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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Learning from the Great Walter Hagen

This year I plan to try and pull some tips from the legends of the game, and my first one of 2015 is Walter Hagen. Many of you have seen him portrayed in movies about Bobby Jones because he was one of BJ's primary competitors. During his career -- he turned pro in 1912 -- he had at least 75 wins (45 on the PGA Tour) and he ranks 3rd in the all-time list of major winners. He has 11, behind only Nicklaus (18) and Woods (14).

In addition to 2 US Opens, Hagen won 4 Open Championships and 5 PGA Championships. (The Masters didn't exist for over 20 years of his career; he only played in 6 of those.) I think the PGAs are most impressive because it was a match play tournament back when he won them between 1921 and 1927.

Here's a good video of his swing from the British Golf Museum, from the year he won his 3rd Open Championship, complete with some slo-mo.

The "tip" I want you to pick up from his swing -- besides that smooth rhythmic action of his -- can be seen in the slo-mo starting around the :40 second mark. Many of you try to use waggles and forward presses to start your backswing -- nothing wrong with that, you can see Hagen using them as well -- but what I want you to see is his hip movement.

Hagen starts his takeaway by turning his hips TOWARD the target. It's not a big movement and it can be a bit hard to see at full speed because it happens quickly, but you can see it very clearly in the slo-mo.

For those of you who find that waggles and forward presses don't feel quite right to you -- perhaps because they cause you to change where the club face is aimed before you even start your swing -- but you need something to help you get your swing started, this is a good movement to try. Most weekend players who have trouble starting their swings tend to be a bit stiff in the knees. Hagen's move is a good natural way to "loosen them up" without changing the angle of the club face at address.

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