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What was JACK'S secret?


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#1 bscinstnct

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 06:40 PM

With Sandy ripping through, I've had too much time to look at golf swings.

And no disrespect to Hogan and Ogrady or Knudson or anyone else who is the "true" model.

But Jack has 18 majors. And he supposedly was not that great around the greens.

So, even though some say he was a great athlete and had great timing to "compensate" for all this supposed swing flaws.

He clearly had a highly reliable swing that was simple enough for him to keep under control under the highest levels of pressure.

And so, I suggest that there is SOMETHING, some SECRET to Jack's swing that seems to be overlooked as everyone chases something else.

I have some ideas. And I am focusing on the release. It is different, far away from the "ideal" exiting out the left shoulder.



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#2 ram01002

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 06:44 PM

Great topic -- looking forward to the replies.

#3 KYMAR

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 07:09 PM

I have never been awed by any swing other than Tigers circa 1998ish-2008ish. I am sure that is in large part because when I was growing up i was the worst, tube sock and short wearin, over the top swing, can't play the game one damn bit hack the universe had ever seen. I would be too ashamed to watch my swing when i was 12-14 years old so i never even thought about the swing and it's beauty or grace or power or balance, none of that. I remember Calvin Peete from those same years. because i remember watching him land balls on a dime in the middle of the fairway with what was certainly and unorthodox swing. In Tigers decade of merciless dominance, I was playing more and was obviously older and i really took the game a little more seriously. and watching him swing with so much power and balance blew my mind.

I'm not sure His success was really about his swing. Save for perhaps the repeatable he built into it. To me if Jack had a secret it was really no different than any of the other greats secret which is the guy is a killer. The guy is ruthless and compassion free competitor. Some guys like that (I dare say Tiger) offer a hint of personal disdain at times, (thanks for coming Mr Ames, we have some lovely parting gifts for you) and with Jack, I never felt that way. I always thought the only guy Jack really wanted to beat was his best self.  Play 1 shot better than he thinks he can, focus harder, hit it farther, putt it closer. Not that he didn't want to beat the field by 10, he did.

It is an interesting topic and i look forward to the guru's chiming in. And then the inevitable other Guru's chiming in countering the fist guru's until someone gets called an idiot. Good Times!!
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#4 Mich Nick

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 07:18 PM

If you read his book, Jake used one swing. He manipulated the face angle in his setup to hit a draw or fade. He didn't manipulate his swing.

That's the short description anyway. One swing, very good contact, and long off the tee.

And although Jack wasn't The best around the green, he is one of the top 2 clutch putters ever. When it counted he made it.

#5 verderraul

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 07:23 PM

View PostKYMAR, on 02 November 2012 - 07:09 PM, said:

i look forward to the guru's chiming in. And then the inevitable other Guru's chiming in countering the fist guru's until someone gets called an idiot. Good Times!!

Well said


#6 KYMAR

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 07:35 PM

View PostMich Nick, on 02 November 2012 - 07:18 PM, said:

If you read his book, Jake used one swing. He manipulated the face angle in his setup to hit a draw or fade. He didn't manipulate his swing.

That's the short description anyway. One swing, very good contact, and long off the tee.

And although Jack wasn't The best around the green, he is one of the top 2 clutch putters ever. When it counted he made it.

Agreed. it is said he wasn't a very good chipper of the ball which i remember him responding saying that he just didn't practice it very much. But he is still in the conversation for greatest clutch putter of all time with tiger.
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#7 Bonesaw

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 07:40 PM

he won 18 and finished 2nd in 19.  He was unbelievably tough mentally.  He played his game and made the other player beat him.

#8 kellygreen

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 07:46 PM

View Postbscinstnct, on 02 November 2012 - 06:40 PM, said:

With Sandy ripping through, I've had too much time to look at golf swings.

And no disrespect to Hogan and Ogrady or Knudson or anyone else who is the "true" model.

But Jack has 18 majors. And he supposedly was not that great around the greens.

So, even though some say he was a great athlete and had great timing to "compensate" for all this supposed swing flaws.

He clearly had a highly reliable swing that was simple enough for him to keep under control under the highest levels of pressure.

And so, I suggest that there is SOMETHING, some SECRET to Jack's swing that seems to be overlooked as everyone chases something else.

I have some ideas. And I am focusing on the release. It is different, far away from the "ideal" exiting out the left shoulder.

1. Jack was a powerful player who had the ability to swing the club upright, but still have a wide bottom to his swing.  That allowed him to hit every club in his bag with a high trajectory that would land very softly.  This allowed him to be both powerful and accurate.

2. His greatest "secret", however, was the five inches between his ears.   He was a tremendous student of the game of golf, so he was able to get as much out of his game as possible...and he was an extremely, mentally-tough competitor.   Like Tiger in his prime, you had to go out and beat him...because he wasn't going to beat himself with any unforced errors.
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#9 Slugsy

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 07:52 PM

The most important thing in golf is mental and he was the best.

