Bradley Hughes has played the professional golf tours of the United States, Europe, Japan, and his Australian homeland since 1988. He has won dozens of times around the world, including two Australian Masters victories and a second-place finish (to PGA champion Rich Beem) in the 1999 Kemper Open. Bradley also played on the first Presidents Cup team in 1994.
For the last several years, Bradley has been teaching golfers — in person and via his website, www.BradleyHughesGolf.com — what he’s learned from playing the game at the highest level. I met with him at Pebble Creek CC in South Carolina on May 30th to learn about his “controversial” views of the golf swing, golf instruction, and today’s golf equipment.
What follows is a 27-minute video of the first half of the interview. That’s followed by a transcript of the second half of our golf conversation.
Golf Conversations: I know you like Sergio Garcia’s swing.
Bradley Hughes: Yep. Sergio does it more my old style.
GC: His putting has gotten a lot better.
BH: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, golf’s not just one-dimensional. You have to have course management, short game skills, how to read a lie, how to pick a shot. That’s some of the stuff that I have an advantage with when I give lessons to people because I know … I can look at a lie and instantaneously know what that lie tells me what I have to do.
A lot of people – even if they do get their swing in good shape – they make the wrong decisions for the shot and they mess it up anyway. It’s a tough game. But having the experience that I’ve got, its certainly helped me to get the message out and help people get better.
There’s a 70-year-old man that I taught in Sydney. He was a 16 handicap and thought his golf days were over. We did my stuff and 10 months later he was off a 7. Obviously, I love to teach the pros because it’s easier. A lot of the stuff – even with Robert Allenby – what I’ve taught him is not anything new to him, it’s just putting him back to where he was because he’d sort of lost his way a little bit.
But for an amateur golfer, you tell him something and he might say, “I’ve never done that in my life.”
GC: Or “It doesn’t feel right to me.”
GC: And he ends up doing what feels comfortable … which is often incorrect.
BH: Yes. What did Hogan say? “Reverse every natural instinct and you might have a good swing.” It’s really hard when you’re an amateur golfer … that’s why I shock them with the first drill I give them. They start doing things that they’ve never done before in the swing and it livens up their muscles. They like what they look like on the video – “Geez that looks good, but it feels so weird.”
So the first drill shocks a lot of people and we add to that. I have lot of people who say, “I saw your videos and read your website and it’s nothing like what anyone else says.”
But it’s not different because I show all the examples of what everyone did in the past. It’s not different; it’s just that it’s been forgotten. Like I said, it’s harder to achieve with the upright clubs.
For the amateur golfer, they’re not out playing courses like the pros. They need to learn how to hit the ball consistently.
GC: That’s all I want to do. If I never make another putt again, it doesn’t bother me.
Really, I’m not kidding. It’s not the score anymore for me. I just hate that feeling of not hitting the ball right when two shots ago I hit it just fine.
BH: That’s because hitting it perfectly, there’s nothing better than that, is there?
GC: That’s the best feeling. One of the other things I liked about your web site … you had some of those old Golf Digest cover photos of the guys on the scales.
BH: I think it was in the ‘80s. Norman was in it and Sandy Lyle.
GC: You see Norman with one foot on one scale and the other foot on another scale. Was the photo taken at impact?
BH: Yeah, close to it. The photo shows that there’s a difference between where your weight is and where your pressure is. There’s still pressure going into that right foot…
GC: Pressure down into the ground?
BH: Absolutely. Still into your right foot. You’re not shifting all your pressure into your left foot because then you would have to stop your body to flip it with your hands.
GC: Is that similar to the Sam Snead squat?
BH: Yeah, absolutely. He’s pushing down the right leg in transition. Absolutely. If you went left, it pulls your torso with it. If I push down my right, I’m pushing straight down that leg. People are skeptical. You’ll get people who say, “That’s a lot of crap.” I say, “Alright, come play a game with me and I’ll show you…”
GC: “And I’ll give you 20 shots.”
BH: It depends on how you view things. People are going to see things how they want to see it. But I know from doing it, I’m as good…
GC: You can say, “I’m right.”
BH: Ok. I’m right.
GC: You were on the President’s Cup team, for crying out loud. If anybody knows golf, it’s you!
My problem with golf instruction is that words mean different things to different people.
GC: That’s why I think you do need hands-on help – or an instructor looking at their video and correcting them. Most people can’t learn how to play golf by reading Hogan’s book. Here’s one of my many pet peeves about golf instruction: when Hogan said you should “spin your hips.” That’s not correct.
GC: And that picture of him in the book with the rope wrapped around his forearms … I think Jim McLean studied his films and showed that Hogan didn’t swing the club with his arms in that position. Yet 20 million golfers have said they learned how to play golf by reading Hogan’s book.
“Really? You learned how to play golf by spinning your hips and having your arms wrapped in a rope?”
BH: You took it literally.
GC: I’m not done ranting! And the magazines with their monthly “secret tips.” Secrets that nobody else ever heard of until today. Now four million people know your secret!
BH: They’ve got to fill up space somehow.
GC: I think this one of the reasons why golf is losing players. It’s too hard of a game for most people … and, unfortunately, most people these days want instant results. When all the “secrets” don’t pan out after two weeks of frustration, people go play a video game.
BH: And with all the new clubs — and “nine yards further every year” — I should be hitting it 512 yards by now but I’m not.
GC: So who do you go to for lessons?
GC: Good answer. Hey, Robert Allenby’s doing better now, isn’t he?
