From the Central Coast of California to Southwest Florida, Bobby Clampett is immersed in golf. He’s transitioned from decades touring the world as a professional to teaching a game cherished by millions, cursed at many and mastered by few.
Clampett views both endeavors as businesses. He was a sole proprietor during his PGA Tour and Championship Tour careers that began in 1980 and included nearly 500 tournaments. His focus now is Impact Zone Golf in Naples. With his wife Marianna, the company’s president, 15 employees and additional contractors, Clampett’s goal is to simplify the game.
“When you are a tour player, no one is telling you when you have to go practice; there’s no one to tell you to clock in,” says Clampett, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “You are a business owner and you are the business. What is the motivation? It comes down to passion.”
Based on the book The Impact Zone Mastering Golf ’s Moment of Truth he co-authored in 2007, Clampett began Impact Zone Golf in Naples about five years ago. The 7,500-square-foot indoor facility encompasses a one-stop-shop for nearly all things golf, with a dose of non-golf leisure—a wine bar.
Now including the Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort and its indoor performance center in Naples as well as pending locations, more than 4,000 students of varying abilities and skill levels, have utilized the instruction method. Services include private instruction, golf schools, private group events, corporate outlines, coaching and a full Junior Academy.
The headquarter facility includes fitness and biomechanics instruction to improve body function and swing performance. It features custom club-fitting and technology, to a putting lab, putting greens and hitting bays. Swing analysis equipment and video cameras also allow students to track performance.
“There have been all these initiatives to change the game and make it easier, but that’s not where the answer lies,” says Clampett. “I feel we can make the biggest improvement in the way we teach golf. The average golfer is very unaware of the cause and effect relationship of where the ball goes and why it does.
“Everything is a mystery and an enigma. Players get frustrated and they end up quitting. My goal is to really help golf. We believe we are at the forefront of the way golf will be taught in the future.”
Born in Monterey, California, not too much farther than a long tee shot from Pebble Beach Golf Links, Clampett, 59, first learned to play golf at age 10. His then single-parent mother bought her son a unique Christmas present—lessons at Quail Lodge & Country Club in nearby Carmel. He played obsessively, entered myriad tournaments and began winning junior titles. As a 19-year-old amateur, Clampett won the 1980 Pebble Beach Invitational, an off-season pro tournament that features men and women.
Success continued rapidly and often. A three-time All-American and two-time collegiate golfer of the year at Brigham Young University, Clampett was low amateur at the 1978 U.S. Open and 1979 Masters. His sole PGA Tour victory was the 1982 Southern Open. Clampett also finished tied for third at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, four shots behind winner Tom Watson and two shots behind runner-up Jack Nicklaus.
Clampett returns often to the Monterey Peninsula to visit family (his mother still lives there) and friends. He played on the Champions Tour (players age 50 and older) for several years through 2014. Encouraged by a friend, Clampett advanced through U.S. Open qualifying earlier this year. But he eventually didn’t advance to the championship held on his home course at Pebble Beach.
With his wife-business partner, the Clampetts live most of the year in Bonita Springs. The couple has five adult children, three from Bobby’s first marriage, two from Marianna’s first marriage. As company co-founder, Marianna began working with her husband after 25 years as a corporate executive for Statistical Analysis System and then a corporate trainer.
“I married Wonder Woman; none of what we do would have been possible without her,” says Clampett of the wife of 15 years. “She has a gift set for business that is remarkable.”
Statistics absorb golf, simple numbers like scoring averages to prize money and niche areas like greens in regulations and scrambling from bunkers. Clampett knows the game’s numbers as well as anyone but is more interested in industry facts and figures. He likes to quote statistics extracted from the Professional Golfers’ Association and other national golf organizations.
“In some areas, golf is having an upswing; in some areas, it’s a continuing downswing,” he says. “It depends on what part of the game you are looking at. I spend a lot of time with people while trying to understand the industry and what’s happening. I find it fascinating.”
Golf’s television viewership is at an all-time high. More women are playing the game. Junior golf programs are thriving around the country, with Clampett believing the future is solid with its record numbers.
Golf participation in the United States peaked in 2005 at about 30 million, according to National Golf Foundation (NGF), the Jupiter-based organization that follows industry trends. The number dropped to 24 million, but has remained steady for the past five years, including 23.8 million in 2017. The NGF also detailed 14.7 million people in the country are “very interested” but didn’t play in 2018.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of golf courses in the country hit an all-time high in 2008 with the 12,058. In the latest census figures (2015) the total dropped to 11,280, meaning about 111 courses on average closed yearly in the seven-year span.
It’s a sad commentary on the game of golf and the industry of golf instruction, Clampett says. The Naples area bucks the industry’s bleak picture. Many courses’ memberships are at capacity.
“When you look at all of those things and say golf’s popularity is increasing, well, yes and no,” Clampett says. “It’s an area of concern for everybody and I am still very concerned about the state of the game.”
Beyond his teaching career, Clampett has maintained a nearly three-decade, part-time network broadcasting career with CBS and other affiliated golf networks. He’s noted for his analysis on the network’s streaming services during the Masters and PGA Championship.
While his broadcasting longevity is important, Clampett is more focused on golf’s stability.
“The reality is that the game is too hard,” he says. “What I’ve really noticed is that the average golfer doesn’t know how to assess and correct their issues. They’re like the person going into the grocery store pulling items off the shelf thinking without a recipe they’re going to create a great meal.
“It’s been amazing to me the retention rate we have among our students. To see the amazing joy and react to so many people. I can’t even begin to tell you. Even golfers ready to quit, to join that four million number who have totally turned around with a renewed vigor and enjoyment of the game. We’ve started to understand that golf isn’t a mystery or an enigma.”