How to look at a Swing Sequence
An instructor's guide to viewing swing photos, with 15 sequences from some of the game's great players
I've been fascinated by swing-sequence photographs since I began teaching more than 30 years ago and have a collection of almost 1,000 different swings dating to the early 1900s. Images such as the ones on the following pages are, in my opinion, the most interesting of golf photographs. They not only tell you what the great players do, but how the swing has evolved.
In looking at these sequences, you'll see that virtually all of the current top players have very similar fundamentals: Their grips, ball positions, alignments, posture and width of stance don't differ much. Their swing positions are also similar, even if their actions look different in real life and on video. When you analyze these photos--most of which were taken by a high-speed camera at 65 frames per second--you will see they are amazingly the same in important positions.
Take the impact positions for the players pictured here. Jim Furyk does some interesting things in his backswing, but at impact, he and Retief Goosen, who has a classic-looking swing, are virtually identical. When you compare Tiger Woods to Ernie Els, Tiger looks so much faster when he swings live, but he and Ernie put the club in almost identical positions and hit the ball very similar distances.
It's also great just to have sequence photographs as an archive of the game. It's a joy to be able to see what Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Jack Nicklaus did in their primes and speculate on what they would have been able to accomplish in the modern game.
Chuck Cook, 1996 PGA of America Teacher of the Year and No. 9 on Golf Digest's list of America's 50 Greatest Teachers, is based at Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, and Dallas National GC. He has taught U.S. Open champions Tom Kite, Corey Pavin and the late Payne Stewart.
We asked four legends--winners of 45 major titles--to name their favorite swings. Jack Nicklaus took our request a step further, submitting the list you see plus a paragraph explaining why he picked each swing. Sam Snead and Vijay Singh made it for their grace, Tom Weiskopf's was the prettiest, while Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino had the most effective.
Littler, Snead, Suggs and Hogan were Wright's contemporaries in the 1950s and 1960s. Cabrera's selection exhibits Wright's keen interest in the current scene.
It isn't surprising that Nicklaus has such respect for Trevino, who beat him in an 18-hole playoff at the 1971 U.S. Open and stopped his Grand Slam dreams at the 1972 British Open.
While Nelson has long been Watson's tour mentor, Watson has special affection for Thirsk, who has taught him since he first started playing, at age 6.
Littler may be one of the most underrated ball-strikers of all time. "The Machine" won 29 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1961 U.S. Open, and was known best for his smooth, reliable action.
PGA Tour victories: 64
Majors: 9 (1951, '53 Masters; 1948, '50, '51, '53 U.S. Open; 1953 British Open; 1946, '48 PGA Championship)
"Hogan's left arm went left so fast after impact that he was able to keep the clubface on the ball longer than anyone. That's why he had more control than anyone. I watched him hit balls for two days and never miss a shot." --Chuck Cook