking of feet, having you been wearing those new spikeless shoes? The adicross shoes?
GC: Aren’t they more comfortable than the soft spikes?
GC: I wore them all day today.
JF: Me, too.
GC: Hybrids versus fairway woods?
JF: Which do I prefer? It depends upon the wind. If it’s windy, I prefer the hybrid. I can keep it a little lower.
GC: The smaller head of the hybrid inhibits me.
JF: Oh, does it?
GC: Yeah, I just like seeing a fairway wood. It gives me more confidence when I see a larger hunk of metal down there. Do you have a particular shot shape that you like to play?
JF: I prefer a slight draw. At my age, I need to get ground time when I can get it.
GC: But if a particular hole calls for a fade?
JF: I’m not playing that much that I can do that kind of thing often. I can mess around with it, but honestly … I can eliminate the left side of the golf course but I’m not so good at fading it.
GC: Well if you get a chance to see Mr. Nicklaus tomorrow, maybe he can give you some tips on how to fade the ball.
I understand he was good at that.
JF: No question.
GC: Speaking of Mr. Nicklaus … what I love about Jack Nicklaus is that he’s so sincere and down-to-earth. Whenever any reporter asks him a question …
JF: He’s honest.
GC: … he’s honest but he never gives you that look, “What kind of stupid question was that?” He’s always so polite and tries to give you a thoughtful answer to your question, no matter how dumb it might be.
And you’ve been very kind in answering my silly questions. Thanks again, Mr. Flick.
JF: You’re welcome, Robert.