124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

This dude shot 80 once -- yes, with this swing

September 01, 2016

The good news is, if 17-handicapper Jack Van Meerbeeck, 58, ever gets sick of playing golf on the weekends, he can probably land a gig on the Vegas Strip as a contortionist. His thrill ride of a golf swing has more loop-de-loops than Disney’s Space Mountain—and similar wow factor.

Full disclosure: I’ve never met Jack. The editors at Digest asked me to look at his swing and give my thoughts. I knew something was up. First, he’s wearing two golf gloves. Nobody has ever played any good wearing two gloves, except Tommy Gainey—and, OK, he made it to the tour. So my first impression might have been unfair. Let’s take a closer look.

Jack’s swing actually starts out pretty routine, but when his hands get about chest high, things get nutty. He flips his wrists over his right shoulder, and the shaft goes upside down and dips toward the ball. I have to pause and say, anytime your hands block your view of the ball at the top of the backswing, something very special is happening. He looks more like he’s giving a Charades clue than making a golf swing, but the man finds a way to get back to the ball—and that’s all that matters.

“I took a lesson about eight years ago, and I thought the pro was going to have a heart attack,” says Jack, a native of Belgium who recently shot 80 at his home course, Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., site of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship. “He gave me a few pointers on squaring the clubface at impact and told me to continue to enjoy the game. I love it, every swing I take.”

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As Jack’s hands and arms are looping the club around at the top, his body is patiently waiting to start the downswing. Waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally the arms finish their swirling around and rejoin the party. Then, in a violent Furyk-times-10 downswing loop, the club is magically back in position and ready to hit the ball. It’s really pretty amazing: Jack’s swing is only a shade steeper at halfway down than it was at halfway back, despite all that monkey business in between.

Yes, he does have to shallow the swing quite a bit coming down to ensure he takes just a beaver pelt at impact and not the whole beaver. He pulls his arms in dramatically through the strike—in fact, he looks like he’s stabbing himself in the stomach. But there are no traumatic injuries here. Why? Because Jack instinctively knows how to save a shot and put the club on the ball. Real golfers have a knack for that.

“I’ve heard a lot of funny comments about my swing at the range, but when people play golf with me, they usually get very quiet,” Jack says. “It’s all about being able to repeat it on a consistent basis, right?”

I must say I feel oddly proud of this brave man, whose buddies call him Swing. He’s tenacious to not bow to the pressures of swing conformity. I’ve never seen a bigger knot on the backswing that has to be untied before impact. He just has to keep it within certain parameters. Even John Daly can get too long for John Daly—and Jack too loopy for Jack. Swing on, my valiant friend.

Tom Stickney is director of the Vidanta Golf Academies in Mexico.