Before introducing my good friend, Dr. Bill Kroen, please allow me a few moments to give you a little background.
Of course – he’s the author of the national bestseller – “Bill Kroen’s Golf-Tip-A-Day Calendar,” which is nearing almost 2 million copies sold. He’s also the author of “Golf: How Good Do You Want to Be?” which talks about both the mental side of the game and the basic fundamentals of the golf swing. Other notable works are: “Golf Dynamics,” “The Why Book of Golf” (National Sports Bestseller, 1993 best golf books of the year according to USA Today), “So You Think You Know Golf” (golf trivia), “Your Putter or Your Wife” (golf humor), and “Haskell McDivot’s Golf-Tip-A-Day” screensaver and planner.
Bill, who is a Ph.D. (Boston College) and licensed psychotherapist, is also the author of “Helping Children Cope With the Loss of a Loved One: A Guide for Grownups.” This book has won praise from all over the world and was awarded the prestigious Parent’s Choice Award and is a Parent’s Council selection. Bill has also published over 250 articles in major journals and newspapers in the areas of parenting, child psychology, education and golf. His works have appeared in such journals as Instructor, Teacher, Gifted Children Monthly, Parade Magazine, Golf for Women, Golf Illustrated, US Golf News, The Boston Globe, and Child Life among others.
Bill is a professional golfer who led his college team to four straight ECAC championships at Salem State College and was nominated to the school’s Hall of Fame. He joined the Marines and became an officer and platoon commander in Vietnam during 1967-68. Wounded in battle, Lt. Kroen received the Purple Heart, Navy/Marine Commendation Medal with a “V” for valor, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Combat Action Award. In all, he was awarded seven medals for his service in combat. Upon returning to Camp Pendleton, CA, Bill played on the golf team and won All Marine honors in 1969.
Bill has retired from his position as a child psychotherapist for the Cambridge Public School System in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He turned professional golfer in 1986, taught at several facilities and has played on professional tours. He is a full member of the United States Golf Teachers Federation.
And with that…. please welcome my good friend, Dr. Bill Kroen, to our blog. Bill, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us here today.
BK: “Scott, it is always a pleasure to speak with you, my friend. Thanks for inviting me.”
I guess I’ll start off by asking what exactly got you interested in teaching and writing about golf?
BK: “Like many guys, I have had a lifelong love affair with the game. I started as a caddy at age 9 at Salem Country Club in Massachusetts – site of US Women and U S Senior Opens. As I progressed in the game as well as becoming a psychologist, I felt I could put both together. I really enjoyed teaching the game and seeing people improve. They are always so grateful when you can help them enjoy the game more.”
How long have you been doing this?
BK: “I began writing articles for newspapers and magazines in the late 70’s. I wrote a column on Golf that was carried by about five newspapers – so, I guess, that was the beginning. I wrote my first golf book in 1986 and then followed it up with “The Why Book of Golf,” which became a USA Today Top-Ten best seller. I turned professional in 1987 and still keep my card today. In 1992, my first “Golf-Tip-A-Day” calendar was published.”
Wow… that’s a long time. Let’s talk about your calendar and your books, give us some behind-the-scenes on how that all started.
BK: “The calendar, which has sold close to 2 million copies, had an interesting beginning. I went to a bookstore to buy a golf calendar for another psychologist that I worked with. I asked the clerk if there was a calendar that had golf tips every day. When I was told there were none, I wrote ten tips and sent it to my publisher. They asked me to send 50 more and I did. The next thing I know, I have a contract and this is the 21st year it has been published. People write letters and ask me to sign autographs when they know who I am and it is a kick to still have so much fun with it. It’s the bestselling Golf calendar every year.”
You must have a fairly significant “Golf-Tip-A-Day” fan base after all these years of success with it, right?
BK: “Yeah, we’re closing in on 2 million copies sold. It always gives me a lot of pleasure when someone writes to me and tells me how much they like the tips. I’ve had people tell me that they carry them in their wallet, in their golf bag and have them tacked to their walls. A few years ago, Simon & Schuster, my publisher, started putting little puzzles on the back. I got some letters from people who were upset with me because they used the back as notes in the office. I am not guilty, that wasn’t my idea (chuckling). Once I was playing South Shore Country Club in Hingham, Massachusetts and was walking to my car and had a guy come up to me and say, “Wait right here!” I wasn’t sure what it was about but he opened his trunk and brought a bag over to me. In it were all of my books and calendars and he asked me to autograph them. He said he knew I lived in the area and thought he would find me one day. Little creepy but he was a nice guy.”
Let’s talk about your latest hard book, “Golf: How Good Do You Want to Be?” Before responding, I just want to tell you that I reference your book no fewer than 10-12 times each season, it is a masterpiece for golfers who are inspired to improve. The first time I read it, I came away thinking that it’s almost like you wrote it specifically for me. I’m not just saying this, but when I read your book – I was going through some struggles managing my game…. I took the week off from playing, and spent about 45 minutes each evening that week reading your perspective on things. My next round out – I shot my low round of the season. So obviously your words resonated with me.
BK: “Thanks for the kind words, Scott. When, I was writing “How Good Do You Want to Be?” I was thinking about the vast majority of golfers who want to get better but feel stymied. They try equipment, lessons and read instruction but the one missing component was the mental framework to change, how to go about making positive changes and exactly how to go about executing the plan to really make significant progress in the game. The concept of writing the book came about as I was reading that the average golfer will go through his entire life and never improve or get worse than a few shots either way of his/her handicap. I began to think of why this was so and then developed a plan where a player can break out of the comfort zone and make serious progress. I used my background as a psychologist to develop learning modes, different ways of thinking and specific ways to get better. The book got good reviews and has been well received.”
