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A Conversation with Chuck Quinton – Founder of Rotary Swing

A Conversation with Chuck Quinton
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Chuck Quinton is the founder of the Rotary Swing and the former Teaching Professional at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado. He also founded the Rotary Swing Golf Academy at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida where he teaches golf during the winter months.

Chuck Quinton is the author of the popular “The Rotary Swing” golf instruction book that has sold thousands of copies worldwide as well as the instructional DVD series, “Swing Plane Made Simple” and “Short Game Made Simple”, and most recently the “Rotary Swing Tour Certification Manual”.

Chuck Quinton’s instructional website is one of the largest golf instruction sites on the Internet today with thousands of visitors per day and is host to over 300 instructional videos that Chuck Quinton has created, as well as over 150 articles he has written. His videos on YouTube have been viewed millions of times and he has been featured as a guest on ESPN Sports Radio numerous times, as well as numerous local radio shows around the country.

Chuck Quinton has helped thousands of students of all abilities, including many players on the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, European PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Futures Tour, Hooters Tour, Gateway Tour, and numerous other mini-tours.  Chuck Quinton. Has spent thousands of hours of tireless research, continuing instruction and hard work to create Rotary Swing.

While most people know you as a golf trainer and swing expert, your first professional sport was snowboarding.  Can you tell us a little about that and how that impacted your approach to golf?

I turned pro when I was 19.  I was a professional snowboard mountaineer for The North Face, Patagonia, K2 Snowboards. I had a bunch of sponsors, but basically what I did was climbing these mountains all over the Northern hemisphere, all of North America. I went to Norway, Mexico, and was climbing these mountains and trying to be the first to climb and snowboard down them. In Colorado, we have 54 peaks. Now it’s 55, 56 when I counted, but 54 peaks over 14,000 feet. I was trying to be the first person ever to climb and snowboard down. They’d already been skied down, but nobody had ever snowboarded down them. As a 19-year-old kid, I did eight of them the first year that I moved to Colorado. The next thing I know, I had done 35 of them. Snowboard mountaineering, rock climbing and ice climbing and doing all these technical things, was really a huge part of my life. I was snowboarding at the same time I was golfing, trying to do both the best I can.

The cool thing about snowboarding for me is that it taught me two really important things. One, it taught me how to learn. Anytime I would go and learn something snowboarding if I was learning a new trick, there was a very systematic approach to how we learned everything. It wasn’t just like, “Well, just imagine that you’re …” If I’m going to go and throw myself off a cliff and I’m going to do a 540 inverted spin-off of that cliff, “Just hope for the best.” Or, “Just imagine it. Envision in your head, if you just do this you’ll land.” I mean, this is life or death stuff that I was doing. For me to just jump off a cliff and hope for the best and envision it, it didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. We went through a really simple process. We would start out and we would do things on a trampoline. If I was going to learn a trick, I would literally start without a snowboard, without anything, and we’d just go on a trampoline and we would do the first half of that rotation.

If I was doing a 540 spin, one and a half spins, I would start out and I would learn and tuck my shoulder and land on my back. We do a little half spin. Once we had that technique down, we’d add to a 360, and then we’d go to a 540. Then once I had that safely on a trampoline, we would go on to a foam pit where we would snowboard down this big thing, this big jump and then land into a foam pit so that it was safe in case I hucked myself incorrectly. I wouldn’t die landing on snow and ice. I landed on a nice soft foam pit. Once we had it down on the foam pit, we would take it outside and we’d go to an airbag where you could do it off snow, but you would land on this nice cushy airbag. But the airbag would allow you to ride out of it if you landed it properly. Then eventually I would go to the snow.

But this process to learn a single trick, sometimes it would take a couple of days, sometimes it would take a couple of weeks depending on how complex it was. But the thing that was cool about it, is that there was a systematic approach to it. It wasn’t just, huck yourself off or envision hitting under a table and hope for the best. I was very lucky to have that experience really early on in my life to learn there are coaches out there who teach things in a way that’s not only safe to learn, but it’s very specific and systematic and process-oriented. For me, that was one of the things that really had a huge impact on how I started thinking about learning the golf swing later on.

What about injuries?  One wrong turn and you can end up in the hospital. 

I’ve broken a lot of bones. I’ve had a lot of surgeries. I’ve done a lot of what other people would consider crazy things, to me, they’re fun things.  I’ve been a downhill mountain bike racer. I’ve won a bunch of races. Mountain biking and dirt jumping and doing all these big tricks and flying in the air and hucking myself off of things. But very early on, I started experiencing pain in my body. Actually, it was way less from snowboarding.  Sometimes I definitely hurt my back and my neck snowboarding several times.  But the thing that hurt my body the most was actually golf.

I was in a bad car accident when I was 19. A guy rear-ended me doing 65 and pushed my car off into a guardrail and it was a big, big deal for me. But it really messed up my hip. Your lower body and your hips are everything in the golf swing.

From that very moment, I always had issues with pain in my back, pain in my hips from the time that I was pretty young. Then as I started playing golf, I could find that I could play golf for a day and then need to take two or three days off. Even in my early 20s, because my body would be so sore, I’d be so achy that I would just need to take days off to rest. The snowboarding thing didn’t bother my back as much as golf did. Which was kind of crazy. I’m hucking myself off 30 and 40-foot cliffs and landing on ice and all this stuff, but golf did all the damage to my body. It was aggravating my body more than anything else I was doing. I started looking into trying to figure out how to address those issues with my golf swing because if I didn’t golf, I wasn’t sore. I could snowboard, I could jump a bike, I could hike all day, I could ice climb, I could rock climb. Golf was the thing that was doing the most damage.