As part of that, his clutch putting was immense and the guys that win are the best clutch putters.

I used to think Tiger must have some sort of lucky charm the way he holed putts but seeing the way he is now and seeing how the likes of Poulter destroys people in the Ryder Cup, it's all down to belief and mental strength.

#10 bscinstnct

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 08:04 PM

View Postkellygreen, on 02 November 2012 - 07:46 PM, said:

View Postbscinstnct, on 02 November 2012 - 06:40 PM, said:

With Sandy ripping through, I've had too much time to look at golf swings.

And no disrespect to Hogan and Ogrady or Knudson or anyone else who is the "true" model.

But Jack has 18 majors. And he supposedly was not that great around the greens.

So, even though some say he was a great athlete and had great timing to "compensate" for all this supposed swing flaws.

He clearly had a highly reliable swing that was simple enough for him to keep under control under the highest levels of pressure.

And so, I suggest that there is SOMETHING, some SECRET to Jack's swing that seems to be overlooked as everyone chases something else.

I have some ideas. And I am focusing on the release. It is different, far away from the "ideal" exiting out the left shoulder.

1. Jack was a powerful player who had the ability to swing the club upright, but still have a wide bottom to his swing.  That allowed him to hit every club in his bag with a high trajectory that would land very softly.  This allowed him to be both powerful and accurate.

2. His greatest "secret", however, was the five inches between his ears.   He was a tremendous student of the game of golf, so he was able to get as much out of his game as possible...and he was an extremely, mentally-tough competitor.   Like Tiger in his prime, you had to go out and beat him...because he wasn't going to beat himself with any unforced errors.

Points well taken.

Your first in particular. Maybe an upright swing can enable a wide bottom (get it?!)

Not sure why things have strayed so far to the round way of swinging. To me, if you swing round, the club can't stay in front of you, through the whole swing, the same way it can with Jacks swing.

I think a key for Jack is how he kept the club "in front" of him



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#11 MadGolfer76

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 08:08 PM

There is no secret. He is just one of a few rare people who was never surprised by his own accomplishments. That is different from simply being arrogant. The bigger surprise to me about Jack Nicklaus is that he did it all and is still remembered as being a gentleman and having his head properly screwed on.

As far as his swing goes, it just appears to be something that embraces the idiosyncrasies, and treats them as core elements, rather than "errors" that need to be worked around. A quirky, yet powerful, swing that is a true expression of himself. He really introduced the concept of the "long hitter" in a way that cemented the tradition and made it "okay."
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#12 bscinstnct

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 08:43 PM

View PostMadGolfer76, on 02 November 2012 - 08:08 PM, said:

There is no secret. He is just one of a few rare people who was never surprised by his own accomplishments. That is different from simply being arrogant. The bigger surprise to me about Jack Nicklaus is that he did it all and is still remembered as being a gentleman and having his head properly screwed on.

As far as his swing goes, it just appears to be something that embraces the idiosyncrasies, and treats them as core elements, rather than "errors" that need to be worked around. A quirky, yet powerful, swing that is a true expression of himself. He really introduced the concept of the "long hitter" in a way that cemented the tradition and made it "okay."

Very nice.

But, are all these things Idiosychrasies?

Or are they what enables the achievement of a consistent goal?

From address through just about the end of his follow through,he keeps the handle in front of him.

#13 farmer

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:03 PM

Good topic.  Jack was a great ball striker.  He didn't win all those majors and everything else with smoke and mirrors.  He was a brilliant tactician, but he could really hit it.  He has never gotten the respect that some lesser players have gotten as a pure ball striker.  He was not a particularly good chipper or pitcher because he didn't miss many greens.  However this thread goes, keep in mind how good Jack was.

#14 golfsavvy

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:11 PM

I don't think there's any secret to his swing.  In addition to what Mad wrote, Jack had a good swing, he knew what it was, he knew how to find it, he knew what to do with it, he knew he could win with it, he had a good short game, and he could putt.

#15 '53 Precision

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:17 PM

Jack Grout?


#16 Thrillhouse

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:27 PM

Great players seem to have something where whether it's that they're more aware of their body or they feel more similar day to day than the rest of us that makes them able to repeat more consistently than the rest of us.

So IMO it's less about the swing itself and more about his ability to make it work.

#17 Soloman

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:29 PM

Jack has said that he believed if he played two good shots on any hole, he'd score well. When he hit a poor shot, by his standards, he told himself that he had to hit a good shot to make up for it. He was saying' "Just do it!" to himself long before Nike coined it.

Once he decided how he was going to play a shot and visualized it, he said something like, "Just do it!" to himself as he focused on execution. And focus he did, just like others who are or were head and shoulders above the crowd in their chosen field. His confidence carried him to greatness.

