As promised, I’m writing a post on the golf swing of the great Arnold Palmer, and although I said it wouldn’t be pretty, that really only applies to AP’s follow-through action.
As you would expect from someone who won 7 Major titles and 62 PGA Tour events in all, he had a great swing which relied on a flawless pivot and awesome leverage.
There are a couple of differences between his action and the standard mechanically-correct swing, but Arnold Palmer had a whole lot of MCS in his swing.
Arnold Palmer Smashes the Driver
What you see that is different about Arnie’s action is that he had what was almost a reverse-pivot. But it wasn’t.
Address Position is (*nearly) flawless, note the ball placement for the Driver, setting up with a lot of weight on his left side (pic 1) but correct in keeping with what would happen next.
(*Edit – Above, you’ll see I have inserted “nearly” before the flawless, because since 2012, I have determined that the optimal address attitude, of course, is a right-biased one, and Arnie was very centered, verging on left-biased, but he wouldn’t have had a problem with the pivot because of that floating heel)
Palmer kept his weight from shifting backward (or toward the target) during the back swing, by setting a very solid right leg and bracing the pivot against it (pic 2), very similar to what a young Jack Nicklaus did.
It looks like a reverse-pivot, but it isn’t. Look at how “cranked” Arnie was at the top, ready to release his body weight onto the left leg (pic 3). As with all of the great classic swingers, Arnold used the full body pivot and allowed the left heel to naturally raise with his turn away from the ball.
If you look at Palmer’s swing or pivot center, the 7th cervical vertebra (look at his chest just below his chin for the closest reference point), you’ll see that it remains virtually in place from address to impact.
It appears to move because of the way Palmer’s head swung (remember, the head is not the swing center, it is attached to the neck and the neck is not perfectly vertical, so when the swing center turns, the head and neck will move just as a goose-neck lamp moves when you rotate the base- which is the pivot center- in place). But from address to impact, he turned perfectly in place.
The action is similar to his left leg and shoulder swinging like a door, not from the right hip joint (as when you post the pivot onto the right leg), but from the swing center.
What gave him such leverage and power is that the door swung back to the left and away from the ball to leverage the right side and the arms and club into the impact area. The engine for this leverage is the same as a normal swing, Arnie had a great lower body pivot and weight shift into the left leg on the down swing (pic 4). That position is perfect.
The ugly-looking follow-through is caused by two things –
1. Arnold had a case of the hooks when he was younger (strong left hand grip), so the anti-hook action of his hands and arms after impact came from his trying to not release the club face too early (pic 5).
Of course, nothing that happens after impact affects the ball, so the helicopter finish was never a cause of a missed shot, only the early closing of the club face or too much “hold-on” for either a hook or a push or fade.
2. Because Arnold wanted to turn in place even after impact, you see what essentially is his preventing a right foot slide by straightening the left leg as a brace to keep pushing the left shoulder away from the target so the right side could keep swinging through (pic 6). This would also have been the cause of the left foot roll you saw at times from AP.
(*Edit – Once more, the absence of a set theory on position attitude was lacking in the above analysis – part of the ugly finish of course was due to the center-left bias at address, leaving “nowhere to go” at impact, hence the helicopter finish and spin-out with the left foot – we all know Arnie was very long but could be wild off the tee, and we can see why)
So, because Arnold had such a motionless swing center, he was able to generate huge club speed the same way a figure skater spins on one skate. All of Arnie’s motion and strength concentrated the down swing into the tightest circle possible, and he was likely one of the longest drivers ever, pound for pound.
Of course, men like Nicklaus and Snead (because of better technique) hit it past him, but no one had a better pivot action than what you see in the clip.
Looks aside, once in motion from address to impact, there’s nothing to criticize with Arnold Palmer.
RIP, Mr. Palmer – You’ve Earned It
(**Final Edit: That pivot action was truly superb, and over four years after originally posting this piece, I am still very, very impressed by that whole-body pivot action and Arnie’s awesome “swinging gate,” which are fundamental parts of the MCS Golf Swing theory)