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POLL: Who Has The Best Golf Swing?

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Carl Spackler Caddyshack Golf Swing

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.

What golfer's swing is your favorite?

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

104 Comments

104 Comments

  1. Cody flowers

    Mar 18, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Bobby jones is by far the best ever. Anyone knows that the he who uses the least effort has the most efficient swing. No one knows what a good swing look like anymore they are all gone, all the pure swings. There may be a couple here and there but I don’t see how any of the modern players are very good when true lag cannot be created without the lifting of the left heel. People also do not have the proper take away anymore and they do not know how to achieve it. Most of these peoples perception of the game is all twisted and wrong. It’s sad really what has happened to this game. If everyone just watched those old bobby jones instruction tapes everyone would turn out to be a bubba Watson so that would be no good. This is all lost knowledge.

  2. Ron

    Nov 19, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Ben Hogan had the best golf swing.Words can’t make someone the greatest golfer but the actions of Ben Hogan’s swing did make him the best ever.Even Jack Nicklaus said that Ben Hogan was the best.That’s coming from a man that had one of the greatest careers in golf.A very humbling thing to say of someone else in the same field of work.Others have said as much as well.

  3. charles

    Jul 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    TOM Purtzer WAS VOTED AS HAVING THE BEST GOLF SWING BY THE P.G. A. PLAYERS WHEN HE WAS ON TOUR . THEY WOULD KNOW,AND I AGREE.

    CHUCK

  4. charles

    Jul 18, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    tom Purtzer was picked by the PGA tour players as having the best golf swing on tour at one time. they would know and i agree.

    CHUCK

  5. Jace

    Jul 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I like Gary Woodland. Simple, smooth and enormous power.

  6. Shaun

    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Mike Austin hands down. If I couldn’t have that swing, give me Tiger in 2000.

  7. Matt

    Sep 7, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Billy Horschell and Adam Scott have the best swings on tour at the moment! How Horschell is not on the poll amazes me.

    See it for yourself http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81zd65QgfnY

    Matt

  8. Chris arrand

    Aug 14, 2013 at 6:18 am

    What about faldo. His swing looked great shame about his putting

  9. Johan

    Aug 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Henrik Stenson ought to be on the list. When he has a good year his swing and his game is so good and so versitile. Mybe a bit quick but still

  10. Peter Reich

    Aug 3, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I can’t believe that the mechanical swing of today has out shined the fluid and graceful swing of previous eras. I see Bobby Jones as having the best swing of all time! He has no wasted movements (a large leg kick on the backswing or an exaggerated dip on the down swing) like the swing choices above and he has the power and accuracy without being robotic or aggressive towards the ball. Overall when a lawyer from the 30’s addresses a golf ball with a slightly open stance, a posture that is at ease, and fluid controlling hands and then allows physics and gravity to coil the club back and then drop and release the club through the ball it can be nothing other than extraordinary!!!

  11. Clayton

    Jul 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I really like Martin Kaymer’s swing

  12. Evan

    Jul 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Henrik Stenson is a really nice modern swing for a bigger frame/ bigger guy… many swings that are personal favorites or are being modeled need to have similar body types. One thing I always look at when comparing swings is taking body size/ type into account. Best big guy swings (6’2″+): Tom Weiskopf, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Davis Love 3, Nicolas Colsaerts (very similar to DL3)

  13. Sébastien

    Jul 24, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Great, really great article Jaacob!

    Do you play in Otelfingen?…I had to laugh when I saw the range and thought wow, really?? 🙂

  14. viper

    Jul 23, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Sergio

  15. aliceryder

    Jul 15, 2013 at 12:52 am

    It doesn’t matter if who really had the best golf swing. What’s important for me is that my faves on the list! Adam Scott being on top and Tiger Woods!

  16. Jim.

    Jul 14, 2013 at 4:34 am

    Totally agree with JJMule…. Robert Rock has a fantastic swing in so many ways not least aesthetically.
    Another vote for Rocky here

  17. Dolph Lundgrenade

    Jul 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Why wasn’t I on this list? I have the best swing of all these jokers

  18. Nicholas

    Jul 13, 2013 at 3:39 am

    Rickie Fowler**** not “Ricky”

  19. Sky

    Jul 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Who the heck voted for Tommy Gainey? lol

  20. Boda

    Jul 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Hubert Green?

