Michael Jordan’s Not-So-Terrible Golf Swing (Part 2)

michael-jordan-swing-seqIn the last posting, I touched upon certain things you might wish to consider when it comes to athletic “greatness,” which is not to be confused with greatness in the skill in playing a game.

You would have some “greats” in a game that were not so much great athletes as they were highly skilled in the other aspects of a game or sport and therefore excelled.

For a player like Tiger Woods, his skill in the game is beyond question, but all of the things like putting touch, skill around the greens and the like, such as always choosing the right shot at the right time when in trouble, which was how he managed to win so much and dominate, is something that is beside athletic ability or greatness.

Tom Kite had one of the best games around from 100 yards and in (he was one of the first to put three wedges into his golf bag and his philosophy was to try to get the ball “up and down” from anywhere within 100 yards of the green), and was the leading all-time money winner when TW turned pro, but no one is going to call Tom Kite a great athlete.  That’s the point I’m making.

And here, let me not confuse anyone who thinks I’m stating Tiger Woods isn’t a great athlete – he is.  What he isn’t, is the greatest athlete ever to play golf, nor even close to the greatest athlete ever, period.

The first claim is disproved by his inability to figure out the golf swing, and the second would be laughable, however he swung, as I’ve said, when you look at other great athletes in sporting history.

Now, in the matter of Tiger Woods not being able to figure out a golf swing that wouldn’t damage his body, let’s look at one of history’s greatest athletes, the immortal Michael Jordan, and how he swings a golf club, and when I’m finished, I’m betting you will look at his golf swing in a different way.

mj-top


As in, bad, perhaps, in the comparison with the greatest swings in the game, but a mechanically-sound swing nonetheless, and therefore one that won’t hurt him, which is the most important criterion for longevity, which is the one area (besides hitting fairways) which will prevent Tiger Woods from being the greatest ever golfer.

TW had the best decade of golf, no one will question, from ’97 to ’07 (in terms of majors, only his ’08 U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines comes outside of that time period), but Jack Nicklaus’ career is the greater one, which is the thesis I will repeat until TW comes back to win 18 majors.

If we look at MJ’s golf swing, I can see superior athletic “intelligence” in his golf swing than in any of Tiger Woods’ swing models, even when he was the world’s best.

Tiger dominated the world for years with different swings, but they wrecked his body, so while his skill at getting that ball in the hole was unrivaled, his lack of athletic intelligence (I’ve said before and I’ll repeat, persisting with an athletic motion that is destroying your body is not very intelligent, athletically or otherwise, when there are other and better ways to do it) led him to where he is now.

Looking at MJ, look at how short his back swing is, and I told you yesterday that the top position would tell you a lot when you looked closely:

mj-top2


  1. His short back swing comes from the ground up – he was taught a modern golf swing in which you nail down the leading heel and swing the torso against restricted hips, correct?
  2. Well, what MJ is showing you is that he’s no dummy – he is one of the world’s greatest ever athletes and by large acclaim, the G.O.A.T. in the sport of basketball, correct?  So why isn’t he finishing that back swing by further twisting his torso against the barely-moved hips?
  3. Because he’s no dummy – it doesn’t matter what he was told in learning the swing – Michael Jordan is not going to break his back by trying to move his hands higher up and further behind him by doing it that way.  He’s keeping his shoulders in relation to his hips in the maximum natural turn position and not rubber-banding past that point, which I’m sure he easily could.
  4. However, his athletic “self-preservation” instincts won’t allow it.  I’m sure he tried a longer back swing at some point in his golf life, and discovered that he didn’t like what happened to his lower back when he did so, or he simply refused to even entertain the notion of rubber-banding.

So, let’s look at this action, and follow me, if you will, in the numbered stills of the sequence below the points:

mj-swing


  1. You’ll see how his hip turn will be restricted not only by the planed leading heel, but by the deep knee bend he has at address.  So right off the bat, he will have a very restricted hip turn, meaning not much at all.
  2. The outside takeaway doesn’t really signify much, as he will drop the club inside very nicely on the transition.
  3. There, MJ has reached the maximum back swing turn if he allows his hip turn to dictate how deep his hands get, instead of forcing the swing past this point by rubber-band twisting his lower back to get the hands higher and further behind him.  In short, that’s as long as you can safely make your back swing with hips that restricted from the deep knee bend and planted heel, but he’s “locked” the hands and hips together nicely, as you’ll see in the down swing.
  4. He’s dropped the club nicely on plane.
  5. Impact, nice right arm extension and a flexed leading leg, no sign of snapping of the leading leg or rolling/jumping to try to get more power.
  6. A “Swing Left” finish, but remember MJ played minor league baseball and it’s likely no one pointed out to him the difference between a baseball swing angle and a golf swing angle, and notice the lack of any straining in the lower back or hip/waist area, or in the legs, which is where most golfers are injuring themselves with the Modern Golf Swing.

