David Games Interview

Yesterday I met up with my childhood idol David Games for a bit of golf and life talk. It’s hard to describe how good a junior player David was but I will give just a bit of background. When he was 16, he never finished worse than second in a golf tournament. Second place was a big disappointment such as being runner up in The Junior World Championships to Corey Pavin and runner up in the USGA Junior when Willie Wood won. But David drummed Bobby Clampett in the California State Junior Championship, won the California High School CIF Championship, The LA City Junior and a slew of other annual junior events throughout the state playing weekly against players like Tom Pernice, Corey, Steve Pate, Jeff Hart etc.

One of the most fascinating things about David was that he was completely self taught. Never had a formal golf lesson.
Another interesting thing is that he won all these tournaments without using a driver! David played a 2 wood off the tee.

I thought we would do something unique here, and while I will ask questions and interview David here… we will also open up this interview for all ABSers’ to ask David questions about golf as we go along. Let’s see what we can learn from this opportunity to speak to David Games.

Welcome David, and great to have you here…

First off… why the 2 wood off the tee? Tell us about the club, how you found it… set it up… and why you preferred using it over a driver to win all those tournaments?

Second, we talked a bit about confidence yesterday. How did you become such a confident player, and what was your thought process like back then when you were on top of your game for instance in your junior years? So few golfers at any level ever get to experience to play in a state of dominance at any level.

Well thanks Johnny Lag- I’m flattered. Great to be here…great to be anywhere :slight_smile:.

The Armour 693 Brassie I played (I think it had “2” on the sole-plate though) was just something my Grandpa found in the $2 bin at Compton GC that he frequented, when I was 14 years old or so. I believe that’s also where he got the R-20 that I told you about that I played with for years. Neither one of us knew a whole lot about clubs, but knew what looked and felt great.

I just played a lot of stuff out of necessity, like “here, try this, make it work”. I could hit that it all kinds of different shapes and heights, more so than others, and relative to the competition, didn’t sacrifice any distance. Could also hit it off any lie, so it was quite an advantage in advancing two shots.

Boy, you’ve really sparked some warm nostalgia in me for the fun that stuff was. Such artistry in the design lent itself to artistry in the play.

I’ve gotta run, great hooking up and look forward to going further.

I’ll get back soon re: that confidence stuff…I’ll need some good coffee :smiley: .

Shaping the ball both ways and combining that with a variety of trajectories seems to have been lessened in the modern game. I think the classic courses required a lot more of that off the tee. Hogan, of course… always said the tee shot was the most important shot because it set up the hole.

I think it is interesting that you had that kind of maturity as a teen to play golf that way. Thinking position, and as we talked about working the angles around a golf course and so on.

So I guess what you are saying is that while there may have been a few guys who hit it past you using a driver compared to a 2 wood, it wasn’t significant enough for it to be a concern.

Speaking about confidence, I think it’s interesting that a self taught player could rise to the level of the game you did so quickly. Self taught and obviously a lot of self belief. You would have been the opposite of TGM (The Golfing Machine) and going up against Clampett head to head and beating him, like the feel player against the machine mechanical player that was so strictly groomed with technique and a very disciplined instructor. Fascinating stuff.

So yes, would love to hear your thoughts on confidence, playing head to head against Clampett in the State Championship,
working the ball off the tee, setting up angles etc…

Again, thanks for stopping by David!

So, back to the 2 wood…I think it was an asset because it was so versatile and accurate, and didn’t give up much yardage off the tee, if at all.

Early on I picked up on plotting my way around the course, playing to the side of the fairway, perhaps, that would give the most accessible approach, i.e., angles. The older courses really make you respect that, and being able to find and stay below the hole is crucial. We are fortunate to have played on some of the golden era of design courses. Acute strategy and shotmaking really were rewarded, and if that was how you viewed the challenge, and executed, you had quite an advantage.

That kind of leads me to answer your question about confidence. Developing an eye for strategy, skill in shotmaking, and executing when it counted became second nature to me and helped instill my confidence. My strength was no weakness, cliche I know, but I didn’t have to depend too heavily on any one thing to bail me out. Also, not to be too trite, but putting in the work, and managing one’s preparation takes a lot of pressure off. So, for a few years there, I felt I had most people beat on the first tee, knowing that at my worst, I would still be pretty good. I liken it to a quarterback talking about “slowing the game down.” Nothing real mysterious here. Although I believe there is no substitute for talent, it is usually an inside job to perform confidently.

