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|Joe Beck's three-minute online golf instruction videos will air on WorldGolf.com's Tee Vision video player. (Courtesy of ON Networks)|
Golf instructor Joe Beck knows the single biggest obstacle keeping everyday golfers from getting better isn't the failure to master the driver or chip shot. It's something more fundamental: Time.
Beck, 46, his Texas drawl coming through clear over the phone, thinks a lot about time.
"Most people don't have it," he says. "Most people don't have a lot of time to take a golf magazine or an instructional video out to the practice tee."
He's come up with a solution: A range of online golf instruction videos covering every conceivable facet of the game in a straightforward, easygoing and - here's that thing about time again - quick manner.
"Golf Tips with Joe Beck," which will begin airing on WorldGolf.com's Tee Vision video player this week, are three-minute shorts meant to give golfers just the right amount of focused information to feel like they can meet whatever challenge they encounter on the golf course. Given the portability of today's online world, where PDAs and iPhones abound, this video library can be accessed anywhere.
"Now that all this technology is available, I figured you could create these short, three-minute golf lessons that people could utilize out on the putting green or golf course," says Beck, a PGA Professional. "But it's always been a basic philosophy to try to get out the information in less than three minutes, because people's time is limited. People want to use their time as wisely as possible."
Beck says the videos are aimed primarily at Weekend Warriors, and a particular emphasis is placed on shots from 125-yards and in, where 75 percent of your round of golf occurs.
The videos, replete with funky music, sleek graphics and information boxes, and Beck's catch phrase, "Now that's what I'm talkin' about," don't look like the staid offerings of the VHS era. And not every lesson is your garden variety driving range tutorial. Sure, there are spots on hitting longer drives and your hybrid off the fairway. But then there's the lesson on hitting the "Rockport stinger" - necessary to play in the west Texas winds in which Beck grew up - and another on putting with your pitching wedge.
"These videos really give you the complete golf package," Beck says. "How do you spin the ball more? How do you hit it higher? How do you hit it lower? How do you curve it left-to-right or right-to-left. All those different types of shots that you are going to need. Whatever shot you can imagine, you're going to find it on there somewhere."
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, the odds were stacked high in favor of Beck becoming a professional golfer at an early age.
Beck, like many Austin natives, knew the legacy of the late Harvey Penick, the great teacher who put Austin golf on the map and was the coach of such PGA Tour greats as Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Their involvement in Austin golf, combined with the success of the golf powerhouse University of Texas, affected many young golfers in Austin, Beck recalls.
"People understood what Mr. Penick was all about, what Mr. Kite was all about, what Mr. Crenshaw was all about," Beck says. "It was everything. All that was inspiring to the young people, and it was inspiring to me as I grew up here."
Beck didn't go to UT - he attended Texas Christian University, where he played competitively. He eventually settled in Austin, where he is now the head professional and general manager at a local golf course.
Beck is no stranger to bringing technology to bear on traditional teaching methods. A 2004 Austin American Statesman article about a special chip placed inside a driver to help analyze a golf swing quoted an enthusiastic Beck saying it would change everything. It shows Beck's been thinking about this tech stuff for some time.
Not that there isn't still room for face time with your local teaching professional. Beck says his videos are not meant to take the teaching pro out of the equation but rather complement the one-on-one time golfers might be spending with an instructor.
"The professional has to be there, on the front end of it," he says. "In the beginning, you need that other pair of eyes to help make sure you're practicing correctly. Then you take these three minute video lessons and apply that to what you already know."
Beck says videos will be updated on a weekly basis. On Tee Vision, they will work like a large library, he says, with the major golf shots broken down into finer elements. There might be 20 segments under "putting:" the lag put, how to read a green, putting from the rough.
It's all built around a simple philosophy, Beck says: An hour of practice a week. Watch three videos at a time, then spend the balance of the time practicing those shots.
"If you are serious about taking up the game, and can take one hour a week to practice and then play one round a week, it will make all the difference in the world."
Beck says that the videos are "just the beginning." Down the road, expect technology to allow golfers to record their own swings and transmit them electronically to pros, who will be able to coach in real time.
Such advancements are essential to growing the game, Beck says. "That's the biggest part of it. I hope even my part will help grow the game."
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Having boarded the luxurious MV Europa 2 in Lisbon, Clive Agran had five days of golf cruising ahead. For those unfamiliar with the concept, golf cruising is a glorious combination of golf and cruising where a sedate sail is punctuated with the occasional round of golf.
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