During my years of playing on the PGA Tour and in numerous major championships, I’ve had the opportunity to play with many of the best players in the world. Of them all, I haven’t seen anyone who is a better shotmaker than Jesper Parnevik. He can be standing in the middle of the fairway with the hole cut in the middle of the green and be considering at least a half-dozen different shots.
View Parnevik’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.
He is able to work the ball high or low, left or right, because he has complete control of the clubface. Throughout his swing, his clubface remains perfectly square. This means he only has to adjust his body alignment at address to be guaranteed of hitting the shot shape he wants.
Starting with his set-up in Frame 1, his arms form a perfect triangle while the clubshaft is vertical. Note that the great drivers of the ball never let their hands start ahead of the ball on tee shots because that promotes a slightly downward blow; they prefer to hit the ball with the clubface traveling level or slightly upward.
Jesper’s stance is slightly wider than normal for someone his size, but because he is so flexible, the wider stance helps him minimize hip rotation. Less hip turn creates more torque (tension) between his upper body and lower body, while still allowing for a good weight transfer behind the ball. Amateurs who are slim and supple can benefit from a wider stance like Jesper’s, while those with a thicker build will probably make a better backswing with a narrower stance.
As Jesper turns away from the ball in Frame 2, he extends his arms fully while keeping his weight stable over the inside of his right foot, knee, and thigh. This weight positioning prevents swaying away from the target — which would rob power and accuracy — and creates a tight body coil at the top of the backswing.
You can see at the top (Frame 3) that this is a very flexible golfer: His left heel is still on the ground and his knees are nearly as far apart as they were at address! If you want to emulate this position, start stretching — a lot — every morning. Also note the position of the left shoulder under the chin and behind the ball. From here, he can generate a lot of clubhead speed without losing accuracy. Also, as mentioned earlier, his clubface remains perfectly square (45 degrees to the horizon at the top of the backswing).
You can’t see it very well from the angle in Frame 4, but the big difference between Jesper’s first move down and that of most amateurs is that his hips have already opened to the target while his shoulders remain closed. Short hitters usually reach this point in the downswing with the hips and shoulders both parallel to the target line. Jesper’s position preserves torque until closer to impact when it can be used to sling the club into the ball. Also notice how Jesper’s right elbow has dropped below his left arm, enabling him to deliver the club from slightly inside the target line — the most powerful angle of attack.
At impact (Frame 5), Jesper has created a solid brace with his left side while his right shoulder, hip, knee, and heel extend toward the target. In fact, his right shoulder looks as if it is chasing the ball down the line. This right-side release is why Jesper is so good at compressing the ball with his irons — the strength of his game.
Like most professionals, the lack of tension in his arms and upper body (Frame 6) allow the club’s acceleration to pull Jesper into this fully extended position. In the full finish (Frame 7), he is a model of balance. If you can finish your swing in balance, you can stop worrying about hitting wild shots.
The Stat Sheet
• Born: March 7, 1965
• Height: 6-0
• Weight: 175
• Birth Place: Stockholm, Sweden
• Residence: Jupiter, Florida
• Career PGA Tour Wins: 5
• Worldwide Professional Wins: 9
• Amazing Sats: Career low round is 62 at the 1997 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Nine top-10 finishes in 2000.
• OTHER: European Ryder Cup team 1997, 1999; World Cup team 1994, 1995; twice runner-up in British Open. Father Bo is Sweden’s most famous comedian. Enjoys magic tricks. Lights victory cigar on last hole of his wins.