Jack Nicklaus: My lifetime principles for great golf
January 21, 2020
1.) HEAD POSITION
Steady and behind the ballEvery golfer should understand that golf is a game of balance, rhythm and timing. You have to swing the club. To do that, your body must be in position, beginning with your head, which needs to start behind the ball and stay there all the way through impact.Jack Grout, my first teacher, taught me to look down over my left cheek at the ball. This encourages you to set up with your upper body slightly back. Then your body can react to the swinging of the club.I also swivel my head to the right as a swing trigger. I played with Sam Snead when I was 16 and watched that little cocking of his head. I thought:* If it's good enough for Sam, it's good enough for me.*FLICK NOTES: A steady head helps create a consistent bottom of the swing arc and angle of approach for each club.JACK SAYS: My head is just behind the ball, and my club is completely released. jack grout would have been pleased.JIM SAYS: Keeping a steady head helps create a consistent relationship between the parts of the body and the club. it helps to synchronize the swing.
Place your hands on the club naturallyStand with your arms relaxed, and see how they hang at your sides. Now place your hands on the club without any manipulation. That will be a neutral grip with as few outside forces on the club as possible. The grip in the left hand is diagonally across the palm. In the right, it's in the fingers.I interlock because it helps unify my hands. Pressure points for me are in the last two fingers and the heel pad of the left hand and in the thumb and index finger of the right. As the clubs get shorter, they get heavier, so you need to use a firmer, but constant, grip pressure.FLICK NOTES: Keeping your grip pressure constant throughout the swing is important. That allows the club to return to its desired position at impact. You can't have a free release if your grip pressure changes.JACK SAYS: I've always used an interlocking grip. That's what Mr. Grout taught my dad--and me.JIM SAYS: When you can feel the clubhead with a proper grip and grip pressure, your body will react to it instinctively.
Stand relaxed but athletically to the ballHere's the best way for me to explain my thoughts on posture: Stand up as you normally stand; now relax your legs. Bend slightly from the waist. Don't bend or straighten your upper body, just relax. Now hold the club and drop your shoulders. Where your arms fall, that's where the club goes.I want my back relatively straight, my rear end out a bit, my arms relaxed and hanging down. I also want my chin up so my left shoulder is not restricted as it turns completely under a steady head. Nothing fancy.FLICK NOTES: Jack's posture sets up good things that will happen during the swing. You want room so your arms and club can swing freely, with the body reacting--you want to be able to turn your shoulders and shift your weight.JACK SAYS: I want my feet aimed straight and my hips straight, but my shoulders can be slightly open.JIM SAYS: Your weight should be on the balls of your feet, so it's 50/50 from heel to toe.
Roll your ankles for a proper weight transferWhen I first learned the game, Jack Grout had me go home without a golf club and just swing my arms back and through, rolling my ankles. It was brilliant. Your arms won't swing if your ankles don't roll. This is playing golf from the ground up.As in any sport--baseball, tennis, football--your feet dominate what you do. Rolling the ankles teaches you two things: (1) to have a soft forward movement while keeping you steady on the ground, and (2) to release the club, because your right foot stays close to the ground as you swing through impact.FLICK NOTES: This is from Alex Morrison, who influenced Grout. Get in your setup, and roll your left ankle on the backswing, your right ankle on the through-swing.JACK SAYS: Releasing the club through impact is a result of rolling your ankles back and forth.JIM SAYS: Holding the instep of your back foot down keeps the right hip in check so your arms stay close to your body.
Apply the clubheadI think one of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to delay the hit or the release of the golf club. To me, it is impossible to release the club (uncocking your wrists) too early coming down, as long as you move to your left side. In other words, make sure you start the downswing from the ground up.Pressure (I prefer that term to "shift") your weight to your right foot going back and then to your left foot starting down. To release the club fully and freely, feel as if your upper body and chest are pointing toward the ball at impact.FLICK NOTES: Jack locates the bottom of his swing arc based on how he's trying to use the club, not by moving his body. The lie of the ball and the club's lie angle determine how you use the club. The body merely reacts.JACK SAYS: Delivering the club to the ball, with my head steady, is one way to describe my feeling at impact.JIM SAYS: Jack's left forearm and wrist are stable, not allowing the toe of the club to pass the heel through impact. This eliminates the left side of the course.
This is your final checkpointIf you're using my principles--for example, gripping the club naturally, keeping your head behind the ball through impact, rolling your ankles and applying the clubhead--you have a chance to be in balance. If you sense you're off balance, go back and check the first five fundamentals. If even one of those is not right, you will not stay in balance.Being in balance allows you to play golf to your true potential. It puts you in control so you have confidence in your ability to create different kinds of shots. You can focus on playing golf, because your fundamentals are sound.FLICK NOTES: As do so many great players, Jack lets his body respond to the golf club, as opposed to overthinking what the body should be doing. Average golfers and better players would do well to follow his example.As we begin this new series, here's a final thought: Through my experience as a teacher and coach, I've learned that the fundamentals and philosophy you use to build a swing dramatically affect how your body and mind work on the course. Jack kept a clear head while competing, and he played by applying the clubhead on every shot. This helped to set him apart.JACK SAYS: When I'm in balance, I've moved to my left side. my club mirrors its backswing position.JIM SAYS: For jack, golf is a game of motion, not positions. On the course, think only of what's necessary for controlling the golf ball.