It wasn’t too long ago that USGTF
examiner Mike Levine remarked how everyone on Tour looked like their
swings came from an assembly line – all very similar. In contrast,
he noted that when viewing old clips of Shells’s Wonderful World of
Golf from the 1960s, many of the swings looked very homemade and not
all that great aesthetically.
What comes around goes around.
Today, we have seen a return to
the homemade and unique swings of yesteryear, and in a big way. The
most successful of the homemade swingers is Jim Furyk, winner of 16
PGA Tour events and the 2003 US Open. David Feherty famously
described Furyk’s swing as looking like an octopus falling out of a
tree. Furyk stands very close to the ball, thus resulting in his
extremely upright backswing. He then loops the club back to the
inside, and since he is standing so close to the ball, is forced to
open his hips at impact almost fully to the target with a very bent
Furyk has been on the professional
scene since 1992, so he stood out for years as having a very
individualistic swing. Only John Daly, who was a Tour rookie in
1991, rivaled Furyk for swing uniqueness. In recent years, they have
acquired more company.
Bubba Watson’s swing can hardly be
described as classic. Watson also swings back in an upright manner,
with his arms seemingly very disconnected from his body. His
backswing length is the equal of Daly’s. Coming through impact and
into his follow through, his footwork leaves a lot to be desired
(according to standard teaching) as he dances all around. His swing
has taken him to three victories and a place on the Ryder and
President Cup teams.
Ryan Moore holds his hands very
close to his body at address and swings upright, re-routing into the
correct plane on the downswing. To date, he has one Tour win and is
a presence on the leaderboards.
Perhaps no one’s swing today is
more unique than Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey. Known as Two Gloves
because he wears gloves on both hands (a leftover from his baseball
days), he basically duplicates a baseball swing with his golf swing.
At the top of his backswing, Gainey’s hips have already moved well
left. He drastically leads the clubhead into the ball with his hands
and holds off releasing with them until well past impact.
Rickie Fowler has an action that
doesn’t fi t into any textbook. He swings back by setting his wrists
very quickly, and at the top of his swing, the plane of his left arm
is actually lower than the plane of his shoulders. Most average
golfers here would come over the top, but Fowler instead re-routes
the club to an even flatter position.
Flatter swings, ala Ben Hogan,
have become in vogue the past few years. Players such as Trevor
Immelman, Zach Johnson, Chad Campbell, and Matt Kuchar all have
their left arms at the top roughly on the same plane as their
shoulders. Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell bow their left wrists
at the top. J.B. Holmes takes the driver back only 3/4 of the way,
but regularly hits it over 300 yards. There are advantages and
disadvantages to homemade and unique swings. Some teachers believe
swings that depart from the norm are actually easier to fix,
because, since there are more moving parts than in a model swing,
the player is forced to have more kinesthetic awareness. Such swings
are also more feel-based, so when the player is on, he can get on a
hot streak and be hard to beat. Another aspect of having a homemade
swing is that these players generally have focused on playing the
game and getting the ball into the hole as quickly as possible,
instead of working on swing mechanics. Billy Casper, the hall of
famer, believes that the emphasis on swing mechanics the past couple
of decades has led to a dearth of prolific winners on Tour.
The downside of these types of
swings is that it’s easier for things to go wrong. When the player
is on, he’s on, but when he’s off, things can go south in a hurry.
Such swings also do not tend to stand the test of time.
What can be said about players
with unique swings is that they stand out from the crowd and make
people take notice. It seems hard to believe in this day and age of
instruction and academies that there are Tour players who have
swings that didn’t come from an assembly line, but it’s certainly
one aspect that makes the game more interesting.
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