Lesson TeeMay 25, 2010

Snail's Pace: For extra distance, swing back extra slow

JACK NICKLAUS: I won the 1970 British Open at St. Andrews in a fierce 18-hole playoff with Doug Sanders. A lot has been written about the par putt Doug missed on 18 the previous day and my birdie putt on the final hole to win. But a key shot in the playoff was my drive that rolled all the way over the green on the par-4 18th. That was a good poke -- 358 yards.

When I want to hit the ball farther, I don't go at it harder. I swing slower. Thinking harder makes you take the club back faster and hit the ball quickly, which can throw you off balance. So I make a conscious effort to swing the club back slowly. I still have the adrenaline going, and I'm probably maintaining the same pace. This gets all the elements of my motion timed so they happen in the proper, natural progression. After a slow backswing and smooth change of direction, I can just let it rip.

__JIM FLICK:__Most great players of the past were able to get extra yardage when they really needed it. Because the ball spun more -- and curved more -- these players swung at 80 percent most of the time for control. But they could accelerate when they really wanted to. That's a good way for average golfers to play today.

Notice Jack says he swings the club back, instead of takes it back. What does that mean? He's moving the club back with his hands and arms, not locking up his shoulders. That creates less tension, and it's less likely the shoulders will interfere with a free-flowing downswing. It might not be what you'd instinctively do, but the result is maximum clubhead speed.

If you swing back too quickly, it takes more energy to stop the club and change direction. In practice, try hitting the same distance -- say 125 yards -- with different clubs to get your body and club in sync.

Jack Nicklaus writes articles only for Golf Digest.

Jim 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.


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