I heard a rumor that you’ve broached the digital reading market with your latest release, “The Complete Why Book of Golf.” This book is a more modernized version of one of your older books that is geared more towards interesting facts and trivia about the game of golf, correct?
BK: “Yeah, “The Complete Why Book of Golf” is a new adventure for me. My agent, Andrew Zack, started an electronic book publishing company and asked me to write a complete update of the original version “The Why Book of Golf” which was my best selling book. I worked almost a year on it and it recently was released. It can be downloaded on computers, tablets, iPads, Kindle, Nook etc. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and KOBO to name a few sites. Also, I will have an app coming out that will deliver a tip a day to your phone, iPad or computer.”
Okay, let’s switch gears here and talk about the game itself. You’re an accomplished instructor and you’ve seen your share of bad golf swings over the years on the practice tee. But I’m sure you’ve seen some pretty good swings as well. What is the biggest difference, in your opinion, between the good players and the not-so-good players in your opinion?
BK: “Good question, Scott. If I had to make one observation that separates good players from poor ones, it’s that good players have good balance and do not have excessive body movement. Often, a poor player will slide back and forth; lift up in an effort to get the ball into the air and struggle with balance throughout the swing. Good players stay over and cover the ball through impact. If you have limited time to practice, I would say to work on keeping the swing simple and stay in balance. Always try to finish like a Tour pro and you will find that this will go a long way to helping you maintain your balance. I often start my practice sessions by hitting balls with my feet together to help develop good balance.”
You’re an expert in the field of sports psychology, so this next question should be right up your alley. What are the most common mental hurdles that amateur players struggle with? For instance, a player is trying to get to the next level in his/her game, but just can’t seem to get over the hump. He/she has the skill, but for whatever reasons, be it emotionally or mentally – they just can’t break through. What would you tell players in that situation?
BK: “I feel that the mental aspect of improving is vital. The biggest hurdle to making improvement is often one thing – change. Whether making a change in our habits such as smoking, diet or with even a corporation making a systemic change – it always comes with difficulty. Our bodies and minds resist change. It’s a natural phenomenon. Sometimes golfers think that if they go to the range often and hit a lot of balls they will get better. Unless you are making a change for the better, you will remain pretty much the same. After a lesson, you should practice the change that the pro has given you. Many players quit the change very quickly as they do not see immediate results, and then say the pro “screwed them up.” I hear that a lot. It is going to feel uncomfortable and you may struggle to get it but the good players stick it out and fight through it until the improvement comes. You should set your mind like a child’s when it comes to learning. A child will learn much faster than an adult because he/she is in a learning mode and not ready to color everything with his or her own ideas.”
Golf used to be perceived as a sport that didn’t require one to necessarily be an athlete, but with all of the focus now on fitness and core strength training that is evolving on the pro circuit – that’s obviously changing. What are some of the things that we amateurs can do to increase our own levels of fitness as it relates specifically to improving our golf games?
BK: “I’m not an expert on physical training, but I did seek out advice from some physicians, chiropractors and most of all physical therapists. I belong to the Harmon Golf Club in Massachusetts, which has a state of the art training facility that is golf specific. I work mostly on developing my core muscles as, as you know, the swing’s power flows outward from the center. A strong core keeps your posture in place and allows for a good turn and balance. I work on flexibility in order to make a good turn. I do trunk twists with a club or broom handle over my shoulders. If you notice, many players do not make much of a turn. I try to get my left shoulder to point behind the ball at the top of my swing – this generates a lot of power. When I was playing on the mini tours, I asked some really good players who told me that power comes from the torque. A big turn of the upper body sets you to unwind with speed.”
Two more questions before you go. I know that you (like myself) follow Professional Golf and you’re abreast of the current hot topics surrounding the game at all levels. I’m going to put you on the spot here, because I’m curious to know your take on things. There’s been a lot of talk lately about belly and long putters taking over on tour, and that maybe the USGA should address this issue before it gets out of hand. What is your view on this long putter business?
BK: “This is a difficult one. On one side, I can see the argument that the belly/long putters do not make a golf-like swing. Anchoring part of the club to the body to create a fulcrum just doesn’t seem kosher under the Rules. On the other hand, golf needs to keep golfers playing and have new golfers join the ranks every year. If we ban the long/belly putters, we may lose golfers. I think we should get some statistics that show that the long putters actually create a difference. I know that Adam Scott has had a resurgence since going to the long putter, but recently it was found that his putting stats were not really as good as before he made the switch. I think testing will answer the question. If the long putters offer a significant advantage over the traditional, I think they should be banned. However, if the results are similar, let them be.”
And my last question: Where can my readers find your books and calendar?
BK: The “Golf Tip A Day” calendar comes out each August and can be found at Amazon.com, Calendar.com, Barnes and Noble and in stores such as Borders, and Kohl’s. “The Complete Why Book of Golf is” on KOBO, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any site that sells eBooks. “How Good Do You Want to Be?” is also at Amazon.com (paperback).
That’s going to wrap up my interview with my good friend, Dr. Bill Kroen. Bill, as always, thank you for spending some time sharing your insights about this great game that we love here on the blog. Hopefully we can arrange to have you sit down with us again sometime in the near future.
BK: “Scott, it has been a pleasure to chat with you and your readers. I read your blog and I’m one of your fans as well. Thanks for having me.”
***Note to all of my readers: If you’re interested in purchasing any of Bill Kroen’s books or calendars, just simply click on the image of the product you’re wanting above and the embedded link will take you directly to the product at Amazon.Com***