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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

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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

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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Oh, To Be An (Oregon) Duck

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A few weeks ago I flew into Eugene, Oregon on a mission. I’d come to work with one my students who is a member of the Duck’s varsity golf team. I had never been further south than Seattle or further north than Monterey, so this part of the world was new to me.

What I did know was that the Bandon Dunes area had become a destination for some of the greatest golf in the world, rivaling other famed resorts around the country. The resort is just outside the quaint town of Bandon, which is a good two-hour drive from Eugene. The resort’s four courses — Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, and Old McDonald — each have their own personality, but at the same time they have one thing in common: the four architects that designed them took full advantage of the natural topography, deftly weaving holes in and out along the Oregon coastline.

I was looking forward to playing two of the courses before leaving: Pacific Dunes and Old McDonald. You may find this hard to believe, but those two rounds would be my first and second of the year after a busy summer season on the lesson tee. And for that very reason, I had no expectations other than to make a few pars and enjoy the scenery.

After retrieving my luggage from the turnstile, I made my way toward the exit with luggage in tow. My rental car was just across the street in an open-air lot and as I pushed through the airport doors, I was greeted by a gust of wind and a spray of rain. “Welcome to Eugene,” I thought to myself.

The sudden burst reminded me of playing in Scotland, where the rain gives way to sun only on occasion. I surmised that the weather in the Eugene would be similar. “Don’t forget your rain suit,” a fellow professional reminded me when I told him about my trip. As it turned out, that was good advice. He had been there before around the same time of year. “You’ll be lucky if you get one good day out of three,” he said.

As I drove through the area to my hotel, what struck me the most were the large hills that commanded the landscape and the thick white clouds that seemed to cling to them like giant cotton balls.  I found a comfortable hotel just outside Eugene in the small but quaint town of Cottage Grove. In charitable terms, you could characterize my hotel as “a tribute to the past.”

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, dressed and made my way downstairs to the lobby. The rain had continued through the night and as I prepared to leave the hotel,  it started to come down even harder. I stood in the lobby, waiting, while listening to the rain drops pounding on the roof,  a steady beat at first, then rising and falling like a conga drum.

I’d agreed to meet my student at 10 a.m. for a practice session and then he was slated to play nine holes with the team later in the afternoon. Based on the weather, I was concerned that the day might be a total rain-out. What I didn’t know at the time was that the school has a portable canopy that allowed the team, rain or shine, to practice on natural grass. I ran to my car ducking rain drops. The forecast called for a chance of sun in the afternoon. And this time the weather man was  right.

That afternoon I was invited to watch my student and the rest of Casey Martin’s boys play a quick nine holes at Eugene Country Club, the team’s home course. The layout is one of the most unusual that I’ve ever seen with giant trees bordering every fairway. The tips seemed to stretch up and up into the sky, piecing the low-hanging clouds above, as if they were marshmallows on a stick.

The Ducks have fielded a strong team the past two years, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2016 and then finishing second this year. A good deal of credit for that accomplishment goes to Casey Martin, who has coached the Ducks since 2006. For those who are too young to remember, Casey Martian was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University. He later competed on the Nike Tour. Casey earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour, but his earnings through the 2000 season were not enough for him to retain his card, relegating him to once again to playing on the development tour. He played sporadically up through 2006. The following year, Casey assumed the job of Head Coach, which brought him back to his native Eugene.

