The Way of an Eagle

by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
Robert Darden




Wally Armstrong

Wally Armstrong exploded onto the PGA Tour in 1973, finishing just three strokes behind Gary Player in his first Masters, and ultimately finishing with a rookie record 280. Over the next eleven years, he played and led in a number of tournaments, finished among the top 80 in earnings six years running, and eventually earned a Lifetime Membership to the Tour.

But it was after Armstrong retired that he became a household mane-and face. He parlayed a gift for teaching and gab into a successful second career as golf teacher and swing master. Armstrong's famed infomercial with Pat Summerall and Kenny Rogers, twenty-odd golf videos (with more than 500,000 units sold), imaginative use of teaching props, and a host of clinics, seminars, and magazine articles have made him instantly recognized even outside the golfing community.

And in the course of all of that frenzied activity, Armstrong has become an active, dynamic ambassador for his faith, with a ministry that reaches far beyond the United States.

"During my senior year at the University of Florida, I was captain of the golf team and involved in all kinds of activities, including student government, fraternity activities, the letterman's club, and the athletic council. That didn't leave me much free time, but there was one more club I wanted to attend-a club for Christian athletes on campus. I was interested in what they were doing and thought it could help me. That year, I attended a couple of their meetings, and they asked me if I would become an officer. That was fine with me-until I learned that they had appointed me chaplain!

Thank goodness, at the next meeting we had a special speaker. His name was Ander Crenshaw, and he talked about a person named Jesus Christ and how he had an exciting relationship with Him. He said that as he got to know Jesus and talked with Him, a supernatural power began to act within him.

I had never heard of such a thing before. My only thoughts about God were that He would judge me after I lived my life. I hoped He would grade me on the curve. Like making the cut in a golf tournament where only the top half of the field continues to play after the first 36 holes, I thought if I did more god things than bad, I'd make the cut with God.

But Ander said that was no true. The only way God would accept a person is if he or she accepted His Son, Jesus Christ.

As Ander continued to share, I learned something about Jesus I had never before understood. Jesus came so that we might have eternal life. The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Jesus also came to provide a way to know God on a personal level and experience a life with real meaning. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

Jesus also claimed to be God. He said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Numerous times men tried to stone Him to death because He claimed to be God. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). This clearly showed me that there is only one way to come to God.

From Ander's talk I learned that Christianity is not a "religion," like we think of other religions. It is a close friendship with Jesus Christ, who is God.

And Jesus is not like any other famous person of history. Napoleon was a great person, but he is dead. Buddha was a famous religious leader, but he, too, is dead. Jesus Christ is God, and He is alive today.

As Ander closed his talk, he told us a statement Christ made:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev. 3:20)

I realized I had never invited Christ into my life, and I did so a few days later by talking to God through prayer and asking Christ to come into my life to be my Savior and Lord.

Jesus began to live in my life and supply me with the understanding and power to live the kind of life I knew I should live.

My goals and motivation in life are different now that God is a part of my life. Golf used to be my god. I lived to shoot good rounds, to win tournaments, to make the pro tour. When I asked Christ to take over my life, I realized that had to include my golf too.

Now before every round of golf, I commit it to God, then go out and compete as hard as I can. I know God wants me to be a winner. He wants me to give 100 percent of everything I have-in my practice, in using my mind, and in playing the best I know how-and then thank Him for the results, whatever they are. That takes a lot of pressure off because if you do that, you are winner in God's eyes, no matter what happens.

On the golf course, I guess my most memorable time came in my rookie season when I finished with the rookie record at the Masters. I birdied the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth holes that last day to finish at eight under par and with a 280 total for the tournament. That was an amazing stretch I'll never forget.

The other memorable moment, at least to a lot of people because it is in one of my videos, occurred at the 1978 Western Open. I hit a long shot and my ball rolled down a hill in the rough. I thought I was a goner, but when I got there, the ball was resting on an ice cube-which kept it from rolling down into some very thick bushes! Needless to say, I played that lie in a hurry!

In the nearly thirty years I've been teaching the game, I have found that the most common characteristics that destroys a golfer's play on the golf course is focusing on too many things-trying to make the swing happen by compartmentalizing it.

If I could get into the minds of the average golfer, I would fins all kinds of body commands to go on: left arm straight, right elbow bent, keep the elbow in the pocket, keep the knees bent, keep the weight on the inside of the hips, turn the hips forty-five degrees, the shoulders ninety degrees-information that the body can't relate to. Very few of the touring pros are even able to relate to these terms, and they've played golf for many years, competitively and professionally.

There's a Chinese proverb that states, "Ship with many captains sails up the mountain." In golf, I would translate this to: "Golfer with many swing keys spend much time in trees with squirrels."

Too much information can destroy a golfer and immobilize his swing. The swing takes about a second and a half to make, and during that period of time a proper swing is needed-a repetitive, consistent, smooth swing, with centeredness of contact, and centrifugal force to gain the maximum clubhead speed.

So what is the one single focus that a golfer should have when he or she is out playing the game? The thousands and thousands of swing thought that I've had and the teaching that I've done through the years have led me to believe that the most effective way to play the game is to think simply about making a circle with the golf swing through the ball.

Most golfers don't have a concept of swinging the golf club in a circle. They're deceived by many things that pull them off that simple, functional, circular wing. They don't understand clearly that a golf club was designed so that the club could swing in a circle around the golfer's body or spine.

My tip to any golfer is to stand up with a golf club, with their arms outstretched and their back straight, very much life a baseball player, and swing the club around their body in a circular manner, letting the club shaft touch the tip of their left shoulder on the follow-through and the tip of their right shoulder on the backswing.

Then I have them bend from the hip sockets, stick their bottom our, bend their knees and little bit, and continue to swing the club like that, touching each should tip-all the way down to where the club is brushing the ground.

If a ball were to get in the way of this motion, which is very much life a tilted merry-go-round or the propellers of a helicopter, the clubhead would square at the bottom of the arc. And if the ball were put there at the moment of centrifugal circular motion, the ball would come off the clubhead and be sent in the very direction that the clubface was pointed at the moment of impact.

This is the essence of the golf swing.

In other words, there's no backward and forward motion or upward and downward motion. This is an excellent way to test yourself and develop a feel for the circular power that you have when you swing the golf club correctly. If a golfer creates a circular motion like what I've described, and the circle comes around, and the face is square to the target, the clubhead will run into the ball and the ball will run into the target.

That is the essence of a great golf swing.

So the key elements that are involved in swinging the club are: creating the circle, empowering the circle with a good ninety-degree wrist set and reset, supporting the circle with a good lower-body coiled and uncoil and stable legs, and setting the circle to the ground so that it can consistently strike the ball-all of which involve good posture with the back straight, the knees slightly flexed, the bottom our, a small arch in the back, and the chin up. This allows the shoulders to turn around the spine with the arms following, delivering the clubhead to the ball.

Being a circle maker is the name of the game.

It's as simple as that.

If you would like to know more about Jesus and what He can do for you, just click the button on the left side of your screen to change your life.