U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)


How To Start Down

August 09, 2011

Feet first: Jack started his transition by planting his left heel and shifting his knee to the target.

Jack Nicklaus: I've always believed that the golf club should dominate you instead of you dominating the club. In other words, you swing the club, and your body reacts to how you swing it. Doing this forces you to use your lower body to initiate the downswing.

Every other sport is played from the ground up. Watch a baseball pitcher: On the windup, he moves his lower body first, then his arm; on the forward motion, he leads again with the lower body, the arm trailing. This used to be true with golf, but today I see it being taught with the upper body dominating, partly because modern equipment is so much lighter.

But if kids started with clubs slightly too heavy, it would teach them to swing back and through from the ground up. They would be forced to learn the proper sequencing of motion.

Look at my transition starting down (above). My left heel gets fully planted, and my left knee moves toward the target, yet my clubhead has barely changed position. That's swinging from the ground up.

Jim Flick: Under pressure, can you make the transition from the top as consistently when the upper body controls the swing as when the feet and legs control it? My answer is no.

But a lot of people have misinterpreted Jack's swing, believing he drove his legs to power the ball. I asked Jack how much his first teacher, Jack Grout, worked with him on leg action. He said zero. They focused on his feet. So think footwork, not leg drive.

The greatest ball-strikers--from Bobby Jones, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan, to Jack, Tiger and now Rory McIlroy--have all initiated the swing from the ground up. To control the clubface and put the ball in the target area, their feet and lower bodies have always started the transition to support the free swinging of the hands and arms.

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.