Jack Nicklaus’ Huge Back Swing

jn vs djPart of the reason hardly anyone on Tour can drive it the way Jack Nicklaus did in his day (if you take persimmon and balata era drives that Jack hit, perhaps 2 or 3 players today could even come close when you factor in the equipment tech advancements since then, not to mention the run-out fairways that are quicker than yesteryear’s greens) is that he had a huge back swing.

That back swing was generated by the “floating pivot” and of course the “floating heel” that comes with this mechanically-correct move.

What people have forgotten in their quest to re-engineer something that didn’t require it (namely, the swing mechanics of the classic era) is that elastic tension between the hips and torso isn’t what creates a great back swing and shoulder turn.

It’s one way to do it, sure, but it is not the proper way to do so.  If it were, you’d see baseball players swinging with their feet nailed to the ground, and pitchers winding up with their feet nailed to the ground.

So, the simple recipe for a great back swing is a big turn and arc.  Jack Nicklaus did that, and even though you’d say I have a longer back swing than him, his was longer than mine.

Here’s how you can see:

jn vs dj


If you look at the indicators of a great pivot, the left arm and thigh, you’ll see that Jack’s got more left gate than do I, and if you straightened my left arm, my arc would be slightly smaller than Jack’s.

Not only that, I like to relax my wrists to feel the weight of the club at the top, and a standard 90-degree angle to my left arm to the club shaft would make my back swing top position close to Jack’s, with his being a little longer than mine.

And he did that all with the hips and legs, not by rubber-banding his torso against his hips.

Jack would KILL it today.  Kind of like this guy:

Bubba Watson



And Jack’s no fan of the modern swing, either.

The greatest ever player and one of the best ball-strikers ever when he was at his best, and no one is trying to swing like him?

I don’t get that at all.

If you want to hit it longer, then get more hip turn in your back swing.

And you’ll still be able to walk when you’re done playing golf.





11 thoughts on “Jack Nicklaus’ Huge Back Swing

  1. Laser

    “no one is trying to swing like him?”

    –Mimicking Nicklaus’ straight left arm might encourage too much stiffness & tension, and get someone too locked into left-arm-awareness.

    Right-arm-awareness might work better for the downswing. Seems like that was a recent breakthrough for you.

    That’s the problem with relying only on video & photos to structure a model…function is more important than form. In function, you and the Nicklaus in that photo are probably virtually the same.

    But, your point is probably that if the greatest golfer of all time didn’t anchor his left heel, maybe theorists shouldn’t ignore it.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to tell people to “mimic” Nicklaus’ left arm – what I’m pointing out is the degree of hip turn in his pivot, which let him produce incredible leverage with a “short” looking back swing top.

      And yes, if the greatest golfer of all time floated his heel, why is everyone copying swing traits (like Hogan’s swing plane), but not the right ones?

  2. bigtoilet

    Right arm extension will increase LEFT arm extension (Right handers). Pushing the right hand away will lengthen the left arm. But so what, unless you refuse to turn on the golf ball. Left arm bending is not a death knell…

    1. D Watts Post author

      Not a death knell, and I don’t even think it matter one way or the other, except perhaps aesthetically.

      But you know I’m going to look into it 😉

  3. Mark

    Kostis must be reading your blog. he just did a video instruction during the st. Jude Classic on how to swing like Jack Nicklaus. Foot action is so important.

    1. D Watts Post author

      The only problem with Kostis doing that, Mark, is he’ll next turn around and praise a swing that does nothing of the sort.

      How do I know?

      ‘Cause he was raving about Brooks Koepka yesterday… when BK was hitting it all over the place.

  4. bigtoilet

    Kostis is a FRAUD……I mean it’s not even a question! Also, I would be very happy if they NEVER show Tiger Woods again (unless he is in contention). It’s terrible to watch.

    1. D Watts Post author

      It’s not pretty. Even at his best, he had a hitchy element to his swing that made it look less than graceful. Now, it’s just a full-body convulsion with a ball somewhere involved in all of it…

  5. Mark

    It must be really confusing for the viewers over there in Golf nation. He does a disservice everytime he opens his mouth.
    Over here in Wax Nation the golf swing is very simple.

    1. D Watts Post author

      “Over here in Wax Nation the golf swing is very simple.”

      Thank you, Mark – and I’d like to add something to your assertion, if I may – “and getting simpler by the day!” 😀

  6. chiefcowpie

    The Hogan obsession with the tight right elbow is put into perspective by Jack as it only has to be in position at 9 o’clock and not at the top.

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