Why Seve Ballesteros Was So Powerful – And Wild

I saw a swing gif. of Seve Ballesteros yesterday and it reminded me that he was yet another great and gifted player from the Classic Golf Swing era.

Seve was a bit of a hybrid in that he didn’t show much or any lifting heel, but still got the full hip turn that separates the Classic from the Modern swing, and I can show you two things about his swing that made him powerful and long…and wild…

The first thing you would notice is that he had a very centered stance, which a lot of great swingers had, admittedly – but this is the very thing that made him a very inconsistent and wild player:

Seve Ballesteros Address

The very greatest swingers all share common traits and are gifted enough to overcome whatever swing flaws they may have, and Seve would be Exhibit A, as you can see that, whatever his setup, he was in near-perfect position at impact:

You’ve got the weight transferring to the leading foot, the hips well into the left leg, the spine tilted right and the head nearly over the right foot, and all of those things spell speed, power and length.

However, although Seve’s athleticism and speed through the bottom are readily visible in the below swing gif., the problem, as you see with the actual swing from address to impact:

You get what I call the “shifting head syndrome,” which occurs when the head is not at address where it should be at impact, and that means a good deal of head movement during the swing, which is murder on consistency and accuracy.

Don’t be fooled either by the seemingly planted heel on the back swing – Seve was a classic free-hip swinger, and the fact that his left thigh gets to vertical as he “Swings The Gate” means that he was getting a free and full hip turn in his pivot.

Note: You’ll remember I just finished talking about how it’s possible to get a full hip turn even with a very low or planted leading heel?

Well, Seve is showing kind of how to do it, although not perfectly, and he did experience back issues during his career, which I would of course attribute to his having begun his pivot from a centered stance, combined with the lack of lifting heel, which would have placed stress on his back if he was over-twisting it even slightly, which he likely was.

As for getting a full hip turn without lifting the leading heel – there is a way, like Seve to do it, but my way (the MCS way) is safer, protecting the back more than Seve’s way – but I’ll keep that little secret to myself for the time being as I have other fish to fry.

If you slow Seve’s swing down even more, the head movement becomes even more apparent, and this is what made Seve so wild at times, and most of the time in his later years:

You can see there there isn’t even just one head shift with Seve, there are two! The first is on the back swing when his head moves from the yellow circle to between the two, and then on the down swing, he “trebuchet-drops” into the red circle – now, Seve was a gifted athlete and golfer, but no one can swing like that with consistency and accuracy for very long, and most people not at all.

This was the only “problem” I ever found with Mike Dunaway’s swing – he was a massively long driver of the ball, but he failed to gain traction in his attempt to play the Senior Tour when he gave it a shot, and I would attribute the problem to the shifting head caused by his centered stance at address:

So, my reason for leaving the Mike Austin swing model years ago to work out my own model was for that reason – the head shift will not be a big problem for someone interested in long driving, but if you’re going to play tournament golf, all that head motion makes being consistent very, very difficult.

And even if you can get away with it in your younger days, as you age and lose that athleticism and hand-eye coordination declines – you’ll be missing more cuts than making them.

So, a great look at a legend from the 80’s, and once again, a great Classic Golf Swing from a 5-Major Champion!

Back Pain or Back Injury Swinging a Golf Club?

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6 thoughts on “Why Seve Ballesteros Was So Powerful – And Wild

  1. targettom

    Seems to me that some of these guys who swung in the 80’s – 90’s went away from the full lead heel lift (getting up on the big toe), and instead they rolled their lead foot over onto the inside edge of their shoe so that there was contact along the edge only, but for the full length of the foot. What do you think of that in practice?

    1. D Watts Post author

      Excellent observation and comment, Tom – if MCS were a course, you’d be at the head of the class, my friend!

      Nicklaus also talked about rolling the foot although I believe for him it was the trailing foot on the down swing.

      Moe Norman talked about rolling the feet onto the sides as well, both on the back and down swings.

      Good stuff, Tom.

  2. peterallenby2013

    The late Jim Flick, long time instructor and associate of Jack Nicklaus demonstrating Nicklaus’s “ankle roll” drill.
    And what can one say about Seve? Like Tiger and to a degree, Jordan Spieth, the flaws of the long game are covered by the brilliance of their short games. I watched Seve give a bunker lesson to Henrik Stenson at Augusta National at a Masters practice round. Seve demonstrated his sand technique for Stenson using a long iron to hit unreal greenside bunker shots..This was back before the new practice facility was installed at Augusta and interested spectators could get pretty darn close to the bunker practice area. The man had rhythm!

    1. D Watts Post author

      Good stuff, Peter – I really like that #3 slide for the posture – of course, I’ve used the same pic myself! 😉

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