Got a wonderful email from an old friend and great player Paul Devenport who found me after many years. I have invited Paul to contribute here with this thread. A lot we can learn from Paul who is originally from New Zealand… now living in Victoria BC Canada.
Paul won 5 CanadianTour Events: Quebec Open 1998 & 2001, Prince Edward Open 1998, Edmonton Open 2000, Victoria Open 2001
2nd on the Order of Merit 98 & 01. 1998 stroke average was 68.98, in Australia, and Canada.
Came close in a few Australian Opens, led the Aussie PGA going into the final round one year, but Andrew Coltart got up for the win.
Represented NZ as an amateur and as a pro in the 96 World Cup.
From Paul who will be very welcomed here…
I just want to thank you for your videos that I’ve recently discovered I’ve probably averaged 6 or 7 rounds per year in that time, and maybe 3 or 4 buckets of balls at the range. When I did play, I was still decent, a few under or over, not bad. Until this year. I’ve come off hip replacement surgery last November, and coupled with a stiff flooring body, my game/swing finally turned to crap. The couple of rounds I’ve played this year felt all arms, short stiff off balanced stabs at the ball. Chunky steep mid irons, thin off the toe long irons, and a good club and a half loss in distance. Step in your vids, they woke me up, totally hit home, made me excited to hit the range again. Yesterday was the first day (hard to find the time, busy life!) I started slow, working on drills, flattening my swing, getting that left shoulder leading through the ball and into the follow through, trying to maintain shaft flex. I began to hit it solid again. Bacon strips, not chunky sods. Straight or slight fades, the occasional block if my left shoulder was slow. The kicker was when, near the end of my session, I added a conscious left forearm rotation feeling through impact. Holy flush bullets! I’m excited about golf again. I want to hit more balls, get out and play without feeling embarrassed. So cool! So thank you for the work you’ve done and the vids you’ve posted. You’ve sparked new life into this old stiff body.
I think I’ve watched most of your vid’s now, and heard your opinions on the modern clubs and specs. I agree totally. I still hit a blade like iron (mizuno’s), but have a Taylormade frying pan driver and 3 wood. Maybe I should dig out my old persimmon MacGreggor I have tucked away somewhere, that thing won me some big amatuer tournament back in the day. The thing I took note of the other day at the range was I enjoyed hitting my 3 iron more than my shorter irons. Usually, for me, when I hit balls, I’d only hit a couple of long irons because it was becoming increasingly more difficult to hit them solid and get them airborne. I just figured i’d need to invest in some hybrid things to replace them. Not now though, lol. The good thing about my irons is they can be flattened easily. They’re standard right now I believe, so I may consider up to 4 flat, I know this will go hand in hand with the swing changes I’m trying to make. Anyway, great to hear from you, looking forward to more vids and tips down the road.
I always hit the ball pretty well, but deep down knew my swing wasn’t quite right. I flipped through impact a bit, and it was all about timing. Luckily I wasn’t a fast twitch guy, so timing was easy, until Sunday pressure."
Thanks for the invite to join the ABS forum
As I told John, I’ve been installing hardwood flooring for the past 16 years, post my tour days. Quite the change in professions I’d say. With a busy life and young family, I’ve played very little golf and hit even fewer balls.
My game has deteriorated as a result, and whatever faults I had in my swing, coupled with a stiff aging body, had brought me to a embarrassing swing that felt like an armsy swat at the ball.
Since discovering John’s vids on youtube, I got quite excited to get to the range to try some drills and give his theories a shot (pun intended). I knew from John’s vids that this was going to work.
Literally in one 2 hour session I went from mishit weak could go anywhere shots, to crisp flush irons with a purpose. It was so cool. And just proof that this is the best way to hit the ball day in and day out. I only wish I’d known this during my playing days, maybe some of those close Sunday’s could’ve gone my way.
I’m really looking forward to learning from the ABS community on this forum
We’ll be learning a lot from you Paul… for sure. Bradley Hughes has been a huge contributor to this site… and shares the same thoughts on many things… swing, golf in general etc.
I retired from the tour in 93 after 7 years of playing full time. I couldn’t putt like you did! lol… but seriously, I just burned out on the travel and lifestyle of it. Loved the game more than airports, rental cars, hotels and restaurant food every night.
I missed the peak of your career as you really bloomed a few years later picking up all those wins. It’s an incredible accomplishment to win on tour… on any tour actually. To beat 143 players from all over the world, all during a given week… who are there completely committed to the task at hand… is something not to be taken lightly. Very few golfers will experience that. It’s really something to cherish.
