Here’s A Jack Nicklaus Swing So Close To Optimal

I would like to show you all the driver swing of one Jack Nicklaus from the 1963 match against Sam Snead.

These are the only two golf swings from the PGA Tour that you should be looking at to begin with, in my humble opinion, if you want a golf swing that will give you everything from speed, distance, accuracy and consistency.

Now, you all know my opinion that Nicklaus has as close to the optimal Classic Golf Swing as there is, and let me show you this swing that had only one setup thing and one mechanical thing keeping it from being just about that.

First, the action – wow, is that some good stuff.

Great floating pivot (the head moves a little, dipping and coming back up, but it really never moves laterally in either direction), swinging left gate and vigorous transfer into the leading foot on the transition:

Can you see the one thing I’m talking about in the setup?


If you said, “the stance is too wide,” then congratulations – aside from the wider-than-optimal stance, there is virtually nothing else to critique from the swing looking face-on.

Mechanically, there’s a little leading foot instability on the finish, which comes from the extra-wide stance and Jack not releasing the trailing foot into the post-impact.

Take this setup from Jack and simply shift his trailing foot (no more than 4-6″) until the heel is roughly in line with the right side of his head and he’d have been just about there.


Well, we’ll never know, but take this driver swing, fix the stance width and I’d have a heck of a time finding anything there – of course, something else may have popped up with the narrowing of the stance width, but that’s really the only issue in his setup.

It’s not even wrong, it’s just not an optimal stance because of the width.

But this is why he was an 18x major champion and won over 70 events while focusing more on his fishing trips than range and tournament work – the phrase that “Jack Nicklaus was a legend in his spare time” is about as apt a quip as I could think to make if it hadn’t already been said.

15 thoughts on “Here’s A Jack Nicklaus Swing So Close To Optimal

  1. DyOdd

    4-6″ to Right??? WOW. Jack’s shoulders as seen in picture could drop down inside his heels. Not bad. 5″ would produce a narrow swing for the driver.

    1. DyOdd

      It would be even more helpful if your could provide comparison of Jack’s mid 80’s swing. I believe he himself cited improvements. Some associated with relieving tightness in the Rhomboids.

      1. DJ Watts Post author

        I have looked at Jack’s swing from in his 40’s and while the stance is narrower than in this ’63 swing, I don’t like his setup as much as what he had in his younger days. For a natural, mechanically-sound swing model, I’d look more at the younger Jack than the middle-aged one – there’s not much to fix there!

    2. DJ Watts Post author

      Not to the right, to the left – his right foot is too far outside his right shoulder, so he would be shifting his foot 4″ to his left to narrow the stance. To the right would be to widen it and I stated that his stance was too wide.

      1. DyOdd

        Toouche’ we concur the suggestion to narrow the swing by moving training foot foot to golfer’s left. I was distracted by your wording; “””….. shift his trailing foot (no more than 4-6″) until the heel is roughly in line with the right side of his head.

    1. DJ Watts Post author

      Every single version is very good, Mark. The only thing that stands out is that super-stiff and straight leading arm in the early years, almost like a left-dominant action.

      His impact and follow however don’t indicate over-rotation so he likely wasn’t LD, just a little stiff in the setup.

      Once in motion however, I mean he was the best amateur since Bobby Jones and until Tiger Woods. I wouldn’t argue with those results!!

        1. DJ Watts Post author

          We can all wonder but I doubt even JN knows why his swing changed back and forth over the years.

          I say this because I don’t think JN had a stable, unchanging model in his mind but rather “feels” on the setup and swing action.

          This is the way the swing is taught today.

          If Jack had had a model in his head, he would have swung the same way his entire career – even my swing has changed with a working theory, but the reason for that is that I’m still in the creation stage which only ends when I can duplicate the model I describe.

          So, it’s very easy to change one’s setup and swing action without knowing one is, or to arbitrarily change it thinking one is improving one’s swing (until shown otherwise either by results or injury).

          That’s my 2 cents on it.

          1. Mark

            Your 2 cents are worth more than gold. Works for me. 😎
            I’d just never heard him talk about the width of his stance. Wondered if I’d missed something

            don’t know if you’re following… Kerley kinda went nuts in the USATF 100 prelims. Didn’t see that coming. interested to see what shakes out tonight.

            1. DJ Watts Post author

              I haven’t kept up with the latest track events I must confess. A little concerned with DeGrasse pre-Worlds, hoping for the best!

              I’ll see if I can find Kerley’s 100 on YT…

  2. Chief Cowpie

    I only disagree that it’s not necessary for you to be humble in your opinion, “imho”. Jack had good athletic instincts but he was only 5’ 10” and everyone knew whom he played against that he would be longer off the tee and closer to the flagstick on the approach. A bit of lunacy in the golf instructional that you and Brandel are amongst the few who recognize his superior technique.

    1. DJ Watts Post author

      Cheers, Chief – I also find it baffling how the greatest major champion ever with the greatest swing of the greats isn’t still the model of reference.

      But the journey back to sanity begins with one step and, if necessary, one person.

      I don’t know if I’m up to the task but I’ve already jumped so there’s no going back now!

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