BH: We started working in October last year. Last year he only made four cuts before we started working. He’s made ten or eleven this year already. Doubled his pay days so far. He’s hitting the ball much better and is confident in his ability again.
GC: He’s a good guy. I’d like to see him back doing well. How about you? Any plans on playing the Champions Tour in a couple of years?
BH: Who knows? I’m enjoying the teaching right now. I don’t practice. I go out and play with young kids who are bashing it by me and but I hold my own. I had a 6th in the Victorian Open and a 10th in the New South Wales Open. My game’s still there but it’s more the “want” part. Maybe in two more years when I’m 49, I’ll say, “Alright, I’ve got a year to practice and really get into it again.”
But I enjoy the teaching and staying in my own bed and not having to fly everywhere. But if the urge kicks in in a couple of years, I’m not going to go into it half-assed.
GC: It would be nice if you had one of those big paydays and became a full-time sponsor of my website.
Bradley, if I went on eBay and found some heavy and upright MacGregor irons from 1961, would you recommend getting them?
BH: You don’t have to use the old stuff. I’ll tell you one thing about the old stuff: the hosels were much longer. That’s where a lot of the weight was. They’re a good start. Obviously, the more steel there is at the bottom, the more weight there’s gonna be in the head. But you can use any club. It’s not so much how old they are. It’s more about how you set up the clubs that you’ve got. You can flatten them down a bit if they’re forged. You can weight the head up a bit with some tape. If I have a heavier club, I’m gonna swing it around me, not up and down.
GC: They have those weighted clubs with the molded grip…
BH: They’re fine but … my clubs that I play with … I don’t just base it on swing weight. I go on overall weight which no one really talks about today. My swing weight is D-3 in my long irons, then D-4, D-5 … my mid-irons are D-6, D-7. Short irons are D-8, D-9. Wedges are D-0. So there’s a progression.
Today they make everything a D-1 or D-0. Why would you want a club that’s 5 inches shorter like a wedge weigh the same as a long iron? Why would you want to be swinging a feather on a short shot? It’s got to be heavier because it’s more about distance control and feel. Pick up an old sand wedge … they’re like sledge hammers.
My steel shaft irons are 130 grams. I can’t use a 60 gram driver shaft because it feels like nothing. I hate hybrids; I use a 4-wood. Hybrids are designed for hacks.
GC: Hey, watch it! I only bought my &$^@*#* hybrids because the @*$&ers told me they were easier to hit!
BH: I hit them along the ground or I hook the death out of them. They’re designed for bad golfers; they’re not designed for good players.
GC: Prediction: you’re not going to be getting any equipment sponsors anytime soon.
BH: Probably not. I’m sure I could get stuff made to what I want. But their business is selling clubs.
GC: And selling new ones every six months.
BH: For me, as a golfer, I’ve got to use what I think is best. Not what they tell me is best. But like I’ve said, I don’t think these clubs are helping people as much as they want you to believe. People get sucked into this “9 extra yards every year.” It really hurts them in the long term; they’re not helping themselves over the long term.
Getting back to my clubs, my 3-wood’s 105 grams and my driver is 80 grams. I try to get a progression. I’m not having 130-gram irons and 65-gram woods.
GC: Let’s change the subject. What was it like playing with Greg Norman?
BH: I really enjoyed playing with him. He’s fantastic and he’s always been really good to all the Aussie guys. He’s helped a bunch of them. Everyone looked up to him.
GC: The second year of the Presidents Cup, there was some controversy with David Graham as the captain.
BH: Yeah, I wasn’t involved with that. The first one that I was in, David was fine. He did a really good job. It was sort of slapped together late, that tournament. A lot of the pros like Ernie didn’t play … Jumbo didn’t play.
GC: Norman wasn’t in it either.
BH: Norman was but I ended up replacing him.
GC: Because they needed a star?
BH: Yes. They needed a star.
Funny story … I was in Japan playing. I’d been to all the Presidents Cup meetings. There was a chance that I might be a Captain’s pick because I was playing well that year. I was about 60-something in the World Rankings.
Me and my caddie were in my apartment in Tokyo. We were watching the Canadian Open on TV. They picked the Presidents Cup players that day and four days later they had the tournament. Fulton Allem and Watanabe were the two Captain’s picks.
I was thinking, “Man, that would be awesome to play in that.” I was in Japan to play golf with my sponsor that week. My caddie was working for someone else. I dropped him at the airport at 7:30 in the morning. When I got back to my apartment, the phone was ringing. It was David Graham.
He asked me if I was interested in flying to D.C. “We might need a replacement,” he said.
Now I had to find my caddie at the airport and keep him from getting on his plane. Which I did. And four hours later we were flying First Class with champagne and caviar.
That night, I was having dinner at the White House. I didn’t know until I got there that I was actually going to be playing.
GC: Why didn’t Norman play?
BH: He had to have surgery for something. It was a last-minute thing.
GC: Hale Irwin was the U.S. captain?
BH: Yes, he actually played well enough to qualify to play for his own team.
GC: Any sort of gamesmanship going on in that Presidents Cup?
BH: No, it was pretty pleasant, that first one. It wasn’t “Ryder-Cup-Kill-Each-Other” just yet.
GC: And this was pleasant, too. Thank you, Bradley for a most informative golf conversation. And if you folks out there want to get in touch with Bradley – and learn a LOT about the golf swing – visit BradleyHughesGolf.com.
BH: Thank you.