Is Your Swing Out Of Date?

In with the new. The swings of today?s top young golfers are vastly more efficient than those used by yesterday's heroes, which begs the question

Obviously, impact is the most important moment in the golf swing, as it determines the quality of both ballstriking and shot direction. Above, you’ll notice Johnny Miller’s classic old-style impact position, with his knees and left hip slid well past the golf ball and his head stuck behind it (not to mention the pants). If you drew a line from Miller’s left shoulder straight down to the ground, it would pass well inside his left leg. In stark contrast, notice how Ben’s upper body and legs are in line, with almost no lateral sliding of any kind. His left hip has rotated (compare the position of Ben’s belt buckle to Miller’s)  and he has slung the club into impact by pivoting his body, not hitting with his arms. You’ll also notice that his head is moving with the rotation of his body, not holding it back. This movement of the head with the body and club (demonstrated by many of today’s modern players, including, most notably, Annika Sorenstam), not only frees up the release of the arms and club, but also allows the right side to turn into the golf ball without being impeded by the rest of Millerthe body. Unlocking the right side is a great source of power that you need to tap.

This position is the essence of the modern athletic swing. The reason Ben’s back is so nice and straight, and his body is so stacked at the moment of impact, is because he’s powering the club with his core, not his hands and arms. This type of motion is much more rotational than that used by players in Johnny Miller’s era and, as a result, features much less lateral movement. You can imagine how much easier this position is on your back.

Johnny Miller’s U.S. Open victory at Oakmont was legendary, but his impact position is definitely “old school.” His legs have outraced his body by sliding toward the target excessively, and his head has hung back. Miller was still able to make great contact because he got his hands and arms in a fantastic position through the hitting zone.  

Impact Drill
To improve the quality of your ballstriking, you need to ingrain the proper position at impact. To do so, assume your normal address position, then move the ball slightly forward and a little closer to your body than usual (see right). Once you’ve set up in this manner, simply concentrate on striking the ball with your body and head leading the club into the shot. The forward and slightly inside ball position will force you to get your upper body motivated to move forward and in a counterclockwise direction, which, in turn, will make hanging back impossible. Notice (at far right) how my body is stacked at impact, not bent back, with my right side firing into the ball. There’s no lateral slide here, just a lack of tension and strong, rotational power.

The modern release features no hang-back or tension whatsoever. Instead, it’s free-flowing and relaxed, yet extremely powerful. Because the release is a product of a solid pivot motion in which the body—not the arms and hands—power the club through impact, you should see a natural and full extension of the arms almost as if they have been thrown out uncontrollably by the power of the pivot.

In Ben’s photo, you’ll see that the right side of his body, including his right shoulder and lat, is on top of his lower body in a high, stretched position. His right shoulder is now closer to the target than is his left, which is made possible by his hips and core, which are rotated in a counterclockwise direction with no indication of lateral sliding. Basically, he has slung his arms and the club with his core strength instead of with the muscles in his arms and hands. His head is clearly moving with the swing, as indicated by the way his body is working over and into the finish instead of  backward away from the target, as you can see in the picture of Nicklaus. The major key here is that there’s no backward bend of the spine and, as a result, there will be no reverse-C finish. The modern swing is more upright and less stressful on the body—a bonus for golfers both young and old.

Nicklaus The Golden Bear is arguably the greatest competitive golfer of all time, but now he has an artificial hip. Looking at his release position, it’s not hard to see why Nicklaus has back and hip problems—his head is stuck behind the ball, and his hips have slid laterally, placing a tremendous amount of stress on his body.

Release Drill
To develop the proper release, take two irons and grip them together to form a weighted club. Assume your address position and place the clubheads on the ground, well behind your right foot. Using the pivot of your hips and the strength in your body’s core, drag the clubheads along the ground as you would a broom. When you approach the impact zone, use your core to heave your arms and clubs through impact and into the release and finish. Remember to keep turning your body in a counterclockwise direction all the way through.

PGA professional Brady Riggs teaches a number of top junior and aspiring professional players at Woodley Lakes GC in Van Nuys, Calif. Ben Fox is the 2006 Southwestern Amateur champion and currently plays golf for the University of Arizona. Photos shot at Tierra Rejada GC ( in Moorpark, Calif.


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