In earlier years, Martin’s play career as a professional was hindered by the fact that he could not play 18 holes without a golf cart due to a birth defect in his right leg. The PGA Tour Board ruled against his use of a cart, maintaining that the physical act of walking was considered an integral part of the competition. Believing that he was in the right, Casey filed a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His case made its way to the Supreme Court where he won. As for his competitive record, by his own admonition, he is disappointed that he didn’t play better as a professional. A primary focus of his coaching then, as he conceded, is to teach his players not to make the same mistakes he did in his own career. What struck me as unique was the passion and intensity with which he coached. I would venture that it’s the same level of intensity that he brought to the golf course when he competed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a closed-door, defensive-team practice at Duke University with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on the floor. He had divided the team into two groups with one at either end of the court competing against each other. His legs straddled the center line as if he were Colossus with his head swiveling back and forth as if on a stick. The impression was that he saw everything and be never missed anything. And then when he saw a player make a mistake, he would blow his whistle sharply. The players would immediately stop moving as if they were frozen in place. And then, in peg-leg style, he would hobble across the floor favoring one leg over the other. He was clearly in need of a hip replacement at the time.

I’ve had both of my hips replaced, so I could easily imagine the pain that he was experiencing as he peg-legged it from the center of the court to either end. I suspected that he had decided that surgery would have to wait. The season was just a few weeks away, and given that his team was largely composed of freshman, he could not afford to miss a day. Casey Martin doesn’t blow a whistle, nor does he run a defense practice, but as he climbs out of his cart, deftly working his way to a vantage point where he can see his players from every angle, I’m reminded of the halting walk of Coach K.

There is something else that these two man share in common — an intense desire to win. They settle for nothing less than great. And when you look into their eyes, you can see that there is an intensity that burns from within that is vastly different from the man on the street.

As you might remember, I was scheduled to play a round on Pacific Dunes and another on Old McDonald. The two courses are both spectacular layouts with ocean views. And the weather… I drew two perfect days, defying the odds my friend had laid down. It was sunny and 65 degrees with just a hint of wind. How did I play? Let’s just say that I made a few pars. What I found was that striking the ball well is no guarantee that you will score low on these courses. The green complexes are diabolical. The best advice I can give you is to throw you scorecard away. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The next morning, I was on an early morning flight back to Minneapolis only to discover that we were experiencing Indian Summer with temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. But as Minnesotans, we all know what is waiting for us just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with this thought. After watching Casey Martin and the players on his team play and practice, I’m sure of one thing. And that’s when next year’s NCAA Championship comes around, Casey Martin will have all of his Ducks in a row.

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The Kids Are Alright: Spike in Junior Golf Participation a Good Sign for Game’s Future

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This week, eight 10-player All-Star teams representing regions from across the country will converge upon Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., to compete in the 6th PGA Junior League Championship.

The teams – New Hampshire (Northeast), California (West), Georgia (Southeast), Ohio (Mideast), Illinois (Midwest), New Jersey (Mid-Atlantic), Arkansas (Mississippi Valley), and Texas (Southwest) – will be divided into two divisions where they will face off in round-robin, 9-hole matches using a two-person, scramble format of play. Teams are captained by PGA/LPGA Professionals.

Since the PGA of America launched PGA Junior League in 2012, participation has skyrocketed from about 1,800 players the first year to a record-setting 42,000 boys and girls age 13 and under participating on 3,400 teams across the country this year.

“Junior golf is a key priority of the PGA of America and we recognize that increasing youth participation in the game is essential to the future of our industry and sport,” said Suzy Whaley, PGA of America Vice President and PGA Director of Instruction at Suzy Whaley Golf in Connecticut.

“PGA Jr. League is a fun and welcoming opportunity for boys and girls of all backgrounds and skill levels to learn, play, and love golf under the expert instruction and guidance of PGA and LPGA Professionals. It’s team-oriented and kids wear numbered jerseys. It’s transforming traditional junior golf and the numbers prove it.”

Whaley believes the team concept and scramble format are major factors in PGA Jr. League’s rapid growth over the last five years. In fact, she says, the program is re-shaping the golf industry’s view of the way junior golf is typically learned and played.

“Other youth sports have been utilizing the team format for years and it’s a natural fit for golf,” said Whaley, who has taken three teams to the Jr. League Championships. “The scramble format provides for a low-pressure environment. We’ve created a team atmosphere that has broad appeal. Parents and kids enjoy being a part of the community that PGA/LPGA Professional Captains create. In this team setting, older, more experienced players mentor the younger, beginner golfers. There’s no pressure on any one player, and it’s great to see kids pull for one another versus the individual focus generally associated with golf.”

