BOB TOSKI – Hall of Fame Teacher
Bob Wyatt: That student you had earlier today, the tour player…it was amazing to me, as good as that kid was, how many things on his own swing he wasn’t clear on.
Bob Toski: The main thing is to eliminate all of the garbage and to put in something new and worth using. I don’t think you can standardize teaching because I think we all have a different way of trying to build or teach a golf swing. We’re all architects and builders, and how we architecturally see a swing, some guys teach a swing to be flatter, others guys may want it more upright. One may want a higher plane, one may want a lower plane; one may teach a shorter plane, one may teach a longer plane. But whatever you teach him, you have to find a way to get that player to strike the ball consistently so he can play golf with a lower score.
BW: I guess the only thing that would be standardized, if you could call it so, are the generic fundamentals of hitting a ball with a stick, like the grip itself, ball position, posture and alignment, things like this. I’ve seen teachers who come through our course who fall into the trap of trying to teach everyone to swing the way they do.
BT: I think that’s our tendency because we trust what we do so we think that they might trust it, so we’re going to teach them to do what we do. But you have to teach the fundamentals. You have to teach how to aim the club, show them how it travels around the body, and how it goes from a straight line to a circle back to a straight line. The club travels from a straight line inward back to a straight line again, which is inside-to-inside, which is really the perfect swing if you want to hit the ball straight. If you want to swing the club inside-out, the ball will have a tendency to start to the right and turn left. If you swing the club outside-in, the club will strike the ball in the opposite way. You have an option to play golf three ways: curve the ball right to left, left to right, or try to hit it straight. I like to do all three. And I like to feel I have the hand and eye coordination and the understanding of the swing to have that face control to do that. If I do that, I’m a three-dimensional player as opposed to a one-dimensional player.
BW: I’ve always noticed that you give people serious advice, but then right on the heels of the serious advice might come some totally off-the-wall joke, keeping it light and fun.
BT: I can become Socratic, but I like to entertain while I educate. I have to get loose, because sometimes I can get very intense and demanding to a point, so then I’ll back off and try to loosen the context
of my material up so that people will realize I’m not too intense and that it’s not a life and death matter. In talking about the advice to people, there’s no substitute for the trained eye and the experienced mind. I don’t care what video you use, or how much you write down on paper or what they read, there’s no substitute for one-on-one instruction. You’ve got to put hands on. You’ve got to touch their body, you’ve got to help them feel their grip pressure or to move their hip joints to show them how to turn and shift. If you don’t have to put hands on, then they’re pretty good.
BW: Do you think your teaching over the last 50 years has hurt or enhanced your playing?
BT: Oh, it’s a help. Every time I give a lesson I take a lesson.
BW: The old saying is if you teach you can’t play. I guess if you don’t balance the two out, if you always teach and never play, it might have some effect on your game.
BT: If you understand that when you’re teaching someone and you found a way to help them hit the ball straight, wouldn’t that help you think how you might hit the ball straight?
BW: You said to that kid today that you learned something. It made him feel like a million bucks.
BT: Once I changed his posture a little bit and it influenced his swing, it made a big impression on him and his swing and I realized it made an impression on me. You never stop learning.
BW: If you had it to do over, would you do anything differently?
BT: I don’t know how I could do it differently. How could I be more successful than I was, going through a magazine and taking golf all over the world through a school system which was being promoted by that magazine, which exposed me to the world and become successful as a teacher through Golf Digest the school system? What that did, really, was I felt I brought golf to the people instead of the people coming to me. I became, you might say, a golf evangelist. I’m selling golf. When I went to Japan after we fought these people in World War II, when I saw the passion they had for golf and how they really appreciated a sensei and how they revered me because of my knowledge and enthusiasm and dedication, and I was small like them, it endeared me to them. I became very emotional in many of my schools when I realized that they were good people, that there was another side of the Japanese people that wasn’t barbaric. Golf made them like me, and I have a very fond respect for the Japanese.
BW: The golf school allowed you to see so many different things in so many different countries.
BT: I saw the beauty and the goodness of people through golf. Whether it was in Europe, Asia, or South America, golf became a game where people looked at each other like friends instead of enemies.
BW: I’ve got a feeling you’re going to teach from here until doomsday.
BT: Well, whenever my doomsday is (laughing). I’m going to teach as long as I’m healthy enough and sane enough and enthusiastic enough about producing good golf swings and producing good results, and that’s when I enjoy teaching. Teaching is an art; playing is a skill. I was a skillful player and became an artful teacher. Those two things have helped me feel like I’ve been a success in the game of golf, and to share that knowledge with all types of players, I’m giving back what God has given me with a talent to play the game and then I took that knowledge and tried to convey that message to other players so that they can play the game of golf and enjoy it.