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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Classic Nancy Lopez Swing

Do I really need to go into details about Nancy Lopez's record? She won 52 tournaments -- 48 were LPGA and 4 were team events. She won 3 majors -- all LPGA Championships -- and too many awards to name. And for many years, it was fair to say she was the LPGA.

I've mentioned Nancy Lopez's swing in some of my past posts. It's a classic example of a swing that works well even though it's a bit odd. The nice thing about this video (which was taken from a show Jim McLean did) is that she actually explains some of the details of her own swing:

I've mentioned before that she lifts her hands to start her takeaway. You might wonder why this works. If you watch her swing a few times from down the line, you'll see that this is very much a single-plane swing. She eliminates any angle between her left forearm and the club shaft, which fits in very well with Principle #4 of my Basic Principles. (Remember, those can all be found under the "Basic Principles of the Game" category in the sidebar.)

The other important thing I'd like to point out is simply how still and balanced she is during her swing. She's not rigid, mind you; you can see her move slightly back and then through as she swings, but none of the movements are excessive. You can tell she's swinging "aggressively," as McLean puts it, but she never looks stiff or tense during her swing.

This also works into her wrist action. She cocks her wrists early in the swing, in large part because she's lifting her hands while using a fairly strong grip; that's why she ends up rolling the club to the inside, as she mentions in her commentary. She also returns them to her original position "unconsciously," as McLean says, simply because relaxed wrists tend to return to their setup position on the downswing. As McLean says, "She just allowed it to happen."

Those are the main things I want to point out about this classic swing. But be sure to spend some time watching the rest of the video; McLean did several shows like this on the swings of different players, and they're all extremely good.


  1. the term "classic" doesn't really fit. Lopez' swing isn't "classic" for all the reasons you point out. It is a very individual swing because of her idiosyncracies like the raising of the hands. I was always amazed that she didn't come over the top, but I guess that ultra slow tempo on the way back with the big pause at the top gave her plenty of time to come back through from the inside. She was quite an athlete to hit her ball as straight as she did.

  2. The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines classic as "serving as a standard of excellence." I call it a classic swing simply because she was "a standard of excellence" in many ways in addition to her swing.

    Besides, most of the best players have idiosyncrasies because they need them in order to capitalize on their strengths or minimize their weaknesses. Don't forget -- they said Jack had idiosyncrasies too, like a "flying right elbow." Not anymore, of course... but winning does tend to change people's minds.

    Had she managed to win even one US Open, she might not be considered so "idiosyncratic" now. ;-)

  3. Very true - but SHE was the standard of excellence - not the swing. You would never teach someone to swing like she did. Not the hand lift or the leg straightening or the extreme inside takeaway. She just knew her swing and did it the same way every time.

    Nah - winning a US Open doesn't change what a swing is or isn't. John Daly has 2 majors and there was never a big "let the clubhead hit you on your left knee" teaching movement.

  4. True... but Daly hasn't won 50 tournaments, either. ;-o

    I would argue that her swing is a "standard of excellence" just because she did do it the same way every time. The greatest swing in the world isn't worth a thing if you can't count on it under pressure. The Lopez swing was dependable, and that ranks it high in my book.

    Remember, this blog is less concerned with having a textbook swing than with scoring well. As far as I'm concerned, my definition of a good swing is one that you can score with because it's consistent and predictable... and it doesn't hurt. ;-)

  5. That's what we all want...well...that and more distance...and straighter...and better touch around the greens...and more precise putting...and cuter beer babes...