How Jack and Tiger Found Cures For a Midlife Swing Crisis

Wednesday December 10th, 2014
Woods and Nicklaus have different moves, but the logic behind them is similar.
Getty Images

Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge looking reenergized and healthy. He also employed a new swing that was eerily similar to the one Jack Nicklaus employed later in his Tour career.

The basic alteration involved “body motion:” keeping the tilt or levels of their torso and hips established at address. Nicklaus said he accomplished this by switching from his head as his axis to his spine. This new move kept his torso and hips level and gave him a weight transfer back and forth. (You can read about it in Jack Nicklaus The Full Swing 1982, written two years after he made the change.) To better see how this works, place a shaft on the ground in the middle of the shadow of your body. Then turn back and forth around the shaft, using your spine as your axis. You’ll have have a weight transfer and a center. Jack’s second change was his “arm swing:” His arms moved more around his body and not straight back and forth. This all at once flattened his plane, put less stress on his body and created more speed while requiring less strength.

The intent of these changes: give both players more power while maintaining their body levels. The swings don’t contort the spine and thus are easier on the body. In Tiger’s case, I would make his grip weaker, especially in his right hand. This would enhance the swinging of the arms and clubhead. He would build more trust to release the club and thus avoid going left. Finally, Woods, who turns 39 on Dec. 30, should just swing the club rather than “hitting at the ball”— a tweak that will lead to better rhythm.As for Tiger, in recent years on the backswing he has stayed on top of the ball (i.e., with his weight on left foot) but now he’s getting behind it. Woods’s second change is to swing his arms in front of his body. When Tiger commits to swinging the club with his arms to the finish, he maintains clubhead speed; controls the club all the way through, keeping stress on the shaft; and stops trying to compress the ball, which made his head drop. Committing to swing the club to the finish also allows the right arm to straighten through contact, which maintains the body levels established at address.

This article appeared in the most recent issue of SI Golf+ Digital, our weekly e-magazine. Click here to read this week's issue and sign up for a free subscription.

More From the Web

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN