Nicklaus used the Mike Austin Swing

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mike Austin's critics mostly point to his PGA Tour record to prove that his technique was not sound.  They say, "What did he win?  Case closed."

This is a fallacy of logic, as it is widely known that there is much more to winning a PGA tournament besides having a pretty, well functioning swing.  However, this remains the prime reason Austin is dismissed as the scientific genius and pioneer that he really was.

You want track record?  I'll give you track record.

On this site, I have already documented Mike's love for the Sam Snead swing, and how close it was technically to Mike's.  There's 81 wins for you.  Another less than stellar putter, Snead's short game prevented him from winning dozens more tournaments and many more majors.

However, the greatest golfer of all time had a pretty good short game too.

Yes, unquestionably, Jack Nicklaus employed the Mike Austin swing.  Although he may not have had every single fine point that Austin did, as I will point out, Nicklaus's classic swing captured the essence of what Austin preached.

Let's start with the eerie similarities of the following pictures:

Let's look at the inventory of identical motions and positions in these pictures:

-Left knee flexed

-Right knee extended (not locked in)

-Left heel raised

-Right hip tilted higher than the left

-Left arm on a plane splitting the ear and shoulder

-Right forearm parallel to the spine (not vertical)

-Right hand in a throwing position, not hammering

-Hip flexion at 30 degrees

-Shoulder blades wound up

When I first saw this picture of Nicklaus, I had already known for some time that he was close to Austin in swing technique, but these images are just spooky.

Let's take a further look at Nicklaus in his prime, from the mid 60's to the mid 70's:

Let me point out the minor differences in Nicklaus's swing.  I can readily spot 3 things, but only one is technically a cause, and the other two are effects stemming from this original flaw.

Nicklaus set his feet a little bit wider than Austin.  Although Nicklaus was built differently than Austin, shorter and stockier, his feet were a bit too wide at address with a driver.  This made it more difficult for Nicklaus to employ a toe drag through impact, and this resulted in some of the swings having a 'fallback' kind of look at the finish.

However, this collage of swings shows much more the similarities in the prime aspects of an efficient swing:

-Steady head or swing circle center (remember Jack Grout used to hold Jack's head as a kid).

-Swinging spine (the hips swing back and forth).

-A free throwing of the clubhead from the top.

-Effiicent posture at 30 degrees hip flexion.

-Free detaching of both heels to allow the corresponding side of the body to swing around.

-Under, up, and out motion through impact.

-High finish.

Even Jack's statements about his own swing are very telling.  One time he was asked if he tried to hold his wrists, or lag the release, and he replied, "I always felt like I threw the clubhead from the top of the swing."  Sound familiar?  He went on to say, "I think you can't release early enough as long as you are moving over to your left side."

I believe Mike Austin loved Jack's swing, but would have had ideas to tweak it in order to make Jack more consistent and precise.  I think Mike would have harped on Jack's facial tension, and how it would lead to tension in the hands, keeping the release from being even faster and freer.

What do you think?  Did I miss something?  I welcome your comments.

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