Swing your swing

Masters 2023: 'I don't have a pretty swing'—How Sam Bennett's homegrown golf swing works

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — There are players on tour, and in the field this week, whose golf swings are grown like seeds, incubated from the earliest age, tended to with exacting care.

And then there's Sam Bennett.

Bennett, who earned an invitation to the 2023 Masters courtesy of his victory at the U.S. Amateur last August, followed an opening-round four-under 68 with another 68 on Friday, leaving him four shots back of Brooks Koepka's lead during the rain-delayed second round.

During practices rounds at Augusta National, all the conversation revolved around another amateur in the field, long-hitting, NCAA champion Gordon Sargent.

I bullishly anointed him a "speed freak." Max Homa said he was "phenomenal." Brandel Chamblee predicted a top-15 finish. In the minds of many, Sargent’s ascension to low-amateur honors was a mere formality after a birdie on his first hole. That came undone with a triple-bogey 7 on the third hole. Thirty-four holes later, the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world was nine over for the tournament, and going home.

Meanwhile, there was Bennett. In golf's arms-race era for more distance, the fifth-year senior at Texas A&M feels like “Rudy” in a golf shirt by comparison. Five-foot-nothing and a hundred-and-nothing pounds, Bennett averaged just 288 yards off the tee in his first round, and 278 in the second. His longest drive through two rounds was 289 yards—56 yards behind Ryan Fox's 346-yard pop. And yet, Bennett has made just one bogey through 36 holes, was among the very best in greens in regulation, and with the wet-and-windy weather forecasted for Saturday and Sunday, could do the unthinkable.

Masters 2023

Ben Walton

If there's a word that best describes Bennett's game, it's scrappy. He hits low fades from tee-to-green. He's not long. He avoids the mistakes he shouldn't make. He makes the putts he should. It's a patchwork of skills learned through necessity. Figuring out how to make it work, and not caring how it looks.

"I don't hit it far like Sargent. I don't have 190 ball speed," Bennett says. "I don't have a pretty swing like some of the other amateurs. But it's golf, not a golf swing."

Unlike a vast majority of his Masters peers, Bennett has never had a golf lesson in his life. His lessons came from figuring it out himself. Bennett's critique of his own move is probably harsh—what makes a golf swing "pretty," after all?—but I'll grant it's somewhat unusual.

If you track the path Bennett's hands move on his backswing, they start by moving deeper and more around him. While a golfer's exact hand path depends on his or her body type, generally speaking, many modern coaches like a deeper hand path nowadays because it helps create shoulder tilt with a bigger stretch.

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But what's slightly more unusual is what happens next.

After Bennett's hands track deeper around him, they then move out on the downswing. It's a reverse loop, technically an over-the-top loop that plagues the recreational ranks by causing massive slices. It's more common to see high-level players do the opposite—to go from steeper to shallower—but the reverse loop pops up more than you might think. Think of Masters champion Craig Stadler or former PGA Tour stalwart Bruce Lietzke.

The key, like everything in golf, is learning how to make it work for you. Bennett too struggled with slices growing up, he said. But he figured it out. Rather than undo something that felt natural to him, he added another move that felt natural to him that allowed it to work.

That move was the feeling of keeping his chest down and rotating. It's become the defining trait of his swing and gives his move a Joaquin Neimann look. It allowed Bennett to close the clubface more. A few thousand reps later, Bennett was hitting trappy fades. They're not the longest, but he knows where they're going. He does this week, too.

"People try to tell me my back's not going to hold up or, 'your swing's not going to hold up,'" he says. "I'll never get a swing coach."

A swing coach may not be in Bennett's future. That's fine. But perhaps he'll be willing to dispense some advice to the rest of us.

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