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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Quick Look at Byron Nelson's Swing

Byron Nelson was the first golfer to figure out the key to what we call the modern swing -- that is, a swing that was capable of loading the stiffer steel shafts enough to let a player get some distance with the club. Nelson wasn't a particularly long hitter, he was better known for his accuracy. But the way he started his downswing -- which is the key to loading that steel shaft -- would be harnessed by long hitters like Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer with impressive results.

Here's an extremely slo-mo video of Nelson's swing. We're going to focus on the legwork here because it's different from the way Hogan did it (and considerably easier on the back) but it's a very effective way to get distance with accuracy.

First, note that Nelson sets up with more of his weight on his lead foot, even though he's hitting a driver here. I suspect this is why Nelson didn't hit it as far as other players. This setup makes him hit down on the ball, even off a tee. (As you've no doubt heard until you can repeat it in your sleep, you want to hit upward on the ball with a driver.)

When Nelson takes the club back, he moves behind the ball BUT his hips never move past the inside of his trail foot. This isn't a sway; his trail knee is well-braced as he makes his backswing.

But I also want you to note that his trail knee straightens quite a bit as he moves back. This is a move common to power hitters like Snead and Palmer. How does this create power? It's because it sets up his downswing move. And what is that downswing move? He keeps his trail knee relatively straight as he starts his downswing -- that's why the gap between his trail and lead knees seems to widen on the way down -- then lets the trail knee bend as his lead knee takes the force of his weight shift.

You may think that Hogan does the same thing, but he doesn't. Hogan shoves his lead hip forward so his upper body leans backward slightly. (At least, it's "slightly" if it's done correctly.) This also causes his lead knee to straighten dramatically.

By comparison, Nelson is moving his entire body forward so his upper body remains more upright. Yes, his hips move forward but he's not DRIVING them forward; it's more like he's FALLING toward the target and he lands on his lead foot. Because he's "landing" on his lead foot, the lead knee remains bent and his upper body doesn't tilt backward as much or as soon during his downswing. (That's part of the reason he, as well as other players using his technique, was more accurate and didn't stress his back as much.)

Many of you, when you try to use Hogan's move, do exactly the opposite of Nelson: You bend your trailing knee as you start back and then straighten it as you start your downswing. That's why a lot of you come over-the-top. Nelson's move is a bit more natural, helps you stay on plane, and also helps you hit down on the ball without trying to do anything special. After all, this move gets you moving down from the very start of your backswing!

Now if you decide to try this, you should know that at impact you CAN straighten your lead knee and push upward; Snead and Palmer made the same move as Nelson but pushed up at impact, and they both created a lot of power. There are plenty of Snead videos on YouTube that you can watch and learn the timing from.

But I can tell you this from experience: This downward move to start the downswing is much easier to repeat than Hogan's forward drive, and a lot of you may find it solves several of your swing problems all at once.




  3. Another good drill for the downswing knee action.