Byron Nelson Figured It Out First

Byron Nelson’s only swing “flaw” if I were to call it that, was the shifting of his head on the back swing, although it is related to what I was talking about in yesterday’s posting, so it was really not a “flaw” but a compensation to avoid shanking the ball.

I have said before that “restricted hips means ‘shank!'” and for the same reason – when you swing with the hips and legs, you will tend to shift forward (to the left) and therefore you will come into the ball early – welcome to Hosel City.

So, in the following video clip, you’ll see and hear the genius of Byron Nelson’s swing work, teaching himself what everyone called the modern swing of that time, when they switched from hickory club shafts to steel.


Nelson was so far ahead of his peers because of what he figured out that he simply ran away from everyone, winning 18 Tour events in one season and 11 in a row during that year.

They called the ball-striking robot “Iron Byron” in his honor, and the only reason he isn’t more highly regarded in golf circles is because he retired at the dawn of the video and television era, during which Ben Hogan became a star (Hogan could never beat Nelson, even going back to their childhood days in the same caddie yard, and Hogan only came into his own after Nelson retired).

It all started with the stance, of course – the “kicked-in” right leg position of MCS is not something I invented, although I was shocked when, during my own swing research, I adopted it thinking I was the first to do so and then saw it in other classic era swingers.

In fact, if you have Brandel Chamblee’s “The Anatomy of Greatness,” you find this is something Chamblee identified as well, on page 35 of his hardcover book, where he uses a picture of Ben Hogan doing it in his set-up.

I saw it in Mike Austin’s swing model, which is part of why I spent years working on his model, and I left it to build my own MCS swing model rather than trying to emulate his, because of the same thing with Byron Nelson – the shifting head.

So, back to the set-up – look at Byron’s “kicked-in” right leg here, and that does something to the legs and hips that you just don’t see in the modern golf swing models.


In the clip in fact, you’ll hear Nelson talk about these things that are either identical to what’s in the MCS swing model, or related although different:

  • He didn’t like to use a “handsy” swing, because that led to hooking, so he began to use his hips and legs to power the pivot, and he started doing this “just by imagination,”
  • He discovered that when you did that, you would move forward and shank the ball,
  • So he shifted his head to the right on the back swing and kept it there (which is the exact same thing I’ve done, moving the head to the right in the stance – the right bias, so I didn’t have to shift it there), and of course, I talk about keeping the head back on the down swing,
  • He would move into his left side, or onto the left foot, as I call it, and keep some flex in his leading knee, which I called the “shock absorber” move when I talked about Mike Dunaway doing the same thing.

So, if you look at the points above, there’s an eerie connection between what swingers of the past did, and what people aren’t doing today, even as they say they study the greats:

Today’s players are very “handsy,” because of all the manipulations they have to make with the modern restricted-hip swing models, they are prone to shanking the ball, because by freezing or restricting the hips, if you move any weight to the left side by accident this will happen (which is why so many modern swingers don’t get to left side at all), they don’t have the soft flex in the leading knee, either straightening or snapping it violently through impact… on and on…

Byron Nelson “Steps Into It”


** Note: Notice Byron’s “short-stop” slide with the right foot through impact as well – contrast his “ho-hum, walk in the park” easy action starting from the great setup, the full-body pivot with the move to the left side and releasing the right foot to what the modern players are doing today:


The only thing I wouldn’t do is swing with Nelson’s very short back swing, but here’s the thing – Byron’s swing was so efficient and powerful that he was still able to hit the ball average distances, so he was as long as most other players (not a power swinger like Snead or Nicklaus) and because it was a short swing, he was as straight as an arrow (as Tom Watson said he never saw Nelson play a round of golf where he didn’t hit at least two flag sticks).

So, think of how powerful his swing was, that he could dominate the PGA Tour in the days of Sam Snead and Jimmy Thomson, with such a short back swing, but it was the move onto the left side – natural leverage, which the modern swing has lost with the restricted hip back swing and failure to get onto the left side though impact.

So, even though MCS has had these elements for some time, I’ve finally, with “E = MCS,” arrived at where I can explain how all of this works, and explain the absolute simplest model conceivable in terms of a natural, classic golf swing model.

It looks like this week will give me some sunny days as well, to shoot the last day of the video, and from there, the countdown will begin to the release day.

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4 thoughts on “Byron Nelson Figured It Out First

  1. David

    Great job DJ!! You continue to solidify MCS as the gold standard. I had never thought of Hogan reaching his pinnacle until Nelson retired but you are correct. 96 degrees here at 6:00 AM!!!!

    1. D Watts Post author

      Thank you, DK! I was thinking of you earlier in the week when they had to cancel a pack of flights in and out of Phoenix – reminded me of the week I spent with you in April last year, when I thought I was literally going to burst into flames at times.

      The work continues – we’ll have to figure out how to get some face to face time and finish that work on your swing.

      Best to Nancy & Frisco 🙂

  2. Michael Harris

    This doesn’t invalidate anything you say, but the video of Nelson is squeezed vertically, so he seems to stand farther from the ball and swing flatter than he actually did.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hello, Michael!

      This doesn’t invalidate anything you say…

      To the contrary – if the picture is squeezed and you fixed it – he’d look even closer to the MCS address position than he does there, wouldn’t you say?

      Good to hear from you – been busy, haven’t had much time to discuss our shared passion for wordcraft. Hope you’ve been well 🙂

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