Growing up in Wenatchee, WA (Central Washington) my dad had a passion for the game of golf. He would play on the weekends and I would caddy for him. I was drawn to the beautiful environment in which the sport was played and the difficulty of it — the elusiveness of that one great shot or one great round. From a young age I had a passion to play college golf and turn professional. I also played a variety of other sports. It was always odd to me that the more I practiced and harder I tried in other sports, the better I got but this didn’t seem to be the case in golf. I also participated in martial arts and since the age of 13, had a dream of creating a martial art type of golf learning and training center. I couldn’t be more humbled and thankful that I have gotten the opportunity to bring this dream forward with the introduction of Tathata Golf in the fall of 2015.
MATT WARD: Over the last 20-25 years the technology in golf clubs and balls has improved dramatically — but the success in lowering overall handicaps has floundered — showing only minimal improvement. Why is that the case?
BRYAN HEPLER: One that can’t be ignored is the type of golf instruction that has been given over that period of time. The responsibility of teaching, sharing and growing the game falls directly on the shoulders of golf teaching professionals. We as a group can see this as a sign that we have, with no ill intent, let the golfing consumer down over the past 20-25 years. With an aging demographic and major barriers to learning the game — such as cost, time, difficulty of learning — the industry could benefit from a shift in the current instruction model to spark the growth of the game and avoid missing out on entire upcoming generations of golfers.
MW: What role specifically should the PGA of America play in regards to teaching?
BH: The PGA is one of the most powerful brands in the industry with the potential to influence an incredibly large amount of people in the game of golf. As participation in contact sports begins to loss favor because of rising health concerns, the PGA and the entire golf industry finds itself on the cusp of an incredible opportunity. If current golfers and newcomers could hit the ball higher, further and more solid, over a shorter period of time with more ease, it is exciting to think how popular this fun game can become in the years ahead. From what has been observed from the struggle to lower handicaps over the last 20-25 years, it’s possible the game could benefit from a shift in the instruction that is delivered. What a platform the PGA has to become a catalyst for this if they choose. I’m smiling thinking of all of the men and women in the PGA wanting right now to come together as one authentic voice in instruction.
MW: Given the lack of overall handicaps dropping — is it fair to say so much of what is being taught is utter rubbish and totally confusing for those wishing to learn something of value?
BH: With modern technologies providing access to more information than ever, it can be easy for golfers to run into conflicting tips and varying quality of instruction that can quickly become confusing. It is somewhat uncommon in an industry for the brightest minds to vary so much on the truths they hold. As a student, if you visit the top 100 instructors today, you are going to get 100 different golf lessons and told 100 different things about your golf swing and the path to improvement. Could you imagine if this was the case in the medical, law or other industries? As professionals, we have come to accept this and although it has benefited a number of different instructors and philosophies over the years, the person that has suffered at the end of the day is the golfing consumer.
MW: How should students go about shopping on the instruction side?
BH: Shopping for golf instruction is one of the many challenges current facing the golfing consumer. Although some services and networks have started up, by and large there isn’t one place for golfers to go to shop for and learn about different golf instructors and what they offer. Besides word of mouth, there is little a golfer can do to find out about the experience other students have had with certain teachers.
At Tathata Golf, we offer students to a way to search for and find certified Tathata Golf instructors in their area and also provide them with the exact details of the different training experiences they offer. Not only can students select a “Tathata Golf Certified Movement Specialist” based on location, pictures, a brief bio and other information, but they are able to read reviews of other student’s experience with our movement specialists and offer their reviews as well.
MW: In a nutshell — what is the core philosophy of Tathata Golf?
BH: Tathata Golf was established for the well-being of all individuals and organizations in the game of golf — both for players today and new ones in the future. We are here for the betterment of the game and to help spark the growth of the entire industry through better golf. Tathata Golf introduces mind, body and swing learning and training principles/practices completely new to the sport. Based on the movements of the greatest golfers and athletes of all-time — combined with movement and striking truths from the martial art world, Tathata Golf’s new, in-home movement training allows golfers of all ages, body types and ability levels to learn and improve at a pace never before seen in the game.
