Much has been written and said about head movement and its role in the golf swing. This article offers a thorough video review of head movement during the swings of golfing greats, Palmer, Snead, Nicklaus, Woods, Mickelson and up and coming young golfers.
Much has been written and said about head movement and its role in the golf swing. Jack Nicklaus said that the head should remain “rock, steady still.” Yet a video analysis of his swing shows that he actually moves it to the right or away from the ball during his backswing but he stays behind the ball through impact. Sam Snead said you should “swing around the head but keep it in its same place at set-up.” And he actually did. His head remained very still during his backswing, transition, downswing and through impact. It is not until after impact does Sammy’s head move a little forward, upward and away from the target line.
Tiger’s head remains very steady during takeaway and backswing. But on his downswing and at impact, video shows that his head moves downward about two inches; but remains behind the ball through impact. Freddie Couples’ head actually drops down like Tiger’s but his head also goes back or away from the ball at impact, but still on the same line as at his setup. Phil Mickelson keeps his head as steady as a golfer can. It hardly moves during his take away, backswing, transition, downswing, through the impact zone and well into his release and follow through. So do Sean O’Hair, Rory Sabatini and Camilo Villegas. Arnold Palmer’s head moved more than any of the above mentioned golfers’ heads. A slow-motion study of Arnie’s swing shows that his head moves down and away or back from the ball during backswing, transition, downswing and through impact. At release and follow through his head came up considerably. If you are further interested in studying these swings, you can see them all on video through the YouTube website. Once on the site, simply search with the golfer’s name.
With the above mentioned differences in head movements in the swings of these champions, what then is most important about the golfer’s head in all good golf swings? One aspect stands out. The golfer’s head remains behind the ball through the impact zone. And for some golfers, it stays behind the ball until well into their release and follow through. In each video of the above swings, it looks as though the golfer is watching the clubhead actually strike the ball. When asked if they see the ball at impact, most good golfers will say that the clubhead, particularly with the driver, is moving so fast that it is not possible for them to see it.
Here are the conclusions from the review of these swings, in order of their importance:
It is NOT OK for the head to move in front of the ball before the impact zone. The head must stay back and behind the ball, as long as possible, until after the ball is struck.
It is NOT OK for the head to come up more than about one inch, if at all, until after impact and release. The head can come up and away from the target line as the golfer moves into the follow through.
It is OK for the head to move behind and away from the ball, up to about four inches, during take away, backswing, transition, and downswing.
It is also OK to move the head down, up to two inches during these same elements of the swing.
Video analysis may be the best aid to help a golfer see her/his head, and any movement thereof, through all elements of the swing.Tactile feedback may be best technique to help develop the motor memory or muscle memory, to learn to keep the head back and behind the ball through impact. Another golfer is needed or a training aid like the PRO-HEAD Trainer, to hold the golfer’s head steady throughout the swing and particularly at impact.
By R. S. (Bob) Doyle, President of Forever Better Golf, Inc.