Thursday, May 26, 2011

Arnie or Jack?

As a former employee of Arnold Palmer, the topic of golf conversation was frequently about Mr. Palmer and his greatest rival, Jack Nicklaus. What made them both so great? What were the differences between the two, not only their golf swings, but their approach to the game, and which was better? I have found that using these comparisons has helped our students at the United States Golf Academy have a deeper understanding of their own golf games. This understanding becomes a key factor in getting better. Here are some examples.

Approach to the Game.
Mr. Palmer was a “hit the ball directly at the target guy.” Nicklaus was a probability guy. Jack used his natural fade to play from a big target, like the center of the green, to a smaller one, the flag. His reasoning was if the ball didn’t curve he would not be in trouble. Mr. Palmer on the other hand never planned for a missed shot. He just made the target as small as possible and then hit the ball right at it.

Swing Mechanics
Mr. Palmer swung the golf club on a flatter plane, using his arms to lead the body on the backswing, and then reversing this motion by leading with hips and knees on the downswing while the arms followed. This technique produced a lower more boring ball flight. The most direct route to the target. Aggressive

Nicklaus was the opposite. Using his shoulders and core to start and then lifting the club in a upright plane to finish the backswing. He then started the club back to the ball by swinging the arms forward while the rest of his body reacted to the arm swing. Arms lead-body follows is how we describe it at the Academy. This produces a higher ball flight, a trajectory that aids in controlling the golf ball. It stays where it lands and reduces the chance for error.

Short Game
Both had similar strategies and techniques for their short games. Mr. Palmer used a lower more direct approach to short shots, while Jack hit the ball higher and more softly on shots around the green. Both styles matched their full swing techniques.

What was common to both was that strategy and personality lead to what swing mechanics to use, which dictates their strategy for all parts of their game. In comparison the everyday golfer tries to do too much. We ask the question, “What is the perfect technique for each segment of the game?” rather than, “How does my technique work in each segment of the game?” Each of our heroes decided early on they would play “their” way. They made a decision.

Go back to the strategy section and ask yourself, “Are you more like Arnie or Jack?” Then examine your golf game to see if technique matches your personality. It might just clear the cobwebs and make the game a little easier.

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