Recently, I was working on some new DVDs for Swing Man Golf. During the process I reflected back on my journey, and noticed how my choice of a favorite golf swing has evolved over the years.
I forget exactly when I started playing golf — maybe junior high or early high school. But I do remember in those first few years that my Dad would take me out with him several times per season for 18 holes and I would mostly shoot between 110 and 120.
During my junior year in high school, breaking 100 on 18 holes was my barometer for having a good round, and those scores were actually good enough to play in the fourth or fifth slots on my high school varsity team.
Also during that period, Dad and I would watch a lot of sports together on TV. Depending on the season, it was mostly baseball, basketball, and football, but we would also take in other sports like golf when they came on, especially for a tournament like the Masters.
For some reason the swings that always stood out to me in those early years were Fred Couples and Greg Norman, the “Great White Shark.” I didn’t really know much about golf or technique at the time, but I could still appreciate how carefree Freddie looked with his buttery rhythm and super smooth swing.
As for Norman, I suppose parts of what made him noticeable to me were both his long blonde hair as well as his nickname, but I also really liked how confidently and aggressively he would go after the ball while still managing to stay in balance. With him, it seemed to be no-holds-barred when it came time for a full swing.
When I got in to college, Ernie Els was coming on the scene, and much for the same reasons I liked Couples’ swing I really loved watching “The Big Easy” swing. Again, with my knowledge back then, I didn’t really understand what was going on from a technical standpoint, but I sure enjoyed how pretty and effortless looking he was to watch.
Then after five years of working as a computer engineer, I quit my corporate job in Kansas City and moved out to California to pursue a golf career. Shortly after I arrived, I had the good fortune of having Dan Shauger take me under his wing and introduce me to his friend Mike Austin. At first mention, I didn’t know who Austin was but for some reason his name did sound familiar.
Later on, I remembered that as a young boy I had flipped through an old edition of the Guinness Book of World Records and that I had read about Austin’s 515-yard drive that he had hit in the 1974 U.S. National Senior Open in Las Vegas. Almost unimaginably, he was 64 years old at the time of the drive and he used a steel-shafted persimmon wood driver and balata ball to do it.
In a way it was magical for me to get to meet this mystical legend that I had read about as a kid. Shortly after, Dan introduced me to Austin and showed me some old VHS tape video footage of Mike’s swing, I had found my new favorite swing in Austin.
I’ve always been a naturally curious person, and in the years since my initial meeting with Dan and the now late Austin, I’ve spent a great deal of time studying many other great swings as a swing scientist of sorts, and I tried all kinds of different methods in and out of competition. Little did I know it, but both my background in anatomy, kinesiology, physics, patient case analysis, etc., from pharmacy school and also my work as a computer engineer would come in great handy.
In recent years, as a by-product of my research, the person whose swing I found to be my favorite evolved again. This time it would belong to PGA Tour player Ryan Palmer. In fact, some of the primary things I liked about Ryan’s swing are actually many of the same things that helped me go from 14-handicapper to professional golfer.
To me, it’s a low maintenance type of swing that doesn’t require great flexibility that you could just get up out of bed, head to the first tee, and put balls in play all day long. Overall, if you’re looking for a full swing to mimic, I think his is a great choice for both amateurs and professionals. Perhaps in a subsequent article, I’ll talk in more detail about why I like Ryan’s swing.
Anyway, all of that reflection about my favorite swings over the years and why I liked them got me wondering what swings other people liked the most.
As I couldn’t recall any significant poll ever being done to determine who has the best golf swing according to popular vote, I thought it would make for an interesting and fun article. So I did some initial research by asking my friends on Facebook and checking in with those on the Swing Man Golf mailing list to come up with a good list to vote on.
As expected, I got back a lot of nominations for guys like Fred Couples, a younger Ernie Els, Steve Elkington, Greg Norman, Luke Donald, etc, but I also was surprised at the diversity of other responses that came back in as well.
Of course, some of the golfing greats like Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Sam Snead came up.
Tiger was mentioned too, but different people favored certain swings of his over others (Ex. Pre-Harmon, Harmon, Haney, or Foley)
There were also home grown swings from guys like Bubba Watson, John Daly, Miller Barber, and Tommy Gainey.
From the women, Annika Sorenstam, Mickey Wright, and Na Yeon Choi got nominations.
A number of long drivers got the nod including Jamie Sadlowski, Landon Gentry, Mike Austin, Mike Dobbyn, Mike Dunaway, and Pat Dempsey.
Several teachers were mentioned, like Martin Chuck and Stack & Tilt’s Mike Bennett.
Count Yogi and Moe Norman made the list…and even yours truly got votes.
