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Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Quick Look at Byron Nelson's Swing (Video)

Since the AT&T Byron Nelson starts today, I thought I'd give you a quick lesson on how he hit the ball so straight. This is his swing in 1945, when he set all those records.

This video starts with a regular-speed swing, then runs it in extremely slow motion. There are other videos that use this footage, but this one made it easier to see both of the things I want to point out.

First thing: Everybody talks about Hogan's waggle, but there are other ways to start your swing. This video clearly shows how Nelson bent his trailing knee toward the ball to start his backswing. He's not the only player to have done this -- Gary Player comes to mind -- but he may have been the first.

Second thing: And this is the key to his accuracy. You know how every teacher tells you to start your hips before you start your shoulders, so you can increase the angle between your shoulders and hips on the way down to increase power? Nelson doesn't do it! Instead, you can clearly see that the angle between his shoulders and hips doesn't change. In fact, his upper body moves forward, toward his target.

Personally, I'd rather you didn't move your upper body so far forward as you start your downswing. That causes you to lose some clubhead speed. But Nelson starts with so much weight on his lead leg that it can't really be helped -- he has to move away from the target during his backswing or he'll reverse pivot during his downswing. You'll want to keep your weight more centered when you address the ball so you don't have to move your upper body so much.

However, keeping that shoulder-hip angle fairly constant as you start your downswing is a key to increasing your accuracy. When you increase that angle, you do increase power -- but you also alter your spine angle, and that changes your downswing plane, sometimes dramatically. (This dramatic change is a cornerstone of Hogan's downswing, btw. Virtually every good ballstriker's downswing plane is a bit flatter than the backswing plane, but a big change costs you accuracy.)

While you may lose a bit of clubhead speed with this move, you'll also hit the ball more solidly. Given the design of modern equipment, that will add some distance on its own.

And just for the record, the Nelson approach is easier on your lower back as well. More accuracy means more consistent ball contact, and less back pain means... well, less back pain. It's a win-win situation.

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