Saturday, April 19, 2014

The "Nicklaus" Head Swivel

I recently watched another great video by Shawn Clement on head position and lag and tried something he mentioned, and this alone has made a huge impact on my game from the first try. It directly relates to that universal golf fundamental: Stay behind the ball or keep your head behind the ball.
When you address the ball in your standard manner, turn your head 20-deg to the right and then tilt the right side of your head 20-deg down. Just your head…not your torso, so perform it as a "1-2" move after address. Your left cheek should be behind the ball, and your right ear pointed down to the ground, as if you were trying to drain water out of it. The head is both behind the ball and tilted to the right; if you've been on top of the ball, this will completely change your perspective of the golf swing…and for the better.
Bradley's Head Movement
Why does this make a difference for me? First, the turn to the right (move 1) presets the head in a good position to allow a full, relaxed torso turn without any upper-body sway (i.e., the head is not blocking the left shoulder). This alone helps prevent a reverse pivot, because the head is not blocking the left shoulder. Second, the downward tilt (move 2) presets good secondary axis tilt away from the target, necessary to hit inside-out and to retain lots of lag for effortless power; you can't maintain tilt away from the target if your head is level or leaning left.

In addition, I monitor the following points: The 20-20 head swivel applies to the neck and head ONLY; be careful that you're not turning and tilting your torso more than the standard setup position, which can cause fat shots and shanks (remember, it's a "1-2" head movement only after standard address). The club head is lightly touching the ground behind the ball--almost hovering. I also let the club head lag my hands on the takeaway, keeping the club head outside my hands and ensuring my wrists are relaxed, so that I can sense a loaded club at the top and better retain lag coming down. Keep the club face pointing at the ball during the takeaway. Grip: Use a somewhat strong left hand grip and a neutral to weak right hand grip for most shots (alterations can be used to shape shots). I now understand Clement's analogy of "hammering into a door frame" and why one's head must be behind the ball (Would you hammer into a door frame with your head in front of it? Of course not; you wouldn't be able to see it or get any leverage). Though the 20-20 head swivel hinders the tendency of the upper-body to sway to the right on the backswing, the hips can still sway to the right, so be aware of this--all that's necessary is a rotation of the torso; no additional rightward shifting is necessary. I believe there are only a few universal requirements for a good golf swing, such as a FLW and forward shaft lean, and I also believe that staying behind the ball through impact is one of them.
If you dig deeper, you'll discover that Jack Nicklaus--arguably the greatest golfer of all time until Tiger gets his crap together--did this very thing as his swing trigger. And then you'll find out that he got it from Sam Snead. And then you'll see that Bobby Jones did it too. So there's something to it. It may look weird in the modern golfing era, but it has really helped my swing.

You'll also see that all modern pro golfers get behind the ball through impact; most simply don't preset it the way Nicklaus and Snead did at address or as a swing trigger--they achieve the correct head position while in motion, which contributes to the illusion that they stay on top of the ball because of their address positions. Examine the image of Keegan Bradley above. The vertical green line represents the back of the golf ball at address. The colored boxes mark his head positions throughout the swing: red is at address, yellow is at the top, and the green box is at impact. His head position at address is level and right on top of the ball, but by impact his head is well behind the ball's position and tilted right. The modern way to achieve Nicklaus' head position is to move into it during the swing; amateurs like me are better off presetting it address and leaving it there, as the former requires greater timing.

Another reason that this probably makes a difference for me is that I'm right-handed but left eye-dominant, which is not typical. Thus, I'm getting my left eye right on back of the ball.
You have to swing the club. To do that, your body must be in position, beginning with your head, which needs to start behind the ball and stay there all the way through impact.