A much delayed contrats on your accomplishments! I didn’t know you had won those events!
Bradley has said numerous times that he felt the game changed radically around 97, or 98 when the really big headed drivers and the lower spinning Pro V1 ball hit the scene. There was a huge jump in driving distance for many of the players, but certain players didn’t gain as much based upon their swings. The slappers who hit with hand speed more than body rotation really benefited, while players like Bradley didn’t as much because they were rotational strikers and their pivot just didn’t rotate faster with the lighter clubs… therefore they actually had less mass in the clubhead which worked against them. The longer shaft did help pick up some yards but it was cancelled by the loss of clubhead mass.
Wondering what your experiences were around that time?
Bradley I think led the PGA Tour in total driving, but the next year dropped in distance because he didn’t want to change his golf swing to suit the new golf clubs (drivers).
I wasn’t playing golf at this time… so I can’t really comment on it from personal experience.
So how much distance did you pick up with the new stuff then? I am sure you would have lost some accuracy, but maybe not? I suspect over time your driver swing might have deteriorated from the core muscles not being used anymore. Our mutual friend Vic Wilk said that definitely happened to him over time. He said he started just swinging with his arms and hands and not as much with the body as in the persimmon era with the much heavier drivers.
My best ball striking was probably between 1995 - 98, particularly 97/98.
I’d always had a bit of a flip at impact, chased the target with my right arm a lot. This was actually a drill I did as a kid learning the game, half follow throughs extending both arms straight at target. Unfortunately this caused me to flip a little and slow rotate.
What I remember most about the 97/98 season in Aus & Canada is how much control I had of the ball. I had been working on shaping shots with my body. I’d set up square to the target, then try to start the ball left of target and fade it back. Or set up square, the start the ball right and draw it back. It was a conscious effort to use my body to control the ball.
That was my peak ball striking. After that I still hit the ball well, but not to that level. I chased the new equipment like everyone else. I never really thought about how my swing fit to the new equipment. Like I said earlier, I was never a fast twitch kinda guy, so I was good at timing my swing. I never really hit it sideways.
I also never gained a lot of distance with the new stuff, not right away anyway. I do hit my driver now much further than I feel I should, but I’m about a club shorter with my irons than in my playing days.
My issues of late have much more to do with lack of golf than anything else. But the faults are the same. Not playing much has resulted in a lack of turn and rotation, basically an arms feeling swing. Couple that with a bit of a flip, and, well, that’s why I’m watching your vids, lol.
Curious when you retired from the tour… if your last win was 2001, I imagine you would have played a few more years. We never know when our last win will be, but most of us think there will be more in a few years.
I asked David Graham (for those who don’t know, a two time major champion) when walking down the 9th fairway at the West End Open … if he had any advice for a rookie on tour. He said “If you are not winning, you are not making it” He was very blunt and probably suggesting I do something else with my life unless I am really winning often!
But I think you would have played full time a few more years… probably till 2006 or 07?
2005 was my last full season. I played a few tour events up until 2008, but nothing I had to travel far to. Injuries and a divorce essentially ended it for me, plus, like yourself, the tour life was wearing on me.
John, here’s my swing last summer.
My wife filmed me hitting some 9 irons while we were waiting for our daughter to finish her golf camp. Unfortunately I only have a view from behind, it’d be nice to see the front view as well.
My swing, or at least ball striking, had deteriorated since this was filmed, although I imagine it wouldn’t look much different to an onlooker.
It still looks like you are accelerating through the ball pretty well. Not all that bad.
I don’t think that backswing is all that short for a 9 iron.
Vic had hip replacement also a few years back. He’s doing pretty good with it now.
What part of your game felt like it was going south when you retired?
I know you mentioned injuries… but were those more serious or just the typical golf back, tendons in the wrists etc…?
I sprained my ankle pretty bad, then when that came right, I partially tore my left rotator cuff.
My short game, just chipping and short pitch shots, was getting sloppy. I found myself putting from off the green a lot, which wasn’t too bad in Aus, but not ideal. Bit of the heebee Jeebees with the chipping.
Ultimately it was time to move on.
Welcome to ABS Paul, looking forwards to reading your posts.
When you were winning… what do you think you were doing better than other players?
Who were some of the players you were beating at the time that went on to fame and fortune?
Thanks, I’m enjoying reading the threads on here.
