How Nicklaus Swings At 78 Years Old

Aaron Ungvarsky

Aaron Ungvarsky

PGA of America Professional, SwingU Instructor

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is one of the rare and special occasions we get to watch Jack Nicklaus tee it up. This legend is closing in on 79 years young, but don’t tell his golf swing that!

Sure, he may have lost some speed, but as far as positions and repeatability, Jack still has a swing amateurs should look to exemplify. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamentals that are nailed in this swing that won more major championships than any other player.

Learning from the ultimate champion allows us to highlight some signature moves worth instilling into your swing motion.

Jack’s Keys At Address

  • Look at the relaxed arms and lower hand position. Sure, his posture isn’t the best, but let’s talk when you are 78 years old! Having soft arms and a lower hand position at address allows for a smooth takeaway with the club flowing back. Lower hands also help to pre-set an angle in the wrists, facilitating a proper wrist hinge for power accumulation.
  • Regardless of age, fight for knee flex and tilt from the hips when you are setting up. Both of these factors contribute to a player’s mobility during the swing. A full range of motion helps to keep the engines or power centers of the swing motion as the core muscle groups, not the arms and hands. Once a swing becomes all arms and hands, timing and luck will determine your ball striking ability.

Taking It Back Like Jack

  • Being a power hitter like Jack requires that pressure is shifted to the right side during the backswing. Watch as he allows his left hip and knee to follow the club back. Try copying his signature left heel off the ground on the backswing to allow you the maximum turn on the way back.
  • It’s awesome to see how high Jack can still get his hands at the top of the backswing. This is important because it allows him to control his angle of attack and ball flight with precision. Jack flighted his shots very high, making him the most accurate with the long irons. Flying them close to the hole and stopping them abruptly with a directly descending trajectory was a distinct advantage.
  • The right knee staying bent is a great position many amatuers will benefit from. If you can make a full backswing and still have your right knee bent there is a good chance you will not reverse pivot towards the target. A stable and flexed trail knee (right knee for right handed golfer) allows for a proper pressure shift and most importantly is the perfect place to fire from when swinging into and through the ball.

A Champion’s Finish

  • As just noted, Jack unloads into the hitting zone from his right side, enabled by the knee flex. Using the ground to help generate the force, Jack can push up and then transfer the pressure laterally towards the target.
  • The classic finish is a product of one of the best swing paths. Jack played a perfect fade, while most of the golfers playing today can only manage a slice. Watch how Jack enters into impact slightly from the inside, telling us his body (hips and upper body) are rotating to the target and he is allowing the club handle to trail for a perfect and powerful release.
  • The release of the club is complete and causes the club the travel left of his target line. With the club path being left of the clubface, which is square to the target, Jack produces a very powerful and solidly struck left to right shot during his career. A championship fade and very predictable ball flight.
  • Finally, completing your swing with your right heel off the ground is an often overlooked truism by amateurs, but watch the best. A proper pressure shift should allow you to lift your right leg off the ground.

If you think your swing could use a little extra and you are losing a yard of distance for every year you are past your prime, swing ‘heels up’ like Jack. With your front heel lifting slightly on the backswing to create more power accumulation and your trail heel lifting to ensure you fire through at the target!