Golf Digest Throwback: How a 1950s power move holds up today
In celebration of Golf Digest's 70th anniversary, we went back through our archives to find a collection of interesting—and sometimes controversial—instruction images and asked today's top teachers to evaluate whether the advice presented in them still holds up for the modern player. In this article from June 1952, Dave Bauer analyzes the swings of his tour player daughters Alice and Marlene—who both had actions that would fit in with Bubba Watson or Brooke Henderson on a modern range. The Bauer sisters were two of the 13 co-founders of the LPGA in 1950, and Marlene would go on to win 26 times—including the 1956 LPGA Championship.
Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Mike Adams knew the Bauer sisters and saw their swings first-hand later in their careers. He says their swings were natural responses to the desire to hit the ball far despite a small frame—like Henderson, Justin Thomas or Rickie Fowler today. "They were two small girls trying to generate force, so they did what came naturally—release the knee, release the foot, turn the hip and let it go. It's fascinating to read from their father some of the rationale behind how they were coached."
Interestingly, in the article written by Dave Bauer, he says: "Let me make this clear. I have never told either girl just how far back she should take the clubhead."
He goes on: "My one concern is to make sure that their swing is such that they get the clubhead through the ball in time. By this I mean that the right hip is far enough out if the way on the backswing so that it will not interfere with the free flow of the club, and so the hips will not get too far ahead of the club head on the downswing."
Funny enough, Mr. Bauer goes onto say: "I am quick to criticize too short a backswing, for it automatically necessitates the expenditure of too much effort within a limited space, thereby spoiling the rhythm of the swing." We'd be interested to hear his thoughts on Jon Rahm's and Tony Finau's swings today, undoubtedly aided by the absolute explosion in golf-club and ball technology.
We had Adams analyze Alice Bauer's swing, which Golf Digest said "goes far beyond convention limits," which is also, in fact, true today.
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What holds up today: Adams picked the image of Alice Bauer at the top of her backswing as the one that should resonate—for good and bad—when it comes to the average player. "In the article, Dave Bauer says that his daughters got more power and accuracy from this big, long backswing, and I'd call that partially true," Adams says. "There's no doubt that the longer the swing, the more arc you have and the more time you have to generate speed. And when you let your lead foot roll, you get more hip turn, which buys you more shoulder turn."
What doesn’t: The caveat? Simply cranking up a bigger swing without carefully monitoring how you do it won't produce better results. "If you go longer by just bending your arms and hinging your wrists a lot more, like the advice in this story, you're not going to magically get better. You have to turn the volume knob gradually, so to speak, and make sure you're adding elements you can still control. Ironically, both Alice and Marlene had swings that got shorter as they got older, and they ended up playing better golf that way."