PLEASANTON, Calif. - It's all in the hips and the grip.
That's the secret of the golf swing Chip Beck shared with a small group of golfers at a recent clinic at The Club at Ruby Hill, a private club operated by Arcis Golf.
At age 60, Beck - one of just eight men to shoot 59 on the PGA TOUR - has retired from professional golf, but he's staying connected to the game with Arcis Golf, a course operator based in Dallas that owns facilities around the country. Beck is scheduled to visit a number of these clubs, sharing stories of his days playing against Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Curtis Strange, Seve Ballesteros and others of that pre-Tiger Woods generation.
“Chip Beck is amazing how he invests himself into every minute he spends with the members and guests,” says Chris Crocker, vice president of marketing for Arcis Golf, the second-largest golf course owner-operator in the country. “He is completely engaged. He makes every person on the course feel like they are the only ones there.”
Beck's story is one that should resonate with everyday golfers. After missing 46 consecutive cuts from 1997 to 1998, he says the driver yips nearly forced him to give up the game. He started selling insurance until he turned 50 in 2006. Changing to a stronger grip revitalized his career for a solid run on the Champions Tour.
"The grip style dictates everything," he said to the crowd on the range. "If you can let go of the club with all the fingers, that's a proper grip. ... If I had known this (then), I would have won a U.S. Open. I came close."
Beck's resume falls short of the World Golf Hall of Fame, but he's still got plenty of name recognition decades after his heyday - four victories and 20 runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR (including a tie for second at the 1986 U.S. Open and a solo second at The Masters in 1993), 40 straight weeks in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings between 1988 and 1989, a three-time Ryder Cup participant and winner of the Vardon Trophy in 1988, given to the player with the season's low scoring average.
Beck used a TOUR-record 13 birdies to reach 59 in the third round of the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational at the Sunrise Country Club, now the Stallion Mountain Golf Club in Las Vegas. When asked what was he thinking during that final putt, a three-footer on the 18th hole, Beck said: "Just give it a chance." The clubs he used are now part of a collection of golf memorabilia on display at Cinnabar Hills Golf Club in south San Jose.
"A lot of good things happened because of that one round," he said.
Out on the course at the par-3 17th hole, Beck gave a simple swing tip about engaging the hips to Mikal Mekki, a golfer who hadn't played a round in five years. Mekki promptly hit his tee shot onto the green, setting off the celebration in the video below. Beck hopes to grow the game with his clinics. With one swing, it worked ... Mekki plans to play more often.