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A valuable lesson from Jack Nicklaus

Many years ago at Pebble Beach, Jack Nicklaus gave a tip to an amateur friend of mine I happened to be caddying for. He told him that the key to creating your best swing with a long club was to get the left shoulder behind the ball.

Simple, effective advice for every amateur golfer. In his book Physics of Golf, Theodore Jorgensens explains that as the left shoulder then pulls away from the chin (in response to the subtle change of direction inspired by the lower body), it exerts a torque that catapults the arms down and into the hitting position.

I like to think of it this way.

Imagine a water-skier trailing a boat, turning the left shoulder behind the ball and then reversing the momentum is like the boat making a wide sweep - creating a sling-shot that accelerates the skier.

In front of a mirror, follow the lead I have set here, rehearsing a full backswing before reversing your momentum to get a sense of slinging the arms, hands and club down into this delivery position.

Rhythm is the key.

It was Sam Snead who famously once said that to play good golf you have to feel as though you are dancing with the club. Unwinding from the ground up gives you that Snead-like rhythm, while pulling the left shoulder away from the right then creates the 'lag' in the arms and the club.

The better your rhythm, the more 'lag' you create and the more you will retain the wrist cock that ultimately maximises the speed you plant on the ball. Unwinding from the ground up gets you on the inside track, free to 'fire' your right side and hit hard with the right hand.

Walking with Jack in practice rounds over the years, he has always stressed to me that if the average golfer can (1) understand that to get into a position where you can unwind into the ball, you first have to turn the left shoulder fully behind it, and (2) grasp the importance of this subtle rolling of the ankles to start the downswing, then he or she will enjoy playing better golf.

I'd say that's valuable information from the greatest player the game has ever seen.

Summary

1. To wind up your backswing, turn left shoulder behind the ball, swing arms over the right shoulder

2. Head remains steady behind the ball as the left shoulder pulls away from the chin

3. As the ankles/knees shift, so you create a powerful 'lag’ in the arms/club

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