Some 35 years ago, when I was in my playing prime, I collaborated with the editors of Golf Digest on a series called "Jack Nicklaus' Lesson Tee." I've been told that those pastel-colored pages influenced a generation of golfers, which is very flattering. Now the editors have asked me to bring the series up to date by re-examining the content, written with Ken Bowden, and using the original art, created by Jim McQueen. Much of it is still valid, but as the game has changed with new equipment, modern courses and stronger players, some of my ideas have also changed. Here's what I wrote in the '70s, followed by my thoughts today.
GETTING READYI like to waggle before I go. On a normal shot, I waggle the clubhead back and forth along my target line. For a fade, I waggle on a slightly out-to-in path. For a draw, I follow an in-to-out line.WHAT I THINK NOWToday, when I want to hit a fade, I also open my left foot, which allows me to clear my hips more fully. For a draw, I open my right foot, because that allows me to make a fuller hip turn. A lot of modern teachers advocate restricting hip turn, but that's a totally unnatural movement.
MY HEAD SWIVELI turn my head slightly to my right just before I start back. Why? (1) It's a positive preparatory move; (2) it enables me to make a full, free shoulder turn; (3) it braces me against swaying to the left on the downswing and getting my upper body ahead of the ball. Many good golfers make a similar turning of the head--Sam Snead is a notable example.WHAT I THINK NOWWhen I was 16, I played an exhibition with Sam. That's where I got that move. And I did it the rest of my career.
THE WEIGHT WAGGLEI have the feeling that my weight is moving back and forth slightly as I waggle the club. It keeps my legs from becoming taut. The waggle does the same with my arms and wrists.WHAT I THINK NOWMy grip was pretty light, especially with the right hand, but before I swung the club away I firmed it up and maintained a constant pressure throughout. Fred Couples' grip is loose; Tom Watson's has always been firm. Whatever your grip pressure is, just keep it constant.
TRY MY TRIGGERI hold the club fairly loosely, but just before starting back, I press my hands together on the grip once or twice. I call this a "stationary press." I use it instead of the common forward press, which is a slight move toward the target with the legs, hips and hands. Gary Player, for instance, kicks his right knee to the left.WHAT I THINK NOWMy thoughts haven't changed here: I still use that stationary press. I also used to kick in my right knee, like Gary, to play a big fade. I still do that, too.
BEWARE THE SWAYIf you try the head swivel, make sure you don't let your head sway to the right as your swing progresses. If that happens, the swing arc will change and you'll hit the ball inconsistently. I actually watch the clubhead go back, to see that it's moving correctly, but I use peripheral vision.WHAT I THINK NOWYour head also should not bob up and down. I sometimes would lift my head, but I eventually learned to keep it the same distance from the ground. That encourages solid contact.