Meet The Pro – Michael Basch- Head Golf Professional – Clifton Springs Country Club

Meet the Pro with Go Golf U.S.

Welcome to the 8th edition of “Meet the Pro”. If you missed our previous articles, let us quickly explain what/why we do it. A goal of Go Golf U.S. is to build a personal connection in the game of golf again. We want to help players get to know the courses, golf shop staff, and Professionals. When we see familiar faces and can add a smile or hello, it makes a better experience for all. So, to gather content for these articles, I (Alan Liwush) put the Pro’s on the hot seat for an interview to find more about them to share with all of the Go Golf U.S. community members.

Michael Basch – Head Golf Professional at

Clifton Springs Country Club

This interview/blog was a little different than most of our past “Meet The Pro” segments. This was the first featuring a PGA Professional from a Private Country Club and also with a family member of mine whom I care deeply for. He’s the reason why I love the game of golf as I do today. The reason why I have really awesome golf stuff. The reason why I continue to get better year after year. The reason why I keep telling golf stories to EVERYONE I talk to (My wife can vouch for that). He’s my brother-in-law, Michael Basch.

Having many discussions about golf and life over IPA’s at the Beer Hall or some Cabernet at family parties, we never really dug into the background of how Michael got into the business of golf. I knew about where he worked, some fun golf stories and his current status of play, but not his WHY. Part of the reason behind these blog posts/interviews is to find the “why” from the Pros and the passion behind getting involved in the game on a deeper level. I’m excited to share with you my findings as most of it was new information to me. Without further ado, please enjoy this edition of “Meet The Pro” with my Brother-in-Law, Michael Basch aka my “Pro-in-Law” (super cheesy, I know).

Background

Basch started his golf career at OGC (Ontario Golf Club – Currently Ontario Country Club) at the time working for long-time Professional, Jim Hungerford as a bag room boy. One of the young gentlemen he worked with, recently came back to work on an internship from Penn State University and was working with Jim. One rainy day working in the shop, Michael asked the young gentleman what he was taking in school at PSU. His reply was, “I’m studying to be a Golf Professional”. Not knowing exactly what that meant, he immediately wanted to know more because it sounded “Awesome”! He elaborated on the program at PSU and lead Michael to further researching PGM programs available at the time. His research, recommendations from his co-worker and proximity to home (and maybe the fact that his two BEST friends, Mark and Jeff Wagner were big fans and frequently brought Michael to PSU football games as a kid) lead him to commit to Penn State for the PGM program. At the time, there were only three other schools that offered PGM. Ferris State, Mississipi State, and New Mexico State.

Basch did four internships while in school per the PGM curriculum. Two of them were local in Rochester at The Golf Club at Blue Heron Hills aka “The Goose”, One in Washington, DC at TPC Avenel for a Summer (Highlight was the PGA Tour event they hosted called the Kemper Insurance Open and walked the grounds with Amy Michelson to watch Phil play. NBD) and the Last internship he worked for the Central New York PGA section in Syracuse as the Tournament Administrator. The last internship lasted for 6 months which included being hired to work for a campaign for Mike Doctor, Professional at Skaneateles CC at the time as he was running for the Secretary position of the PGA of America. He was hired to help out as Doctor’s Administrator and found himself quickly scrambling to find a new position as he pulled out of running due to family issues. He immediately called a friend who worked at Kingsmill Resort in Virginia. He applied for the position as the Assistant Pro and got hired. The first year in golf he spent as an entry-level Assistant and grinded it out. Though it was a “grind”, he proclaimed it as one of those “best and worst times” of life in terms of living and making money as he was able played golf every day which offset the “S*&^#y” living conditions. The next year, he was promoted to the First Assistant and got to teach golf schools and lessons. The year after that, he was promoted again to the Head Professional position at the Woods Course at Kingsmill and held the position for two years. Then being recruited by Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, he took a role as the First Assistant for monetary reasons as well as professional. He knew he didn’t want to work at a resort course anymore. Basch said, “I wanted to work high end private and own my own golf shop, the whole bit. I didn’t want to work for a corporation at Kingsmill which was owned by Anheuser-Busch Anheiser at the time”. With gaining a ton of experience, he wanted to see the other side of things. Basch remained at Farmington for four seasons and then met my sister, Alison. Dealing with the complications of a long distance relationship,  true love brought Michael back to Rochester. With a position at Cobblestone Creek CC locked up, he spent another four years as an Assistant with Neil Reidy. On to the here and now, he’s in the fourth season as the Head Professional at Clifton Springs CC.

