Jack’s right-arm action is as iconic as his powerful leg action. His “flying” right elbow was often considered a liability — he couldn’t win with it.
Actually, he did, to the tune of 73 PGA Tour wins and 18 majors. High-tech measuring tools in today’s coaching world, such as 3D images, force plates, launch monitors, etc., have helped identify what made the longest and best hitters indeed the best. This is true for Jack and what I call the “freaks” on the World Long Drive circuit.
In addition to studying Jack’s techniques using pictures, advanced measuring devices prove why a flying right elbow is beneficial to creating power. They also show how it really works. No matter your ability, your right shoulder moves around your rib cage on the backswing. Jack moved his farther than most players (as evidenced in the above photo from 1965), fueling his backswing with greater potential energy.
The key to Nicklaus’ move wasn’t just his loading motion (the iconic flying right elbow) but, rather, how he worked that elbow in front of his rib cage going back and lowered it as he made his way down. The trick? Coordinate this movement with a huge weight shift to your front side before rotating. In a word, boom!
Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall (@TattersallGolf) is cofounder of Fusion ATL in Atlanta, Ga.