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Jack Nicklaus Borrows Signature Move

by Jeff Skinner

The golf swing, in one form or another, has been around for centuries.  And it’s easy to believe that theories on the “correct” swing popped up about the same time.  I am sure that as the old Scots, Dutch or Romans (all given credit for starting the game) were taking whacks at their “ball” one of their buddies was standing by suggesting or critiquing their swing.

Sure, the swing has evolved over the years and with all the newfangled technology and the appearance of swing coaches the swing has been dissected in immeasurable ways.  But for all of their theories about the swing, in essence we all swing just about the same as Old Tom Morris or some old Dutchman or maybe even like an old Roman playing the game a thousand years ago.

We all copied our swings from someone; even the greatest player in the game took parts of his swing from other golfers.

In the January issue of Golf Digest Jack Nicklaus goes back to the future in a new series for the magazine.  “Some 35 years ago, when I was in my playing prime, I collaborated with the editors of Golf Digest on a series called “Jack Nicklaus’ Lesson Tee.”  I’ve been told those pastel-colored pages influenced a generation of golfers, which is very flattering.  Now the editors have asked me to bring the series up to date by re-examining the content, written with Ken Bowden and using the original art, created by Jim McQueen.  Much of it is still valid, but as the game has changed with new equipment, modern courses and stronger players, some of my ideas have changed.”

Any golf aficionado will recognize the illustrations and I was lucky enough to come across an old copy of a 15th anniversary edition of “Jack Nicklaus’ Lesson Tee” years ago to add to my collection.  The artwork is great and Jack’s tips and instruction are fantastic.  Nicklaus influenced millions of amateurs certainly, but also many professionals followed Nicklaus’ thoughts like the gospel.

One of Jack’s signature moves was the slight head tilt just before he started his takeaway.  Greg Norman copied it as did I and millions of others.  And it turns out that Jack didn’t originate that move, he in fact borrowed it from Sam Snead.

In his original “Lesson Tee” he said, “I turn my head slightly to the right just before I start back.  Why? (1) It’s a positive preparatory move; (2) it enables me to make a full, free shoulder turn; (3) it braces me against swaying to the left on the downswing and getting my upper body ahead of the ball.  Many good golfers make a similar turning of the head…Sam Snead is a notable example.”

In Jack’s updated comments he comes clean,” When I was 16, I played an exhibition with Sam.  That’s where I got that move.  And I did it the rest of my career.”

There you have it, long before Jack was the greatest ever he took a move from one of the best gofers of the day.  That move that all of us thought was a signature Nicklaus move was borrowed from Snead and Sam probably got it from someone else.

As Jack proved, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of imitation when it comes to the swing.  It worked pretty well for Jack…and for the millions of us that incorporated that move into our swings…well, let’s just say we think it works.  And that’s all that’s important.

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