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Magic Moves

Hall of Fame Teacher: This 'magic move' was the key to Fred Couples' smooth swing

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Fred Couples' golf swing just seems at home at Augusta National. The rolling green fairways, the tall Augusta pines, and Freddie's silky tempo.

I was diving into the Golf Digest archive ahead of The Masters this year (which you can check out for yourself right here) and in the April 1993 edition of the magazine, came across this fantastic golf swing sequence of a young Couples preparing to make his return to The Masters following victory the previous year.

He rose to World No. 1 with that win, and the smooth, rhythmical swing that he became known for became a household fixture among avid golfers of the world.

Which is why, ahead of his Masters defense, Golf Digest enlisted legendary teacher Harvey Penick, author of the famed "Little Red Book," for a frame-by-frame breakdown of Couples' swing. He said he studied these pictures every night for a week, and concluded these are the things the rest of us should learn from...

1. Vs pointing to right shoulder


The first thing Harvey Penick noticed was Couples' strong grip, "with both Vs pointed at his right shoulder," he writes.

While a stronger grip could help prevent slicers from ballooning drives out to the right, in Couples' case, he matches a strong grip with lots of body rotation.

"Anyone with a strong grip has to make a fast turn and get their left hip out of the way," he explains, adding that Couples flaring his left foot out towards the target helps him increase his rotation. "He couldn't make that fast a hip turn without his left toe being turned out."

2. Big, free turn


The big rotation wasn't confined to Couples' downswing, though. It started on the backswing, with a shoulder turn of more than "100 degrees of rotation," Penick writes. A big backswing turn that remains balanced is something the rest of us can and should learn a lot from young Couples.

"My teaching is that the left heel should rise in the backswing if it wants to, but Fred's doesn't want to. Fred is so flexible that he stays in balance and shifts his weight without his left heel needing to rise," Penick writes. "It would help the average golfer to take a free swing as Fred does. That doesn't mean a loosey-goosey swing, but one that is free."

3. Right over left


The "magic move" in Couples' swing is in his release, Penick writes.

"His right arm rolls over his left which has maintained and guided the swing arc and does not break down," he says. "His right arm is pouring in the power. This crossover of the right arm delivers enormous clubhead speed and prodigious distance."

It's rolling his right arm over his left, while extending both of his arms, which creates a "powerful whipping motion" that transfers maximum energy from the golf ball into the clubhead. He may not have realized it at the time, but there's been some good science in recent years underlining the importance of a full release of the arms and wrists. Penick saw it instantly, and Couples understood it intuitively.

It's the combination of lots of body rotation, with a full release of his club, that helped Couples be so efficient with his power. Put simply, he made his swing look effortless because he was so good at transferring the speed he created with his body into the ball. It made for some nice viewing for the rest of us.