Jack Nicklaus shares the swing thought that has ‘dominated’ his game

If you’ve played golf at any point in your life, you’ve had a swing thought. Whether that thought amounts to ‘don’t screw this up’ or something slightly more meaningful for improving your game probably comes down to how often you play. If you’ve caught the golf bug, it’s okay to lean into thinking. Positive swing thoughts really work, whether by way of avoiding ‘ironic process theory’ (a.k.a. ‘don’t screw this up‘) or by helping to reinforce a successful swing habit.

In this week’s Flashback Jack, Nicklaus breaks down the swing thought he says shaped his game.

“Throughout the majority of the rounds that I’ve played in my career, one thought has really dominated my thinking, and that’s completing my backswing,” Nicklaus says.

It’s simple in execution — focusing on a long backswing — but what’s the benefit of doing so? By finishing the backswing, Nicklaus says, we’re helping strengthen two critically important functions.

“There are two elements in the golf swing which we’re all trying to achieve,” Nicklaus says. “And that’s power and accuracy.”

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So, how does a proper swing thought benefit power? Well, it stands to reason that the backswing is an incredibly important power-building element, and by “completing” the top of the takeaway, we’re ensuring a full turn and a long, complete downswing.

“Power is gathered by turning the upper body and lower body to the completion of the backswing of the club to a parallel position,” Nicklaus says. “At this point, the lower body uncoils, bringing the upper body, the hands, the club and the clubhead into the power position.”

When it comes to accuracy, the goal is to maintain the “pendulum” motion throughout the swing. By maximizing the backswing, Nicklaus says you’re allowing your swing to follow its most natural path back to the ball, which should lead to straighter, more consistent shots.

“When I take the club all the way back, I want to release in that same position back down the same line,” he says. “So that I can have both my power and accuracy happen at the same time.”

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.