By Bob Toski
USGTF Member, Boca Raton, Florida

I have been asked to write this article at the request of Bob Wyatt, who was in my junior class at my first club job at Kings Bay in Miami, Florida, in 1957, after I retired from the tour.I have read the series of articles in your magazine and must compliment those instructors who have passed on their knowledge of the golf swing and golf in general. In observing the modern golf swings today, I have noticed the following techniques:
  • The left heel stays planted on the turf on most golf swings.
  • The left knee moves to the right later in the backswing with less freedom of motion, and the right knee stays flexed and there is less straightening of the right leg as the backswing is completed.
  • The completion of the backswing is shorter and never crosses the parallel line.
  • Bobby Jones went past and across the line with an open clubface at the completion of his backswing, with the right leg being straight and great hip turn! Today, this is not evident in most golf swings. Coil and resist seems to be the modern method. This is evident in the swings of the LPGA Tour players, especially with the Korean women, who are very consistent with their ball striking.

    I spent about two hours recently discussing the method today of the tour players. Jack Nicklaus’ left heel moved about three inches off the turf with his left knee moving faster and further to the right as he completed his backswing with his hands very high over his right shoulder. Jack Grout, his instructor whom I knew quite well, said, “Reach for the sky and complete your backswing parallel to the line of play.” This gave him more time to move his lower body by first placing his left heel and foot on the ground to move to and through the ball with proper left-side control. We were told to move it and turn through it to retain the angle and create greater clubhead speed to and through the ball. Was Jack’s technique wrong? The greatest player in his era in striking the ball? Why has the swing changed? I have my answers, but I refer to all of your fine instructors for answers.

    The position of the clubface now tends to be shut instead of open or square at the completion of the backswing. Hogan never wanted a shut clubface in the backswing, and rotated the hands to be more under the shaft and the thumbs facing more vertical at the top of the backswing – a neutral position with two knuckles instead of three or four, thus allowing the clubface to be more square at impact and not closed, eliminating the duck hook and a low trajectory in flight.

    The modern tour player today is in fact six feet tall and weighs an average of 200 pounds, allowing him to generate greater clubhead speed for greater carry and more distance. I never have seen a five-foot player on the PGA Tour. I wonder why? I’m looking for some answers!

    Bob Wyatt: “Although Bob is correct in that no one five feet tall has ever played the tour, there are still a number of top-rated PGA Tour players under six feet tall and well under 200 pounds. Rory McIlroy, the number two player in the world at 5’9” tall and 161 pounds, would be an example. Then you have Justin Thomas, 5’10” and 160 pounds, rated number seven in the world. Francisco Molinari, Paul Casey and Ricky Fowler all fall in this category and all are rated in the top 20 in the world.

    “I believe the most dramatic change on thePGA tour is that the physical conditioning of these athletes has improved in all categories. The strength and flexibility factor has been the primary reason for the notable increase in the average distance a tour player now drives the ball. This may also explain the apparent change in a number of tour players’ golf swing technique. Keeping the lead foot down on the backswing is a by-product of the increased flexibility of the modern tour player. Ironically, the lifting of the foot or feet (both heels up at the same time) on the downswing is seen in many of the top players today. A prime example of this is evident in the swings of McIlroy and Thomas.

    “This is not to suggest the ‘old school’ way of playing the game is wrong. Many of the PGA Tour players and most of the Champions Tour players play with the tried-and-proven method and are doing very well!”

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