Carl Spackler, from Caddyshack was also suggested, which I thought was hilarious, but in all seriousness I decided not to include his weed whacking excellent-ness in the final poll below. It did, however, make for a great title picture for this article.
Interestingly, what became really apparent to me from everyone’s feedback is that people have very different definitions of what constitutes the best golf swing. Their favorite swing could be from someone who is smooth and rhythmic, it might look pretty or ugly, it could be powerful, it could have certain swing fundamentals or mechanics, it could be more or less optimal from a mathematical or scientific standpoint, etc.
It doesn’t even necessarily have to belong to a great player because there’s more to achieving a good golf score and winning than just the full swing. You could have a wonderful player with a terrible full swing and at the same time have someone that doesn’t play that much and/or isn’t even on Tour who has a lovely and very desirable golf swing.
All that being said, this article is about doing a poll, so let’s get to it without further ado.
Below are 72 choice for your favorite golf swing, which is absolutely crazy for any normal sort of poll. I thought about hand picking ones that seemed to get the most votes in my initial research to narrow it down to maybe 5 or 10 options, but I didn’t want to limit the selections to those of my own personal bias and/or marginalize someone else’s choice of best swing. And who knows? Maybe the results will also yield some surprises. Plus, we’ll actually be able to determine by popular vote which golfer has the best golf swing and be able to rank them accordingly.
Perhaps there are some other swings that deserve to be on this list, but at the least this is as inclusive of anything that’s ever been done before.
So…what about you? Who do you think has the best swing in golf?
Cast in your vote and feel free to comment below about whom you chose, why you picked him or her, if you think someone else deserves to be on the list, etc.
Mondays Off: Putting Cameron Champ’s crazy distance in perspective
Cameron Champ is crazy long! Like, leave-the-biggest-hitters-in-the-dust long. Is his style of play the future of golf? Club Pro Steve Westphal and Knudson discuss what you should and shouldn’t be doing on the range, how much time really, really good players spend hitting balls, and more.
Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
Hidden Gem of the Day: Glen Erin Golf Club in Janesville, Wisconsin
These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!
Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day is Glen Erin Golf Club in Janesville, Wisconsin, which was submitted by GolfWRX member AUTIGER07. The course gets praised by AUTIGER07, who describes the course as an “Erin Hills lite”, for both its tremendous value and excellent condition, stating: “The fact you can play Glen Erin 12-15x before you arrive at the cost of one round at the former is pretty special. The course is usually in very good shape with a comfortable pace of play.”
Fellow GolfWRX member ode1 was quick to endorse the submission from AUTIGER07: “Good call on Glen Erin….a very fun course to play, mostly links style with a few tree-lined holes; nice elevation change throughout. One of my favorite courses to play!”
According to Glen Erin Golf Club’s website, which describes the course as “Ireland’s Valley”, the course implements customer pricing, which means “Rates will be adjusted – both higher and lower – in real-time, based on demand, availability and other changing factors.” Those rates range from $25-$50.
The endangered state of Scottish golf
Florida. May 1993. That is the moment I really got into golf. Sure, like most youngsters of that time, I’d had my dad’s old clubs, shafts cut down with insulating tape acting as the grip, and I belted balls around the back garden with no thought of what I was doing. But that family vacation really made it sink in how good this game is. Round-the-clock coverage on cable, golf shops everywhere, and sunshine–what more can you ask for?
My parents bought me my first set of clubs, we had a couple of trips to the range, a quick nine holes, and a lifelong golfer was born. So why did it take a trip to the United States for a nine-year-old from the home of golf, from the relative golfing mecca of Ayrshire, to take notice of this great sport?
It wasn’t as if it wasn’t booming in the UK at that time. Troon and Turnberry, 15 minutes in either direction, had hosted the Open within five years of each other around that time. Englishman Nick Faldo had won 2 Open Championships in ‘90 and ‘92. He successfully defended the Masters in 1990–Ian Woosnam from Wales succeeded him. And more importantly a Scot, Sandy Lyle, had collected his second major in just three years at Augusta in 1988–after becoming the first Scot since the 1920s to win the Open in 1985. Golf in the UK was in a great place, and Scotland had its fair share of success at the time with Torrance and Montgomerie joining Lyle at golf’s top table.
If it took that family intervention for me during that period of golfing supremacy, what hope do the children of today have 25 years on?
I imagine the vast majority that play the game took it up in similar fashion to myself. A push from a playing family member or close friend. Different circumstances or timing perhaps, but similar nonetheless. Some will have looked at Montgomerie, Lyle et al and have taken inspiration from them.