Photo above is hole #11 green on a warm Summer night.

Basch Gets Bit By The Golf Bug and More

Growing up on a golf course in Florida, Michael didn’t really like the game. Playing golf with his parents as a young boy, he liked driving the cart and that was about it. Being a multi-sport athlete during his adolescent years and into high-school, a friend suggested they try out for the golf team. Since being bag boys at Ontario Golf Club at the time and sick of baseball, they went for it. Both making the team, Basch excelled and was playing on Varsity by the end of the year. Having a natural ability for the game as a kid was really what helped him gravitate to golf. Who doesn’t like doing something they’re good at? A huge Fred Couples fan at the time, he had a large influence on his style of play and swing. Michael said, “I had this little handheld film player at the time and I would constantly watch Freddy’s golf swing over and over and over. He was hot when I was getting into golf too, he won the masters in 1992 so I was all about him.”

During “time off” from golf, a perfect day ON the course not working, Basch says, “No brainer, is being with the boys.” Some of the best times he’s had playing golf is with family and friends. He also has a great time playing with members. He explained how it gives you more of a chance to really get to know people. Golf is such a great sport to peel back the external and have genuine conversations. He will generally shoot his best scores with friends/family just playing for fun (I can attest to that on several occasions…). Old rivalries and competition with longtime friends Mark and Jeff Wagner force him to keep his game sharp. Traveling to different golf courses and seeing new landscapes is a must to get new ideas for his own course also. A perfect day OFF the course is spending time with his wife, Alison, and daughters, Emme and Anabelle.

Our conversation lead into Epic Boys Golf Trips as I have been listening to a Podcast called “No Laying Up” about there journeys all over the world.  Basch quickly said Bandon Dunes when the topic arose.  He spent seven days in Bandon on a bachelor trip. Alison overheard this and said, “would you like to see the 500 photos from his trip that are on my computer…”. No need to talk more on Bandon, do the research and GO! He also played Medalist with friends/co-workers at the time, Cody Endress and Neil Reidy (photo shown below).

Q and A

Q: Most frequently asked questions by golfers?

A: “How do I spin it or hit checkup up shot on the green? Without a doubt the most asked question.  People will say, “I see the tour players spin it back on the greens. I want to hit check stop shots.” I reply with #1 they have perfect greens and #2 they have brand new wedges as most players are going no more than two tournaments with a set of wedges. Those two things give the perfect condition for the ball to create spin. Yes, it does take a lot of technique so I tend to tell most players without the skill level to just hit your shot to the number instead and play bump and runs. Hands down the #1 question asked.”

Al: I found this interesting as this answer was different than many other Professionals answers which were generally in regards to a slice or hitting the ball straight. Maybe a different answer as he works at a private club rather than public and more players see it as the next step in getting better at the game?

Q: What’s one thing you would tell/teach every beginner level player to work on to set themselves up for long-term success playing golf?

A: “Grip. You NEED a good grip. Most people have a super weak left-hand grip or neutral and you cannot play golf that way. I usually refer to a few techniques and drills to fix this immediately. Once we get that down, they square the face at impact and they’re good to go.”

Al: Many other Pros answers aligned with this. For me, when I start losing shots to the right, it’s 99% of the time my grip getting weak and not getting the club face square.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes/myths you see in golf training? What are the biggest wastes of time?

A: “Hit a variety of golf shots and quality over quantity at the range. Don’t just beat a bucket at the range, work on something. Get on the golf course, hit golf shots and learn how to score. Yea you can hit it 300 yards but can you hit the 2nd shot on the green? Or if you miss the green on the second shot, can you grind and get up and down? When you chip 10 balls from the same spot, it’s not the same as going out and playing. A flat putting green isn’t the same as hitting putts downhill. How well can you read the greens and adjust? You need to obtain knowledge by doing.”

