Making Golf A Better Game with Mike Fay aka Big Wheel

Making Golf A Better Game with Mike Fay aka Big WheelI first met Mike on Twitter. I’ve never met him in real life… only online. But that’s okay, because we have been able to build a great relationship 140 characters at a time. As a matter of fact, when I first started doing these PGA teaching professional interviews, he showed interest. I didn’t know much about him until we sat down for the interview. Boy does this guy have a well rounded toolkit. The guy is a great player, an incredible coach, and even runs a Twitter based forum each week called Ask The Pro. (He recently was shut down for tweeting too much… he hit his limit set by Twitter! That’s a good problem to have.) From what I hear, Mike walks up and down the lesson tee talking to complete strangers, telling them, “We have to fix this.” You can bet he gets lessons that way. VERY clever. Anyway, Mike was kind enough to take some time out of his day to sit with me… it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Mike Fay.

You are originally from Sterling Heights, Michigan. I have played some golf up there in Roscommon. Are you familiar with Forest Dunes Golf Club?

Forest Dunes Golf Club… what a great place! The course is quite beautiful… that is a Tom Weiskopf design. We highly recommend it as a place to stop either on the way up to the Boyne Courses or on the way home. It has pretty high accolades as well from Golf Digest – top 100 golf course, top 20 public course, and currently ranked #4 in the state of Michigan.

You had a ton of success early on. That led you to New Mexico. You actually have a degree in golf course management in New Mexico State. Did you play golf there as well?

Well, I did… but not college golf.  I arrived at New Mexico State University‘s PGM Program in 1991, in the infancy of the program. At the time I went, there were only two other schools to get a PGM degree from – Ferris State University and Mississippi State University.  So I chose the warm weather to play golf year round and work on my studies.

Within my first semester at NMSU I decided to turn professional. Along with four other class mates, we helped design the NMSU PGM Tour. We went all around Las Cruces and acquired sponsors and set up our own tournaments. It was our feeling that playing professionally was a very important part of being a PGA member so this would be a great training ground for things to come. Since that time a tournament program has been in place.

I see you do online lessons for $29.95. What does an online lesson entail?

The online lessons are very unique. At Boyne Mountain we teach people from all over the world that come to visit. This is a great opportunity to keep their golf games sharp as well as attract new students. The lesson is simple… a student just emails his or her swing to me and I evaluate what they need to do. I then send a video back to them with drills and tips to make them better. The program has been a great success and I will continue to offer this service.

You started in Michigan. You have been all over, from Florida to Arizona. Now you are back in Michigan. Does it feel good to be home?

It was nearly four years ago that we moved back home, and it does feel great. Sharing good times with family and friends is the best. Of all the places I have been, northern Michigan is hands down the best place for golf.

Since you are from Michigan, are you a Michigan State fan?

Funny you ask. For those of you who don’t know, the state is heavily divided on Michigan/Michigan State game days. I have to say I am a huge Michigan fan. Of course, I grew up in the days of Bo and Anthony Carter and attended U of M’s Golf Camp as a teenager. Go “Blue Baby”!

You have a pretty impressive resume. You are quite the player. Do you still play a lot of golf?

I do play as much as I can, as it is part of my job. I am very lucky that Boyne feels that way as well. At the same time, I love spending time with my wife and daughter so there is always a balance between work and family time.

What’s your favorite golf course? You’re not allowed to say the one you work at!

Okay, not Boyne Mountain… then I will have to go with my new favorite course as Kingsbarns Golf Links. What a beautiful place.

You used to hold the course record at Shanty Creek Resort-The Legend. Is that record still intact?

Yes it is. I set the course record during the 2001 Michigan PGA Championship with a bogey free 63. Certainly the highlight of my career.

A lot of guys have newsletters, but you have branded yours. Tell me a little bit more about Chip Shots. How often do you send that out?

Chip Shots is a brand new idea that have new blog posts, videos, and everything else going on instruction wise here at Boyne Mountain. I will send this newsletter out monthly. It’s just another way to keep in contact with everyone.

Starting with your driver, and working your way through the bag… even the golf ball, what’s in your bag?

  • Driver – PING G20 8.5 Degree Driver, PING Tour Stiff Shaft
  • 3 Wood – PING i15 14 Degree w/Aldila Proto By You 65S
  • Hybrids – PING i15 17 & 20 Degree
  • Irons – PING G20 Irons 4-PW KBS Tour Stiff w/Cusion Insert
  • Wedges – PING Tour S Rustique Wedges 54, 60 Tour Stiff w/Cusion Insert
  • Putter – Scotty Cameron Mil-Spec 33 Inches
  • Ball – Titleist ProV1

What is the MFG Players Club?