michael-jordan-swing-seq


Conclusion: MJ does the best he can with his athleticism, with a flawed and athletically un-sound golf model that he uses because he was taught flawed Modern Golf Swing mechanics, but does so in a very athletic way, and obviously refuses to do the one thing required in a modern golf swing, which is to gradually or quickly wreck various parts of his body with unsound moves once in motion.

So, at the end of all of this, you’re left with a great athlete who, not unlike Charles Barkley, has been taught an un-athletic way to swing a golf club but who follows the proper way to move the body and who even has a very connected and athletically sound down swing action from the flawed top position:

mj-down-swing


Watch the hands and the right knee work together to the ball and impact, his nice extension release and the total lack of violence in this action – smooth and athletic, and much like what you’d see in a baseball swing.

I’ve mentioned Charles Barkley, and he falls into the same position – a great athlete (or former athlete, as he doesn’t much keep up with keeping in shape) who was never going to be able to hit a decent ball with the Modern Golf Swing way of doing it:

What Charles experienced during his “Haney Project” time was what I call “Drilling to Fail.”

I went through it myself when I took up the game.  I came from a lifetime of sports, from baseball to hockey, track & field and basketball, and I excelled at all of them.

The first time someone taught me how to hold a club and swing, I missed the ball completely and nearly fell over.

So, during the “Haney Project,” Barkley was swinging with that unnatural swing and stance thousands and thousands of times, almost like learning how to hit a ball blind-folded or in the dark.

That’s fine for the driving range, where it doesn’t matter where the ball goes and you can hit a dozen bad shots before you hit a good one.

You’re just going through the mechanical motions, and as long as you train your eyes to overcome what they’re seeing and follow all of the little adjustments to overcome the flaws in your stance, grip and ball positioning, you’ll begin to make contact.  You might even hit some solid shots.

But the swing and the stance are flawed, and the minute you get out on the golf course, where every shot counts, you forget about all of the drilling and the little positions you were taught, and you revert back to athletic instinct and hand-eye coordination, as you would have done in a basketball game, or baseball, or whatever sport you played.

He can drill all he wants, but with the planted heel back swing and improper positions you get with that, Barkley’s athletic instincts short-circuit on the transition and he’s left flailing at the ball.

charlesbarkley


My take from this – Michael Jordan is a much better athlete than he is a golfer, but only because no one has taught him a proper, athletic golf swing motion, and if someone ever did – the man is 6’6″ (1.98cm) and still in fabulous shape – he’s be hitting the ball Dustin Johnson distances, just as Charles Barkley would be, if he found a way to properly leverage his own swing with an athletic model.

The point remains, say what you will about MJ’s golf swing, but it shows athleticism and great body awareness, and contains the most important element in a golf swing – the mechanical soundness to not risk injury due to breaking the rules of athletic motion – the first one being that a proper motion doesn’t cause injury in any but freak circumstances.

The way MJ practiced and drilled during his career (he obviously subscribed to Einstein’s statement that genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, the  man practiced longer and harder than anyone before him), I would say without fear of ridicule that Michael Jordan could have been every bit as great in golf as he was in basketball, given the proper swing instruction when he was starting out.

Sadly, he took up retired golfing in the Modern Golf Swing age, so we’ll never see what basketball’s G.O.A.T. could have done with a golf club.

We know already though, that he’s already better than Tiger Woods in one regard – he isn’t going to hurt himself swinging a golf club, however much he plays or however hard he swings.

He just won’t be winning any majors… but he’ll still be out there when TW has hung up the spikes due to his physical ailments acquired… from swinging a 13oz (369 gram) golf club.


nt to learn more about the MCS Golf Swing Theory? Try one of DJ’s “Secrets of the MCS” video shorts available via download.

hogan pivot

Or you can download the very latest MCS Golf Swing video “MCS – Perfect Pivot based on the flawless pivot action of Ben Hogan.**

**”MCS – Perfect Pivot” is Part 3 of the “MCS Golf Swing Trilogy,” now available for download!


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6 thoughts on “Michael Jordan’s Not-So-Terrible Golf Swing (Part 2)

  1. targettom

    I was surprised to see how MJ’s swing looked in that clip, it was much smoother in that Space Jam scene. I don’t understand why people don’t try to emulate Jack, that’s what I did when my back started hurting. First time I tried lifting the lead heel I knew it was a superior way to turn. For an athlete like MJ with his passion for golf you’d think he’d have figured it out by now.