Al: I fully agree with this statement from Michael. Very rarely do we hit shots from the same lie when golfing. I listened to a podcast with Greg Norman aka The Shark and he said when he was at the range, he hit balls from the worst lies and in the rough so he knew how to hit those shots when he had to hit in a round.

Q: What do you believe makes your teaching style different? Who trained or influenced you?

A: “I learned from a ton of people, but the biggest influence on my teaching career has been from Chris George, a top 50 instructor at Kingsmill. He’s very technical which is actually opposite of what I do, but he’s phenomenal. I didn’t know how good he was until I learned to appreciate him. I also learned a lot from Neil Reidy at Cobblestone and he learned from the best in the Harmons. I always say I’ve been “Harmonized” through him. Neil and I had the same thoughts, we look at a swing and say the same thing on how to fix it. I’d say I’m different in that I try to use a player’s strengths. I like to use what you have, not tear you down and start from scratch to make you better. My philosophy is that when we’re done in 30 mins, you NEED to be better. Doesn’t mean we’re putting a band-aid on anything, but we’re making you better in some way.”

Al: Though Michael is at a private Country Club, he’s available for lessons and instruction to anyone interested. He can be reached by email at mbasch@ottcmail.com or via phone at 315-462-3087. I can vouch for Michael first hand in terms of his teaching ability. I take at least 4 lessons per year at this point and my game has developed immensely since starting at about an 18 hncp to today trending at 6.7 (NBD). Give him a call and get dialed in.

His teaching skills were featured last year with Thad Brown on News Channel 8 in the WNY PGA Pro Tip of the Week (See video below).

Q: What’s your view on digital resources or training instruction?

A: “I think the magazines and everything keep us in business as golf professionals… You can’t tell everybody to do one thing and you’ll hit it well. There’s not one way to do it. One thing I do like and believe in is an app where you can take a video of your swing, send it to a Pro and then he’ll make recommendations and give info to help your personal swing. The content helps to pass the time and give you ideas, but it’s not the best for most people and can lead to information overload.”

Al: This was a new question I brought into the interview because I see SO many ads on Facebook for premium teaching content. I like some of the resources to pass the time but I will get so caught up on things it makes me overanalyze every shot.

Q:  What is your favorite golf book, do you recommend to read or have you gifted the most in the past?

A: “The Golf Bible, aka Ben Hogans Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. A short and good read. I give this book to my students.”

You can find it here on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Ben-Hogans-Five-Lessons-Fundamentals/dp/0671612972

Q: What’s your view on golf and fitness? Has it changed the game? Do you think it’s positive for the game?

A: “It’s great for general health, but in terms of making you a better player, not so sure. If you ask Hank Haney, it derailed Tiger. Look at Koepka and DJ, they’re super fit. I think the key is to get “golf fit”.  You have to be super flexible in this game. Those guys are specimens in terms of strength but are also very flexible, they call DJ “Gumby”. Strength is great too, the stronger you are the faster you can swing it, generally speaking. But you NEED to be flexible. Golf strong over gym strong all day.”

Al: I personally think it’s done nothing for my golf game. I have plenty of stamina to walk and finish a round, but I’m unsure it has anything to do with scoring better. Being sore from working out and then playing definitely is a struggle for mentality and that has affected scores I believe. You need the proper rest period before playing which makes it tough for scheduling workouts around a golf schedule.

Watch Koepka and DJ getting after it in the gym on an average off-season day

In reference to flexibility, check out Phil’s infamous high kick here

Q: What do you think golf is lacking on a Pro, Amateur, Local or Regional level?

A:  “The PGA is doing great stuff with Jr. golf right now. Our region is a little behind, partially because of weather and short season. The PGA Jr. League is around. I don’t have a team as we don’t have enough interested kids but pushing for one asap. Yes, we need to help the Jr. golf group grow, but the 28-32 age needs to get more involved. The baby boomers were joining Country Clubs at that age. That’s why I believe golf is “struggling” right now since millennials aren’t really grasping on yet. They’re busy doing other things and have no time for a four hour round. Other things and life consume free time. We need to come up with a way to say its cool to just play nine if that’s all you have time for. Play nine holes, grab a beer and head home. You don’t need to make a whole day out of it. The USGA was doing a promo called just “Let’s Play 9” or along those lines which I think will help.”

