There is no one right way to hit a golf ball. But there are a lot of weird ways. And some of those work very well. Consider the golfers in this list. Immensely successful by any measure, they represent 11 of the strangest golf swings of all time.
A picture is worth a thousand words. But we won’t spend quite that many attempting to describe the whirlybird motion of this Irish stalwart, who won four times on the European Tour and competed in the Ryder Cup four times. Let’s just say this: his wild elbow-flying swing is one of those things you can’t un-see.
A hockey star in college, Doyle shined even brighter when he switched from skates to spikes, enjoying a long, successful amateur golf career before turning pro at the seasoned age of 46. He went on to win 11 times on the Champions Tour, including four majors, using a sawed-off, slap-shot swing that looked like something he’d honed on the ice. Not so, according to Doyle, who said he fine-tuned his action while practicing in a room with a low ceiling.
The son of a golf course superintendent, Thorpe developed a swing all his own, a fierce pass at the ball, punctuated by a torso-tilt and club twirl. Johnny Miller said the swing had “more moves than kung fu.” And as it turns, Thorpe was pretty good at self-defense. Of those who mocked him, he said this: “The one thing I know is that I can beat all the guys who make fun of my swing.” Well, maybe not Miller, but we get the point.
A quarter-century has passed since Daly announced himself to the world with his run-away win at the ’91 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick. He was slimmer then, with a caterpillar mustache and a neck-warmer hairdo. One thing that hasn’t changed after all this time: that distinctive, ankle-scratcher swing.
Wide stance. Stiff arms. Truncated backswing. Ben Hogan didn’t teach that in his Five Fundamentals. But Norman taught himself to play that way. In the process, the shy, autistic Canadian became what many still regard as the greatest ball-striker of all time.
“The downswing is all that matters,” said Barber, an 11-time Tour winner. That was his way of deflecting criticism of his backswing, a loopy motion with a chicken-winged right elbow that was once compared to a man trying to open an umbrella in the wind.
Like a man trying to kill a snake in a phone booth. Like an octopus falling from a tree. A lot of funny things have been said about Furyk’s funny-looking swing. But given that he’s raked in more than $67 million in career earnings, not to mention a U.S. Open crown, we know who’s had the last laugh.
It’s hard to believe that an upright swing that appears to move no faster than molasses could earn a woman seven LPGA Tour major titles. But, like they say, seeing is Inbee-lieving.
To compensate for the strong left hand grip he first learned to play with, Palmer developed a hook-preventing whirlybird finish, a helicopter hang-on that became the trademark of golf’s most beloved follow-through. Combined with his slashing downswing and torso tilt as his ball took flight, there was something of the commoner to Arnie’s action. There was also no confusing him for anyone but the King.
Good thing he had those bulging Popeye forearms, because with his over-the-top action, Parry had to hang on for dear life. His swing “would make Ben Hogan puke,” Johnny Miller said during a live telecast of the 2004 Ford Championship at Doral. Not long after, Parry jarred his approach shot on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to win the title with an eagle two.
Hands upright at address. A dramatically inside takeaway. Club pointing well right of the target at the top. The three-time major-winner and Hall of Famer said her swing was “no uglier than Arnold Palmer’s.” Better still, she added, it was “the same ugly swing every time.”