Jack Nicklaus Destroys The Modern Swing – In 1974

USA team captain Jack Nicklaus(L) puts aThanks to KidCharlemagne for sending the quote from the book.

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest player of all time on the PGA Tour, although some would claim that title should go to Tiger Woods.

I say, “Hogwash,” and for reasons I’ve outlined before.

The first of which being, if we’re going to look critically at it, and I’ll be as diplomatic as I can be – the greatest player of all time wouldn’t cripple himself swinging a 13 oz golf club, a statement with which I’m sure most would agree.

Every day that passes, in fact, showing that Woods is largely done at 40 years of age, winning his last major at 32, and having won 14 to Nicklaus’ 18 majors won over a 25 year span, reinforces my personal opinion of the fact.

Jack Nicklaus At 40 – “17th Major & Counting”


Tiger Woods At 40 – “Major Payne”


The mark for greatness was always majors won, and the goalposts only began shifting when TW’s major win total became stuck on 14 and some insisted on finding reasons to call someone else the G.O.A.T.

The numbers are 18 and 19.

18 wins.

19 runner-up finishes.

Compare that to 14 and 6.

That, my friends, is the greatest.

I mean, how terrible is it to call TW one of the greatest ever, even 2nd greatest of all time?  I consider him to be both.

Now, let’s get down to the title subject: Jack Nicklaus was a Classic Golf Swinger and had no time for the Modern Golf Swing and it’s principles, which apparently were around as far back as 1974.

“That Isn’t The Way To Do It, Son…”

USA team captain Jack Nicklaus(L) puts a

Nicklaus had his answer to the modern golf swing, as far back as then.

In “Golf My Way,” his 1974 book, he has this to say about the concept of a restricted-hip turn to create power:

I understand that there is a theory in golf today that the hips shouldn’t turn on the backswing.  The idea seems to be that the less you turn your hips, while still turning your shoulders, the more leverage you’ll generate.

It’s hogwash, and here’s why.

Stand erect with your arms at your sides and keep them there. Now hold your hips still and turn your shoulders.

Impossible, right? Even the slightest shoulder turn forces some hip turn. And the more the shoulders turn, the more the hips are forced to turn, right?

… unless he’s incredibly supple or some kind of contortionist.

Thus you should never try to restrict your hip turn if you want to hit the ball a long way.

And that, my friends, was the case in 1974, as it is the case today.

Nicklaus was an athlete who played college basketball as well as golf.

And he wanted nothing to do with a restricted hip swing.

And he won 18 majors (and came 2nd a staggering 19 times) in a 25 year career on the PGA Tour, twice the span of years in which Tiger Woods won majors.

There is no argument to be made, unless you just want to argue – the Classic Golf Swing is the proper way to swing, the greatest player of all time, in his own words, calls the Modern Golf Swing “Hogwash.”

I’m with Jack.

14 thoughts on “Jack Nicklaus Destroys The Modern Swing – In 1974

  1. buddhabob

    From the beginning though I am biased I have thought Jack is by far the greatest.

    Why? The field back then was packed with gamers, all of whom who had won majors, all of whom who were hungry, none of whom were making that much money that they could phone it in, miss cuts and head for the Bahamas like Ricky Fowler who is probably on his knees every evening thanking the Spirits for his deep pocketed sponsors.

    Nicklaus competed against Trevino,Watson,Player,Palmer,Miller,Seve,Norman and on and on, please there is no comparison. DeMarco? Or whatever his name was? just who the hell was Woods actually defeating? I don’t even buy that Woods was such a terrific shot maker. that was always media hype.

    Never forget the equipment change. Anyone think that with modern equipment Nicklaus would not have been hitting 350 regularly and 400 occasionally? with that hip power? any athlete knows true power resides in the hips.

    Just ask Nolan Ryan. Nicklaus in his prime was the most concentrated example of mental power and focus we have ever seen in golf and perhaps in most all of sport.

    You are alone out there remember. No team to fall back on. And all the while he remained a perfect gentleman in a very sophisticated game.

    Nicklaus never lost his cool, rarely swore above a whisper and never threw a club. Hello. A great poker player never shows his hand. This as much as any of it tells us why he dominated.

    The greatest composure of any athlete under pressure ever. Its what allowed him to dominate and quickly surpass Palmer. Palmer was forever showing his hand to the gallery and to his competitors. Tiger’s hand?


    Head to head Nicklaus in his prime would have taken the kid down several notches. You cannot play garbage golf from the woods and traps and opposite fairways and stand much consistent chance against thee coolest customer in all of golf history. sorry.

    1. Laser

      “true power resides in the hips”

      –I’d offer part-credit on that statement, buddhabob. First, the hips are bones…so no power at all resides in them. However, the largest and strongest muscles in the human body are attached to the pelvic bone, so the hip movement is a result–not a cause.