Al: I agree with Michael 100%. In being around at Webster Golf Club a lot also, I saw some of the gear the PGA Jr. League kids that were playing for Scott Bates and Tom Maloney‘s teams got. It was awesome! They get two jerseys, a hat, drawstring bag and more. In regards to getting millennials more involved, I think it’s an area of opportunity as well. The “Let’s Play 9” platform is a great start. Golf does take time to play and you shouldn’t feel rushed doing it. I know the value of time having a three-month-old baby and loving wife at home. Sometimes you can only sneak nine in, so do it when you can. I’ve had plenty of satisfying days golfing by just walking nine holes quick.

Photo below of Basch working with Jr. golfers at the camp they host yearly.

The fun stuff

Name 3 things every player needs in their golf bag? – Can’t be a club.

  1. Range Finder – “Absolutely have to have one these days. I use both a watch or a point and shoot. Just depends on the day.”
  2. Chapstick – “I have a chapstick I’ve had in my bag FOREVER. I don’t even know the brand cuz the label’s worn off but it’s old and nasty haha. It’s a big green tube and has to be about 6-7 years old.”
  3. Flask – “Sometimes you need some birdie butter if things aren’t going as planned…”

Q: Do you have a hole in one? If so, how many and describe as vividly as possible.

A: “I have two. Both with 4 irons. One memorable, the other not so much… I’ll never forget my first one playing with my Dad at Miramar Lakes in Ft. Myers, Florida. Let me set the stage here. Winds around 40 mph, houses on both sides of the fairway and green aka a standard Florida housing development course, 210-yard par three, pin tucked back left and wind blowing left to right. So, we’re the only ones on the golf course and I’ll never forget it. I look at my Dad and go I’m aiming at that house over there WAY off-line. His face was shocked and without any guidance, he let me hit the shot anyway. When it left my club it was PURE (#PeYur). It started on-line at the house I was aimed at and then starts making its way to towards the hole with the winds help, it hit the green, one hop, BOOM, in. The other hole in one was “meh” so I won’t get into, BUT I’ve had THREE hole in 3’s aka Par the hard way… I hit it in the water, tee the next one up and then put it in… I did it TWICE in one year when I was at Kingsmill playing with the same guy. Needless to say, he was as shocked as I. It was a short hole about 150 yards, but still. The third one was on an island green like TPC Sawgrass. The was Pin tucked way up front. I hit the shot and it hit the railroad tie in the front, shot up and over the green into the water. I let everyone hit, then I hit again, lands about 3 feet over the hole, spun back, rattled the flagstick and in.”

Al: This was surely a first in terms of horribly unfortunate golf stories (however, please read on for another one…). Talk about a whirlwind of emotions! Making a par that felt like a hole in one! Michael would be holding the Hole in One record for Pro’s interviewed thus far at five if three of them counted but Mike Roeder remains champion with four!

Q: What’s one thing you offer in your golf shop you think EVERY golfer NEEDS? Kicker, has to be $99 and under.

A: “That’s an easy one. Two Undr’s. They’re boxer briefs that I cannot live without. They’re about $20 to $30 per pair. A worthwhile investment if you care about support for your boys.” Find more about them here – https://2undr.com/us/

Q: What’s your favorite hole on your course and why?

A: “Number 17. It’s the signature hole on our course with the tree that our logo is derived from. With the tree just right of the fairway blocking your second shot if you don’t hit it far enough, it makes it a challenge off the tee. The right side of the fairway is lined with trees. You also have water left. A challenging tee shot, however, the green is the flattest on the course. So if you hit a good drive and get your second shot on, you have a great chance at birdie.”

Al: I too, LOVE #17. If you’re swinging it well, the water on the left isn’t an issue at all. Flattest green on the course, go zone from ANYwhere for bird. I have only done it a handful of times though.

Shown below is the tee shot on #17, the CSCC logo and the tree blocking your second shot in.

Q: What’s your least favorite hole on your course and why?