  21. Sean

    Jul 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I’m not really interested in who has the best swing, what impresses me is who has the lowest scoring average. It doesn’t matter how the club head gets to the ball, as long as it gets there the way it’s suppose to. 🙂

  22. John

    Jul 12, 2013 at 11:16 am

    There’s a lot on that list that aren’t great ball-strikers, and a ton of great ball-strikers that are on the list. Maybe update it?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 12, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      How are you defining someone as a great ball-striker or not?

      Of the 60 million or so golfers in the world, every one of these guys could be considered an upper 99th percentile ball-striker.

      But anyway, this piece was more about determining and ranking everyone’s favorite swings regardless of ball-striking skills. 😉

  23. Paul

    Jul 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Sam Snead – Timeless and won more tournaments then any other player in the US. Not as many majors as Jack but proved he could win – over and over again…!

  24. K Biebs

    Jul 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    No love for Geoff Ogilvy?

  25. Ryan williams

    Jul 11, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Carlos Franco’s double eagle such a smooth epic swing.

  26. kiko

    Jul 11, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Frankie Minoza

  27. franc

    Jul 11, 2013 at 6:54 am

    jim mclellan

  28. David Schultz

    Jul 11, 2013 at 3:03 am

    Jim McLellan

  29. Lee

    Jul 11, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Noh Seung Yul. Hands down.

  30. Blaise

    Jul 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    tom watson!!!

  31. Rusty Cage

    Jul 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    No love for Lydia Ko?

  32. dario

    Jul 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Where Is Hunter Mahan ?? He is definetly a top ten in that list !

  33. jjmule

    Jul 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    My personal all-time favorite is George Knudson (Hogan also loved his swing…)

    Recently, I’ve really been impressed with Robert Rock’s action – the best I’ve seen on any tour. Sort of a cult has grown up regarding his swing – check YouTube if you don’t believe me.

    He should be on your list

  34. dg7936

    Jul 10, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Tom Purtzer has a great swing. Not many wins but a classic move through the ball. Stuart Appleby has a solid simple swing that lets him crush the ball. Lots of different ways to hit it, a lot depends on your body type.

  35. Joel

    Jul 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    How about a Canadian in the Mix, Graham Delaet, he swings the club so good! I believe if people mimic’d his shoulder turn alone, they would find themselves hitting further and with more consistency.

    • steven

      Jul 11, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Good call with Graham. I was following DL3 at The Barclays last year and Graham was in the group, little guy, but has some muscle to him, the kid hit it forever

  36. Jaacob Bowden

    Jul 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Some great diversity in favorites here. Good learning.

    The “Other” category is sitting in 12th…and looks like it would now be filled up with a combination of Hunter Mahan, Tom Watson, Billy Casper, Raphaël Jacquelin, Marina Stuetz, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Bruce Lietzke, Billy Horschel, Robert Rock, Ryo Ishikawa, John Merrick, and Vaughn Taylor.

    So I’m guessing none of these golf swings would individually crack the top 10, but certainly still worth including in the overall poll.

  37. freddy

    Jul 10, 2013 at 9:52 am

    sam sneed. played longer than anyone. and everyone loves syrup!

  38. Steven

    Jul 10, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Billy Horschel or John Merrick

  39. Max

    Jul 10, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Ry? Ishikawa!

  40. Martin Chuck

    Jul 10, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Honored to be on the list. My mom must have voted.

  41. Ryan

    Jul 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Robert Rock???

  42. Tom Miller

    Jul 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    If you didn’t pick Ben Hogan or Byron Nelson, then you are not a student of the game. I picked Ben. They should be tied for first place.

  43. John M

    Jul 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Jeev Milka Singh… JUST KIDDING

    But seriously, justin rose or oostie

  44. Brian

    Jul 9, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I’m going with Billy Horschel right now. Just about perfect.

