Golf stars swing elegantly
We’re at one of those moments when the top golfing stars also happen to have the most elegant swings in the game. Tiger Woods and Karrie Webb have won the Grand Slams in their respective sides of the game at young ages. They are both beautiful to watch. It’s a moment worth savouring. Webb, by the way, won the LPGA Championship recently to complete her Grand Slam of women’s majors.
Times when gorgeous swings belong to the best golfers are rare. Jack Nicklaus had an effective swing but not really a good-looking one. It was said his swing was the weakest part of his game. Nicklaus managed his game wonderfully well, and had the finest golfing mind of his time, probably ever. He also putted like he was a human laser. If you wanted somebody to putt a 10-footer for your life, Nicklaus was your man.
But his swing? It often appeared ungainly, having something of the lunge in it. It was powerful and controlled, but not a swing of beauty.
Lee Trevino, a superstar himself, also looked a bit awkward during his swing, although of course he was and remains one of the best ball-strikers ever. But he set up so open to his target that one’s eyes were always drawn to thstrange lines of his swing, not to his impeccable ball flight.
Lopez and Hogan
We can also think of Nancy Lopez, who dominated women’s golf for much of the 1980s. Lopez took the club back so slowly it appeared she was trying to place it. She didn’t so much swing the club as put it here, then there, then there, or so it seemed. Lopez obviously got the job done because for a time she was winning everything. But her swing was never something to copy. You wouldn’t necessarily want to study a sequence of her swing.
Ben Hogan’s swing was also more mechanical than elegant. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s true that Hogan was close to perfection. He built his swing. It was a constructed thing and he said there’s nothing natural about the swing. This is probably why it looked like he had constructed his swing in a laboratory, and in fact he had-the laboratory of the practice range.
Of course we’ve seen many elegant swings down the years, but they haven’t always been the swings of champions. It’s obvious that there’s more to golf than the swing, and that there are many ways to put the club head on the ball in a way that will send it where it’s meant to go.
Grace under pressure
There’s also the matter of the mind, of self-confidence, of grace under pressure. Tom Weiskopf had a beautiful swing but he was subject to temperamental problems and never really got out of his swing the victories it should have generated.
So it’s clear that as elegant as a golf swing might be, it still needs to be allied to the appropriate golfing mind and nervous system. Bobby Jones had both in the 1920s, as did the Englishwoman Joyce Wethered. Jones believed that Wethered’s swing was the best of anybody he had seen-man or woman. They were both champions who overlapped for a time. I don’t think we’ve seen such a confluence until now, with the double W’s-Woods and Webb.
Look at them closely. They both stand to the ball in beautiful balance, although, admittedly, Webb does appear to be forcing herself into a position where her back is straight. Still, they arrange themselves over the ball in ways we could all profitably copy, and set their hands on the club so easily that it’s easy to think they’re meant to be golfers.
Both Woods and Webb then sweep the club away from the ball in a long, smooth arc. Their upper bodies turn away from the parallel to the target line position at address, until their backs have rotated fully to ninety degrees or more. They’re still in what the late and great Canadian golfer George Knudson called ‘immaculate’ balance.
Knudson advised, “Never do anything at the expense of balance.” Woods and Webb never do.
Meanwhile, their clubs are on plane throughout their swings. They don’t have to manipulate them into an on-plane position, so they eliminate most sources of error.
They retain their spine angles through impact, another source of consistency. And they flow through the ball into a finish position where they are still in balance, looking toward their target. Their golf balls are usually flying right there, too.
We should stop, then, and look closely not so much at the results Woods and Webb are achieving-they’re impressive, for sure. But we should be looking at the manner in which they swing the club. If form does follow function, then we could be looking at the ideal marriage of the two.
Connoisseurs of the golf swing unite. Woods and Webb are providing us with things of beauty. Swings of beauty, and well-worth examining, balanced start to balanced finish.