He understood risk management on the course as well as any shark on Wall Street.

This thread reminds me of Tom Weiskopf's comment on TV during the final round of the 1986 Masters. As Jack got ready to hit his tee shoot on the par-3, 16th hole, the announcer asked him what he thought was going through Jack's mind as he got ready to hit.

Tom replied to the effect that if he knew what Jack was thinking, he would have won a Masters.

His mechanics were simple and he hit it a mile off the tee. So simple were his mechanics that he wore his glove while putting so his hands felt the same during a round. Taking it on and off was too complicated.

I suppose my answer would be that he "Just did it!"

Edited by Soloman, 02 November 2012 - 10:31 PM.


#18 DeNinny

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:35 PM

I think everything he did was in Golf My Way and he didn't leave anything out.  No secret, just great hand-eye coordination and adherence to the fundamentals as he defined them (as mentioned in GMW).  His contemporaries claim he was far and away the best long iron hitter of his time because he could hit them high and land them softly.  I think it was this, his course management and planning, and lastly his mental tenacity and focus.  In regards to the latter, he basically started his career being the black sheep to Arnie's Army and had to continuously tune out their jeering.  He did this at a young age, relatively, showing a mental maturity far above average.

#19 boxerjoe2011

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:50 PM

I remember Miller saying that jack's flying elbow was usually perceived as a swing flaw, but it actually helped jack keep the club head square longer than almost everyone else of his time.  He never really thought of turning the club over, it helped him hit high fades with all his clubs and medium to low draws when necessary.  His ability to hit a 3 iron sky high and have it come down like a meteor was a huge advantage when his playing partners were hitting 2 iron or 5 wood and running it off the green.

Other than that, his mind for golf is only equaled to Tigers.

#20 dlygrisse

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:53 PM

Read Golf My Way. It is all summed up in there, consistent fundamentals he believed in, incredible mental toughness, the belief he could make any putt he needed and a pair of legs that were like tree trunks.  His pivot was so powerful that he never came over it, just a strong leg drive then he could swing as hard as he wanted, or as smooth as he wanted.  He was not concerned about nuking a 7 iron 200 yards like you see today, he often hit a 5 iron 150, knocked a soft shot to 10 feet pin high and made the putt.  He was a plodder like Fred Funk till he wanted to hit it like John Daly, total control till he wanted to take advantage of his power then boom!  he was out there where he needed to be to attack the course.  1 irons that flew higher than others 7 irons, the best fairway bunker player ever, he just picked every shot clean, from most any lie, and from deep rough he tore through it like Tiger circa 2000.  The bigger the pressure, the more other choked the better he played.  Many of his 2nds in majors were when he was not playing that well, the field came back to him, he just kept making pars and occasionally he would come out on top, when he played well he dominated.

BTW his short game was not strong early on, because he didn't need one, he often Texas wedged it, and was a decent bunker player, but not spectacular, just basic shots.  Later in his career when he made a comeback after a slump he worked on his short game with Phil Rogers, when he came back on tour he had a good short game.  Watch him play the Senior Tour and dominate and you will see a very solid short game, maybe not Seve or Phil like but very efficient.  Lots of basic chips and pitches that ended up close to the hole, when Jack worked on a weakness the weakness disappeared.

You could occasionally beat Jack, just ask Trevino and Watson,  but Jack never beat himself.

Edited by dlygrisse, 02 November 2012 - 10:56 PM.

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#21 highergr0und

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:59 PM

He owned his swing.....  How many of us spend more time wanting someone else's swings instead of working to own the one we've got?

Well there's also probably about the best hand eye coordination to play the game, and that relentless pursuit of winning.

#22 hoganfan924

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 11:22 PM

Big, strong A$$ and legs.  Great course management, especially for a long hitter.  Fearless.  Great driver and long iron player, great putter.  Don't think he had any real swing secrets, just really solid through the ball.

#23 golfpros1

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 12:39 AM

View Postbscinstnct, on 02 November 2012 - 06:40 PM, said:

With Sandy ripping through, I've had too much time to look at golf swings.

And no disrespect to Hogan and Ogrady or Knudson or anyone else who is the "true" model.

But Jack has 18 majors. And he supposedly was not that great around the greens.

So, even though some say he was a great athlete and had great timing to "compensate" for all this supposed swing flaws.

He clearly had a highly reliable swing that was simple enough for him to keep under control under the highest levels of pressure.

And so, I suggest that there is SOMETHING, some SECRET to Jack's swing that seems to be overlooked as everyone chases something else.

I have some ideas. And I am focusing on the release. It is different, far away from the "ideal" exiting out the left shoulder.


his secret is his swing was so successful and so incorrect that when everyone started copying him they wrecked their games.  lol

seriously, he hit it further than anyone, pretty darn straight, had a reliable miss, and could putt like a wizard.  game over.

