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Friday, January 31, 2020

Some Fun with Harry Vardon (Video)

I found this old footage of Harry Vardon -- winner of six OPENs and one US Open -- and thought you all might enjoy seeing what a master of the classic swing looked like back in the late 1890s-early 1900s.

Vardon may have been the first to use something similar to what we call a modern swing. Up until his time, most players used what was called the St. Andrews swing -- the club was taken back sharply to the inside (a very flat swing) and then looped dramatically up and over in the downswing. (Take a look at some footage of Bobby Jones and you'll see what I mean.) Vardon consciously tried to take the club straight back from the ball into a more upright position, then swing down on a similar plane (more like Jack Nicklaus).

In the video you can clearly see how his hands actually start back before the clubhead moves. This "dragging" motion was also used in the St. Andrews swing and helped control the softer hickory shafts that were common at the time. Modern stiff shafts are loaded by a strength move but the softer shafts of the time were loaded by a slower, more rhythmic motion. Since soft shafts didn't need as much effort to load them at the top, players could create a lot of clubhead speed with less effort.

Vardon had a reputation for being able to generate as much as 50 extra yards when he needed it, simply by adjusting his swing rhythm.

You might wonder why the more modern swing replaced the classic swing when the latter required less effort. It was simply a matter of the limitations of the equipment. Metal shafts, which were much stiffer, could be manufactured to be more consistent than hickory shafts ever could. Had graphite shafts been invented back then, it might have been a different story.

Vardon's nickname was "the Greyhound" because his opponents said he was hard to catch once he took the lead. This swing is the reason why, and it's similar enough to that of players like Mickelson and Els that we can still learn from it today.

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