Underappreciated and undercelebrated—that’s Lee Trevino. And maybe Lee wants it that way, but hear this: His swing is one of only four that I ever wanted to copy. His signature low cut was as trustworthy as a good hunting dog, and he packed more raw, natural power than even today’s most athletic Tour players. (Trevino with a modern 460cc driver is a scary thought.)
I got a firsthand glimpse of his talent in my very first big event. I was paired with Trevino at the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, and although I was low amateur that year, I learned more from that experience just watching him attack the course. There wasn’t a fairway Lee couldn’t hit. We met again in 1969 in my first event as a PGA Tour player, and by that time I had practiced what I had seen in his swing at Olympic to the point where I could pretty much match him cut for cut when the situation called for it.
Most players think of the swing as a circle. Trevino saw it as something different. Instead of folding his arms up after impact to remain on the circle, he chased his right shoulder toward the target to the point where the club pointed straight down the line. He made this move with such force that it looked like his right arm was going to rip straight out of its shoulder socket. It’s actually a move that most great ballstrikers have used over the decades.
Eventually, your left elbow must fold and get the club moving up the circle again, but try chasing down the line first, like Trevino did. I bet you’ll find yourself hitting the ball a little straighter and, if you can hold off your release just that much longer, creating a power fade. While the word “fade” has negative connotations for a chronic slicer, a controlled cut in the hands of a good player like Trevino leads to a Hall-of-Fame career, five Vardon Trophies and half a dozen major victories.