View Rich's swing in full-motion: Target-line
Rich Beem called me in late 1996, looking for a job as an assistant pro at El Paso Country Club. Our fathers had played college golf against each other in the early 1960s, so I gave him a chance. During the time Rich worked for me, he went from having no interest in competitive golf to being one of the best money players I've ever been around. He also transformed himself into an athlete with the help of strength coach Bob MacDonald. A group of members sponsored Rich in 1998. He made it through Q school, then won the Kemper Open in 1999. Rich was well on his way.
Our goal was to make his swing stronger and more consistent, without sacrificing that feel. Rich's hard work speaks for itself. He won The International in July, then held off Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship in August. The photos in this article show why Rich's swing works so well.
The beauty of Rich's swing is the ability to hit the ball with almost no sidespin. He can hit the ball as hard as he can and not have to worry about drawing or fading it out of play. On Sunday afternoon at the PGA, other players had to work the ball around the course to stay out of trouble. Rich hit driver and fired at flags because he knew he wasn't going to be more than a few feet off line.
The first big change we made in 2000 was to his posture. Rich used to set up with his feet too close together, his weight toward his heels, hips tucked under and his shoulders rounded. I had him set up to the ball while standing on a bag rack to force him to develop a more balanced, athletic position. It's easy to do that for a few minutes, but very hard to maintain over four hours of high-pressure golf. Bob MacDonald's training program helped Rich stay strong, and Rich's caddie, Billy Heim, does a great job helping Rich set up correctly every time.
Rich used to let his arms continue swinging after his torso had finished its backswing rotation, which caused his upper body to have to wait on the downswing for his arms to catch up. Rich had to have perfect timing to hit the ball hard. We shortened Rich's swing and got his arms moving in sync with his body. They finish the backswing together, which lets him fire through the ball as fast as he likes. One of the key moves in this synchronization is letting his weight "fall" onto his left hip just as he finishes his backswing. This helps Rich turn back and through without sliding -- a big speed generator.
To handle that new speed, we also strengthened his grip to make it easier for him to square the clubface at impact. He doesn't have to flip his hands to save the shot. The face stays square to his forearms throughout the swing.
Cameron Doan is head professional at Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas. He was ranked 19th in Texas in Golf Digest's 2000 Best Teachers in Your State listings and was the 1997 Sun Country Teacher of the Year.