As I embark on one of the coolest golf assignments ever -- a week of golf on the Monterey Peninsula in California, including a preview of this year's U.S. Open course tomorrow -- I come a little bit better prepared with some advice from someone who knows a thing or two about Pebble Beach Golf Links.
In fact, this someone pulled off one of the most famous shots in U.S. Open history, a chip-in from the rough on the par-3 17th at Pebble to overtake clubhouse leader Jack Nicklaus to capture the title. Now, after all these years, Tom Watson shares his thoughts and technique on a shot that he proclaimed he would hole before he hit it (although Watson was never short on bold predictions in meaningful situations) and all the other stuff that makes an eight-time major championship winner.
The recently released "Lessons of a Lifetime" is better than the average bear golf instructional video. This slickly produced two-DVD set features, of course, the highlights of the last two holes of the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble, lots of great slow motion photography, and Watson's down-to-earth, less-than-technical sort of instruction that most anybody can understand.
With that said, I don't believe this a DVD set for the beginning player. While Watson goes over all the fundamentals in the first part of disc 1, in order to take advantage of his wisdom, especially in the short game, a good foundation in the game would be extremely helpful. In other words, trying to piece three hours of technique without some outside guidance would be extremely challenging, but that's true in any instructional video.
The instruction covers everything from grip to high lobs to putting and chipping.
The video was shot at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, where Watson is the pro emeritus. As a five-time British Open winner (almost six-time with last year's near-miss at Turnberry), Watson was especially adept at playing in the wind, and he shares his technique on that as well, which by itself is almost worth the $49.95 price tag.
Throughout, Watson relates tips he received from his dad and legends like Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Lee Trevino. It's all pretty good old school stuff that still holds true today.
"I was fortunate to have received excellent instruction early in my life," says Watson, a Kansas City, Missouri native who shows no signs of slowing down. "When I was 6 years old, my father, Ray Watson, cut down a hickory-shafted 5-iron, then proceeded to teach me the grip, and how to hook and slice the ball-all the basic fundamentals of the game. It's all this knowledge I've accumulated that I'd like to share with golfers in 'Lessons of a Lifetime.' "
Watson even shares the "secret" to his longevity, which has something to do with reinventing his swing from the classic reverse "C" finish to a more level, less taxing straight-up-down finish he has used for the past 16 years.
The set finishes with a moving tribute to Watson's longtime caddie Bruce Edwards, who passed away in 2004 from Lou Gehrig's disease. The tribute concludes with a song composed by Watson's stepdaughter, Kelly Paige. A portion of the sales of "Lessons of a Lifetime" will go to help find a cure for this dreaded, life-ending disease.
"Lessons of a Lifetime" is available at major sporting goods and golf retailers around the country, and it can also be purchased at tomwatsondvd.com or by calling 1 (800) 993-5589.
Now if I can only remember Watson's chipping advice tomorrow when I miss the green on 17.