I first worked with Sutton as his coach at Centenary College in 1978. We’d stayed in touch over the years, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1996 that we got back together full time to work on his game. What you see here is Sutton’s improved swing, photographed the day after he won the Greensboro.
View Sutton’s swing in its entirety, or frame by frame, below. Note: Flash plug-in required. Can’t see the image? Download the latest version here.
Keys to Sutton’s Swing
At address (Frame 1), Sutton starts from a relatively wide base with his heels a little wider than his shoulders. His chin points at the ball, and he has a slight shoulder tilt away from the target. From this set-up it’s easy to make a great shoulder turn.
In Frame 2, you can see some of the changes Sutton has made. First, his right knee is stable and supporting his backswing. Notice that both arms extend away from his body, unlike most amateurs who keep their right arm too close to the side. He also lets his forearms rotate as his upper body turns; this rotation helps him keep the clubface square at the top of the swing. He used to reach the top with the face closed, which created a lower than optimal shot trajectory.
Can the top of a backswing (Frame 3) look better than this? Great shoulder turn, clubface square (at a 45-degree angle to the sky), and the shaft positioned directly over the hands and thumbs for maximum stability.
You can’t see it in Frame 4, but Sutton does a great job giving his body time to unwind. He understands that no one has ever hit a shot in the first half of their downswing. Many golfers rush the downswing, throwing off the timing between the upper and lower body. The most important key to a great swing is learning to coordinate the body turn with the arm rotation. Rushing the backswing or the beginning of the downswing destroys the proper blending of the two.
At impact (Frame 5), Sutton’s quiet footwork (both feet are almost completely on the ground) shows that he is rotating around his left hip. This is critical; it means his hips are rotating through the shot and not toward the ball. Because his body continues to rotate, Sutton is able to accelerate the clubhead well past impact. This is vital for producing consistent clubhead speed shot to shot. This focus on acceleration is something that Jackie Burke Jr. helped Sutton develop.
As for the follow-through, note how Sutton’s head has begun rotating around and toward the target in Frame 6. Most golfers keep their head focused on the spot where the ball was sitting. But when the head rotates toward the target, it is easier for the body to release the clubface through impact. Again, this full-body release means greater consistency from swing to swing.
Another huge payoff from keeping the clubface square throughout the swing is an improved short game. The closed face used to hurt his chips and pitches; today, Sutton has one of the best short games on Tour.
The Stat Sheet
• Born: April 28, 1958
• Height: 6-1 • Weight: 210 pounds
• Residence: Shreveport, Louisiana
• School: Centenary College
• Career Tour Wins: 14
• Amazing Stats: Won eight of the last 10 amateur events he played. Went more than nine years between PGA Tour victories, from 1986 to 1995.
• Other: In 2002, named captain of 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team…played on Walker Cup Team (1979, 1981); Ryder Cup Team (1985, 1999); named GOLF Magazine’s 1980 College Player of the Year.