Again necessity is the mother of invention! Inventor, tour player, coach and entrepreneur Craig Hocknull solved a huge short-game dilemma and now he’s ready to share his journey and solutions with you!
Here is a question to ponder. How do you execute the simplest most efficient and effective short-game technique under extreme pressure and have the ability to hit every short-game shot with control and on command?
MMMM well the answer was again a combination of technique and technology! Here is Craig’s journey.
“When I played all three stages, 14 rounds of PGA Tour Q-School in 2011 I couldn’t chip or pitch to save my life! It’s a good thing I averaged 15 greens a round and when I missed the green I missed them in a place I could putt most of the time.
I had solved my putting issues between 2009 and 2011 but my chipping and pitching stunk. I played multiple tour events on 4 major world tours and garnered as much knowledge as I could from gurus and experts such as Bob Vokey, Roger Cleveland and multiple tour reps with decades of knowledge combined. As much as I searched I just couldn’t find the answers I needed.
There were simply too many factors to consider and I just surrendered to the fact that I just needed to practice more. The problem was when you are playing on Bermuda grass, then bent, then paspalum, then blue grass, then Zoysia and you play on wet turf, soft turf, firm turf, tight turf and the list goes on and on you become very overwhelmed with the variables and when your lively hood depends on saving pars and making birdies you are determined to leave no stone unturned.
In 2012 I unfortunately broke the hook of hamate bone in my left hand and then again in 2012 and 2013 before I had surgery to remove it. Consequently these injuries ultimately took me off of the tour and back to coaching. I was able to help my students through my real life tour education and I successfully helped hundreds of students from 2013 - 2016.
Then a very cool thing happened. in 2016 I qualified for the Waste Management Phoenix Open which was to be played in 2017 and I was so scared of making a fool out of myself with such a bad short-game that I went to work solving my dilemma.
How do you execute the simplest most efficient and effective short-game technique under extreme pressure and have the ability to hit every short-game shot with control and on command?
So here is what I came up with, very similar to my Saber Golf Stability Core Putter process. I said, what is the absolute simplest, no brainer, beginner technique to hit chips and pitches with ease? How do I do the least athletically taxing technique? How do I play all of the necessary short-game shots from all of the ridiculously varied turf conditions under the most pressure and do it at a world class level? BAM! That was it! If I could solve this question I would not embarrass myself at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and take my game to an even higher level!
Within 3 months I found myself ultimately about 30% of the way to my solution. I competed in my first PGA Tour event with the largest crowds of any professional golf event in the world by a long shot. How did I do in this tour event? Well I needed to hit one pitch shot over a bunker from a tight lie (very difficult with spectators in blade danger) which I hit to 15 feet. I needed to hit two flop shots from the rough, both to within 6 feet which I was very pleased with. I also needed to hit two short bunker shots which I did just fine. So after 36 holes and narrowly missing the cut I used my prototype wedge and new technique 5 times and on the other 3 times that I missed the green I putted. One of my putted “Texas Wedge” shots from 30 yards ended in a massive roar from the crowd and a birdie that I will never forget. I accomplished my short-game goal and I did not embarrass myself, this by the way was the year after Tiger did embarrass himself with chunks and chilli-dips galore on the same TPC Scottsdale course.
So obviously I wasn’t done solving my problem but my game was coming into form again post injury. In September of 2017 I shot 16 under par for three rounds at the Gallery golf club in Tucson winning our Southwest Section PGA Championship by 5 shots and again it was mostly putting but over the previous 8 months I had formulated the next 20% of my short-game solution. I hit some sick shots from around the green that week and I was excited to test them out at the PGA Professional National Championship on the Bayonet and Black Horse courses of Monterey California. If you know those courses you can attest that they are two of the countries toughest courses. You can also bet that even the best ball strikers and putters will need to have a very sharp short game. In hind site I was about 75% of the way there on my technique and about 25% there on my equipment, leaving me at about 50% problem solved compared to where I am today. Well, long story short I had some amazing short-game shots and frankly some embarrassing oopses as well, but it was good enough for me to finish 14th in the National Championship and earn a spot in the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis Missouri. Well, crap I thought in the middle of my excitement. If I don’t get this short-game figured out I’m going to really struggle on the “Green Monster of Ladue”. (Nickname for Bellerive)
I set out to figure out the weapon of choice because I felt that my technique was relatively anxiety proof and as athletically simple as I could make it.
After competing in my first Major and narrowly missing the cut I knew that I was super close to figuring this short-game dilemma out. Too many stories to tell here but I turned some heads from the likes of Tommy Fleatwood, Ian Poulter and my 36 hole playing partners, Austin Cook and Miko Korhonan.
I had a few short months to get everything dialed in including a new prototype wedge with improved features before competing again in the PGA Professional National Championship at Belfair in Blufton South Carolina. My confidence was growing at my home club, Glenwild Golf Club and Spa in Park City, Utah and I had tested my technique and tool on the following turf conditions
TURF CONDITIONS TESTED
Firm Tight Rye Grass Over Bermuda - TPC Scottsdale, AZ
Grainy Super Grabby Tight and Firm Paspalum - Natadola Bay - Fiji
Grainy AZ Summer Bermuda - The Gallery - Dove Valley, AZ
Tight Firm Bent / Poa and Wet Soft Poa due to rain - Bayonet - Monterey Bay, CA
Soft and Wet yet Grabby Bermuda / Bent / Blue Grass - Bellerive, St. Louis, MO
Super Tight Sand Belt Turf - Moonah Links, Melbourne, Australia
Firm Tight Blue Grass and Rye Grass - Glenwild Golf Club, Park City, UT