Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time, so it's only natural to want to copy features of his game. Go ahead and borrow Jack's tremendous competitiveness, his poise under pressure, his superintelligent course management and his putting stroke.Do not, however, try to copy his golf swing.Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Over the years thousands of golfers have tried to copy Nicklaus' unique swing method. Of those, only one talented professional--Mark McCumber--has been able to copy Jack's swing successfully. That's because Jack swings the club very wide and very high, a tough combination. You might have luck swinging one way or the other, but for the average player to implement both is almost impossible.The wide and high backswing enabled Jack to hit the ball inordinately high and far when he was younger. He was massively long and had a distinct advantage over other pros from the rough. It all was due to that wide, high backswing and a unique method for hitting through the ball.Jack's swing has not aged very well because he doesn't have the strength and flexibility to swing the way he once did. He's adapted by making a few changes, as you will see. But he's maintained certain movements in his swing that are dangerous to copy. The way his right elbow separates from his torso on the backswing and the way he switches from an upright swing plane on the backswing to a much flatter one at the beginning of the downswing are good examples. But Jack is the greatest golfer who ever lived, and parts of his swing merit duplication by everyone.
Gearing for a high hit
Jack is a high-ball hitter, and it shows in his setup. His left shoulder is much higher than his right, evidence he'll deliver an ascending blow through impact. His head is positioned well to his right. Because the human head weighs about 16 pounds, it follows that the majority of his weight is on his right leg. That means he'll stay well behind the ball on the downswing. Note that Jack's left elbow is pointing at his target. That means he'll pull the club down the target line with his left arm rather than hit with his right.
Jack has pushed the club away so low and far with his left arm that his right arm hasn't yet begun to fold. His swing arc is already very wide, a sign he's accumulating power. His right arm also is very high in relation to his left, the right palm facing down. If Jack looked like this on his downswing, he'd hit a vicious slice or pull. On the downswing he'll have to shift the club onto a flatter plane and attack the ball from inside the target line. Incidentally, check out Jack's legs. They've hardly moved. That's a solid foundation.
At the top: The Nicklaus 'squat'
Now comes the move that is very difficult to copy. Having established a wide swing arc early in the backswing, Jack now lifts the club vertically--without losing the width. He's not as wide and high as he used to be, but still darned good for a 56-year-old man. There is divergent motion here, upward with the upper body and downward with the lower body. The right leg has flexed at the knee, creating the famous "Nicklaus squat" that to this day gives Jack enormous power on his downswing.
Jack's a puller, not a thrower
There are two basic techniques for delivering the clubhead into the ball. One is a throwing action with the right hand and arm. The other is to pull hard with the left arm. Several aspects of Jack's downswing show he will pull the clubhead straight down the target line. His left elbow is pointed at the ball. His hips are shifting laterally, instead of turning, to provide leverage for the pulling action. Note that Jack has planted his left heel farther to his left than it was at address; this further discourages spinning of the hips.
Impact: Anatomy of a 'dinosaur' swing
I call Jack's swing a "dinosaur" swing because top golfers today don't look like this at impact. He has the classic "reverse C" appearance, his head stationed much farther to the right than modern tour pros'. He's swinging straight down the target line without much hip and shoulder rotation. His positions are idio- syncratic but fundamentally sound. His left leg is very solid, the clubface is square and his hands are just the way they were at address. Note that Jack's shaft is leaning back a touch. I'll bet he pulled this shot 10 yards left.
'Fake finish' is a Nicklaus trademark
Jack swings very aggressively through the ball, but after his hands reach head height on his follow-through, it's almost like he's letting air out of a balloon. Jack has always done this. It's a fake finish really, the club dropping behind his back and his elbows going limp. It's a very mellow end to the swing. The only sign of effort is his left foot turning out, his kneecap pointing at the target. It's a very nice, full finish, especially for a senior.