So with participation numbers dwindling and clubs struggling, are the kids now having less influence from within the family to take up the game? Is the drop in adult participation affecting the influx from the juniors? That’s worrying, as it’s never been easier, or more affordable (relatively speaking) to get into a golf club. 25 years ago there was waiting lists and huge joining fees. Not now. You can pretty much join up anywhere with little or no joining fee. This trend looks like continuing with the variety of alternatives out there – with little or no encouragement, what incentive is there for a junior to go out in the wind and rain to learn a game that it is deemed expensive and time consuming, and one that takes years to learn when you know you’ll never master it?
Hopefully some of Scotland’s youngsters could take inspiration from the Scots at the elite level of the game – but who exactly would that be? At the time of writing there is ONE Scot in the top 100 of the official golf world rankings. Russell Knox at 59. The next best placed is Martin Laird who isn’t even in the top 150 at present. Both of these guys are based in the US but their skills were honed in Inverness and Glasgow respectively. In the cold and wet. Like the Lyle’s, Torrance’s and Montgomerie’s before them. We invented this game and that is what we have to show for it?
Can you imagine the outcry if the United States stopped producing football players, the Canadians gave up on their ice hockey, or heaven forbid, the All Blacks became an also ran in the Rugby world? So why do we accept it?
Our best golfing achievement of recent times was Paul Lawrie’s Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999–recent being 19 years ago–an indication of how far we have fallen. In the period between then and now, only two Scots have even made a top 10 in a major–Montgomerie on three occasions and Alastair Forsyth in the 2008 PGA. Four top 10s in 53 events since Lawrie’s success. Majors are hard. Only a select few can win one, or even contend in one, but four in 53 is poor when countries such as Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Fiji–none of which have the history and tradition in the game as Scotland–have produced winners. Take nothing away from those guys, but we must produce more players with better quality to compete again at that level.
We haven’t even fared well as a nation in regular events on the European or PGA Tours in that time. Only 13 players since Carnoustie ‘99 have even been in the winner’s circle, combining for 34 wins in total over the two main tours – Montgomerie claiming a third of those himself. 34 wins in 1,686 events (including co-sanctioned events) since Lawrie lifted the Claret Jug.
The home of golf, the country that has given this wonderful sport to the world has combined to win one in every 50 events, or worse, just two percent of the tournaments played on the two main tours. To further highlight the issue, Only Montgomerie since Lyle has reached the OWGR top 10, peaking at No. 2. Russell Knox is the only other to even breach the top 20, briefly hitting 18th.
Kudos to all of these guys who have got the job done. They’ve achieved what we all dream of. But we need to do more. We have a duty to do more. So how do we achieve that?
We hosted the first ever Open Championship at Prestwick Golf Club and we currently have five of the ten Open Championship courses on the rota. We have staged two of the best Open Championships in recent memory in our country–the Tom Watson story, albeit without the fairytale ending in 2009 and the epic Stenson/Mickelson duel at Troon in 2016. Between them, we’ve hosted a successful Ryder Cup and despite all the buzz around these events, our participation levels haven’t dramatically risen.
That’s the first step–getting more people, primarily juniors, started in the game. Golf is the most frustrating game in the world. Can you imagine trying to start playing now, as an adult? How much more frustrated you would be if you were picking up a club for the first time? The vast majority of people, myself included, would give up not long after starting. As a kid you don’t. It’s enjoyable, you’re more patient and you’re playing with kids of similar ages and skill sets. By the time that youngster develops into a teenager or a young adult, they know the basics, they can understand the game and all its quirks, and they can get round the course with their friends. Simple when you put it like that. How does it work in practice?
Every child in primary school should have free access to golf. It’s that easy. We invented a game which has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry, why can’t we find ways to encourage our own to have the chance to play? Why are we not immensely proud of what we have given to the world? And why as a nation are we not embarrassed about our lack of success at the top in recent times?
According to the Scottish Government, there are 2,056 primary schools in the country, teaching 377,382 kids. Every single one of them should have the chance to play. Many will simply not like it–that’s not surprising, but as the saying goes, you won’t know until you try it. So if even one percent of them continue in the game, that’s nearly 4,000 extra participants. It can be included as part of the curriculum, used as an after school or holiday club negating or at least reducing the childcare commitments and at the very least it keeps kids active–aren’t we always hearing about our obesity and health problems? As they progress, secondary school golf can become a fixture the way soccer or rugby are, local and national competitions can become the norm as it is in other countries. Why can’t we even go even further and include university courses within the golf industry, the way Burnley Football Club are doing within the soccer industry. After all, there is more to golf than teeing it up.