During my best years, I simply think I was doing everything well. Winning a tournament can happen in different ways. When I won in Quebec in 1998, I was hitting the ball as pure as I ever had. I ball struck that win. Same in PEI in 1998. 2000 in Edmonton I hit it ok, but putted lights out. Both my wins in 2001 were a combination of solid ball striking and solid putting. A few good breaks and shots at the right time was the difference on Sunday.
I definitely had belief in myself, at least on the Canadian Tour. I believed I was one of the best players on that tour. I certainly worked as hard as anyone, which helped with my confidence.
I worked on my wedge game a lot back then. I had it dialed in pretty good from 40 - 110 yards, felt like I could stiff it from anywhere in that range.
My self belief wasn’t as strong playing the Aussie Tour. I got in contention in some big tournaments with some big names around me, and didn’t handle the pressure very well back nine Sunday.
Some of the guys on the Canadian Tour at that time. Ken Duke was there, I beat him in a playoff for my 2001 win in Quebec. Jason Bohn was out there. Steve Alker, who is killing it on the Champions Tour now. Jimmy Walker was out there. Hank kuehne, Matt Kuchar was around briefly. I’m sure there were a few others that kicked on to bigger tours that I’ve missed.
Were you doing several wedges? Gap wedge? or a third wedge? I know that became a craze after I was done playing. As the ball started going farther, more wedges and the hybrids took out most of the long irons.
Did you go down that path with hybrids etc and extra wedges?
I added a 3rd wedge as soon as I could get my hands on one.
It was 60 degrees, I couldn’t hit it very far, but that wasn’t the point of it.
My current make up is Driver, 3-wood, hybrid 2 iron thing, 3 iron - pw (48 degrees), 52 degree wedge & 58 degree wedge.
I found 3 wedges helpful for me. I liked to swing a little fuller on shorter pitch shots, so the 60 degree helped in that regard. I used the clock system for pitching, left arm was the big hand on the clock. With each wedge, swing to 7:30, accelerate through, swing to 9, full swing. That gave me 9 different yardages, then you can add a little of take off a little as the yardage and shot required. I got pretty good with this system.
I tried some hybrids, but I could never work the ball with them. I hit a little draw all the time, could never fade them very well. I did like the fact they could get through the rough way easier than a long iron, so I added a 2 hybrid and dropped the 2 iron.
I can’t believe it was 1993 when you stopped touring! I remember you did come up for an event or 2 in BC after that. I remember your gf at the time being weirded out by the golf culture, lol.
Managed to get to the range for the 2nd time in a week, wonders will never cease!
I worked on drills most of the time, including the ‘Orbit Pull’. I filmed my swing right before I left, hitting a 7 iron. I used my iPhone balanced on my bag, so quality is probably off a bit.
Here’s the link to the video of my swing
I also took some still frames from the vid to look a little closer at positions.
First thing that jumps out to me is my stance is too narrow. Because of this I lack spine tilt.
I could also work on the drill to increase my turn.
I look a little flippy through the ball, could be iPhone shutter issue, could be me.
Probably need to hinge more on my backswing.
All in all, it was a good session. My ball flight has come down a little. I’m flushing a lot of shots, best ones are when I feel my left forearm rotate through the ball hard.
One thing I noted while doing the Orbit Pull drill is, for me, I must be sure to maintain my posture through the hit and beyond to do it right.
I can only get better from here
Still looks pretty good…
I agree, a bit of a wider stance would help you transfer weight more through the strike.
How much do you move ball position around for various shots?
A wider stance will also help my spine tilt a little more, I’m too straight up and down imo.
I don’t move the ball position much with my irons unless I’m trying to do something different with the ball. I move it a little further forward with the woods.
I was always a good wind player, I grew up on a links course in NZ, Paraparaumu Beach GC. I don’t put the ball way back in my stance to hit into the wind. I take a few extra clubs, stand a little taller, get much closer to the ball, and basically hit the shot like a big chip or punch. The result is a low fade that lands soft. Super handy around the sandbelt courses when the wind got up.
To hit high I put the ball a little further forward and open the face a fraction. I honestly never try to hit it high unless I need to go over a tree or something.
I don’t change ball position to fade or draw, I just feel those shots in my hands and body if that makes sense.
I remember seeing you in Saskatoon that year that Michael Bradley shot 59 in the pro-am. You were on the range just taking divots with full swings and watching the flight even though you didn’t hit a ball. Were you working on shot making when you did that?
I kinda chuckled and thought that guy’s kinda weird, I like him, lol.