The MFG Players Club was designed to connect socially with people online. To become a member of the club you must “like” Mike Fay Golf on Facebook or follow Mike Fay Golf on Twitter. You must also “like” and or follow Boyne. If you do those things, you get discounts on my training aids, exclusive tips and drills, notified on all things Mike Fay Golf, and be entered into a drawing for a free video lesson.

You are running a pretty solid social media campaign. You are on Facebook and Twitter. Are you using anything else? Are you having more luck with Twitter or Facebook?

To compliment Facebook and Twitter, I have a channel on YouTube for golf instruction and I am on LinkedIn. Hands down, for me right now, most of my success has been Twitter. With hosting a weekly show I have not had much time to do very much on Facebook. That being said, now I can get Facebook rolling. It will be fun no doubt!

I am Tiger’s biggest fan… who are some of your favorite players on the PGA Tour?

Counting out Tiger, I like to watch Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Ricky Fowler, Steve Stricker, Retief Goosen, and Graeme McDowell. I also hope to see more of Lee Westwood on the PGA Tour next year.

Tell me a little bit more about Ask The Pro.

Ask The Pro is a show I started on Twitter last April; it has grown ever since. The purpose of the show is for both professionals and amateurs to connect on all topics of golf. The slogan for Ask The Pro is “Where the world’s top instructors help you with your game.”

Here’s how I do it… I collect questions every week from both professionals and amateurs. These questions are sent directly to PGA professionals on Twitter, as well as experts in their field pertaining to golf. Then I RT the answers for all to see. The knowledge collected really benefits everyone in the long run. Plus on Twitter, you only have a few characters to get your point across so you better have a meaty answer. I know I have learned quite a bit over the last year and it sure has been fun running it.

Your lesson rates are public. It seems like a lot of guys do that. When it comes to setting your rates, do you do that or does the club?

My lesson rates are set by Boyne and I. We have designed instruction programs for members as well as the visitors to our resort.

Is Boyne Mountain Resort public or private? Are you able to work with golfers that are not members?

Actually Boyne Mountain Resort is part of Boyne Resorts. BR operates nine golf courses here in northern Michigan. Boyne has the Country Club of Boyne with golf and social memberships available. In addition to the CCB, we have regular resort play for the public as well as golf outings. We also run a number of state tournaments on our courses. I am available to teach everyone and it’s a super place to work.

In your opinion, how has technology changed the way you teach the game?

I know for sure that technology has changed a number of things. First let’s start with equipment. It is easier than ever to hit today’s big headed drivers and irons with a ton of bounce. The golf ball flies straighter too. Now with all these new long and belly putters with alignment aids it’s easier to putt as well. As far as equipment goes, we are waiting for the next “big thing”.

Technology has changed golf instruction greatly just over the last few years. The use of high tech computers has changed what we thought we knew with the golf swing. Such technology as TrackMan, SAM PuttLab, and AimPoint Technologies are just to name a few. It is through this technology we become better teachers for our students.

The Internet has changed the way we learn as teachers and players. Using the Internet to communicate ideas has opened up a whole new way to improve your game. For example I use V1 to send my students drills and reinforcement of what we do in lessons. Nothing is better… not even taking notes.

Let’s say I book a lesson with you… how does that first lesson go? Walk me through our first encounter.

During my first lesson I evaluate what is going on with your golf game. Next, I make a plan of attack and set goals with you that you can reach. Once we figure all that out, it’s time to get to work! Don’t kid yourself, it’s work to become better at golf. I think it’s important that you have an understanding of what you are doing now and what we can do better. That’s why I use video equipment to show you what I see. Then we use drills and training aids to develop new feelings. Then we will go back and use video again to see what has changed. I often say, “What you feel and what you are doing are two entirely different things.”

We finalize most lessons with a video of what we did that day along with drills. That way when things start to go wrong on the course, you can always go back and figure it yourself. The greatest gift I can give you is to teach you how to make yourself better.

FORE Ladies Only is a great idea. Tell me a little bit more about that program.

FORE Ladies Only Clinic Series is a ladies only program that I started four years ago. The program is designed for all ladies and abilities. It has no topic… that’s right, no topic. When ladies come to the hour long clinic, they get to choose what they want to work on, not what I want to work on. The ladies really seem to enjoy it and we have had good success with the program.