  45. Jerry Crowell

    Jul 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    1950’s Mike Austin. Jack Nicklaus 2nd. DJ Watts 3rd.

  46. DJ Watts

    Jul 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Jack Nicklaus. Nearly flawless and didn’t crack under pressure. 18 majors. My choice for best swing.

    • John

      Jul 12, 2013 at 11:15 am

      Your equating success with ball striking ability. Doesn’t work that way

  47. terry

    Jul 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    So are most people here picking the best swing based on what top instructors think is the ideal swing…? The best swing is one that produces the best results, especially under pressure. The best swings are ones that you don’t have to think about to execute, alla Jim Furyk. According to Trackman, Furyk has delivered the club head into the ball on all the proper angles more consistently than any other player on tour. Before trackman, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Bruce lietzke come to mind. and finally, Moe Nornam deserves a mention. Not only were these swings consistent, they were poetry in motion, not like all the robots you see today. when i think of best swings, i think of poetry and art, not robots.

  48. Aeron Bowden

    Jul 9, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    My vote is for Charles Barkley!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxLkEPb5DzI

  49. x125

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Retief

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Retief’s another good one from South Africa.

      Oosthuizen, Els, Shwartzel, Immelman, etc…what are they putting in the water down there?

      This list was 72 but it could’ve gotten to 75-80 good choices.

  50. JC

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I’m always mesmerized by Freddie Couples’ swing. At 53 he can still poke it out there 300 yards and he’s just so smooth and fluid. The club head looks like it’s moving through quicksand…and then he makes contact and the ball just ignites. Fantastic.

  51. Omar

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    No Phil?! Such a beautiful swing, and the only lefty swing that doesn’t look awkward to me

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Phil has a crazy amount of club face rotation down through the hitting area…I think that’s one reason why he’s so streaky.

      But yes, it is a beautiful looking motion and not as awkward as many other swings.

      Weird that no one mentioned him either in my initial polling research. I probably should have put him in anyway.

  52. GCC

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Ol’ Neil Wilkins will be one proud dude when he sees this!

  53. anom

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    LPGA rookie Marina Steutz has an absolutely beautiful swing. Currently it has to be her so I’m going with other

  54. Rob hogan

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    John daly has to get my vote with Bowden just behind!!

  55. Sean

    Jul 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    To me, it’s not who has the best looking swing, it’s what is the best swing. The best swing is the one which will not injure your body over a period of time. A good instructor will not force/make you swing a certain way, just because the instruction book says to do it this way. A good instructor will help you develop a swing based on your body type and physical limitations. It may not look pretty, but it will be effective and not cause you to injure yourself. Yes, Fred has a great looking swing, just don’t ask him how his back is doing. Obviously golf is not a physical contact sport, but just look at all the pro’s who have to take time off to recover from injuries. If it wasn’t for
    golf, a majority of Chiropractor’s would be serving happy meals.

  56. Antonio

    Jul 9, 2013 at 11:10 am

    From Booby Jones, Byron said ” Bob´s golf swing was quite elegant – it was a long swing with great rhythm and it had a wonderfull pace -“

  57. Tommy

    Jul 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

    “Swing YOUR swing”
    Arnie, 2013

  58. Darrren

    Jul 9, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Id say GOD would be envious of Adam Scott, there no question his is the best, 2nd would have been woods.

    • G

      Jul 9, 2013 at 8:47 am

      You couldn’t be more wrong.

      • JC

        Jul 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm

        Based on the voting so far G, I’d say you’re pretty clearly in the wrong here!

        • G

          Jul 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm

          Ha! This is just opinion, not fact. Technically, Oosty has a better swing. So does Bill Haas.

  59. Cris

    Jul 9, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Really? No Hunter Mahan? You can’t be serious.

  60. Andy

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:14 am

    How in the world is Ben Hogan sitting outside the top 5…? What are you people doing?!?!?!

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 9, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Haha, certainly some surprises here, eh?

      As it sits right now, I would never have guessed Adam Scott would be #1. Top 10, yes…but I didn’t expect #1.

      It’s also interesting to see how the different versions of Tiger’s swing are rating.

