Charles Barkley just became a beacon of hope for amateur golfers everywhere. The retired NBA player, notorious for his horrendous technique, gave a stunning performance at the PGA Tour Champions Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Alabama. How did he go from being a laughing stock to eliciting oohs and ahhs on the fairway? Let’s take a look at the evolution of Charles Barkley’s golf swing, and what accounts for his sudden improvement.
Charles Barkley Retired From The NBA In 2000 And Took Up Golf As A Hobby
Barkley is best known for his career as a dominating power forward on three NBA teams: the Philadelphia 76ers, the Phoenix Suns, and the Houston Rockets. In his 16 years on the court, the Hall of Famer averaged 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists.
It’s no surprise that Barkley took up golf in retirement. His interest in the sport began in the 1980s, but it reached new heights when he moved to Phoenix—a city where everyone and their mother is or knows a golf pro.
But given his natural competitive streak, Barkley sees the game as much more than a leisure activity. When he’s not co-hosting Inside the NBA on TNT, he participates in every tournament possible.
“I’ve never met anyone who loves golf more than Chuck,” said his longtime buddy former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Roy Green. “If he had a week off, a day off, heck, if he had a few hours off, he’d want to be out there playing.”
There’s just one problem with Barkley’s longtime love of the game: he stinks at it.
Charles Barkley Had A Major Flaw In His Golf Swing
For years, Barkley has been known for his godawful golf swing. Rather than following through in one smooth motion, he’s always had a hitch that causes him to pause before his club makes contact with the ball. Check out a compilation of his most memorable swings below—they’re jaw-dropping for all the wrong reasons.
Experts believed that Barkley’s problems stemmed from the chatter in his head.
“He knows that it’s not about changing the mechanics,” said his caddy, Chris Detsch. “It’s mental. He’s working hard at it, and he’s making progress. He just needs to swing and let the ball get in the way.”
Barkley admitted as much. In a May 2020 episode of Golf.com’s Subpar podcast, he said, “My brain’s got so many voices in it.”
His constant search for advice was another issue that he needed to address.
“He’s the kind of guy who goes to the grocery store, and on the way out, he’s asking the butcher for a swing tip,” said Green. “We tried to warn him. But Chuck’s so hardheaded.”
In 2017, Golf Digest reported that Barkley failed to make a single pair in two out of the past three years. (For those unfamiliar with the sport, let’s just say those are dismal stats.)
Even Hank Haney Couldn’t Permanently Fix Charles’s Golf Swing
It’s not that Barkley doesn’t put effort into fixing his flaws. In 2008, he tapped Tiger Woods‘ own instructor Hank Haney for help with his game.
“Charles has been to a bunch of teachers, and they have all focused on the hitch,” Haney told ESPN the following year. “He’s never gotten any better, because everybody sees the hitch and immediately thinks, ‘Fix the hitch, fix the hitch.’ But the hitch is coming from something else.”
Haney also made no bones about the challenge ahead of him.
“Charles’ swing is the most recognizable swing in golf—and not in a good way,” he said. “When you have a mess like he has, you’re not going to fix it with a swing thought.”
The lessons, dubbed The Haney Project, should have resulted in improvements, but unfortunately, he eventually fell back into his old habits. Watch Haney provide a breakdown of how Barkley’s form gets in the way of a solid performance:
Barkley compared his hurdles to his own experience on the basketball court. The mindset of Barkley the b-baller versus Barkley the golfer were vastly different.
“In basketball, I played with guys who wouldn’t take the big shot, and I’d get so frustrated with them,” said Barkley. “No matter how many big shots I missed, I wanted it the next night. But now I know what it’s like to not be able to do it—and not because you’re scared. I want to get this right.”
Charles Continued To Work On His Game Despite What The Critics Said
Barkley confessed that he wasn’t down with being the butt of jokes over his swing.
“Everybody jokes about it, but it sucks to be on television and everybody making fun of you,” he said. “It sucks to stand up over the ball and have no idea what’s going to happen. I might shank the ball over here and hit this lady. I might whiff. And it’s playing out in front of all these people.”
But in spite of the critics, he kept working on his technique. He even turned to alternative remedies like hypnotism for help. After all, Barkley wasn’t always bad at the sport. His game was okay in the 1990s, and he had moments in the 2010s when his swing wasn’t outright laughable. In 2018, USA Today’s For the Win even posted video proof that he was capable of decent performance:
If he did it before, he could do it again—or perhaps he could even do better.
Charles Barkley Now Has A Flawless Golf Swing
In early May, Barkley was the talk of the Regions Tradition celebrity pro-am. The basketball giant kicked things off with such a smooth, confident swing that Bo Jackson could be heard from the sidelines saying, “I could kiss you.”
There’s no word on who he’s been working with, or what he’s been doing differently. But Barkley assured spectators that his new look was the result of hard work.
“Those days of [expletive] golf are over,” he said as he sauntered away from the tee. “I’ve been working my ass off. I’m gonna play great every time I step on the golf course. I work hard, eight hours a day for the last two years.” Watch the video below: