This video shows a gift from a close friend. These golf instruction books are full of genius “feel” statements from some of the game’s all-time greats. You learn to PLAY from being a student of the game. Chasing fads will likely end in confusion, while thoughtful research will make you strong as a player. »

Mechanics: Old School + New School= Same School

Through the Years- Mechanics, or the positions we adopt before we begin our swing, have been debated and compared for many years. At the end of this journey, we should be ready to agree that the only thing that has changed significantly is equipment. 

The ball goes farther and straighter now than it ever has.

That said, the manner in which we produce high quality golf shots is basically the same. And for that we should be thankful.

Professional golfers are more physically fit than ever before but clean mechanics, more than anything else, is what keeps a good player playing consistent golf.

For the last 100 years, swings take on an individual look during the backswing, only to draw into a very similar positions as they approach impact. Some of our swing is negotiable but impact is not.

Pearls of Wisdom

I was recently given 2 boxes of golf instruction books from the 1940’s and 50’s. This was like the Holy Grail for someone like me. The books were owned by a scratch golfer and have underlined passages and notes that he felt important. It is endearing to see his thoughts.

These all-time greats Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and others, are telling the reader how they play golf and WHAT THEY FELT while playing golf shots. And they used the most demanding equipment that we have seen. Margin of error was miniscule.

We get used to seeing images of today’s players, powerful and athletic. But these players from years ago were no lesser performers. 

Byron Nelson

Known as the founder of the modern golf swing, Nelson might be the greatest scorer and ball striker other than Tiger Woods.

He used his legs to drive his downswing and present a very stable clubface at impact.

It is interesting to me, that Nelson mentions the importance of a FIRM GRIP over and over, throughout his book Winning Golf. 

His grip is simple and the pictures of him approaching and through impact are beautiful.

Sam Snead

Everything Snead did was rhythmic and powerful. Even his waggle was beautiful. He had a beautiful transition to begin his downswing. His “squat” move, to begin his downswing, is referred to often today. 

While many instructors refer to Snead’s leg action, he himself advised NOT to try to copy his action. He just swung the club as his instincts guided him.

Ben Hogan

Due to his machine-like accuracy, unparalleled work ethic and stoic persona on the golf course, Hogan was seen to have the “secret” to ball striking. His book, Five Lessons, contained great illustrations and his ball position chart is wonderful.

Hogan’s hands look beautiful on the grip and provide a very repeatable release. Hogan can be seen “working left” with his arms post-impact, in a move most tour pros try to employ today.

Similarities- Nelson, Snead, Hogan

All three of these greats have a beautiful grip. Nelson was adamant about a firm grip. Important to be noticed is the precision of these grips. 

Notice the right thumb and forefinger. To Hogan, this area was of vital importance. This LINE, NOT A “V”, has a direct correlation to the leading edge of the clubface.

Also, if there is not a firm union between the right thumb and forefinger, the grip might slip toward the palm at the top of our backswing. Make sure this area of your grip is perfect.

Each of these greats exhibit tremendous lower body action. Notice the position of their left foot. This slight turn toward the target facilitates the precise turning axis that great ball strikers use to put pressure on the ball through impact. Pressure will build in the left knee during the backswing and will be used to start the downswing. All of this is provided by a solid left foot turned toward the target slightly at address.

Impact shows a firm left hand and arm. This era saw the back of the left hand as the clubface. Accuracy and consistency would be impossible without a clear understanding of how to present a stable clubface to the ball.

Consistent ball position brings about instincts and trust. We cannot build a repeatable golf swing without a reliable ball position theory.

These players were long, accurate drivers and could control trajectory with all clubs in their bag. 

Their clean mechanics allowed them to maximize their considerable talents and athletic gifts.

The freedom that we all want, to just look at the ball and swing, is attainable through close scrutiny and attention to our mechanics (grip, stance and ball position).

About Me

Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)

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2 Responses

  1. Wow. The back of the left hand in those Byron Nelson pictures as he approaches impact is just beautiful. The back of the left hand turned towards the target is awesome. Collin Morikawa looks a lot like that at impact in today’s game.

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