      Fun poll. 🙂

  61. Gregor Reeves

    Jul 9, 2013 at 2:04 am

    When Ryan was in high school his parents were members at Tascosa CC in Amarillo. It is fun watching a nice kid grow up and become a great man. He hasn’t had many tweeks to his swing since high school.

  62. DJ King

    Jul 8, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Ben Hogan has the best swing of all time, he makes it seem so fluid and simple

  63. tyler brooke

    Jul 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Modern player I’d probably go with Adam Scott. Vintage would be Hogan

  64. Emilio

    Jul 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I like Byron Nelson. Basically he design and redesign his swing to make it one of the most reliable under tournament pressure. Just 11 wins in a row, one of the biggest streak in history of any sport, made him enough money to retire early in his life. Even the golf club designer named their testing robot Iron Byron!!!

  65. Scott

    Jul 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Where’s Hunter Mahan.

  66. Jim

    Jul 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I didn’t see Tom Watson? Great swing with longevity, yes?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

      That’s true, Jim. I think Tom Watson should be on here as well.

      Similarly, to what I said above about Hunter Mahan, I’m surprised he didn’t show up in my initial polling.

      Thus far from the comments, between him and Hunter Mahan, it looks like those are the only two that were missed as significant voting options. Not bad!

      So far, with the “Other” category currently in 13th place, I would think those votes would mostly be taken up by Watson and Mahan.

      Although, perhaps Billy Casper would have been a good addition too.

      Anyway, I’m pleased at the comprehensiveness of the list. It’s a great list to choose from and I think it was covered well.

      We got almost everyone!

  67. Chris

    Jul 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I didn’t look carefully. Elk is clearly on the list. My apologies!

  68. Derek

    Jul 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Adam Scott. I think even God himself wants his swing

    • G

      Jul 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

      I totally disagree. It’s such a forced, showy swing. Bill Haas, all the way – totally natural and fluid.

  69. Chris

    Jul 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Steve Elkington should be on the choice list. Flawless swing.

    • tyler brooke

      Jul 8, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      Agreed, was looking for him on the list.

    • Dolph Lundgrenade

      Jul 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      agreed

    • Peter Reich

      Aug 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      He is on the list. I’m amazed so many people can’t find him, lol.

  70. Adam

    Jul 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Gotta have Hunter Mahan on here, it’s the swing that Foley says is the model for TW and JR to strive for.

    • dingleberry

      Jul 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      He has to much face rotation in his swing.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

      He’s not my favorite swing.

      However, I agree with you, he would’ve been good to have on the list. I’m surprised in my initial polling that his name didn’t come up.

      The “Other” option in the poll is currently ranked 13th, so it’s feasible he could finish that high in the voting.

    • Joel

      Jul 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Couldn’t Agree with you more Adam!

    • c

      Jul 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Chad Campbell over Pat Bates all day, I bet he’d be in the top 30 if you made him a selection

    • John

      Jul 10, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      Completely agree, one of the top ball strikers consistently. If you look, boo, hunter, and dufner have similar “foley,s&t,hogan,turn in a barrel” type swings, though with there own style and subtle differences.

    • Dolph Lundgrenade

      Jul 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Seriously… the modern swing model is not even on the list? pssh.

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Opinion & Analysis

I’m practicing. Why am I not getting better at golf?

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We all want to improve our golf games; we want to shoot lower scores, make more birdies and win bragging rights from our friends. As a result, we practice and invest many hours in trying to improve. However, do we improve as quickly as we want to? Is there something we’ve been missing?

“The secret is in the dirt,” Ben Hogan said. And he was right. To date, not one golfer has become an elite player without investing thousands of hours in improving their golf game. And yet, there are thousands of amateur golfers who practice every week and don’t get better. What is the difference? To me, this is a very interesting question. What underpins how or why we learn? Furthermore, how can we super-charge our rate of learning? 

To super-charge our learning, we must first realize that practice itself does not make us better at golf. This is an empty promise. It is close to the truth but incorrect. Instead, practice, when done correctly, will cause changes in our body to make us more skillful over time. This is a subtle, but important difference. There is no magic type of practice that universally builds skill, however, there are a handful of factors that can speed up, slow down or even stop your progress.

