Saturday, December 27, 2008
The Secret Is In The Dirt book review
After having finally gotten thru Geoff Mangum's excellent 'Optimal Putting' e-book, I went and purchased Mike Maves' (aka Sevam1) 'The Secret Is In the Dirt' e-book. I had purchased this late at night and read the book without putting it down until 3am last night and finished it. The last time I read a book from beginning to finish without putting it down was Howard Stern's 'Private Parts' autobiography. Some will scoff at that, but I actually read books all of the time from Faulkner's 'The Wind and the Fury' to Dr. Mike Marshalls 'Coaching Baseball Pitchers' book.
But the only books that have captured my attention so well were fascinating to read. Stern's book was just hilarious and something that the reader could easily relate to. While 'The Secret in the Dirt' doesn't have those factors, it has interesting anecdotes, all with a purpose of teaching the reader, after interesting anecdote.
But what really fascinated me was how "revolutionary" the book was. Not so much for the actual information and instruction, but for the format. THIS could be...or at least SHOULD be...the future of golf instruction books.
To get an idea on the book, it's in a .pdf format, but it also has several videos included in the book with Maves planning to update the book to buyers with new videos and chapters, free of charge. So not only do you get a book that you don't have to waste paper on, don't have to drive to the bookstore or have it shipped to you, but it's also a book that contains videos that allow the author to better convey their point and these videos along with written text can be updated by the author.
Whatever one may say about Maves' theories, he cannot be denied for his innovation. Although if you read the book, watch the videos and understand his journey into finding what he calls "the secret", it's not surprising that Maves came up with such an innovative way to instruct golfers because it's obvious that he's one sharp cat.
'The Secret Is In The Dirt' is Maves' answer to critics of Ben Hogan's 'Five Lessons' book as well as further explaining the book and in Maves' mind (and in the mind of many others) decoding many of Hogan's cryptic messages.
Maves, a history major in college, decided to study Hogan as much as he could and found most of his information from Hogan's 'Five Lessons' book along with Hogan interviews with Nick Seitz in 1985 and later with George Peper in 1987. In the meantime, Maves was fortunate enough to get to play with the late and great Moe Norman in a tournament. After picking Moe's brain, he later discovered that Norman and Hogan (arguably the top 2 greatest ballstrikers ever) had a lot of things in common when it came to the golf swing and that Moe let him know that he and Hogan had the same pivot.
From there, Maves wanted to learn more about the pivot, Hogan, Moe, and their similarities and he continued to read Hogan's 'Five Lessons' book while scouring the earth for anything he could find about Hogan and how he approached the swing.
In short, Maves is a Hogan fanatic and wanted to understand the information that the greatest ballstriker ever (in Maves' opinion) was giving to the public.
While I think most people are intrigued by Hogan's great swing. What intrigues me the most was that Hogan was far from being a golfing prodigy unlike players such as Snead, Nelson, Nicklaus and Woods. In fact, Hogan was pretty much an average tour player early on in his career, struggling so much that he wound up eating nothing but oranges for a month because that was all he and his wife could afford to eat as they were on the verge of quitting the dream if he didn't make money soon.
The big problem Hogan had was the snap hook. Eventually as time went by, he learned to curb the hook, but it would still occasionally come back to haunt him, particularly on pressure shots. Eventually Hogan committed himself to eliminate the hook forever and by 1946 he did and wound up winning his first major ever (PGA Championship by 6 strokes) along with 12 other tournaments that year.
But even as Hogan eliminated his hook and won tournaments with ease, he continued to seek instructors such as Henry Cotton, Sam Byrd, Tommy Armour, Mike Austin and others to improve his already phenomenal ballstriking. More remarkably, despite being removed from a horrific accident (all of the doctors said that just surviving the accident was a miracle, walking was even more of a miracle and being able to just play golf again was out of the question), Hogan's ballstriking...according to every golfer who played with him during this time....noticeably improved from the time he had learned to eliminate the hook before the accident.
THAT is what amazes me about Hogan. There's no doubt that he had ability and he was very strong, flexibile and supple. But he wasn't Sam Snead who came onto the tour and through his natural ability was an immediate success. Through hard work and constantly seeking to learn more about the golf swing, Hogan wound up going from being an ordinary tour pro to a legendary golfer who is arguably the greatest ballstriker of all time. All in the meantime he was getting older (he was 34 years old in 1946), going through a horrific accident, and not having anywhere near the technology or information available that today's golfers have.
I think that is what intrigues Maves the most as well and is why he admires Hogan so much. It was truly a journey and an intellectual endeavor for Hogan to become a great player. Not to say that players like Snead, Nelson, Nicklaus and Woods didn't have a journey or didn't work hard to become great players, but for all intents and purposes their natural abilities were too awesome for them to be denied greatness. Hogan had to figure out the golf swing in order to become great.
And like Hogan did with finding his own golf swing, Maves presents in this book his own journey to figure out how Hogan hit the ball so well which eventually led to Maves' fabulous golf swing
Another thing about the book is Maves does an excellent job with his anecdotes. Like I said, I read a lot of books and one of my pet peeves is more often....be it a golf instruction book or a sci-fi thriller....the author likes to use anecdotes that are neither interesting, entertaining and more importantly pertinent to the book. While I found Maves' anecdotes interesting and entertaining, even if another reader does not at the very least his anecdotes are pertinent to the instruction at hand.
I'm not sure if Maves' instruction will work for me, but that's not how I judge a golf instruction book anyway. The main way I judge an instruction book is if it could be correct and using my knowledge of the golf swing, how important the instruction of the book is to a golfer's game.
"The Secret Is In the Dirt" not only could be very well correct (or at the very least, provide a swing feel that could work for countless golfers), but also attacks the lifeblood of the swing...the pivot. So yes, I give this an outstanding recommendation for all golfers. It works for the novice because it's pretty easy to read and understand as well as AT THE VERY LEAST gives the feeling of what the back pivot is like at the top of the swing. And for the more advanced golfer, it gives an idea of a possible way to make hitting a golf ball easier and more efficient.