Practically, it needs buy in from the key bodies. Scottish Golf are and should be key. They have appointed a new CEO this year in Andrew McKinlay. Unfortunately their achievements have been tarnished due to previous appointments, and Andrew’s past in the Scottish Football Association will not do much to raise optimism with the average Scottish golf enthusiast. While not trying to decry the new man before he’s finished his first year in office, appointing another executive, rather than someone with imagination and innovation seems counterproductive to the goals we should look to achieve.
There must be enough “executives” within the organization (and generally across the golfing industry in all national programs) to cover executive roles and allow the opportunity for someone younger with fresh, achievable goals in driving forward ideas from the golfing majority which benefit the golfing majority–not the elite level few. Regardless who that person is, engagement should be sought with the Local and National Government on how to best promote it. Local governments should be included to represent their schools, as should great programmes such as Clubgolf who do so much good work with youngsters in Scotland.
A prevalent media marketing campaign wouldn’t go a miss either, perhaps some endorsements and appraisals from the countries golfing legends would help make some noise. At least engage those professionals who’ve risen to the top of the game and seek advice on how to begin addressing the issue. Colin Montgomery and Paul Lawrie in particular have raised this exact issue recently in the media. These guys have traveled the world, competed against and beaten the best of the best and have seen how developing markets, particularly in Asia, are growing the game. It would be foolish not to tap into their experiences.
As with everything, it comes down to who pays the bills. Supply of equipment and facilities would be the main issue. UK Sport is committed to spending £340 million plus ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo. This includes £10 million for Taekwondo, £15 million for equestrian and £84 million on rowing, sailing and canoeing combined – can anyone name more than two participants in each discipline? If Team GB comes back with a similar medal haul (67) than those won in Rio–which included Justin Rose’s golfing gold–that works out as around £5 million per medal. Staggering. Add in the £30m for this years’ Winter Olympics where Team GB won five medals: £6m per medal. What’s the legacy for the outlay here? There aren’t thousands lining up around the local swimming pools or the nearest ski slope.
London 2012 is enough evidence that the effect is short term and for the elite few. This money is earmarked for Olympic sports, that’s fine, but surely a discussion should be had with how this pot of money, dedicated for sport in the whole of the UK, is better spent amongst those who’ve helped raise it? Scottish Government spending on sport this year is increasing to £30m–or to put it into perspective, the equivalent of an Olympic rowing budget. Increased participation and being active should be the key goals in all sport funded schemes, not paying for a handful of elite athletes to bring home a couple of medals.
Taxes imposed on manufacturers selling products on these shores could be ring-fenced to return to the grass roots of the game, and advertising is always a way of adding revenue to the pot. Local and national club makers could be approached to look at ways to introduce to this gap in the market–it can’t hurt these small businesses get a foothold in a market that they will never conquer against the major brands. And it can’t hurt the major brands to be involved in promoting and sponsoring these schemes – it’s small potato for the biggest brands in the world. Think of the visitors alone who flock to Scotland to play and the advertising for these brands would more than pay for any outlay to provide equipment for juniors. Sponsorship of the scheme from a number of sources can be investigated. There are huge companies all over the country sponsoring events and individuals. Approach some of these to see if they wish to be involved in a national scheme – the worst they can say is no. And think how many sets of clubs are lying around the country in garages, closets, lockers and the like: a donation scheme could be investigated.
The benefits are endless. Fitter, more engaged pupils–this goes someway to addressing the health problem we keep hearing of in this country. Kids from a more deprived background have an opportunity to play a game they may never have had previously. And lifelong friendships are formed on the course. It can even be argued that discipline and focus for some children that golf provides is exactly the outlet they need. Additional jobs will be created as a result. Teachers, greenskeepers, course marshals, catering staff–that’s just the start. Approach teaching pros or assistant pros looking to gain some teaching experience–these pupils may be their future. Driving ranges and municipal courses up and down the country are quiet for large periods of the day–make them available for school use, even just for a few hours and you may just have increased your future customer base. It’s not like many of the council run courses (or even private clubs) are thriving at the minute so what is there to lose? Clever marketing, which has started in a few courses, increases interest–free adult with a child, two season tickets for the price of one, there’s plenty that can be done. Again, this isn’t a scheme that can be limited to Scotland–participation around the vast majority of the world needs addressed.
And for children wishing to progress beyond the school programs: give them incentives to make it affordable. If we don’t, some of the good work this scheme could bring will be undone, and these kids will be lost to the game forever. There is a real opportunity here to make a difference, and while all the answers aren’t immediately available, the right people with right attitude will soon come up with them. What a legacy that could be to our game.
We are already at a watershed moment for Scottish golf, with decreasing numbers, clubs closing or fighting for their existence, and elite level Scottish golfers at a premium. Where will be in another 10 years time? Other countries, are thriving off the back of our game; it’s time we at least tried catch up–before it’s forgotten where golf came from.
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