Jack Nicklaus: My Lifetime Principles For Great Golf
First, it is a positive move, like the forward press of the hands, from which to start the backswing. Second, turning the head to the right makes it possible to take a longer, freer turn with the whole body than would be possible if the head were held straight to the front. Third, and most important, it is a method by which we help brace ourselves against swaying to the left on the downswing and moving our body out ahead of the ball at impact—a sure way to ruin a golf swing.
Give Every Shot A Cockeyed Look - 02.17.64 - Jack Nicklaus 
[Sam] Snead suggests that if we tilt our head slightly in the direction of our backswing, it will relieve a lot of the tension in the back and left side that keep us from making a full turn. 
Snead Says, "Tilt Your Head To Help Relieve Tension During Your Backswing" 
Jack Nicklaus was famous for turning his chin to the right before he took the club back. He moved his chin (head) to the right so that he [could] turn freely during the backswing.
Also, tilt your head slightly to the right at address. Because your spine should be tilted to the right at address, your head should be tilted as well. 
The Head Movement during the Golf Swing 
Most people's dominant eye is on the same side as their dominant arm, leg, etc. However, despite being right handed, I am left eye dominant. So is Jack Nicklaus. 
3Jack Golf Blog: The Dominant Eye and Golf 
Joe Dante, one of America’s best known teaching professionals, from his book Four Magic Moves To Winning Golf. “Keep the head still.” This impossible advice has been given in one form or another for about as long as there has been any literature on golf: “Keep your head down.” Keep your head still.” Keep your head fixed.” “Keep your eye on the ball.” “Don’t lift your head.” “Don’t look up.” You’ve heard these directions a thousand times. If they would only say, “Keep your head back,” they would be much closer to being right. 
Expert Advice - Head Movement 
The best way to stay behind the ball is to start with your head positioned behind the ball in your set-up. As you swing, keep your head from moving in front of the ball. You’ll turn through the ball correctly, resisting any tendency to lunge forward in the downswing, which can cause poor contact and any number bad shots. 
It’s vital, however, that we make sure our weight moves to our front foot to begin the downswing. In an effort to stay behind the ball, many inexperienced golfers hang back on their back foot during the downswing, the dreaded reverse pivot. The result is usually a weak push or slice.
Golf Tips; Stay Behind the Ball 
Staying behind the ball doesn’t mean limiting your rotation or your weight shift toward your forward side. Rather, staying behind the ball means keeping your spine tilted away from the ball at impact and bracing against a strong left side. 

Slice Killers! |
The most difficult thing for the average golfer to do, in my opinion, is to stay behind the ball. He has a tendency to move ahead of the ball with the body, and in doing so he develops an outside-in swing which causes such familiar troubles as slicing, shanking, and topping. This is particularly true on the drive, which so many players try to hit with too much power. 
Staying Behind The Ball 
The point is…you need to have tilt behind the ball at address and tilt behind the ball at impact with your weight moving toward your front side…and you need to find a feel that gets you there. 
Tilt behind the ball at impact 
If you start with your head directly over the top of your belt buckle then you must move your head over to your right shoe on the backswing. If you start with your head more toward your right shoe than your belt buckle, you won't need to move as much. 
Golf Instruction: Keep Your Head Still 
In Harvey Penick's, The Little Red Book, published in 1992, page 75 is entitled "Stay Behind the Ball" "All great golfers move their head slightly backward before and during impact, but never forward. A golfer must stay behind the ball. I mean set up with your head behind the ball and keep your head behind the ball. If you move your head forward during your downswing or through impact, you will hit a wee, ugly shot, probably a pulled slice." 
Keep Your Head Back and Behind the Ball Through Impact! Six Top Golf Pros Agree 
During the transition, his head naturally moves forward with the weight shift to the left side and his head gets further out in front of the ball by the time he arrives at impact. This forces him to release the club early just to make contact. 
How to Keep Your Head Behind the Ball in the Golf Swing 
Here's an easy way to help keep your head back and have an aggressive release. Simply focus your eyes on the back inside quadrant of the ball at address and remain focused on that spot on the ball until after impact. Doing that will guarantee that you keep your head behind the ball. 
Big Play: Ted Potter Jr homemade swing 
If you want to increase your clubhead speed while reducing tension, learn to lag―swinging the clubhead away from the ball last. Begin the backswing by rotating the upper body, while keeping the hands and arms passive. If the arms are truly relaxed, they’ll only move as a result of the torso turn. The clubhead holds its address position until everything else is in motion; once it moves, it “lags” behind the body. 
Lag Behind to Get Ahead


  1. Superb blog. This particular post helped my ball striking significantly. I was consciously trying to keep my head over the ball and turn around my head, the old Sneadism I believe. Now I'm hitting it more solidly with less effort. In fact, look at the "go to" driver stance by Mr. Spieth here:

    He clearly adopts the "drain the ear" set up position. I'm sold.

  2. What a great blog, well written and I am using the information as we speak. Have always had an issue with striking the ball correctly. Especially when it came to head movement. I had my wife read the blog post too and she said it really helped her focus on the right things. Great piece of writing keep it up.

    Jarrett @ The QATSPY Golf Approach

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, I think Annika was more known for swiveling her head forward in the throughswing, much like David Duval. This is talking about swiveling it away from the ball at address.

  4. And Henrik Stenson- the two Swedes statistically best ball strikers on each tour since stats were properly recorded. Both release head early?