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Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Slammer's Swing

If you ask any expert to give you a short list of the greatest players and swingers of the golf club of all time, Sam Snead will be on that list. Not only does Sam remain the winningest PGA tour player of all time, but he will always be reknowned for his smooth, powerful, graceful swing. He was the original Slammer.  But his action was smooth as silk.

Sam, if you read his books, felt that his swing was a good model to use. He felt that his swing was simple and without idiosyncrasies. Many have studied Sam's action and offered their opinions on what it was that Sam did that was so special and produced such spectacular shots for so many years. But I prefer to go to the source to try to learn what he was doing, and why.

There were three things that Sam said he did that he felt were essential. He took the club straight back, slowly and smoothly, using his left hand. He had a slight pause at the top, and he started his downswing by pulling down with the last two fingers of his left hand. His swing was controlled by his left side with a comfortably extended left arm. 

This left hand/arm control did two important things for him. First, it prevented him coming over the top, which is a curse for many amateurs and is really the result of the right hand and side getting into the action too early in the swing. Second, the pulling down with the left hand helped increase and maintain the lag in his swing.

Sam's swing, in his own words, was controlled by his left hand and arm. It was, like Bobby Jones before him, essentially a backhanded strike with his left hand. Sam believed in everything flowing together. When once asked whether he started the downswing by shifting his lower body, as Ben Hogan did, Sam replied that he simply pulled down with the last two fingers of his left hand and everything flowed together from there. That pulling down with the left hand and arm is what gave Sam that pronounced squat that we see in one of the pictures below.

The vast majority of amateurs, who struggle with slicing the ball, are under-utilizing their left side. They might take the club back using the left side, but once they get to the top, the natural instinct to try to hit the ball with their stronger right side takes over; they come over the top and hit slices and pulls. 

If you're one of those players who struggles with slicing and pulling the ball, why not try to feel what Sam felt when he swung the club. Grip the club firmly with the last two or three fingers of your left hand, push the club straight back with your left hand, try to get a bit of a pause at the top to ensure that you've completed your backswing, and then pull down with your left hand to start the downswing.

That pulling down move is very important. Gary Player was big on that move, likening it to pulling down on a bell rope. That first pull down brings the right elbow back to your side and puts you in the best position to deliver a solid strike with both hands.

If you want to see an excellent modern example of this, watch Matsuyama with his definite pause at the top of his swing and the way he pulls down and through with his left arm. Evidence of this pulling of the left arm is often seen in Matsuyama's case by the number of times his right hand actually comes off the club on his follow through. Like Sam, and so many of the great players, Matsuyama is a top hand golfer. 

Controlling your swing with your left hand and arm is not the only way to swing effectively, but according to the Slammer it was the simplest and most effective way. So, if you're searching for a swing, try imitating the Slammer. You may not ever develop as powerful and graceful a swing as a great athlete like Sam possessed, but you can learn just how effective a swing can be when you make proper use of your left hand and arm, and just, as Jack Nicklaus said, let your right hand go along for the ride.