You are also running a YouTube campaign. I notice you give away a lot… swing tips and so forth. Do you ever feel like you are giving away too much? It’s a fine line, I’d think.

I do separate video shoots for both my students and for YouTube. YouTube drills and tips are intended for all golfers. I save the really good ones for my students. YouTube is just another great way to promote where I work, as well as for golf instruction. Most people would like to know where they are going to take lessons. It just shows them how beautiful northern Michigan really is.

You have relationships with PING, Julie Meadows Photographer, The YMCA… that’s awesome that you are working with all these folks. How do these relationships form?

I have been on PING’s staff for the last few years. I have had a great relationship with PING since the days I played on the mini tours and lived in Phoenix. PING is first class all the way! JMP is a local photographer that also happens to be my sister-in-law. She handles some of my photography and photo shoots for my blog and magazines. And the YMCA relationship was formed with the idea that golf can be played year round. I host clinics for both ladies and juniors throughout the year. We use college and high school gyms in the winter and the Boyne Mountain Learning Center in the summer.

Meleski Productions is another video and photo company that I use as well. Being an avid golfer himself, Mike Meleski came to me with the idea that he wanted to shoot video on golf instruction and maybe learn a little along the way.  It’s been a great relationship.

Man… you blog too! How often do you write?

Oh yeah, I blog too! I don’t write as much as I would like though. I definitely blog more in the winter than I do in the summer. I try to get at least a couple out a month.

Man, Boyne Mountain looks incredible. Do you ever get sick of those views?

Most people would take it for granted, but I don’t. It is a sweet place to be. Playing two golf courses down the back side of the mountain and looking at Deer Lake all day is very peaceful.

Will I see you in Orlando at the PGA Merchandise Show?

Yes, I will be attending this year’s show. It will be a great place to meet and connect with all the people I have met through social networking. I can’t wait.

There are SO many guys out there doing the same thing you are… do you ever see it as competition? A trend these days is sharing information… do you hide it or are you willing to give it away?

I know many guys are doing all this stuff to attract more students and customers. But I have a different take… the game is suffering now. With the economy and less golfers playing for the past few years, we are all in the same boat. If we don’t do these things for the game, all the golf courses as well as our jobs will be gone.

As far as sharing information, that’s been done for years amongst golf professionals. There’s a level of respect that most golf professionals share. We all know who the best player is, the best teacher is, the best merchandiser. Most pros won’t think twice just to pick up the phone and ask for a little help. It’s because of respect. It’s in our game.

Um… you’ve been to St Andrews. That’s the HOME of golf. What was that trip like?

Where do I start? Here is the best way for me to describe it… for a golf professional that has given his life to the game going to St Andrews would be like a priest going to the Vatican. I didn’t think it would feel this way but it did. This trip was planned ten years ago, with just four of us. These guys were my college roommates as well as PGA professionals. We sat down well before weddings and children came into our lives and made a deal that we would all go this year. We all turn 40 this year, by the way. Now can you see why I had a tear in my eye when I crossed the Swilcan Bridge and slapped my 2nd onto 18. I have a blog post planned for next week about our trip, where we went, and the people we met. It’s a great story.

There is a list of the top 100 teaching pros… but how does that list affect how you operate? Does being on that list change the way pro books lessons? Does that list affect how much a pro can charge?

The top 100 list is another way for us to learn. Learn who is great at what they do. Of course being listed in Golf Digest would change many things. You would probably have more business and need more instructors. Of course the charge would go up.

Let’s look ahead a little bit… what’s 2012 look like for you?

2012 looks pretty exciting. I am looking forward to starting some new golf instruction programs to go along with the ones I already have. I will continue to brand Mike Fay Golf through all social formats. I plan on playing in a few more tournaments and have some fun making people play better golf.

I like to listen to music when I practice. Do you listen when you practice? If so, what are you jamming to?

I like to listen to many different types of music. I jam on old school rap and hip hop. Plus a little country.

Thank you so much for taking the time Mike! Man, this was fun! Thanks to Twitter for introducing us, too. We need to meet in person one of these days. In all of the interviews that I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

In all my twenty plus years of being a golf professional, there is one thing that keeps me going… making people smile. Whether it’s helping people make a few more putts or to see the look on someone’s face who just hit it off the ground for the first time… I love it! It is what drives me every day. Also, thank you for this opportunity Ricky. It sure has been fun and you really made me think.

Click here to follow Mike Fay Golf on Twitter.

Click here to “like” Mike Fay Golf on Facebook.

Click here to watch Mike Fay Golf on YouTube.