#24 Parker0065

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 03:54 AM

His love for competition was his biggest secret in my opinion. He's talked about it for years and he was able to keep things in perspective better than maybe any athlete in the history of sports. Family came first and golf was nothing more than a "GAME"!

He was a special player that had an advantage over many players in his swing and physical abilities, but had a bigger advantage over everyone when it came to handling pressure and love of competition. Tiger had a great run against lesser competition than Jack faced but I don't think we may ever see a player as great as Nicklaus. Especially when you add up all the variables of his physical talent, competition he faced, Major Championships he won or finished second(37), and still managed to be a real father and husband! Nobody has come even close to those accomplishments!!

#25 kellygreen

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 04:37 AM

View Postbscinstnct, on 02 November 2012 - 08:04 PM, said:

Points well taken.

Your first in particular. Maybe an upright swing can enable a wide bottom (get it?!)

Not sure why things have strayed so far to the round way of swinging. To me, if you swing round, the club can't stay in front of you, through the whole swing, the same way it can with Jacks swing.

I think a key for Jack is how he kept the club "in front" of him

For several reasons.

1. Jack Nicklaus was John Daly...before there was a John Daly.   IOW, an unusual combination physical combination of size and flexibility, which enabled him to generate that much power with an upright swing.

2. Although Jack was able to make that swing work for him in his prime, it is a swing that is hard on the body and doesn't age well.  Jack had to flatten the plane of his swing in order to continue to play well into his 40s.   Also---with the strong leg drive and reverse-C finish---he has had back and hip problems that I believe are directly related to his swing.  Tom Watson (who changed his swing to eliminate the that reverse C) has managed to avoid the back problems, but has still had hip problems.

3. Swing more "rounded"  puts less strain on the back and hips; It allows players (especially players of smaller stature) to generate power from the muscles of the body core; and it allows the player to control the release of the club with the rotation of the body rather than the rotation of the forearms through the hitting area.   Which is a more consistent way of playing from day to day.

4. I think Jack swing was a unique motion for a unique player with a unique set of physical attributes....and I think Jack himself understood this.  Which is why he has always emphasized that--if players are to emulate him---they should emulate his approach to course management, shotmaking and strategy...and not his golf swing.

Which I would agree with.  I've learned a great deal from Jack's books and videos on shotmaking and course management.  I'd still be a double-digit handicapper if I'd insisted on trying to swing the club like him.   I just can't play decent golf that way.

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#26 BrianL99

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 05:04 AM

View PostSoloman, on 02 November 2012 - 10:29 PM, said:

Tom replied to the effect that if he knew what Jack was thinking, he would have won a Masters.


Jack once said that if he was Weiskopf's caddy, Tom would win most ever tournament.

If Jack was the best "between the ears", Weiskopf was one of the worst.

Edited by BrianL99, 03 November 2012 - 05:05 AM.


#27 Dire Wolf

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 08:40 AM

He didn't have a "secret" that we know of, he had keys to success, and he talked/wrote about all of them.  The most important among them, imo:

Unconditional confidence.
Still head.
Mental toughness.
Preparation.
Course management.
Grooved, stock, go-to shot (high fade usually).
Yearly "tune ups" with Grout.
Commitment to consistent personal fundamentals and to hell with what others say.
Early start in golf, including support network.
Able to practice in the winter on heated range in Ohio during developmental stages.
Natural talent.
Burning desire to WIN every time out.


This is why there was only one Jack Nicklaus.  You can't just immitate one or two of these things and go out and dominate the Tour.

#28 Crab Daddy

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 10:35 AM

Well, you guys are really disappointing me. No talk of supination or external shoulder rotation - not even the grip!  But, then again, no one's been called a idiot, either.

The fact that this conversation has stayed at a rather superficial level (mental toughness, repeatable swing, etc...) likely speaks to how unquantifiable Jack's attributes were. Every so often, a gifted person chooses a career path that ideally suits their skill set, and they make their mark on history. Jack almost certainly fits this mold. John Daly is likely another golfer in this category, but did not have the mental clarity/discipline to realize his potential. Like MadGolfer alluded to, one of Jack's truly exceptional gifts was simply being level-headed while being the best in the world.  Unlike many greats, from all fields of endeavor, it's hard to find Jack's 'fatal flaw'.



#29 golferlaird

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 11:27 AM

There was no secret.  Jack was just on a hot streak for 30 years.

#30 station2station

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 11:35 AM

The one important thing I glean from Jack (mentioned in his book) is that he had a very vertical swing plane.  He said a steeper arc keeps the clubface going down the target line longer than a flat swing.  Misses are trajectory-based rather than L-R based.

I subscribe to this although there are always exceptions.

Edited by station2station, 03 November 2012 - 11:35 AM.


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