Swinging the club back deliberately helped Jack set it at the top for a free release through the ball.
JACK NICKLAUS: Throughout my career, I invariably came to holes where I needed a few extra yards--carrying a hazard off the tee, or hitting a drive far enough on a par 5 so I could go for the green in two. But when I consciously tried to swing harder, the ball didn't go farther. I learned, however, that if I thought of three things, I could hit it longer:
Relax my arms at address and keep them relaxed throughout the swing.
Start the club back lower and slower, even slower than I thought possible.
Make sure to complete my backswing.
These thoughts were effective under pressure because they were basically feel-oriented and nonmechanical. They also got me into the proper position at the top of the swing so I could release the club fully through impact, which created maximum clubhead speed. I've always contended that you can't start releasing (unhinging the wrists and rotating the right arm over the left) too early, as long as you actively move to your left side starting down.
If on the downswing you stay back on your right side and release early, you'll cast the club, which results in a loss of clubhead speed. However, if you make that same release but shift your weight properly starting down, it looks like the perfect golf swing, and the club pulls your body around into a balanced finish.
JIM FLICK: Jack helped me understand that the body should react to how you're applying the golf club. That's being athletic, rather than over-controlling the body and the club. You can release the club properly and fully for maximum distance only if you start the downswing from the ground up, leading with your left foot, knee, thigh and hip, in that order.
If you do that, your shoulders will stay quiet, allowing the club to swing into the ball from inside the target line, which promotes a stronger angle of attack and more clubhead speed.
Taking the club back low and slow not only helps widen your arc, it encourages you to complete your backswing, which gives you time for a full release. When Jack feels he releases the club from the top, he's swinging his arms freely while his shoulders are still turned. This keeps the club from coming over the top (or outside in).
Most golfers, when they try to hit the ball farther, get tight in their shoulders and lose clubhead speed before impact.You want to do just the opposite. Tight muscles are slow muscles. Stay relaxed at the top and through impact, and you'll hit it longer than ever.
NICKLAUS writes articles only for Golf Digest.
FLICK, a longtime Golf Digest Teaching Professional and PGA Golf Professional Hall of Famer, worked with hundreds of amateurs and tour players including Jack Nicklaus.