      (Just to muddy the waters, the mental process seems to be more concerned with results than causes. That’s why pros can’t explain what they’re doing.)

      As I see it, emphasis on “hips” might create the idea that hips are supposed to be controlling the legs.

  2. Ken Joersz

    Good find, KidCharlemagne. Jack is nothing if not wise.

    I watched the Legends of Golf last week. Jack and Gary Player offered great advice to young players about the olympics, golf and life. Jack, in particular, will help Jordan Spieth and others but only when asked. They’d be wise to seek the counsel of those who were actually able to perform at the highest level for more than a few years.

    Or adopt the MCS model.

    Or continue to be used as Guinea pigs. See Hey Tiger on this site.

    1. D Watts Post author

      “… or continue to be used as Guinea pigs.”

      And right there, you nailed it, KJ.

  3. bigtoilet

    Chamblee has made it clear that to him, Tiger is the greatest ever. His stats are that Tiget win a greater percentage based on wins vs starts. Give me MAJORS as the standard! Other TOUR events are basically handpicked by players while they all wanna play the majors. You missed this one Mr. Chamblee, but I still like your opinions.

    1. D Watts Post author

      If we are to base it on majors, it’s Jack, hands-down.

      On longevity and wins – Jack

      On swing technique – Jack

      On mindset and life discipline while in his competitive years – Jack

      The only way you can call TW the greatest ever is if you create a “during a ten year span” category, and even then, you’re clinging to one made-up criterion that you’ve created just in order to justify calling TW the greatest ever.

      That’s like creating a category to justify calling Steph Curry the greatest ever basketball player based on one year of team wins (73) and 3 point shots in a season.

      And everyone would call “BS” on that – Jordan is the greatest ever, by nearly every measure.

      It’s Jack Nicklaus, classic golf swing and 18 majors.

    2. Ken Joersz

      Gary Player said he is as proud of his Champions Tour majors as his PGA Tour majors because they represent the longevity of his career. Rightfully so.

      Jack Nicklaus played a very limited Champions Tour schedule. He had 10 titles. Eight of them majors!

      Will Tiger even make it to 50 as a player on any tour? Hard to imagine.

      Jack’s still the one by the only measure that matters, major championships. Sorry, Brandel.

  4. targettom

    Well said Bob. It was interesting a couple weeks ago that Brandel and his co-analyst (Frank N.? I think) were both alluding that the game was better off without Tiger’s lack of manners, noting his language was disgusting.

    As a non-golfer all I recall from tiger’s era was him acting like a baby, throwing clubs and cursing whenever he was a little offline.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Tiger’s on-course antics and colossal sense of entitlement (and the slavering media worship at every turn, mostly) – that’s what soured me on him, and quite early in his career. Other than the golf he played, I had no use for him and his behavior going back to the summer of ’97.

      And he was the one who got me serious about golf! Luckily, I retained my zeal for the swing after I got fed up with his act.

  5. Mike Divot

    I won’t argue with anything said above, but let us not forget amongst all the sound and fury that Tiger was no hack. His driver was never his strongest club, but it’s not as though he was always playing from the jungle. His iron play was solid at minimum, his short game stellar and his putting just fantastic. His mind was a steel trap, disciplined, and his course management second to none.

    In his prime he was at least the equal of Nicklaus. Who can forget the way he dismantled more than one course on his way to yet another major win.

    His one real weakness was chasing this chimera of “the perfect swing”, “owning your swing” and he fell for the myths that we weekend golfers fall for. And all the contradictory mumbo jumbo that goes with them, spouted by professional bullshit artists who should know better but don’t have to pay any consequences for their nonsense. (It’s their clients who pay.)

    Which makes it such a terrible shame that having got to the top of the mountain, he slipped on a banana peel that he put there himself, and tumbled down the other side like a goof in a Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler movie.

    1. D Watts Post author

      I don’t think anyone is calling TW a hack, MD.

      I have no issue with anyone’s arguments for placing him anywhere from 2-5 but I just can’t accept any comparison to Nicklaus that ends with “and that makes Tiger the best ever.”

      Nicklaus won 18 without even chasing anyone – TW broke himself getting to 14. I simply can’t call anyone the best ever when he doesn’t even know how to swing a club any more.

      Plus, the way Nicklaus won, with his swing and putting, I would rate as a greater quality than the greatest garbage player of all time, which is actually a compliment.

      2nd or 3rd, but Nicklaus in my book is #1 until someone else gets to 18 and beyond.

  6. targettom

    I think if Brandel says publicly that he thinks TW is the GOAT, then that is understandable even though it contradicts his study on the classic swing(s), in light of the personal attacks he has suffered due to his stands for the Game that were misinterpreted mean-spiritedly as hatred for TW.

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