I didn't really get into golf until I was about 14. My mom and dad were taking lessons from a pro an hour and a half from our farm in Cohuna, Australia. When they got home, I'd ask my mom to explain everything they learned--drills and all. Before long, I started taking lessons myself, and when I was about 17 I moved down to Melbourne, where I hooked up with my coach, Steve Bann.All the big tweaks to my swing were made in the first few years Banny and I worked together. The top golfers in the world are like Formula One cars when it comes to their swings. Well, maybe John Daly isn't a Formula One car. But for a lot of us, it's mostly a matter of fine-tuning--and paying attention to fundamentals.A good setup with proper alignment is critical to what happens in the backswing and through swing. When my swing gets going bad, like it did on the back nine Sunday at Bay Hill in March, it's usually an alignment issue. When my setup is in good shape, like when I was winning the Mercedes Championships earlier this year, all I need to do is think straight, because I know I'm going to hit it straight.
A MODEL GOLFER-ATHLETE
When Stuart came to me for the first time as a 17-year-old farm boy in 1988, the first thing I noticed was how far he could hit it. We're talking miles--in all directions.His swing was long, with too much leg action, so we concentrated on creating a more stable base and eliminating the unnecessary movement. Within two years he won the state amateur in Victoria, followed by the Australian Junior Championship. By 1995 he was winning on the Nationwide Tour in the U.S. and playing his way onto the PGA Tour.In 1997 he won the Honda Classic. Later that year, with Stuart swinging extremely well, his swing sequence appeared in Golf Digest. Both of us loved what we saw. Since then, we've tried to improve a few things, and it's fascinating to see how well he's coming along.The biggest difference in his swing today is how well-balanced and simple it has become while remaining extremely powerful. He sets up in a "dynamic" position. Like a tennis player ready to receive a serve, he's balanced and relaxed, but ready to go. It's a position--and mind-set--worth copying.Now that he's reached the top 20 in the World Golf Ranking, Stuart wants to improve the quality of his shotmaking. His stock shot today is very straight, which is rather amazing considering the way he hit it the first day I saw him. He's building confidence in hitting draws and fades so he can create the best shot for any situation.
THE TAKEAWAYThere's no attempt to create artificial width. The triangle created by his arms and shoulders moves away in one piece.
His shaft today is parallel to his target line, with the clubface square and in line with his left forearm. His clubface used to get a little closed, the shaft across the line.
Here Stuart's swing is almost identical to Steve Elkington's, the one just about any coach of my vintage uses as a model.
What should you try to copy?Stuart does many things well, but the key positions for you to copy are his textbook setup and finish. By eliminating his slight "reverse C", Stuart has reduced his risk for back injuries. Modern golfer-athletes have no unnecessary movement; they're efficient machines built for power and control. Just like the high-performance race cars Stuart loves to drive.