One of golf’s most respected instructors, Jim McLean can do it all.
This former collegiate All-American has written books, produced DVDs, and appeared on television—all to help people play better golf. We caught up with Jim just before the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black to talk about latest new projects, his deep connections with the Met PGA section, his pro clients, and more.
GM: You just launched a website, www.TheGolfersNation.com, that is aimed at golfers who are serious about improving their game. Tell us what visitors can expect from the site.
JM: TheGolfersNation.com is basically an internet golf channel. The goal here is to give more serious instruction more frequently. One of the things I do on the site is analyze the swing of a different PGA Tour player every week. For instance, we used Sergio Garcia’s swing just recently. I’ve been doing video analysis for nearly 30 years, and I think people would be pretty surprised with the things we do with the Tour players.
GM: Do you feel that a website can be as beneficial to golfers as your books or DVDs?
JM: A lot of the shows I have on the site are pretty in-depth. It’s just like a half-hour television show, and in that time you can get a lot of ideas across. But the nice thing is that you can replay it, and we don’t have to rush through what we are doing or just show people quick tips. This website is going to be very helpful to a lot of people who are trying to get a comprehensive look at the golf swing. It’s a lot different than anything else I’ve seen on the internet.
GM: Let’s talk about your book. The third edition of The Eight-Step Swing just came out. What does this book teach golfers that makes it stand the test of time?
JM: The Eight-Step Swing is a way to analyze a golf swing in steps, or sections. The book uses parameters, what I call “safety zones,” which means it’s not a method of swinging the club. Methods teach everyone the same swing, and that’s not what this does. This time around, I updated the book to incorporate on the latest research we’ve done with biomechanics. We’ve videotaped a lot of tournaments on the PGA Tour, and we’ve found that no two swings are the same, so you can’t just teach one swing to everybody. The backswing is covered in the first four steps, then the next four steps focus on the downswing. And one of the highlights of the book is where I list the true fundamentals for hitting the ball well. It’s pretty surprising to many people, because it’s not the usual “grip, stance, posture” stuff that you see in most other places. There are more than over 20 things that you can work on, most of which people don’t usually think about.
GM: We know that you have quite a history in New York and the Met PGA section. You taught George Zahringer, one of the area’s most prolific amateur golfers, and you were the director of golf at a few outstanding area courses, including Quaker Ridge and Sleepy Hollow. So give us your take on the overall New York golf scene, and how you compare it to the rest to that of the rest of the country.
JM: The Met section is far and away the best section for PGA professionals and golf clubs. In fact, I don’t think that any other one is close to it. I’ve taught quite a few players from the section, many of which had great success locally and on a bigger stage too. So I’ve been heavily involved in the Met section for a long time with instruction, at Westchester and Sunningdale in addition to Quaker Ridge and Sleepy Hollow. And I’ve played a ton of golf out on Long Island.
GM: Any favorite courses out here?
JM: I love almost all of the courses out in the Hamptons. I think that Friar’s Head is great, and Shinnecock might be my favorite course in the whole country. To the west, I love Deepdale and Garden City Golf Club, and Inwood is another wonderful one. I’ve also played quite a bit at Fresh Meadow. There are just so many great courses on Long Island—you could probably name 50 of them that
GM: Let’s talk about your DVDs. Your most recent set is called The Building Block Approach to Golf. Tell us about it.
JM: First, it’s so interesting that streaming video on the internet allows people to download our DVDs online. We’re actually giving away our introductory DVD for free, or people can download it for free, just so they can see what the DVDs are about and what the entire eight-DVD set entails. In short, I take a section of the swing, and I cover it comprehensively over each 30-35 minute DVD. Instead of doing one DVD and trying to get everything in, I felt that this allowed me to really go in-depth with the swing and take my time. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
GM: You’re an instructor who also has plenty of experience playing at a high level. You were an All-American golfer at the University of Houston, you’ve played in most of the big USGA events, and you made the cut at the Masters. Do you think it helps for you to call upon that playing experience while you’re teaching pro players?
JM: There’s no question about it. One of the best things for me, since I’ve played a lot, is that I can go out and play with the players. I’ve played in tournaments that they’ve been in, so it gives me a little bit more credibility because I know what it’s like, for instance, to tee off at a major championship. Because of that, I think the guys have a little bit more confidence in my ability to teach. And playing in the Met section was always great competition. I almost won the Met PGA one year; I finished second. So it certainly helps to have experienced the same competitive environment first hand that my players face every week.
GM: You have golf schools in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Michigan. You also have one in Spain. Are there any plans to expand your golf school to more international locations, or perhaps to more places in the northern U.S.?
JM: We’ve just opened one in Cancun, Mexico. The only PGA Tour event in Mexico is the Mayakoba Classic, so
we’ve opened it right there. I’m also
going to open one in downtown Miami
at the Marriott Marquis, which is supposed to be the nicest hotel in Miami, right on the beach.
GM: How hands-on are you able to be at your schools, especially with having more than half-a-dozen schools? Obviously the instructors there know your teaching style and everything from your books and DVDs, but what kind of active role do you play in the schools?
JM: That’s really a good question. I’ve been at Doral for over 20 years, and for a while I really resisted any expansion. I started having more and more teachers work for me, and once we got to a pretty big number at Doral, an opportunity opened up in California. At that point I could send out some guys who I’d worked with and trained, and who I had confidence in. This past year at Doral, I had 23 PGA professionals and 10 assistants; that allows me to handle more of the meetings and training. And if another teaching opportunity presents itself, I can send out somebody who has been with me a long time, not just somebody that has read my book. But I stop at each of the schools and make sure everything is running smoothly. The most important thing is having people I can trust to handle the day-to-day operations at each of them.
GM: How does it work when it comes to getting new clients on the PGA or LPGA Tour? Do you approach them, or do they come to you? How does that relationship begin to form?
JM: Another good question. I think a number of teaching pros hang out at the events, maybe in the hopes of talking to someone in need of a coach, or helping someone out and having that be the beginning of a relationship. I’ve never done that. I don’t really go to a guy and ask him if he’d like me to teach him. They’ve always come to me. There’s been a long list of guys that have come to my schools and we’ve really worked hard and become friends—guys like Hal Sutton, Peter Jacobsen, Brad Faxon, and
GM: Jim, thanks for your time, and good luck with the website and the new school.
JM: Thanks for having me, and take care.