Out of all the tricks in Craig Hocknull’s bag of amazing golf shots, the most impressive one at Golf Fest last year might’ve been one the crowd never knew about: Hocknull performed both shows with a significant injury.
“My thumb was broken,” Hocknull said, referring to the recurrence of an injury that forced him off the professional tours and for a time threatened his performing career.But that context also makes the compliment he received for his performance at Oaks North all the more impressive. One of the show’s vendors told him, “You know you’re one of the best ball strikers in the world, right?”
A healthy Hocknull will return to Golf Fest on March 6-7 to perform his Outback Golf Show at 1 p.m. each day and amaze audiences again with his unique ball-striking display. Watching videos of Hocknull’s shows evokes comparisons to a one-man golf X Games. Hocknull hits balls rapid fire. He hits shots from his knees. He hits balls off tall tees and with crazy clubs, including one with a hammer head and another with a whippy seven-foot shaft.
Seeing the shots on video is one thing, Hocknull said. Seeing them live is another.
“I hit each ball solid and for distance,” he said. “A lot of people can hit the ball, but they don’t have the control or hit it as far as I do. I can shape shots.”
Hocknull, who teaches in Arizona and was the Southwest Section PGA 2014 Teacher of the Year, is in his 13th year of performing and does around 20 shows a year. Hocknull is from Australia’s Outback and got introduced to the game at a young age. His show contains a lot of Aussie themes and elements – and audience participation.
Hocknull often hits balls thrown, or bounced, to him by audience members. “That’s one of my signature tricks,” he said.
After coming to America to play college golf at Jackson St., Hocknull started to dabble with trick shots after he began his teaching career. He found the routine came easily to him. “I was able to do most of them the first time I tried them, or within a few swings,” he said. “It was all pretty natural.” After adding a little showmanship, such a golf magic tricks, Hocknull had a career.
Hocknull said his primary purpose is to entertain, but he hopes the show recruits people to the game. “I want people to leave the show shaking their heads about what they’ve seen, but also to realize how much fun golf can be.” He said he’s caught kids on the driving range after the show trying to toss balls in the air and hit them or emulate other parts of his act.
With his hand healed, Hocknull said he’s eyeing a return to competitive golf and possibly the Web.com Tour. “It won’t be this year because it takes time to line up sponsors,” he says, “but I figure to have a good year competitively.” Until then, the show goes on.
To purchase advance tickets or learn more about the show, go to www.golffestshow.com.
To learn more about the show and see Craig perform, or to book him for an event, go to www.outbackgolfshow.com.
Corey Ross is a golf and travel content specialist based in Carlsbad. You can find this post and more of his work at socalgolfblog.com