I’ll reminisce about the Clampett stuff next time…

Hi David, welcome to ABS and thanks for taking the time to contribute. Its amazing that we have access to players of such a high caliber and get to pick their brains :slight_smile:

I guess when you fall in love with a club there is just no stopping the confidence you’ll experience with it. Look at Snead and the driver he was given, that was the catalyst for his career.

I assume you just worked the ball at will, based on instinct? ie you’d make your mind up about the shot, saying to yourself for examples sake high fade and then just trust your swing to make it happen without much consious effort?

Would you be willing to run me through your pre-shot routine? I’ve never used one tbh, as soon as i get my gut instinct about a shot I’ll go at it straight away, no time for doubt…

Craig, I’m in complete agreement with an instinctual approach. Through the years I incorporated other things into my pre-shot routine, more ritualistic, and I have to say through that experience, simpler the better. Quicker, too. From behind the ball I liked to (and have reverted to) visualize the shot, decisively, waggling and feeling the shot while I’m stepping into my set-up. I love the athleticism of the game, and doing something fairly repetitive is good so your mind doesn’t stray and you trust your mechanics. But, I love the artistry of the game even more, and as I think we’ve all experienced, seeing, feeling, and creating a shot is really cool.

Competing with Bobby Clampett was pretty memorable. Let’s just say he thought very highly of himself, or at least, his golfing ability. He got some press at the US Jr. when he said (noting his Golf Machine acumen) his swing “was like a Rolls Royce, and the competition were all VW’s”. He definitely was not the most popular guy around :slight_smile:. He was very verbal, and outright challenged me. I loved that. I thrived on that kind of stuff, and fared very well against him.

We had a couple epic (haha) matches that I will share about later…

Thanks for you thoughts David…

Being more of a “self taught” feel player… and not coming out of the country club set, one can’t help but think of a similarity between yourself and Lee Trevino who came out of the public course ranks.

Speaking of Clampett, the path to the first tee of the US Junior could not have been more opposite… as he was groomed early on by legendary teacher Ben Doyle, and had access to the great courses of the Monterrey Peninsula. While it is always commendable if not amazing in this game to reach the top of your peer class with any background, I think it is even more interesting to learn from the player who didn’t necessarily have things laid out in an orderly way… such as Johnny Miller having access to Olympic Club and the SF Golf Club.

To figure this game out on your own, with clubs found in a bargain bin (they were good ones though!) and claw your way out of that situation into being near… or even the top junior player in the country makes for great cinema to say the least.

I think there is a lot to learn from how the mental picture developed for you into a sense or state of inner confidence that projected you to the top of the national ranks without a “Ben Doyle” or a “Butch Harmon” to mentor you along. There are a lot of kids that try to do it their way, based upon athletic ability or mental toughness etc… but never come out anywhere near the top of the class. It’s surely a combination of things, some tangible I suppose, a lot of intangibles, destiny etc… but ultimately leading to “the right stuff”.

But as a student of the golf swing myself, I can attest that your technique was very good… it was like poetry to watch and really had the great fundamentals that were present in a lot of the classic golf swings. You really lagged the club fantastically, very free flexible wrists driven by your core rotation… wonderful leg action that both initiated the backswing with the big knee press, but also started your downswing with the lower body as good as anyone. The swing of Peter Thomson comes to mind as a comparison. Very fluid, flowing, great rhythm, tempo… all the good stuff. It looked like you took it back and laid the shaft on your shoulder, then just used the lower body to deliver and slot the club and then just ripped it back up into a high classic finish and you always swung in beautiful balance. I can’t imaging your action would look all too different today.

While Clampett might have had a Rolls Royce swing, yours’ looked like a Bentley to me!

I’m sure a few around here would love to hear a bit about some of the epic battles with Bobby C.
The making of your mind and how that championship mindset came about is great stuff to discuss also.

Really enjoying this thread.

Is the DavidGamesGolf on youtube youtube.com/watch?v=Dq_9Dafe95A the same person?

Yes, you can learn more about David here… and I recommend anyone who gets out to California should take the time to go see David and get a lesson.



So again…
I’m sure a few around here would love to hear a bit about some of the epic battles with Bobby C.
The making of your mind and how that championship mindset came about is great stuff to discuss also…

Again I would like to make note that anyone who has questions for David, feel free to post here as we are fortunate to have him around at this time…

Thanks for the response David. Its kind of hard to describe but I dont really have a great visual mind when stood behind the ball. Its odd because I often practice visualising my golfing success and what I want from the game in every possible detail, not just the course and my game but the temperature and the weather, time of day and clothing, the smells and sounds, organising a schedual, booking lessons etc

Sometimes I can ‘picture’ a shot, but it’ll still be a sort of mid-flight blurred image that lands nearby my target.