Remember: “You are not aiming to hit 50 balls; you are trying to become more skillful.”

There are the two major factors that stop golfers improving. Try not to view them as switches that are on or off. Instead, view both factors as sliding scales. The more you can fine-tune each factor, the faster you will improve your golf.

1) Give your body clear and precise feedback

What is 2 + 2? Imagine if you were never given the answer to this question at school. If you weren’t, you would never know the answer. Similarly, imagine you made a golf swing and the instant you hit the golf ball it disappeared. How would you know what to do on your next attempt to hit a straighter shot?

In both cases, feedback is the missing ingredient. Feedback comes from the shot outcome, watching the ball flight and many other sensations we get during our golf swing. As soon as our body does not have clear and precise feedback our learning will stop.

When we first learn to play golf, the feedback required to improve is simple – did the ball move at all, and did it get airborne? As we progress, we then need more precise feedback to keep developing our skill.

As a 20 handicapper, we need to know if the ball finished 10 or 15 yards right of our target. When we become an elite player, the requirement for feedback becomes even more stringent. The difference between a wedge shot landing 103 or 107 yards becomes important. This type of feedback, known as knowledge of results, is focused on the result of your golf shot.

“If your body can’t tell the difference between two outcomes, you will not make any changes – learning will not occur.”

To learn, we also require another form of feedback, known as knowledge of performance. In essence, your body needs to know what it did to cause “x.” Relevant practice drills, training aids and videoing your swing are all useful ways to increase feedback on performance. The best form of feedback, however, is an internal understanding of your swing and how it causes different ball flights. This is an implicit skill all great golfers master, and a by-product of many hours of diligent practice, refinement and understanding.

Many golfers hit a brick wall in their golfing journey when their practice stops providing the precise feedback they need to keep improving. They may not have enough information about their shot outcome, or they may not understand how the golf swing causes various shots. Both will completely halt your golfing progress.

Next time you practice, think of ways you can obtain clearer feedback. You don’t need Trackman by your side (although this can be helpful), but pay attention to where your shots finish during putting and chipping practice and note these trends. Find landmarks behind your golf range to gauge the lateral error of your long shots.

If you’re working on your swing path through the point of impact, one way of obtaining feedback on your performance is to place a bottle or a second ball on the ground. To put it simply, if the bottle/ball flies, you’ll know you’ve made a bad swing. Another way, if you are trying to improve your iron striking, is to place a towel one inch behind the ball to indicate whether or not you have hit the ground before the ball. These ideas are not mind-blowing, but trust me; they will speed up your rate of learning.

2) Make your practice suitably difficult

When you first go to the gym, lifting the lightest weight you can find is fine. But how much would your fitness improve if you were still lifting that same weight 12 months later? Now think of how your golf practice has changed over the past 12 months. If you were asked, could you explain the level of difficulty of your practice?

The reason many golfers can’t answer this question is they don’t have a good measure of success when they practice. Most golfers don’t have a quantifiable way to say “that shot I just hit was or wasn’t good enough.” Even fewer golfers have a way to say “this week my practice performance was 20 percent better than last week.” If you fall into this category, try the following game the next time you practice your long game.

Structure your practice so that you have set target zones (10 yards and 20 yards wide) with points for hitting each zone (3 and 1 points respectively). Take a set amount of balls (20 balls) and see how many points you can score with a 6-iron and a driver (10 balls with each). Each week, play this game and track your progress. We’ll call this game the “WRX Range Challenge.”

Set a goal for how many points you want to achieve. This goal should be challenging, but not impossible. When you reach this goal, make your target zones smaller and repeat the process. This way you can track your progress over time. As you make the target zones smaller and smaller, your body has to continually refine your swing to make it more effective.

Summary

We all want to improve our golf. We all want to get better at a quicker rate. The two factors discussed here are obvious and yet are not addressed by many golfers when they practice. Next time you head to the range or practice ground, ensure you have clear feedback on your shot outcome and golfing technique. Make your practice measurable, suitably difficult and enjoy watching your scores progress.

