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.
Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real
We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.
The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.
Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.
Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.
Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.
I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.
Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.
Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!
NBA Great Byron Scott explains why Charles Barkley’s golf game deteriorated
It’s the season for basketball and golf, and NBA great Byron Scott had some interesting takes on each when he joined our latest episode of “The 19th Hole with Michael Williams” podcast.
When asked who would win a matchup between his Showtime Lakers — consisting of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy — and the current Golden State Warriors, Scott left no doubt on the outcome.
“I give [the Warriors] a lot of credit for the way they playy the game,” Scott said. “They play a very unselfish brand of basketball and it’s all about winning for them. None of the players have agendas and I admire that. But if we go a a seven game series, we in our heyday and those guys playing the way they play now, we would look at them and say ‘we win this series in five or six games.'”
Scott did recognize the fact that the way the game is refereed would have a bearing on the outcome, however.
“Are we going to play 80’s rules or are we going to play 2018 rules where you can barely touch anybody?” Scot said. “If we play the 80’s rules where you can have the physicality in the game, where we can really get after you, then the series is going to be a pretty short one.”
Scott also talked about playing golf with Charles Barkley and his attempt to cure his now-famous swing issues.
“I played with Charles when he was about a 8-handicap; that was the first time I played with him…he had a really good swing,” Scott said. “Two years later I played with him [at the American Century Celebrity Pro-Am] in Lake Tahoe. That’s when he had the swing that he has today. I was shocked! I was like, ‘Man, what happened?’ He told me the story about hitting somebody (in the gallery) and that he just couldn’t pull the trigger anymore. And I said to him, ‘Are you that mentally weak that you hit someone in the gallery and now you can’t pull the trigger? C’mon, Charles; you’re supposed to be tougher than that.'”
Scott’s motivational speech was well-intentioned, but not especially well-received by Sir Charles.
“He proceeded to curse me out because he didn’t appreciate the way I said that,” laughed Scott. “It was funny, though because the first time he had that really good swing, but ever since then he’s been awful. And he continues to be awful and I don’t think there’s a cure right now for Charles besides just putting it down for a year or two and trying to pick it back up.”
We’d need a time machine to see that Lakers-Warriors matchup, but a Scott vs. Barkley match play on the links sounds like it would be most entertaining.
Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
Fantasy Preview: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
The second World Golf Championship of the year begins this week for what will be the final stop before The Masters for the majority of players in the field. As always with WGC events, the field is stacked — only Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose are missing from the world’s top-10. With an earlier start than usual, 16 groups of four will battle it out in a round-robin format starting Wednesday. The winner of each group will advance to the last 16, which will complete in a straight knockout format from there on in.
Austin Country Club has held the event since 2016, and it’s been a course that has offered up lots of excitement so far. Expect more of the same this week, with four reachable Par 5s on offer as well as a drivable Par-4. The Par-71 course is a modest 7,043 yards with plenty of elevation changes and a mix of tight, tree-lined fairways on the opening nine. The fairways on the back 9 are more generous. Some of the key stats that I’m focusing on this week include Par-5 Scoring, Proximity to the Hole Inside 125 yards and Birdie or Better Percentage, which is always important in match play. Last year, a red-hot Dustin Johnson beat Jon Rahm in the final 1 up, which was his third-consecutive victory at the time.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Rory McIlroy 7/1
- Dustin Johnson 8/1
- Justin Thomas 10/1
- Jon Rahm 12/1
- Jason Day 14/1
- Jordan Spieth 20/1
- Phil Mickelson 20/1
For me, this is the most difficult event on the calendar to predict. Over 18 holes, any player in the field is capable of beating anyone else. We saw just that last year when Hideto Tanihara defeated Jordan Spieth 4&2 and Soren Kjeldsen took down Rory Mcilroy 2&1. For that reason, it’s certainly an event that I’d advise to play conservatively, especially before we reach the knockout phase. Despite the unpredictability of some of the results, however, recently it’s been an event that has been won by the world’s elite. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day (twice) have claimed the title in the past four years.
From the top of the board, it’s multiple champion Jason Day (14/1, DK Price $9,200) who gets my vote. The Australian has played a limited schedule so far this year, and he seems to be flying under the radar for the year’s first major. I find the lack of attention surprising. He has a win and a second-place finish to his name already in only three starts this year. Last week at Bay Hill he finished T22, where he appeared a little rusty on the opening couple of days before shaking it off and shooting an impressive 67 on Saturday.
