How Did Mike Dunaway Produce So Much Power With Such A “Short” Back Swing?

You’ll remember that I talked before the holidays about “Big Legs, Little Arms,” and that this is the key to developing the most efficient leverage for a seemingly effortless swing packed with power.

Today’s pros (and anyone swinging in the Modern Golf Swing style, really) suffer from “Little Legs, Big Arms” Syndrome, whereby they are trying to generate power without much leverage by torquing the back and torso to get a full shoulder turn.

The unavoidable fact is that the largest muscles in the body are in the hips and legs, and so the very idea of trying to be powerful without using those muscles to swing is not only paradoxical but harmful to long-term physical well-being.

If you look at Mike Dunaway, the father of modern long drive and the tester for the Callaway Big Bertha driver prototype, you’d see that he doesn’t have what you’d call a “long drive” look to his swing, as it’s pretty compact:

The thing about having 12 years of swing research under my belt, and having made hundreds of thousands of swings myself over those years (some days I’d hit 500-600 balls, mostly driver) is that you start seeing  things in other peoples’ swings, and once you have a pretty good knowledge of motion and leverage, things jump out at you when looking at swings.

The above gif. of Dunaway’s “up-the-line” driver swing is no exception – once I isolated the aspect of the “Big Legs, Little Arms” power production and made some swings the same way, I glance at that gif. and his leveraging and speed coming through the ball just leap out of the monitor.

When I watch Dunaway’s down swing above, I see this:

It all has to do with that top position:

And if you work on your Kettle Bell “One Exercise” from the EMCS2 video, especially the transition exercise, you’ll start getting the hang of the “Big Legs, Little Arms” concept before I can fully address it when the season begins anew for me next spring… but I will be sinking my teeth into this in the upcoming eBook…

‘Til then!

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9 thoughts on “How Did Mike Dunaway Produce So Much Power With Such A “Short” Back Swing?

  1. Jeff

    What’s the definition of a short backswing? I always thought is was how close to, or past, parallel at the top the club got. Looking at Dunaway, he seems to at least reach parallel if not a touch past. So what should I be looking at to see short??

    1. D Watts Post author

      Good observation and comment, Jeff!

      Dunaway’s back swing would be “regular” for a tournament player, but he was a long driver, and when you look at the swing of a guy who could produce 350 yard drives (he started the “350 Club” in Arkansas back in the 80’s, inspiring Art Sellinger who later went on to found the Long Drivers of American and the Remax World Long Drive event) at the top:

      And compare that to the way long drivers swing today:

      … you’d probably agree that it’s a pretty short back swing for the power and distance it produced!

  2. targettom

    on a similar vein, there is a video comparing JD Holmes’ swing to another pro ” long swinger” – JD’s swing looks like a 3/4 swing because he doesnt get his club to parallel; but if you take away the club and just focus on his hands, he gets his hands as high and far around as almost anybody.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Great point, Tom – I was going to make it, and forgot to, in the response – that it’s not the club shaft that indicates the back swing length but the degree of shoulder turn and the left or leading arm position.

      Below, you can see a pic I made a few years ago when I thought my back swing was too long and loose, comparing it to Nicklaus’ – his shaft wasn’t at parallel, but when you look at his shoulder turn and left arm position – he was cranked!

  3. targettom

    thanks that’s a great picture. I can coil as far as Nicklaus was doing; I just cannot seem to deliver the club back to the ball consistently, so I shortened my swing. Guess I’ll try again when the weather improves

    1. D Watts Post author

      The pic was from a post I’d written during my “Jack Nicklaus Project” days in the summer of 2015, out of which arose the “Kinesiology Of The MCS Golf Swing” video.

      If you look at Jack’s left gate and arm compared to mine, as I highlighted them – even though my back swing looked “longer,” JN had way more potential leverage than I did.

      Simple fact: Learn from the greatest stars instead of the latest stars, and you’ll be alright!

  4. targettom

    Thought I’d follow up; last couple of range sessions I have been making a much bigger shoulder turn (past 90*) and a bigger hip turn, with a pivot on my lead foot by getting up on my left big toe. Very high hands on the BSW, club to parallel etc. Clubhead speed increased by no less than 5 and up to 9 mph. So I’ve gained distance for sure. I think I can get a little more than that still. And as long as my head is stable on the backswing and downswing the ball goes straight. I mean STRAIGHT. It’s amazing. Crushed and right down the middle. I am not consistent with it yet but I am very encouraged.

    1. D Watts Post author

      And as long as my head is stable on the backswing and downswing the ball goes straight. I mean STRAIGHT. It’s amazing. Crushed and right down the middle. I am not consistent with it yet but I am very encouraged.

      That is great, Tom! Funny, people will throw out the idea of keeping a stable head through proper positioning and mechanics as too difficult – but if one follows the procedure I’ve laid out for the proper setup, the legs & hips do the rest, and like you say… “Crushed and right down the middle…”

      Once you get that, you’ll never go back! 😉 Good stuff, Tom.

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