“It is a program that creates a family-centered atmosphere that encourages mom, dad, brothers, sisters, and grandparents to become involved, as well. During PGA Jr. League matches, the parents are part of the match keeping score, posting photos on social media and encouraging all players. PGA Jr. League grows lifetime interest in the game across multiple generations.”

Matthew Doyle of the Connecticut team gathers for a photo with team captain, Suzy Whaley during session three for the 2016 PGA jr. League Golf Championship presented by National Rental Car held at Grayhawk Golf Club on November 20, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Traci Edwards/PGA of America)

Fourteen-year-old Cullen Laberge from Farmington, Conn., is a student in the Suzy Whaley Golf program and has competed at the PGA Jr. League Championships for Team Connecticut. Laberge has been playing for four years and says his Jr. League experience really sparked his interest in the game and his desire to become a better player and ultimately a golf teacher one day.

“It has taught me so much about golf, while keeping it fun and interesting,” Laberge said. “The thing I enjoy the most is playing competitive golf without the stress that tournament golf can sometimes bring. No matter age or skill level, Jr. League keeps it fun and no matter how a player is playing there is another player to pick them up. That national championship was the best experience of my life. It was like I was playing on the PGA Tour. I loved the amazing competition; those players were good.”

And it’s not just golf’s executives and Jr. League participants who have taken notice of the program’s growth and the ultimate importance that growth represents for the future of the game. PGA and LPGA professionals including Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie have all joined as ambassadors for the program.

“I want to do everything I can to be a positive influence on kids who are interested in the game and serving as an ambassador for PGA Jr. League is a great fit,” said Wie. “There are so many lessons that kids can learn and that adults can reinforce through the game of golf – good sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, work ethic. Golf can help you learn how to react when things don’t go your way which I think is a really important skill to have in life.”

“Golf can definitely mirror life. You can work incredibly hard and still fall short, but how do you bounce back? How do you overcome a mistake or a bad break and still succeed? It’s important for kids to grow up with a good work ethic and the right attitude to face challenges. Golf is a great game to teach those lessons.”

Copyright Picture : Mark Pain / IMG (www.markpain.com)

Wie says the more inclusive and welcoming the golf community in general can be, the better.

“Especially as a young female, I have experienced plenty of times where I did not feel welcome or felt like I had to prove myself more than the guys did,” Wie said. “Golf is a game that should be available to everyone and I think it’s important to make it accessible to kids whether they are a future tour pro or a future 20-handicapper.”

The folks over at the USGA know a thing or two about growing the game and making it more accessible and they should, they’ve been doing it since the association’s founding in 1894.

The inaugural three USGA championships – the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1895 – did not have age limits, each simply aiming to identify the champion golfer. In 1948, the USGA held the first United States Junior Amateur solely open to players under the age of 18 and just one year later the association conducted the first United States Girls’ Junior Championship.

In addition to helping fund The First Tee, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships, the USGA recently introduced its “For the Good of the Game” grant program to promote a more welcoming and accessible game at the local level with millions of dollars offered to local communities to build programs.

“The greatest misperception is accessibility,” says Beth Major, Director of Community Outreach at the USGA. “Two-thirds of all golf courses in America are open to the public. Kids and parents still believe it is a country club sport and we need to change that.”

Founded in 2013 as a joint initiative between the USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf competition for boys and girls ages 7-15 aimed at growing the game. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted the Sunday before The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Drive, Chip and Putt qualifying is offered in all 50 states and participation in the event has increased each year.

“We have a great partnership with our friends at the PGA of America and the Masters Tournament,” Major said. “Our leaders realized that by pooling our resources at the national level while activating at the local level, we could quickly scale the program and get more kids involved.”

