Beware The Two Nicklauses (When Looking At Swing Form)

Nicklaus-SwingCentersI’ve been having an interesting discussion with a Wax Nation Member about Jack Nicklaus’ spine tilt.

I want to actually tell people, if they’re going to research Nicklaus’ swing through video or pictures – beware the two Nicklauses.

If you look at the timeline of Nicklaus’ career, he won 15 majors before 1975 and only 3 afterwards.  He also went through a slump in the early 70’s before a resurgence.  And his swing, while essentially the same model throughout his career, changed in certain ways.

His spine tilt to the right, for example, is more pronounced in the early years of his career.  He even talked about his slump coming at time when he was “too vertical” in his spine, and when he changed that, his winning ways took off again.

So take a look at this:



There is a pronounced right spine tilt in all of Jack’s three positions.  The same as in the MCS “Ultimate Leverage” swing model.

Here’s an action still of Jack at a younger age in his pro career, when he was blowing everything and everyone away:



I didn’t draw the lines in this picture, but the right spine tilt is obvious.  No getting around that.

So if you see other swing sequences of Jack Nicklaus, remember that he had a long and storied career, during which time his current swing model would have been the one people looked at, in whatever shape it was in.

So even when his swing wasn’t the exemplary one that I focus on (why would I want to emulate a 50-year old Nicklaus when you can look at his 20-30 year old powerhouse?), I will only show older Nicklaus positions that are consistent with his younger Titan-like form.

See below:


I wouldn’t use this pic of Nicklaus for anything except to show the floating heel in his pivot.  By the color of the pants and photograph, this is definitely an older Nicklaus than the black & white Nicklaus shown above.

The spine is nearly vertical if it isn’t, but it isn’t leaning left.  Still, vertical is not good for consistency, and Jack knew it when he made the fix.

So, just as you have to be careful when talking about, say, Tiger Woods’ swing, because he’s gone through so many variations, some vastly different from others (his 90’s swing compared to any  after Haney).

Which Tiger are you looking at?

And with Jack, I will never show an older Jack Nicklaus unless his swing at the time conforms with his younger model, which was the one that made Jack Nicklaus the Golden Bear.

Years from now, if people are careless and research the great Tiger Woods themselves, they might end up patterning their swing after some dog’s breakfast model that not only didn’t win Tiger any majors, but also arguably broke his back.

So, if you’re going to research Jack Nicklaus’ swing to compare it to yours and you’re in any way swinging along the lines of what I call MCS on this blog – stick with the younger Jack, with one exception -he had a propensity at times to square his leading foot at address, leading to some ugly foot-rolling at times, and likely led to his hip issues later in life.

Nicklaus wasn’t a machine, and he didn’t obsess over technique.  He consulted once a year with his mentor and teacher, Jack Grout.  So he likely picked up some bad habits here and there between tune-ups, and so there are things that crop up in his swing sequences that are not MCS… like the vertical spine in his top position wearing the red pants, and the squared leading foot…

So beware the two Nicklauses, and you’re better off watching his 60’s film footage to see some really powerful and leveraged swinging.


7 thoughts on “Beware The Two Nicklauses (When Looking At Swing Form)

  1. chiefcowpie

    Its very refreshing to come here and read DJ’s exploration. Elsewhere in the golf world, folks are reading from stone tablets but here we travel, explore and discover new possibilities.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Well if you’re looking for exploration and new possibilities, Chief – as long as they fit into the UMCS matrix (which starts and ends with the standard address position), I will look at them.

      I’ve looked at everything outside the matrix, just about, but there is still the question for me of how to best perform the swing within it, and how best to explain what it is I’m doing or one should do…

      The more I look at Nicklaus however, the more I see just two people upon whom you can model UMCS – Hogan’s dtl stance, and of course his pivot action, and Nicklaus’ face-on stance and back swing leveraging – put those two together and you have the UMCS optimal swing model and mechanical action.

      I don’t believe in coincidence. It is no coincidence that my ten years of research are concluding with the two arguably greatest swingers in the post-War PGA Tour era –Nicklaus & Hogan.

      And I saved the best for last – it’s also no coincidence that, whatever I may have learned by myself and by studying Hogan’s swing and before that, Mike Austin’s – the finishing pieces of the UMCS model are provided by none other than the greatest ever player, with one of the best swings ever, to match.

      Nicklaus’ swing wasn’t awesome in its technical refinement and precision, like Hogan’s. Nicklaus’ was pure, raw athletic power and motion, and taking the best of both gives one everything one requires.

      Today will bring another look at Nicklaus’ swing, and I’m sure I’ll have more to report upon my return…

  2. bigtoilet

    I forsee an end to the Austin talk on this site…..and for good reason.
    Anyhow, another BRILLIANT write up! This site makes my day, everyday.

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