A: “Number 15. It’s a dogleg right with a demanding tee shot. Ideally, it’s a hybrid or iron off the tee but you have to get far enough past the dogleg for a look at the green on the second shot. I try to hit a cut driver just about every time and get caught in the trees and scramble my way through it.”

Al: The hole is BRUTAL. I can mark down a double for myself pretty much every time. Even if I hit a great tee shot, the green is sloped back to front with a fall off to the right and has two bunkers guarding it. For me, walking up to this tee is like walking into the casino and sitting down at a Black Jack table and the dealer says, “Good luck” with that $&#* eating grin. It rarely goes well for me…

Above photo is the tee shot on #15

The Serious stuff

Things haven’t always been fun and games in the golf world for Michael. I was able to draw this out of him when I asked the question, What’s one failure you’ve experienced that set you up for future success? This can be in golf, business, on the course or in life. He thought for a short moment and as if a light bulb went off, he had a great story for me that I had never heard from him before. His reply is below.

“This actually happens to a lot of guys in our industry. You’re going to get your PGA card and you have to take the PAT (Playing Ability Test). Some people have this mental block and can’t pass it, I was one of them. I was on the PAT Tour for a bit and it was a mental GRIND. Even being a pretty good player, it took me a while to pass. The first time I ever took it, I probably shot 95… That was just embarrassing for me. I took it a few more times with little practice. After doing a little better but nowhere near the two score total of 155, I decided if this was what I was going to do for a career, I NEEDED to figure this out. I took some time and got absolutely DIALED. The next attempt, I went out and PASSED with flying colors, so I thought… When being a part of the CNY PGA office, we would host and administer the PAT. At the end of the day, I would enter all of the scores even if I played that day. Since I was playing in this one, my boss was riding along the course watching and checking in on me. He knew I was playing well and started watching me. On a par 5, I hit it in the water on the second shot. So I dropped near the hazard, hit it up close on the 4th shot and made 5 for par.  I was so excited I knew passed by several strokes that I didn’t even look at the card. After the round, I went back to my job entering the scores into the HQ PGA National site. My boss was there with me and he asked if I had done mine yet? I go I’m on it right now actually. He grabbed my shoulder and said you played great, but do you see what I see on your card? I go down the scorecard to the Par 5 and for some reason, my marker and playing partner wrote down a 4 for birdie instead of 5 for par. He goes you know what you have to do right? I go Yup. I have to DQ myself. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. The worst part was after the round, I went hole by hole with the guy too and didn’t even hear what he said because I was so excited about passing and signed off on the card. Going from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, I took a few months off from the PAT.  That forced me to think about this business a lot more. If it was my life, I needed to take it seriously.  After that mishap, I went to Kingsmill to work. I was starting to rethink the whole business because I was so upset and then with determination, I decided to get it done. I came back with vengeance and shot 68-68 with not one driver all day. 3 wood/3 iron off the tee and dialed!”

That was a tough story to listen to as I could hear the emotion in his voice. This question sparked exactly the story I was looking for out of him. It was awesome to hear how he used the failure to drive his success. Golf is truly a game of mental toughness.

Where to find Michael Basch and CSCC Online

To help get Michael and Clifton Springs Country Club’s info out there, you can find them online on their website at http://cliftonspringscc.com/ on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cliftonspringscountryclub on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CSCCgolf (handle @CSCCgolf) and on Instagram at http://instagram.com/cliftonspringscc (handle @cliftonspringscc ).

Clifton Springs CC was designed in 1959 by Peter Craig. This Parkland style golf course features two totally different nine’s. Scoring looks easy at a glance of the scorecard showing 6600 yards from the tips but you’ll likely leave saying, “that’s the longest 6600 yards I’ve ever played”. Known for challenging greens, quick and quirky putts will leave you scratching your head. The course was in great shape this year with a new addition to the greens team of Jakob Brietsch as the new Super Intendent.

CSCC is a full private golf club. All of the rates can be found online here – http://cliftonspringscc.com/membership1/

That wraps up this interview! Thanks for reading our 8th edition of “Meet The Pro” with Michael Basch of Clifton Springs Country Club. I really enjoyed hearing some of Michael’s stories that even I didn’t know.

Be sure to stay tuned for next month’s edition as well as other blog posts. Thanks for reading!

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