“Going into our sixth year, it is amazing to see how far the program has grown and the entry point we’ve created together to keep our youth engaged. We look forward to continuing to evolve the program to welcome more youth to the sport.”

The USGA, in partnership with the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, and the PGA TOUR, founded The First Tee in 1997 specifically to answer the call for diversity and inclusion. The program has welcomed millions of new players to the game in the past 20 years by focusing not only on teaching golf skills but life and social skills such as etiquette, honesty, respect, confidence and responsibility.

Founded in 1989, the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program is aimed at girls ages 6-17 and has played a critical role in not only welcoming girls and women to the game, but perhaps equally importantly keeping them in the game.

“Statistics continually show us that the social aspects of the game drive girls and women to play golf,” Major said. “That sense of camaraderie and building friends greatly outweighs their need to compete at the entry level. LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, quite simply, has made it fun and cool for girls to play – and play together. And the results are astounding. We have traced more than 100 girls who started in an LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program that played in a USGA championship last year. They have not only introduced the game to girls and young women, they kept them in the game, and that is very exciting and inspiring.”

One company is tackling growth of the game from another angle – the equipment side.

Since its very beginning back in 1997, U.S. Kids Golf has been focused on its mission, “To help kids have fun learning the lifelong game of golf and to encourage family interaction that builds lasting memories.

To that end, the company began developing youth clubs starting out with just three sizes and one product line initially.

“Over time, through watching youth golfers, we came to realize that we were not serving them as well as we would like,” said Dan Van Horn, U.S. Kids Golf founder. “Looking at how the best players in the world – LPGA and PGA Tour – are fit for clubs, we discovered the proportion of their drive length to height was from 60-70 percent. From that we created what we term the ‘2/3 solution.’ Simply put, for every 3 inches a player grows, we offer a set that has a driver that is 2 inches longer.”

Importantly, it is not just the length of the clubs that increase as the player grows but also the overall club weight, grip size and shaft stiffness. At the same time, the loft on woods decreases providing additional distance.

“One of the key benefits of correctly fit clubs that are lightweight is the ability for players to learn a correct and powerful swing at a young age,” Van Horn said. “Clubs that are too long and/or heavy slows the golf swing itself and creates bad habits that are difficult to change later in life.”

Beyond the importance of young golfers needing properly fit equipment, Van Horn believes strongly in the need for juniors to compete in tournament play to facilitate aspirational goals and to measure progress. Going hand in hand with this is proper instruction from coaches who understand how young players learn and develop.

“After a few years of producing equipment, we realized more needed to be done to serve our market so we formed a nonprofit foundation,” Van Horn said. “Immediately we created our World Championship in 2000 so that young golfers would have an aspirational goal, much like the Little League World Series is to baseball players. We also realized that golf professionals and coaches lacked an organized incentive-based learning program to truly engage players in the game so we created one that same year.”

A longtime proponent of having players play from appropriate yardages, U.S. Kids Golf developed the Longleaf Tee System which uses a mathematical formula to “scale” any golf course for up to eight different tee locations per hole so all players have options based upon how far they carry the ball with a driver. Yardages start at 3,200 yards for 18 holes and increase up to Tour distances of 7,400 yards.

“What we need is a focus by all golf facilities and coaches to provide quality, enjoyable experiences to our youth,” Van Horn said. “This means incorporating game-based learning with a measurable, learning program so that players and their parents know how they are progressing. And, of course, shorter tees need to be available so we can get kids on a ‘field’ that fits them like other sports. There’s no question it can be done.”

The National Golf Foundation’s annual report for 2016 revealed that participation in junior golf programs remained steady at 2.9 million likely due in part to the success of the programs mentioned above and others just like them. Importantly, the number of female junior golfers has increased to a third of all participants and the number of non-Caucasion players has risen to a quarter, four times what it was a couple of decades ago.

While time will ultimately judge whether these programs and offerings serve not only to retain current players but continue to attract new ones, the state of junior golf in the country appears strong and on the right track for now. 

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