Perhaps its because I like to feel my shots rather than see them. All the time I’m tuning in with the environment, using all my senses, and 9 times out of ten I’ve made my mind up before my bag even goes down. I don’t feel like I actively make the decision, its like the answer reveals itself to me. bag down, pull the club, get set up, waggle-waggle and pull the trigger with my focus still on the result I want to produce. make any sense Lag/David?

For me a routine should simply be about what’ll make you feel the most comfortable & confident you can possibly be over the ball. Guess thats why I get even faster when striking it well as I feel great and can’t wait to hit the next shot

Hi David,

Thanks for giving us your time.

You were obviously a very natural and talented junior who had a lot of confidence in your ability. Even for someone such as yourself you must have had periods where your form slumped and you started to look at tournaments on the horizon with more trepidation than anticipation. In those situations how did you respond? How would you turn your form around so you could go into a competition with confidence?

In reply to the youtube question, yes, that is me. I did do a couple things and intended to do a little series, but got side-tracked. I hope to re-visit someday.

John, your compliments mean a lot to me, as I have utmost respect for your game, knowledge, and passion. I did find it out my own way, I guess. As I told you before, the only swing swing thought I had when I was young was to make a big shoulder turn. I remember liking Jerry Heard’s swing :slight_smile:, and probably tried to incorporate a little of that into what I did naturally, which was swing with a rhythm and “wait” for the hit. It didn’t hurt that I was a pretty disciplined kid, practicing with focus six days a week and preparing to peak for certain tournaments. A lot of luck for that to all fall into place for sure.

You know, ABS interest in Clampett and TGM aside, whatever I could relate here is going to be much more about me when speaking of our few encounters. There are some gossipy, personal information stories better left for a smaller forum :wink:. For that matter, I liked Bobby.

The '76 California State Jr, when we were 16, was played at Pebble, Spy, and MPCC (Dunes). Before the tournament, John Geertsen (the pro at MPCC and Johnny Miller’s teacher) was quoted in the Monterey Herald as saying he thought about 225 would win. I shot 212, beat Clampett by seven and third place was 15 shots back. So, the following year, he wasn’t much of a factor in the big tournaments (Jr. World, US Jr., Jr. America’s Cup) so I didn’t see much of him, but come '77 State Jr., he directly challenged me in the North/South matches that preceded it. I loved it, geez, I was in kind of a zone for a couple years there where I was so comfortable and in my element. I beat him 3 and 1, but then he got me in the tournament, beating me by one, and then he really took off, going to BYU right after (I had another year of high school left) and becoming all-world his freshman year. Maybe I was a little responsible for his upward trajectory :slight_smile:.

Craig, what you say in your post makes a lot of sense. I remember seeing Geoff Ogilvy on “Playing Lessons” a few years ago talking about just being an “observer”, which sounds a bit like your description. Keeping it intuitive and just reacting sounds great. Doesn’t have to be visual. My caveat to that would be that I view my golf- playing golf and tournament golf are two different animals- through the competitive lens. I want to make good decisions and hit smart shots at all times. My best golf seems to come when the feeling and thinking for the shot in front of me slows down.

Spav, oh yeah, trepidation will be a factor sometimes. Not original, but “you got to go through what you got to go through.” I used to have an ability to just work on “one thing”, or one key, for a practice session (now I remember) :slight_smile:. So, if the last event hadn’t been too great, getting focused on “one thing” in my practice was helpful. I’m a big advocate of chipping and pitching practice, too. I know Lag’s cringing if he reads this, but short game matters.:wink: It takes pressure off your scoring, and helps you feel different impacts and responses. That will put something positive and fresh in your system for the next time the flag goes up.

Short game matters!
Didn’t Hogan once suggest a new scoring format for golf that putts would count for 1/2 a shot… so if you hit the green on a par 4 in two and two putted you made a 3, but if you missed the green and got up and down you made a 3 1/2! That would certainly make it more of a ballstrikers game! I have to admit… that would be kinda cool!

