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The Inside Track To Your Golf Game Improvement.
04 August, 2017 by Bobby Clampett

The Bernhard Langer I Know

I got up at 5 a.m. last Sunday, tuning into Golf Channel’s live internet feed from Wales, eager to watch Bernhard Langer win the Senior British Open for the third time. He didn’t disappoint. I’m blessed to call Bernhard one of my best friends.  Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time together, both on and off the course.  We share a love for the mountains and we are both avid skiers. Our families have had many winter ski trips together. We’ve also played a lot of practice rounds together, even though both of us otherwise prefer to play practice rounds alone.

We first met in 1980 when John Cook and I traveled to France to play in the Cacherel World Under-25 Championship, a tournament in which Bernhard had a breakthrough win the year before. Winning by 15 strokes was noteworthy enough, but more important was that it meant Bernhard had overcome his first case of the putting yips.

When we were paired together in the first two rounds in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, his yips were returning. Bernhard missed the cut, I finished third (behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus). It was there that people noticed we looked alike. We both had long, curly, dirty blond hair and a similar build. Bernhard still laughs how often people would approach him and ask, “Hey Bobby, can I have your autograph!” It didn’t take long before the reverse became much more common.

Bernhard Langer, Bobby Clampett
Courtesy of Bobby Clampett

That summer of ’82, Bernhard failed to qualify for the British Open at Troon, and loaned me his caddie, Peter Coleman. We proved to be a good combination, as I went on to set the then 36-hole Open scoring record with a 67 and 66 that gave me a five-stroke lead. Unfortunately, I struggled on the weekend and finished four strokes behind Tom Watson.

In April 1985, Bernhard and I had made a date to play a practice round together on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Hilton Head, which is the week after the Masters. I had not qualified for the Masters that year, and when Bernhard won, I wasn’t sure he would remember. But true to Bernhard, he showed up at 9:55 a.m., a big entourage following the first No. 1 player on the Sony Rankings, which would become the Official World Golf Rankings. Several tour players asked to play with us, but we politely told them our group was full. We both liked it that way because then we could get some good work done. There would be more time to hit extra shots, especially around the green.

Not only have discipline and perseverance played a very important role in Bernhard’s success as a golfer, his faith has given Bernhard a grounding and steadiness that explains the deepest “why” for what he does for a living and who he is as a person.  I’ve never seen Bernhard upset or angry. I’ve never seen him throw a club. I’ve never seen him treat a human being unkindly. I’ve never even seen him raise his voice at his children. He lives his life in a very consistent fashion, full of routine, discipline and a focus on healthy things. He gets his eight hours of sleep every night, he works out everyday, he drinks his vitamin smoothie every morning and reads his daily devotional.  No wonder his golf game is so consistent. It is a mirror of his life.

When I think of Bernhard, the word “humility” always comes to mind. He fully appreciates everything good that ever happens to him. I believe that the fear of being poor again has served Bernhard well and explains partially why he works so hard at his golf.  He’s always thinking about ways to get better. It also explains why he never quits. I’ve never seen Bernhard not give a shot 100 percent, no matter what. He could be missing the cut, in the middle of a bad slump, and he’s still giving every shot his all.

Looking at Bernhard’s success, my opinion is that his character has been the leading contributor. How this carries over to his golf game gives us five key principles that we can all benefit from to improve our own games:

1. Analyze your game
Bernhard isolates the variables of his game and studies each one. He knows well his strengths and weaknesses, and practices his weaknesses the most. Over the last two years, he had to figure out how to adapt to the “no anchoring” policy set by the USGA and R&A. He made an inordinate effort trying at least a dozen different styles of putting before settling on the one he uses now, the closest to his putting form before the anchor ban. No one makes a higher percentage of six-foot putts in the game currently than Bernhard. Perhaps that missed six-footer at the 1991 Ryder Cup has motivated him to never let that happen again!

2. Analyze the course
Bernhard, along with his caddie, Terry Holt, out-prepare other players when it comes to charting the course and detailing the greens. They both work separately with their notes, then come together when playing the course. In 2013, I encouraged Bernhard to play the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, a tournament he hadn’t played since his rookie year on the PGA Tour Champions. Bernhard knew I was knowledgeable about the course, so we played a practice round together. After the round, we headed back to my house where Bernhard sat at the dining room table with his yardage book and mine. My wife and I had to leave for a dinner, so we left Bernhard by himself, working at the dining table. When we returned four hours later, Bernhard was still at the table. “Where do you think the grain is on the back left of the 17th green?” he asked. That was a classic Bernhard moment!

3. Match your clubs with your swing
Bernhard spends a lot of time working on his equipment, especially when it comes to the driver. Over the years, driving was a weak point in his game and explained his lack of success on the narrow fairways of the U.S. Open, PGA Championships and British Open. In addition to refining his swing after turning 50, he has found a driver configuration that allows him to work the ball both ways, and launch at just the right trajectory (12.5 degrees) and produce just the right spin rate (2300 rpm).

4. Perfect your short game
Bernhard spends a lot of time chipping around the greens and hitting bunker shots in practice rounds. He is continually working on how to best use the bounce of the wedge, creating the ideal angle of attack to increase consistency around the greens.

5. Focus on impact
Bernhard knows his swing style is a bit unusual and he doesn’t care. His focus is on his impact. He is always aware of his angle of attack, his path, his clubface and where he is hitting the ball on the face. His swing adjustments are always related to creating better impact. He exemplifies what it means to be an impact-oriented player.

