The Golf Doctor

by Jeff Berlinicke

WHO NEEDS AN $800 DRIVER to hit it 250 yards and straight?

Mike Calbot can hit it that far with a driver that is practically bent in half.

Who needs to read the latest golf magazines to figure out the perfect stance?

Calbot can hit it straight and far, bent over on his knees.

One of the best trick shot golfers in the world and the owner of the Mike Calbot International Golf Studio that operates out of Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero, Calbot has been teaching golf since the day he almost died in a car accident in the early 1970s. He had made a career for himself traveling the Asian Tour and making a decent living as a golfer. He was close, but not close enough, to joining PGA tour, and then any dream he had of playing with the big boys ended when Calbot was driving on a rain-slicked Georgia road one day and was hit head-on by a truck coming the other way. Calbot survived with a broken back and numerous broken bones. He was one of the lucky ones. Several people died in the accident.

“I was pinned in the car and all I saw was blood, I heard a lot of screaming, and I knew the car looked like an accordion.’’

Calbot’s obituary was actually written for local newspapers, but he fooled everyone and lived. And living life is nothing Calbot takes for granted. He cheated death and decided to move on and that golf would be a big part of it even if he couldn’t compete on a competitive level any longer. Calbot’s back was broken, but not his spirit. Once a golfer, always a golfer.

After three months in a hospital, where he was visited by several priests, he decided his golf career wasn’t quite over. In 1974, he became the person most golfers in the Fort Myers area now know as ‘The Golf Doctor.’ He was giving tips on a local television network and the network decided to do a commercial in which Calbot wore a doctor’s outfit and treated a ‘patient’ who had some golf clubs at his side. Hence, the nickname and the local legend were born.

“After the accident I wanted to keep playing, but I couldn’t play at the level that I wanted to, so the accident was the end of the playing career, but I had to stay in the game,’’ Calbot said. “The Golf Doctor thing grew and I started working with celebrities and a lot of people who were willing to come down for advice.’’

One of his first celebrity students was Dolly Parton, but Calbot prefers to keep his celebrity list quiet.

“I don’t want to be known for teaching celebrities,’’ Calbot said. “I just want to be known as a good golf coach.’’
It’s ironic that Calbot is one of the top teachers on Florida’s West Coast. He never had a golf lesson before he turned pro, which was at the age of 16. The next year, at the age of 17, Calbot was playing overseas and earning his first paychecks on the golf course. He started as a shagger at the age of 8 and never lost his love for the game.

After the accident, he realized that he had a knack for trick shots, hitting balls way down the fairway with crooked clubs, hitting from his knees, and doing his homework on what the few other trick shot artists in the country were doing at the time.

“I started doing trick shot shows in the late 70s and made a name for myself,’’ Calbot said. “It’s been fun and there aren’t too many of us anymore, so I love doing it.’’

Calbot moved to Fort Myers in 1974 and started his teaching career along with his trick shot career at the par-60 Myerlee Country Club. After four years, he opened his first teaching studio and was a teaching pro at three Fort Myers-area courses before taking over at Old Corkscrew in 2008.

Lessons with Calbot come with a history lesson. Calbot has worked with some of the legends of the game, including Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. He has a simple approach to anyone who is looking for a lesson. The key, he says, is to not look for a quick fix. In other words, if you are playing with your boss or an important client on Wednesday, don’t come looking for a quick answer on Tuesday.

“I tell them that I can make you great in about six years,’’ Calbot said. “You have to give me, or anyone else, time. I’ve had people thinking they can come in and get it done in one day. That’s not going to happen.’’

Dropping the handicap is all about time and commitment, not necessarily the amount that new golfers pay for that new set of Callaways.

“It’s all about committing time and committing to instruction,’’ Calbot said. “That’s how Sarazen and Hogan did it and it’s how all of the players today do it. The way I teach is to ask them what it will take to make them happy and how much time they have to spend on being good. Most golfers know they will never be a scratch golfer, but sometimes we get people who are delusional. Clubs don’t matter as much as people think as long as you have the commitment to the game.’’

Calbot has a definite commitment to the game. He won’t take you out to the practice range with a twisted driver or ask you to dirty those Dockers that cost twice as much in the pro shop as at the nearest Wal-Mart, but he’ll be honest with you. There’s no lessons pulled straight out of Golf Digest, just simple advice. The first and most important piece of advice is that commitment to excellence is all it takes and no amount of money can pay for that.

More than one golfer has gone to his knees to pray for the perfect golf game. Calbot can do it and laugh the entire time. While hitting it 250 yards and straight. •

from the July-August 2011 issue

"Clubs don't matter
as much as people think
as long as you have
the commitment to the game."

Calbot started doing trick shots in the
late 70s and made a name for himself.