    1. D Watts Post author

      For an athlete like MJ with his passion for golf you’d think he’d have figured it out by now.

      That’s the wrong way to look at it, IMO, Tom. He plays golf for fun and I would wager that any swing advice he’s had has come from modern swing guys.

      And, coming from a sport where real experts run the show and not snake oil salesmen, he’s made the forgivable error of assuming that he’s getting the latest and greatest in golf mechanics.

      So he is limited by the instruction he has received. He’s doing what they tell him to do, but he won’t do what will hurt him. He has that auto-brake that prevents him doing harmful things to his body on purpose, whereas TW lacks that and has paid dearly for it.

      It’s a fun past time for him, not one he takes as seriously as he did basketball.

      I would further wager that if MJ were to take it that seriously, he’d figure pretty quickly that the Classic Golf Swing is the way to go.

      But he’s retired and having fun – he’s not going to travel the globe in search of golf’s holy mountain – he did that already in his own sport.

      Asking him to do it again in his retirement, in a completely different sport is expecting a little much of the guy, IMO – he’s at least not breaking his back…

      TW on the other hand has done nothing else in his life but play golf, and he’s had the years of studying the greats…and he’s still doing it wrong.

      And the one doing it for fun still has a functioning lower back…

  2. targettom

    Maybe, but by all accounts he takes it very seriously. Writers say he is “obsessed”, spends many hours hitting balls, plays almost daily, plots people’s weaknesses in order to beat them at bets, etc. Doesn’t sound casual to me.

    1. D Watts Post author

      I’ve heard he makes a lot of money off better players simply by getting in their heads, trash-talking and doing all sorts of distracting things (walking on lines, coughing during strokes, walking around in their vision while they get ready to swing, etc).

      I am sure he is a fierce competitor and does what he can to win, but he is still a retired basketball player having fun playing golf in his retirement.

      At the end of the day, it’s not his chosen sport, he isn’t doing it for a living, and he’s had the unfortunate timing of taking up the game in the modern age when the “experts” don’t know what they’re talking about or, worse, are leading people down the primrose path for profits.

      He’s relying on those same “experts” to show him how to do it. One can’t place a greater expectation on MJ as a non-pro player, great athlete or not (or every athlete would have a gorgeous golf swing) to figure it out than on the guys who play and teach the game for a living.

      This is the larger problem, even for athletes – I started out learning the golf swing in the modern theory version, and it took years for me, even after just a brief time, to rid myself of all the bad things that modern golf encourages.

      In fact, I think that once you start looking at the golf swing the way the modern theory teaches it, it is very, very difficult to unlearn all that garbage. So, it’s tougher than just saying, “Well then, which is the right way to do it?”

      Because you will invariably, as all of modern kinesiology and biomechanics studies do, start off with the flawed beginning question of how to best swing with the feet firmly planted during the back swing, and that path leads nowhere good.

      I know this from personal experience.

      That said, if you’re going to aim to be the greatest or one of the greatest ever to have played the game of golf, there is no excuse for not figuring out what I figured out in what began for me as as side project.

      If I could figure it out looking at Hogan and Nicklaus, a “great student of the game,” as TW has been called, has no excuse.

      And, I’ll repeat, MJ’s not wrecking his body swinging, the same of which can’t be said of countless “pro” players. So, he has demonstrated better instincts against self-damage than just about any modern swinger.

      All of this is just my opinion. We can agree to disagree, I suppose. I don’t mind.

  3. Laser

    It’s very rare for a player to develop golf talent (or talent in any sport) at a later age. About the oldest beginner who turned into a really good pro was Larry Nelson (early 20’s?).

    My guess is that most learn when they’re very young, without ANY theory to mess them up. Just like they learned to walk down stairs. (They didn’t get a subscription to a walking-down-stairs-magazine.)

    Michael Jordan wasn’t a great outside shooter at UNC, but he taught himself that. I’m guessing that he didn’t have a coach to mess him up.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Yup, he figured it out in the gym and it was simple fundamentals of shooting.

      Also correct on the age thing – I began my swing research at 35, having never touched a golf club until 25, and I’m sure that, given a club and balls at a young age, I would have gotten to where I am now, much more quickly – and of course, no modern swing contamination!

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