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Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Nicklaus Tip You May Not Have Heard

I love finding new things about the great players that I haven't heard before... and today I have one about Jack Nicklaus.

No doubt you've heard that Jack hovered the head of his driver behind the golf ball for a smoother takeaway. I found something that contradicts that.

Some years ago John Andrisani did a number of books about different players, each with a title like The [fill in the blank] Way. Here's what I found in his book The Nicklaus Way:
He sets the clubhead behind the ball, with its face aligned precisely for the type and degree of sidespin he intends to give the shot. Let me stop for a second here and discuss two observations I have made regarding this aspect of his setup.

One secret Nicklaus never mentioned is this: he sets the club down a couple of inches behind the ball, and I believe this little nuance helps promote that smooth, streamlined straight-back takeaway action he is so famous for.

The second secret: contrary to what he has said over and over, in books and on video, he does not hold the club slightly above the grass. Rather, he rests it very gently on the grass. He does not press the bottom of the club into the grass, as amateurs do. Addressing the ball like Nicklaus will help alleviate tension in your hands and arms and allow you to make a good backswing action. Once you do that, you stand a much better chance of returning the club to a square impact position. (p9-10)
Now you might think that second "secret" -- that the club is resting lightly on the grass rather than hovering above it -- is nitpicking. I would agree although, since Jack was playing with older equipment where the ball was teed lower, it might be true. When we focus on doing something we tend to exaggerate it, and trying to hover the clubhead might cause you to hold it quite a bit higher than trying to rest it lightly on the grass would. With modern equipment this probably isn't a big deal, but it's still worth noting.

However, the first secret seems significant to me. The closer you hover the clubhead behind the ball, the more likely you would be to accidently tap the ball. Consciously leaving a noticeable space between the ball and the clubface gives you a margin for error that I believe would help you stay more relaxed at address.

This is a small tip, but often small things are a tremendous help when you need to build your confidence. I know it's something I'm going to consider doing in the future.

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