If you do try out the WRX Range Challenge, let us know. Post your score and a photo: #WRXrangechallenge @GolfWRX and me @golfinsideruk on Twitter and Instagram.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole: What it’s like to play golf with a goat caddie

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Live from Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon for the Grand Opening of McVeigh’s Gauntlet and the debut of its goat caddies (yes, goats), host Michael Williams shares his experiences using a goat caddie. Guests include course architect Dan Hixson and Seamus Golf founder Akbar Chistie.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Bobby Clampett: “The 2 big problems with club fitting”

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Four million golfers are still quitting golf in the United States each year. My concern about this trend has led me to write several recent articles for GolfWRX. I’ve shared my thoughts because I believe much can be done to help golfers better understand the game, and most importantly, improve their games in ways that are not being done today.

The high frustration level of golfers is a leading cause of their giving up the game. I’ve talked about how I’ve learned this playing in over 200 pro-ams in my five years on the Champions Tour. I’ve discussed the sources of this confusion: style-based golf instruction with an over-abundance of swing tips, as well as confusing and conflicting swing theories offered on television and internet sources, etc. Another cause for concern that no one seems to talk about involves the way club fitting is typically done in our industry. While there are many examples of how improper club fitting causes issues and frustration, there are two main areas that desperately need to be addressed by fitters and even club manufacturers.

Problem 1: Clubs Designed to Correct a Slice

The first culprit is clubs that are designed to correct a slice. I’ve had several first-time students take lessons with me this season who had been recently fit for clubs from a wide range of club fitters. Some of these students had significant out-to-in swing paths through impact and all were chronic faders/slicers of the golf ball. The clubs recommended to them were “anti-slice” clubs. All the grips were small (standard size), and the woods (especially the drivers) were upright with the sliding weights put in the heel. The irons were “jacked-upright” as much as 8 degrees. All of these adjustments were made for the purpose of building in the ability to hit hooks.

Many of the woods with today’s improvement in technology can be easily altered with sliding or interchangeable weights. Adding weights into the heel slows the heel down through impact and allows the toe to close faster. Thinner grips also encourage the golfer to have more active hands and forearms causing the toe to close faster. While some of today’s adjustable woods do allow for a small bit of upright lie adjustment, it would be good if manufacturers went back to longer hosels that can be more lie-adjusted.

If the lie of the club is upright, more “hook” is built into the club through the principle that “loft is hook.” Additionally, the more the available “loft” of the club, the more the upright angle increases hook. So a set of clubs built 8 degrees upright has a very different directional profile with the 4-iron than with the wedge. This is a fact a well trained and experienced club fitter will take into consideration and properly apply.

Without correction, a wedge that is 8 degrees upright will really go left, while the 4-iron won’t have as much correction. Additionally, the uprightness of the club significantly reduces the sweet-spot, making the club less forgiving by increasing the chance that the ball will be struck lower in the face (which has a worse effect on long irons than short irons). Gear effect has now been proven to exist even in irons, and low-in-the-clubface hits will cause a gear effect fade, magnified with lower lofted clubs, even if the face and path are square. So, the uprightness of the club creates a bigger pull/hook in the wedge and the effect doesn’t really work in the longer irons. If fitters are going to use this approach, then short irons should be bent less upright and long irons more upright, but even so, this will reduce the sweet-spot in the longer irons and most golfers will really struggle to get the ball into the air since most of their hits will be low on the clubface.

I’ve had playing lessons with some of these students and have clearly seen how much farther to the left shots go when teeing the ball up, such as on a par-3. With the contact higher in the face, the contact has “zero” gear effect. The upright lie angle, combined with the loft of the club, sends the ball with a pull-hook way off target. This alone is enough of a source of confusion and frustration to send some golfers home, back to the tennis courts, to the card room, or whatever else might take the place of golf.

Additionally, golf clubs that are set to “lie angles” that are not square will not cut through the grass (when taking divots) as they are intended to do. For example, using the example above, if the lie angle of the club is set too upright and the shot is hit a little fat, the heel of the iron will dig or hit into the grass first, usually causing the heel to slow down while the toe of the club speeds up, thus closing the face and causing a big pull/hook. Different grass types, different firmness of grasses and different density of grasses can have differing effects, leading to increased inconsistencies of golfers and greater frustration levels.