Of course, the brilliance of Bernhard Langer goes beyond his greatness as a golfer. He is also one of the best humans I’ve ever known.

 

This article was published in Golf World on August 2, 2017.

Categories: Uncategorized

Comments

  1. This is a touching article about one of the great Champions of Golf. I have long admired Longer not only for his golf but his fortitude and resilience. His Captaincy of the Ryder Cup put his qualities of preparation and decency in full display. The 5 principles Bobby outlines are well to be adopted by any golfer. Thank you.

  2. Several great “life’s lessons” here. Bernard is obviously using the skills/talents and abilities given to him by God and is repaying them by living his life in a positive, humble way that is a tribute to his Maker.

  3. Thanks for sharing Bobby ….. I met him once and was a polite gentleman. I don’t think he gets the credit he is due for what he is achieving on the Senior Tour…. it”s kind of ridiculous how he is right there every and I mean every week. Every week someone is going to catch fire but it doesn’t matter to Bernhard as he will figure out a way to bet to the finish…. quite inspiring!!

    Greg Brightman

  4. I met Bernhard in the mid 80s at a charity fundraiser at Caves Valley. One of my hosts insisted on introducing me to him – and did so – however I felt as if I was imposing on his putting practice. He stopped his routine and entered into a 10-15 minute discussion touching on many topics. He could not have been more polite or engaging. It was a great thrill then and still exciting to see his amazing successful career. Thanks for a wonderful essay on a premier talent in the game of golf.

  5. Maryanne zielinski

    I was so happy to read your article on Bernard. He has always been my very favorite player. He generously gives back his knowledge with tidbits and hints on how he plays the game. This has helped me. You see, I am a former tennis player (30+years). I have twin sons who were nationally ranked players. It got to the point that I could no longer play and decided to take up golf. I have been playing nine years and am a student of the game. I can’t get enough. I am now 72 years old. I also daily read your wonderful posts on how this great game should be played. Thank you Bobby and Bernard!!!

  6. Hi Bobby-
    20+ years ago, I played in a Pro Am Tournament with you at Tampa Palms CC. Photo with you, DA Weibring and me is in my office today.
    I have had a dream for many years – to qualify for the US Senior Women’s Amateur. I just found out my club will be a qualifying site in 2018. Currently I’m a 10 hndcp but from a much shorter distance than what the qualifying course will play. Thinking maybe Impact Zone school might be helpful ??? Also planning to incorporate nutrition and fitness.

  7. What a wonderful read, very much enjoyed the insight. Nice photo of the both of you on the boat together. As a former NFL player I to have many good friends and wonderful fellowships with many brothers from as far back as my days at CAL-Berkeley…thanks for sharing!!

  8. I remember watching Bernard win the Masters and the first person he thanked was our lord and savior Jesus Christ. I have been a fan of his since. God bless him.

  9. While I question the validity of his “new” putting style, it’s nice to hear he is a man of honesty and integrity.

  10. Hey Bobby,

    What a touching and inspiring article on Bernard and the ways your lives have touched one another’s! As a friend of yours, I’ve been humbled and “improved” by knowing you. I’m thankful that you shared about Bernard’s faith and it’s clear to see that his character has been shaped by his willingness to understand and follow God’s character.

    Just as Bernard has helped you, I will always be appreciative that our paths crossed when you lived in Raleigh and that you took the time to teach me about proper impact and good course management. I’m fully convinced that no one else could have taken my game from a 7 handicap to a +3 in two years time.

    All the best,

    Todd

  11. Hi Bobby, thanks for the insight into one of the most successful golfers of all time. I agree he is a man of integrity and honesty. Unfortunately he will never get the credit for being “one of the best”. Why? The putter. His putting stroke is not a golf stroke. He is only allowed to use that training aid due to the weakness of the PGA and R@A that did not simply limit the length of any club in the bag. I, for one, can’t watch the senior tour for that reason.

  12. Bernard missed a 6-7′ putt that was the last shot on the last hole in the last round of the 1991 Kiawah Island Ryder Cup Matches, to give the US an emotional victory in an unmatched atmosphere of tension and competition.Bernard was pained yet kept his composure and was a true gentleman. The next week? He won the German Open.
    That was 26 years ago.Typical of this man’s man.

  13. Bobby
    What a fantastic article on your friendship with Bernard. His dedication to the golf is obvious with the results he has achieved over a long career. I had the privilege of being a walking scorer for his group a year ago in a Champion’s tour event. He was a true gentleman.
    I enjoy your articles –Bobby.

  14. A Great man of faith, great role model, Bernard plays golf the way golf should be played, I can’t wait to see him play in the Toshiba Classic, in Newport Beach 2018, keep up the great work, God Bless you Bernard.

  15. Great article on Bernard Langer Bobby! It is not very often you get to read the inside scoop on the great players of this great game we all play. I have always marveled at his ball striking abilities. After reading your article I have a better I understanding and respect for his accomplishments.

  16. I gave Bernard a small wooden cross at the 1991 Masters. We were together in 1999 at Links Golf Conference for golfers of faith. I put Bernard right there with Gary Player, both great examples of Godly men, husbands, and fathers. What a legacy they will leave on and off the golf course.

  17. Very nice story. Wish there was more coverage of the good things professional golfers do in their life off the course. We all can see how great they are on the course, but more on how they live their life would be nice.

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