Watching Scott Verplank shoot 66 hitting 8 greens in the Sunnehanna Am when I played with him, while I hit 16 and shot 72 sent me down the Dave Pelz wormhole for a few years after Scott was so kind enough to show me how his Pelz track worked and that system. While that does work… it was such a different motion than my chipping and ball striking, I would have to go back and forth between those two opposing feels which took A LOT of practicing daily. I would putt for a couple hours then go hit balls and be lost. Once I started hitting it good again I couldn’t putt. It never really clicked until a few years later when I realized I would be better off with a bit of a loop in my putting stroke. The Canadian putting guru Alvie Thompson got me back on track. I even toyed with a broomstick for a month. But fairly recently I finally just gave up on putting all together and realized that my chipping method was so far superior to any putting method I had ever worked on, I just switched to a chipping stroke on the greens with a putter set up to accommodate. I wish I would have know that 30 years ago… I might not be typing on an internet forum! My feeling is that if your technique is really rock solid, your practicing need not be more than 5 or 10 minutes… in putting, really just to get a feel for pace.

I still carry a 2 wood, and yesterday Al Barkow and I played Lincoln Park in SF and the 11th hole I pulled it out and mentioned to him that you used to only drive with a two wood… and how when golf was played more on classic track where the game was more about position and angles than bombing it anywhere, that kind of golf made sense … I showed the 2 wood to Al on the tee and he shook his head and said… “yep, there’s something special about those things… looks great” So the 11th is a little dogleg down the hill and if you can hit a high draw and get a bit of help from a narrow slope just short of the green, you can drive the green. So there is a road the goes through the course, and this guy in a red Le Mans convertible comes wheeling around the corner blasting Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”, so I looked at Al and said, ok… “Ring of Fire” right here… I just hit one of the perfect shots and it’s a bit blind down there from the tee but I thought it might have a chance. Sure enough, it was resting just 20 feet past the hole, right inline with the pin. The greens at Lincoln are about as bad as they come even at their best, and today after a week of heavy rain, they were muddy, textured with heel marks and just behind awful. I had just given away my two under front nine with a a pair of three putts on 8 and 9, so I told Al… "Ok… I’m going to erase those two bogeys right here… that cup is the “Ring of Fire” and this one is going down… and sure enough it just hobbled on down there and dropped right into the cup for an eagle. Just one of those little magic moments!

So getting back to our DG interview here…

David, you used a blade putter if I remember? Looking back… what kind of stroke did you use then… did you try to square to square it or open and close the gate? How did you practice? Did you spend more time hitting long putts than short ones? or did you putt with one ball… two, or three? Any insights on how you masters the greens as well as you did?

Nice deuce on your “Ring of Fire” there Lag! Looking forward to playing Lincoln Park someday. Your description of playing to spots and angles is great. I love plotting my way around a minefield, finding routes/angles and avoiding the cemeteries.

I’ll sometimes hear myself and decry the nostalgia for traditional courses and equipment- not very progressive of me, and there are aspects of the modern game that I like at times. But, where’s the feel and artistry? Those are my favorite things about the game, along with the brains and balls it takes to do well-the inner stuff- and its spiritual and meditative qualities.

You can play with persimmon in the dark because you know by the feel where you hit it. You can’t say that about the new shit. That’s my biggest beef probably, along with the glorifying of playing for so much money, and the inherent commercialism that goes along with that. It takes a lot more balls to play for putting your name on a trophy than to play for millions. But, I digress…

Lag, loved your take on Pelz and the back and forth between opposing feels. Not a fan. I am a big fan of a good motion though. There are many exceptions to conventional wisdom on putting mechanics, exceptional putters such as Locke, Casper, Aoki, Nicklaus, Player. But, they owned their motion/action. I’m sure you can relate to making putts that might’ve been slightly mis-hit, but you had a positive motion and they went in. I, too, don’t think you need to practice putting for long. Speed is everything (you can only control the line so much anyway). I also try to take the emotion out of the result (learned this lesson early on, and like most things, after a lot of pain). I don’t get disappointed if I don’t make a putt, I just expect myself to read the putt as well as I can and execute it with a solid roll.

I did use a blade mostly (8802) but used an Anser for a time as well. I like a putter that has an natural inside to inside swing, and where you can feel a little kick at the bottom of the shaft.

I believe in just practicing long and short putts. Feel for speed and reaffirming makes will make you a good intermediate distance putter as well. I feel that practicing too much intermediate range gets one guiding the motion and way too line conscious. It can scar your psyche, too, because you’ll tend to miss a lot of them.


This is just great… I never really thought about this before, but when you show up at a course and walk onto the practice green and every pin is 20 feet apart, I now understand why I always walked to the first tee lacking the putting confidence I should have.

I interviewed Billy Dunk here a while back, for those who don’t know was one of the greatest Australian players who didn’t come over (stateside) much to get known here, but really is a legend down under. He told me that he would always practice the longest putts he could find… one side of the green to the other. So this really makes sense… there is no expectation to make a 60 or 80 footer, and if you just roll in a few short putts, you should be able to go to the first tee feeling pretty good.