Some club manufacturers have built game-improvement irons with bigger sweet-spots (with lower CG’s and higher MOI’s). When club fitters make the lie angle “off-square,” this improvement immediately is canceled and, in most cases, completely nullifying any benefit the game-improvement design can provide. The poor golfer who just spent thousands of dollars getting new equipment comes to the realization that the clubs didn’t work that well after all, and his/her 16 handicap is not dropping.

The real answer to game improvement lies in improving the golfer’s impact first, then getting clubs to match his or ideal impact or the impact they are striving to attain. Then, and only then, will the golfer get the full and just reward for improving one’s impact. Simply trying to buy a new game by getting a new set of clubs just doesn’t work. One must work with an instructor who truly knows what proper impact is and is diligently directing the instruction to improve their impact first. Then they can have a knowledgeable club fitter fit clubs to that proper impact. Unfortunately, in our industry, instructors and club fitters rarely work together. Golfers are continually being fitted to their improper impact and thus effectively playing with clubs with smaller sweet spots that are ill-designed for what they were originally intended to do.

Problem 2: Fitting Irons for Distance

The second problem that seems to be growing in the industry is the focus on increased distance with the irons. I don’t mean to be too blunt here, but who cares how far you hit an 8-iron! Today’s pitching wedge is yesterday’s 9-iron. My pitching wedge is set at 49 degrees, and my 9-iron is 44 degrees (about the standard loft for today’s pitching wedge). The only two clubs in the bag that should be designed for distance are your driver and your 3-wood. All the other clubs should be set for proper gapping and designed to improve consistency and proximity to the hole. That’s why my pitching wedge is at 49 degrees and I only hit it 120 yards (exactly 16 yards farther than my 54-degree sand wedge). Most of my students hit a pitching wedge 20 yards farther than I do, but I drive the ball 30-40 yards farther than they do. When they get into the 7-irons through 4-irons, their gaps narrow. They have a 175-yard shot, and they don’t know what club selection to make since the 7, 6, 5, and 4 irons all go somewhat similar distances.

When I dig a little deeper, I start to find significant differences in spin rates. Like most pros on the PGA Tour, my 7 iron spins about 7000 rpm, I launch it around 17.5 degrees and carry the ball about 158 yards with 88 mph of clubhead speed. OK, I’m retired from playing competitive golf and I’m 58 years old, so I don’t have that youthful club head speed anymore. When I try some of the new products that are the top sellers today, I start launching the ball slightly higher but my spin rate drops below 6,000 rpm. Suddenly, I’m hitting my 7-iron 170 yards like my 6 iron. But is this better?

Yes, my peak height gets slightly higher (I do like that), and the ball won’t roll out much differently, even with the lower spin rates. So, what’s the problem you ask? When I start to look at distance control numbers and proximity to the hole, I clearly see higher distance dispersions and thus proximity to the hole gets worse. Learning to hit the ball flag high is one of the key separators between top PGA Tour Players and those a notch or two below. It’s also a key element in lowering scores. So, greater distance with my irons actually makes my game worse and it does the same with my students, too, because accuracy and ability to get the ball consistently closer to the hole is negatively impacted.

What avid golfers are really wanting is game improvement. They want to see their handicaps go down, shoot their lowest scores, create personal bests. Sure, there is a bit of “wow factor” they like to have with the new, shiny equipment, but the people I give lessons to and have played with in all these pro-ams want a better game! How are they going to get that when the golf industry separates teachers and club fitters? Where can golfers go to get the whole experience of tying in their swing improvement that creates better impact with their equipment properly set up?

If you want to see your scores get better, the best way to do so is to work with a qualified golf instructor who knows how to improve your impact while keeping your style of swing. You want to work with a club fitter who understands that the lie angles of the irons should be set to square, and that proximity to the hole is more important in the irons than distance. Only then can you get the biggest game improvement and take full advantage of hitting better shots with a better impact.

Improve your impact, improve your game; it really is that simple!

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19th Hole

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