As your golf game improved and you turned pro and became well-known teaching professional how did you manage the pain?

During this whole time, my body’s just a wreck. The more lessons I took and every lesson I took, I’d say, “Yeah, after that lesson, my hip was really hurting.” They’re like, “Yeah, it’s just part of the game.” I’m like, “Really?” How do you know any better at this point? I’m in my late 20s and I’m still taking these lessons from these guys who were teaching guys on the tour making millions of dollars, and they’re telling me that pain is just part of the game. I’m like, “Wow, this is really tough.” I can go huck myself off a 30-foot corner snowboarding and that doesn’t hurt. But hitting a ball with a stick, that hurts like hell. I just said, “There’s no way.” The final straw for me with that was, I think I was maybe 30 years old, 31 years old and my hip was bothering me so bad and all of these coaches I had gone to didn’t have an answer for it. They had no idea what was causing it, and they didn’t even try to address it.

I went to an orthopedic surgeon and I was like, “Man, maybe there’s just something mechanically wrong. Maybe there’s some things in there that I just don’t understand or don’t know.” Then this guy, an orthopedic surgeon in Orlando said, “Yeah, you’ve got no cartilage left in your left hip basically and you’re probably going to need a hip replacement soon.” I was like, “Dude, there’s no way you’re cutting my freaking femur in half. I’m a kid. I’m 30 years old and you’re talking about replacing my hip already, and it only hurts when I play golf? There’s no freaking way. There has to be something that I’m doing in my golf swing that’s causing this pain.”

That really became a huge catalyst for me because I’m like, “I’m not letting anybody cut my femur in half.” I’ve already had enough surgeries at this point, and I had five more shortly thereafter. But that really became kind of the foundation because I had had so much pain for so long, since I was 19 of having all this hip pain and back pain from my golf swing, that I’m like, “There has to be a better way to do this. There has to be.”

And then in 2011, you broke your neck while mountain biking.  How do you come back from something like that?

I had a C1 burst fracture. Very few people survive that. Those that do are typically on a ventilator or paralyzed. C1 is your top vertebrae. I broke it in five places, three places in the back and two in the front. That led to a bunch of surgeries. I had four cervical surgeries. I broke my hand. I had nerve damage.  I spent 11 days in the neuro-ICU. I had no muscle. I couldn’t walk. I sure as heck couldn’t play a golf club. I wasn’t allowed to play golf. I wasn’t allowed to drive for six months.

But it had such a huge impact on every single part of my life, but probably nothing bigger than the way that I taught the golf swing. Because as a result of my neck fusing over the injury, I developed scoliosis as a result of this. Now my spine is pretty severely curved.

Obviously, when you have scoliosis and just gravity working on your spine every single day and being fused, I’m fused at C1, 2 and 3 now, that other discs in your spine start taking up the load because of the other stuff is fused together. For me, to be able to come back and play golf at all was pretty much a miracle.

If it wasn’t for the stuff that I was doing with RotarySwing and trying to figure out and having such a huge slant towards injury prevention and swinging a safe and powerful way, and without all the biomechanical research with orthopedic and neurosurgeons, I would have never been able to play golf. There’s no way that I could have ever come back and played. But, not only was I able to come back and play and get back to a plus handicap, but I still hit the ball as well or as far as I ever have. I do it pain-free and I can hit balls all day long and have no fatigue, no pain.

That’s purely a result of this. Going through that injury was really, really bad. I don’t want to do it again, for sure, but I can now play golf. I would have never taken that deep of a look at the spine. The neurosurgeon who did all the surgeries, he and I became really, really close friends because when somebody is cutting into your spine and looking at your spinal cord every day, you become pretty close buddies. But I had access to him all the time and I just grilled him on my spine. Because not only did I want to heal, but I saw this as like, well, if I can understand what I’m going through, if can understand what’s really going on in my spine in a golf swing, I can understand how to get back and be able to play golf. Then I can understand how to teach others who have gone through this stuff. I’ve taught hundreds and hundreds of golfers now who’ve had all types of level spinal fusions and things, and I’ve been able to understand exactly what they’re going through and how to work around those issues.

So your injury and work to get back to playing at a competitive level helped inspire your work developing Rotary Swing?

What I wanted to do was take somebody who I’d never met before, somebody I’d never given a golf lesson before, and in 30 minutes or an hour, completely reinvent their golf swing and do it completely for free and do it incredibly faster than anybody else had ever seen. Because I had these ideas that like, the golf swing, even though I understand it at a very deep level, what really matters is just a couple of things, just a few things. I wanted to test these ideas out on a completely objective basis. People I had no experience with and prove that I could get somebody to swing like a tour pro or better than the average tour pro because they’ll avoid injury, and do it in a single lesson.

What are you most excited about right now?

AXIOM is the newest addition to the Rotary Swing online membership and is part of my goal to help one million golfers shoot consistently in the 70s.  Combined with The DEAD Drill, AXIOM makes learning a world class golf swing simple for the first time. The golf swing has long been convoluted and confusing and I have been working to make it both easy to understand and even easier to learn. It’s designed with speed and efficiency in mind, both in the learning process and the swing itself.