I have this footage playing on a loop on a screen outside my workshop. It’s Seve in his absolute prime, and clearly having one of his good weeks – I think it must be World Match Play at Wentworth in '86 or '87. Note the quality of the divots - square and wide, otherwise known as widies. People didn’t always need a Trackman to understand what the club was doing!
The biggest thing I take from this footage is the freedom in the club swinging around absolute balance and fixed eyes. This is just before Seve took his fluid one motion move and attempted to overcome inconsistency by adding complex, position-based swing models. Like so many before him, he never regained his form.
When I have a beginner who has never hit a ball before, I like to show them footage of Bobby Jones. He is so relaxed and his move is so clear in his sequencing. Note that his swing is driven by the club – the club head goes first and his body just reacts to what the club is doing. He winds the club all the way to his trailing side, and then maxes out his downswing by clearing his left leg and hip, before waiting for the club to arrive and collect the ball. The club pulls him into his finish.
This is all every Ben Hogan swing from the Hawk’s legendary Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match against Sam Snead. It’s the best colour footage of Hogan hitting actual shots on the course, which is so much more valuable than range footage. It’s another film I have on loop on a screen in my studio.
I’m a massive Hogan fan, but in my opinion, the modern world of golf has completely missed the point in their analysis of his move. They examine every tiny movement and body position in Hogan’s swing, but fail to see that these movements are largely generated by the swinging of the club. He started golf trying to win long drive competitions in the caddy yard, and he was only a small guy. When he turned pro, he had to bring the ball under control – he did this through structure, not by manipulating the club into fixed positions. He created pressure and structure in the arms and body, but kept the club head swinging freely.
This footage comes from the range at Augusta, late in Snead’s career. I love watching the pitching. Again, what we see here is a free swinging club, and the best feet in the business. Snead played in an era when the game was more skill based, so even though he was one of the longest hitters around, he never gave up his ability to shape the ball while hitting the middle of the face every single time. Note a very young Seve in the background late in the footage!
Fred Couples and Davis Love III
The early nineties was an amazing time to be watching golf. In ’92, Freddie was still using his MacGregor persimmon – in '93 he took the cash and went to the Lynx Boom Boom. In ‘92 they played an incredible final round at Riviera, and in '93 they played together in the World Cup of Golf. This clip includes Love driving it through this par 4 green, and Couples hitting it close. Amazing skill and precision with the old gear (and the random commentary just adds to the sense that this was golf in a completely different era).
When James isn’t testing Sounder clothing and essentials on the course, he can be found in his workshop at Urban Golf in London, fitting customers, building clubs and teaching clients.