Clampett used to (maybe still does) make a circle of 10 balls around the hole from 2,3,4,5,then 6 feet and try to make them all. This would get him understanding all the subtle breaks and of course seeing a lot of putts going in before he would tee off.

Since I don’t practice anymore, I find that what works best for me now is to get my body warmed up… stretch, take a few practice swings… but the reality is that I really only need to hit one ball to feel what my true tendency is for the day. If I hit one ball, that first ball and only that first ball gives me an honest look and feel for today’s swing. As soon as I rake a second ball over, I am correcting or making adjustments. If I drop and hit a ball and it goes right, I can just take that feeling to the first tee and know that today I am going to have to firm up and release a little harder. As long as I have some kind of definitive feeling to work off… I feel ready to play golf… and I really only need one ball to do that.

There is something nice about not having any preconceived notion about how you are going to play on any given day. Too
much warming up on the range I think worked against me on tour. If I was puring it on the range, but missed my first tee shot… there went the confidence in one swing. Same with putting… if I missed a 10 footer on the first hole, I would quickly be filled with doubt even if I thought I was rolling them good on the practice green. Now I make no assumptions and at worst allow my self a few holes to get a feel for my game… and if I start off my round well, then I feel I can go deep.

When Bob Rosburg won the 59 PGA, he never hit a range ball before teeing off any of the four rounds. Just rolled a couple putts to feel the green speed and off he went. Pretty interesting. Hard to get over that mental hurdle that you should be hitting a bucket before you play when everyone under the sun is doing it… but it just shows it possible and I would argue it could give one a mental advantage in some way.

The single greatest putting tip I ever benefitted was from (cringe) Leadbetter. Simply dont practice putting to a hole before you go out. Use a tee instead as your target for short putts… That way when you get out on the course the hole looks massive. Works wonders for confidence.

The only other tip I use (especially when the pressure is on) is my own of not looking, but listening. I’ll tell myself to count to three before looking up, removing any chance of pulling the stroke. Great side benefit is I’ll never see a putt miss, so it won’t affect confidence, but I’ll still get a boost if I sink one from the sweet sound of the ball dropping in the cup. Where did I get this from? Lee Trevino… I read or heard him say once when I was young that as soon as your opponent looks up quick from a putt he’s lost his cool and you’ve got him. Well I decided Trevino would meet his match in me haha!

In terms of putting technique, I believe in similar to the backswing, it doesn’t matter. The only thing one should strive for is a firm left wrist after impact…Dont let the wrists flip through. If people really push me for technique, and want a pendulem motion, I tell them to demonstrate to me how to rock a baby, and bingo their :bulb: goes off

Linking back to my earlier post about pre-shot routine ties in with putting. Putting is as much about confidence and attitude. My routine? pretty much decide on the line as I’m walking up & marking the ball, I’m no fan of walking around the hole from several different angles. I’m old school and plum-bob as my double check. I don’t get why this habit has disappeared tbh. Anyway, once I’ve settled on the line I can visualize with putting. I imagine a ‘see-through’ image of the ball right at the point it enters the hole. Now here’s the interesting bit… how it drops in determines the the pace of the putt. Firm? It hits the back of the hole with authority. Soft? It’ll enter the from the front of the hole and sink in slower. This all happens sub-conciously again. The decision makes itself for me.

Why is the ball see-through? Because through this image I’ll pick out the most minute detail. A blade of grass or marking in the cup. This is my target. I never do practice swings, just get over the ball, look at my target, back to the ball but to be honest all I can see is my minds eye, concentrating on that target, with a keyword on how hard to hit it. (On an average pace putt for example I like to imagine the ball ‘kisses’ my target). I just let go and trust my sub-concious.

Its very rare that I’ll miss from inside 6ft…


If I remember right… the 8802 was the putter you used during your hot streak, but you mentioned switching to a Ping style Anser. The 8802 being a classic toe heavy blade style, to the Anser which is more face balanced. Did you remember making any significant adjustments to your stroke switching? and why did you switch? or did you or do you go back and forth?

I putted for years with face balanced putters… quite unsuccessfully I might add. I am now a big toe heavy convert. Pendulum vs Open and Close the gate.

While many still talk about Locke and his magic, I don’t see anyone embracing that kind of protocol on the greens. Did you ever mess with the Locke kind of stroke? or has putting always been just a second nature reaction?