MW: When a student enters the program — what do you attempt to provide for first in the learning process?
BH: In the 2,500-year-old practices of any martial art, students move through a structured path of learning and training designed to empower them for a lifetime. Tathata Golf takes a similar approach and breaks down one of the games most complete and extensive curriculums ever introduced into six strategically built chapters of learning. With the help of the Tathata Golf 60-Day Program, and in the comfort of their own home, students begin by learning how the body moves; one of the most commonly overlooked and under appreciated influences in all golf motions.
Students notice their improvement starts to accelerate as they begin to dynamically combine body (chapter 1), and hands and arms (chapter 2) learning with the hidden truths of pressure in the early stages of chapter 3, just 20-25 days into the program. Through this, they develop an uncommon sense of speed and stability through impact few ever get to experience.
MW: Is there a difference in the way men and women learn the game from a gender perspective?
BH: When we look at other activities like kicking a soccer ball, shooting a basketball or throwing a baseball, the teaching is very similar regardless of gender. Similarly, in martial arts, there is one way to stand with absolute strength, one way to move to create an abundance of energy throughout a motion and one way to deliver a strike with maximum force, speed, accuracy and control. Although the master sensei takes the time to meet every student where they are at, the path of learning students move through is very similar regardless of age, sex, body type or ability level. This is what Tathata Golf brings to the sport of golf and all who are looking to learn and excel at the game in a very short amount of time.
MW: Tathata emphasizes the intersection of mind, body and swing. It seems so much of modern teaching only focuses on the final element. Why is that?
BH: During my 30 years of research and training, it wasn’t until I walked into a dojo center and watched martial art movements being taught did I realize the powerful potential of combining the mind, body and swing training in the game of golf. I saw young men and women wielding bamboo-fighting rods through golf like movements with a speed, grace and power I had seen by very few ever moving a golf club. The students seemed to know exactly how to move through every part of their motions and, more importantly, knew in their hearts that they knew exactly how to move. When students are this “trained” the mental side of the teachings is completely transformed. The constant battle to overcome doubt, fear, worry and anxiety simply fades away as they have simply trained past them. Students then awaken to an entirely new sense of energy out in front and move their mind, body and swing as one as they begin experiencing their authentic greatness.
MW: You highlight on your Website the importance of collaboration in the learning process. Can you share the names of the most important influencers you have gained the most in your own personal development in teaching golf?
BH: From a young age I was taught, “to be the best, learn from the best.” This fueled 30 years of research working with some of the greatest golf instructors and martial art masters in the world and getting the chance to immerse myself in their training practices from a golfer’s perspective. I saw many commonalities across the different disciplines and other places of direct contradiction. Combining these training practices and principles and testing them for over 5 years on a variety of different golfers culminated with bringing Tathata Golf forward and what you see today. You can see the full list of names on TathataGolf.com of so many who have opened their hearts and graciously shared their time, energy and wisdom with me, all contributing to the development of Tathata Golf.
MW: Golf is experiencing a major shortfall of players and course closing have routinely outpaced openings for several years now. What is crucial in turning around this trend on the participation side of things?
BH: Beyond the impediments I addressed earlier I believe it would really help the game if golf movements were taught in elementary school physical education classes. I believe if high quality golf training can be accessible to the masses then anyone can learn to truly excel at the game in just 3-4 months — rather than 3-4 years — while training in their home without the need for expensive equipment, the industry has a chance to realize unprecedented growth.
Golf is fun — it will always be thrill to experience the sensation of a solidly struck shot flying high and far through the air while enjoying the company of friends in an idyllic environment. People stil
l have enthusiasm for this beautiful game. We just have to empower them to be able to enjoy it and its unparalleled rewards.