Golf Academy Members,
Our topic this month has to do with keeping a steady head.
I chose the video attached in this email because, even though it is old and not of the best quality, it clearly illustrates why these all-time greats were tremendous drivers of the golf ball.
Gary Player is first in line. He initiates his swing with a distinctive, right knee forward press. You can see the line from the top of his head, down his spine and through his hips to the center of his stance. His left shoulder works under his head and his right shoulder ends up behind his head. He has a full turn of the hips and shoulders. Notice his head drop into his shoulder line through impact. This is possible because his right shoulder works down and under his spine.
Next is Jack Nicklaus, later in his career. He often spoke of his teacher, Jack Grout, grabbing his hair to keep his head steady. Notice how his hands move over his right shoe at the beginning of his swing. There is very little left arm rotation, with his left elbow facing the ground. He has a very full shoulder turn. You’ll notice his hands fall into the downswing closer to his body (than on the backswing) and over the top of his right foot again. His head is so steady that he had great control of his club/turf interaction. His hands exit over his left foot as he flows into his finish.
Arnold Palmer, our third video, is known for having a less-than-beautiful golf swing. But I think there is much more “good,” than “bad,” revealed here. His head moves slightly to the right to begin the backswing, which contributes to his backswing coming quickly to the inside. Think of your spine moving like a metronome. As it tilts from side to side, your shoulders will continue to swing around your spine. Palmer’s swing will look a little bit loopy, but notice when his head fixes, as his club drops into the downswing, it remains very steady through impact. His left foot also works with his head to make him consistent through the ball. He spins into his finish over a left foot that resembles many you see today. Palmer’s swing was that of a great athlete. You can’t play golf at the highest levels and win as many tournaments as he did without having a solid ownership of your method.
Greg Norman was one of the greatest drivers ever. Like the others in this list, footwork was his method of using the ground. It facilitates the movement of the swing above. You’ll see a slight lateral movement of his head, which made his angle of attack very shallow. This was ideal for high, ripping long irons and powerful, accurate driving. As with the others, Norman’s hands moved back over his right foot to begin and then over his left foot through impact. A slight lateral movement in our head can be managed if there are no major raises or dips in posture. Norman, like Nicklaus, focused on moving his right hip as far away from the ball, during the backswing, as possible. This creates TRUE WIDTH and time to build momentum for their swinging arms.
Finally, we see Jack Nicklaus from early in his career in the 1960’s. Powerful legs drove his swing. His arm swing was more upright and gave him the ability to thrust the ball high into the air with any club. Also, it gave him a tremendous advantage out of the rough. You combine those two basic attributes with his ability to putt fast greens and think clearly under pressure, and you have the formula to win major tournaments and play well on any golf course. The Jack Nicklaus of the early 80’s, which we saw early in this video, flattened his swing and kept his left heel much closer to the ground. He went on to win three more majors and play some of the best golf of his career. The willingness to recognize the need to change and ability to play golf at a higher level, to me, is as impressive as anything Nicklaus achieved in his career. Think of how the early Nicklaus would have used today’s technology.
From this aerial view, we see great balance. Notice how the left shoulder goes down and under their chin. At the same time, the right shoulder moves up and behind their head. I don’t see a great deal of forearm rotation with these players. I believe their steady head eliminates a need to clean up a mess as the club approaches impact.
The notion of a “steady head” came from an era where the standard, concerning the sweet spot, would not allow for off-center hits. Today’s “game improvement” irons, I believe, create a gray area, where the necessary feedback is hard to discern. The supposed “forgiveness”, many times limits the ability to improve past a certain point. When players ask me if they are good enough to play blades, I reply that “if you ever want to be good enough, you need to get started laying blades.” Knowing what impact should feel like is the key to continued improvement.
After a good grip, which each of these players have, a steady head provides the platform for many years of excellence at the highest level of golf.
Your head is at the top of the “pyramid of power.” Everything below depends on what goes on above the shoulders and between the ears.