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;
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104 COMMENTS

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  1. 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. 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. 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!!!

  4. 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)

  5. 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. :-)

    • 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. ;-)

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    • 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.

  12. 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.

    • 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. :-)

  13. 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.

  14. 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!!!

    • 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!

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