Tom Kite came to me back in the mid-1970s when he was just starting on Tour. He didn’t have the most effective swing, but he worked very hard and had a great short game. Although we haven’t worked together in many years, I can tell from these pictures that he has improved just about every aspect of his swing since those early days.
View Kite’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.
Kite has seamlessly moved from the popular 1970s-era swing — which employed a lot of vertical leverage and put a lot of stress on the back and joints — to the current motion with more horizontal rotation and less strain on the body. This motion truly is the best of his career.
In Frame 1, Kite shows a very good address. The right shoulder sits lower than the left to allow the right hand to sit lower on the club. His stance is wider than it used to be, which helps the good player because it reduces hip rotation and creates more resistance between the upper body and lower body, storing more power. Most golfers struggle to make a big upper body turn, so they may need a narrower stance than Kite’s.
Tom used to tilt his head to the left at address. This caused him to pull the club inside going back, forcing him to reroute it coming down. Now he looks directly at the ball. I like golfers to tilt their head a little bit to the right, which helps most golfers swing more inside-out to the target line through impact — a particularly good move for a nation of slicers.
As Kite moves the club away from the ball (Frame 2), his head remains steady, imperative for consistently solid contact. The other move Kite makes that every amateur should copy is getting the left knee behind the ball. This shifts his weight over his right foot. You can’t generate much power if the body doesn’t move behind the ball during the backswing.
At the top of the swing (Frame 3), Kite is so supple that he can make a full turn without lifting his left heel. This is fine for him, but most golfers must let the left heel rise to get anywhere near this much coil in their backswings.
Starting down (Frame 4), Kite and all good players try to move their bodies back toward the target. It’s the right knee that takes the lead: It drives the left knee, the left knee drives the hip turn, and the hip turn drives the acceleration of the arms. This chain reaction generates the clubhead’s speed.
At impact (Frame 5), Kite’s left leg has straightened as a result of the rotation of the hips and shoulders. The straight left leg provides a brace to hit against, maximizing power. His hands are slightly ahead of the ball at impact while his head is well behind it and his right shoulder is much lower than his left. The right shoulder moves lower than it was at address because the right elbow has moved closer to the right side.
In Frame 6, Kite shows a great release. In golf, the release is simply the rotation and acceleration of the clubhead through impact. If you’re afraid to release the club, you’ll have too much tension in the hands and arms and you won’t be able to generate maximum speed. The freedom and extension in his arms proves that he has swung the club with minimal arm tension.
At the finish (Frame 7), Kite has released his entire right side toward the target, allowing nearly all his weight to shift to his left side. Perfection. He will be competitive for years to come with this move.
The Stat Sheet
• Born: December 9, 1949
• Height: 5-foot-8
• Weight: 167 pds.
• Residence: Austin, Texas
• School: University of Texas
• Career PGA Tour Wins: 19
• Senior PGA Tour Wins: 6
• Biggest Wins: U.S. Open (1992), The Players Championship (1989), The Tradition (2000).
• Amazing Stats: Shot a PGA Tour record 35-under par at the 1993 Bob Hope Desert Classic. Played on seven Ryder Cup teams and captained the 1997 squad.
• Other: Co-Champion 1972 NCAA Championship; 1973 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year; 1981 PGA Tour Player of the Year; 1981 and 1982 Vardon Trophy Winner; shot a career-low 62 four times during PGA Tour career.