The genius behind Padraig Harrington's bizarre new swing

Tuesday July 18th, 2017
3:28 | Tour & News
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It isn’t a new dance craze sweeping the nation.

But it’s big in Europe.

Golf fans got a glimpse of it at last week’s Scottish Open, where Padraig Harrington, one of the game’s most persistent tinkerers,  showed off the kind of footloose fundamentals that would make Kevin Bacon proud.

In the latest iteration of his seemingly ever-evolving swing, Harrington lifts his left foot entirely off the ground during his backswing and punctuates his finish with a delayed walk-through with his right leg.

Check it out here: 

On television and in the Twittersphere, commentators have described the action as “unorthodox” and “bizarre.”

But Harrington doesn’t see it that way.

Neither does GOLF Top 100 Teacher Mike Malaska, who says there’s plenty of precedent for Harrington’s moves. And plenty of sound reasoning behind them.

In breaking down Harrington’s unconventional swing into two parts for GOLF.com, Malaska explains why the move makes sense for the three-time major winner, and why it might work for many of you, too.

PART I: THE FRONT–FOOT LIFT

This move runs counter to the current vogue on Tour for restricting lower body movement. Malaska loves it. For starters, he points out, some of the greatest in the game have lifted their front foot. “Jack Nicklaus had a pretty good career,” Malaska says, “and if you look at him in his prime, his foot came up to the point where his toe was barely touching the ground.” 

Harrington goes farther: at the top of his swing, his left foot loses contact with the ground completely. But the effect is similar. It frees up his turn and prepares him for a smooth transition, all the while relieving pressure on his back and neck. That’s a crucial point. At 45, Harrington has a history of back problems and is coming off neck surgery in 2016. As Malaska sees it, restricting the lower body is, in part, a prescription for power, but it’s also a recipe for injury, even for young, flexible bodies (witness the recent woes of Jason Day and Rory McIlory, to name just two injury-addled twentysomethings). The liberating front-foot lift is a friendlier alternative for 40-something Tour stars and everyday enthusiasts alike.

IF YOU TRY THIS MOVE AT HOME…

Harrington’s front foot comes off the ground, but he replants it in the same place. Failure to do so would create all sorts of problems. “If you don’t do that you wind up with too much back and forth, which leads to inconsistencies with where your swing is bottoming out. With a driver, you’ve got the ball teed up, so that’s not as critical as it is with other clubs.” Bottom line: if you lift your front foot, do like Harrington and Nicklaus and put it right back where it was. 

In a move reminiscent of Gary Player’s, Harrington steps through with his right foot toward the target after impact.

PART II: THE BACK-FOOT STEP-THROUGH

Look at today’s Gumby-like youngsters: Their shoulders keep rotating, and rotating, and rotating, so that by the time they complete their swing, their right shoulder is higher than their left shoulder but their spine angle hasn’t changed. The older and less flexible you get, Malaska says, the harder that is to do. In a move reminiscent of Gary Player’s, Harrington steps through with his right foot toward the target after impact: it’s a stress-free way to fully release his right side.

IF YOU TRY THIS MOVE AT HOME…

Harrington’s right foot step-through may look a little different. But check him out at impact, Malaska says. His position is impeccable. “The problem a lot of amateurs run into is they step through too early so they’re ahead of the ball at impact,” Malaska says. The most common result is a block. Harrington’s step-through happens after he’s struck the shot. He’s properly behind the ball at impact but on his way to a full release.

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