Austin Country Club is a course that undoubtedly suits Day. He dominated the event in 2016 when he was playing his absolute best golf, and he was very unfortunate that he was unable to defend last year on account of his mother’s health. It was an issue that appeared to effect his entire season, but there is no doubt that the signs are very good for Day in regards to 2018. Mainly, because he has the magic touch back with the putter. In 2016, he had one of the greatest putting years of recent times, and albeit early on in the season, he is currently on course to match it. Day leads the field in putting for the season by a decent margin, and on the slick bermuda greens of Austin Country Clubs, where he has memories of holing just about everything two years ago, it could play a huge factor yet again this week.
Along with the Queenslander’s fabulous form on the greens, Day is dominating the Par 5’s, where he sits second in the field over his last 12 rounds. Day loves to play aggressive golf, and it’s one of the reasons the match play format suits him so much. The odd blow-up hole is not the disaster that it would be in stroke play, and he has the ability to rack up birdies fast. So far this season, Day is third in this field for birdie or better percentage.
Day will be the favorite to advance from Group 8, which contains James Hahn, Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Dufner, but the unpredictability of the match play format means it will be far from easy. Should he do so, however, he may be an extremely difficult man to stop, and 14/1 is not a bad price on him repeating his heroics of 2016.
Patrick Reed’s (30/1, DK Price $7,700) return to form has been long overdue. With back-to-back weeks finishing in the top-10, he should be feeling confident in a format that in the past he has blown hot and cold in. Despite his colossus performances in the Ryder Cup, the WGC-Matchplay has been a frustrating event for the Texan. He has yet to make it past the Round of 16, but he seems to be rejuvenated by the return of his idol, Tiger Woods, to the PGA Tour. We’ve seen a far more aggressive Patrick Reed as of late.
With the top seed in his group being Jordan Spieth, there’s speculation that their matchup could be a fiery one. Last week, Patrick Reed was recorded saying that he guessed he needed to be Jordan Spieth to get a free drop after he was left fuming by a ruling. Personally, I don’t think there will be any hostility from either player, but perhaps the attention it has received over the last day will fire up Reed, who seems to produce his best when in the spotlight.
All facets of Reed’s game are firing at the moment. He is fourth in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Strokes Gained Around the Green and Strokes Gained Total over his last eight rounds. Not withstanding the volatility of 18-hole matchups, there is a sense that Spieth may be a little vulnerable right now. Reed will be relishing the opportunity to take him on in what could possibly be an important Game 3. At 30/1, there is a confidence about Reed at the moment that I like, and it could see him finally deliver in a format that he has adapted to so well in The Ryder Cup.
The star name in Group 7 is the current Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, but I’m willing to take him on this week with Xander Schauffele (66/1, DK Price $7,400). The 2017 Rookie of the Year has been playing well as of late with three-consecutive top-20 finishes. From that period, he scores well in the key statistics, which should bode well for him this week. The Californian is 10th for Strokes Gained on Par 5s for his last 12 rounds, and on a course where wedge play is vitally important, his short irons seem to be in excellent shape. Over the same period, Schauffele is 15th in the field for Proximity to the Hole from 100-125 yards and 16th from 75-100 yards.
He will have to overcome Garcia, as well as Shubhankar Sharma and Dylan Frittelli to advance to the next phase. Garcia has never looked comfortable at Austin Country Club, however, and I think Schauffele may be the best option to pounce on any weakness he shows. Schauffele does not rank outside 30th in this field for his last 12 rounds in any major statistic, and he is eighth overall for Strokes Gained Total.
Last but not least is Webb Simpson (100/1, DK Price $7,800), who is in Group 15 alongside Pat Perez, Gary Woodland and Si-Woo Kim. I think it’s fair to say that this looks to be one of the most unpredictable of the lot. Yet at 100/1, it was an easy enough decision to add Simpson to my stable this week, who just like Xander is performing well in the key statistics.
The former U.S. Open Champion is 17th in this field over his past 12 rounds on Par 5s, but it’s been his wedge play that really got my attention. Over the same period, Simpson ranks seventh for proximity to the hole from 100-125 yards and 15th from 75-100 yards. Some other good signs for Simplson include his putting, as he currently sits 11th for the season in Strokes Gained Putting. His scoring average for the season is also an impressive 69.5, which is seventh on the PGA Tour. At 100/1, it seems worth a small investment in what I’m expecting to be another roller coaster of an event with plenty of surprises.
- Jason Day 14/1, DK Price $9,200
- Patrick Reed 30/1, DK Price $7,700
- Xander Schauffele 66/1, DK Price $7,400
- Webb Simpson 100/1, DK Price $7,800
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