How a pre-shot waggle can dramatically improve your golf swing

justin thomas rehearses takeaway

Justin Thomas has one of the most notable pre-shot waggles on Tour.

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Bryson DeChambeau bludgeoned his way to the winner’s circle in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. His performance was complete, admirable, well-deserved and worth recognition. 

Many things can be learned from what Bryson achieved, and most folks would look toward power off the tee as that has been his 2020 calling card. I, however, contend that the lesson us mortal golfers can all learn, and apply, is regarding the utmost devotion to a goal in order to be successful.

Bryson’s singular focus, and his preparedness to sacrifice to get to his goal, is something that should be recognized a little more than it has. Indeed, I believe any aspiring champion should emulate Bryson’s desire, sacrifice, work ethic and focus if they hope to be successful.

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That all being said, I want to pivot away from Bryson and talk about the U.S. Open first round leader, Justin Thomas. Thomas does a number of things well, and he sets himself up for success with a good pre-shot waggle. 

Thomas uses a simple pre-swing rehearsal where he simulates the first few feet of his backswing by moving the club away to where it is over his toe-line with the shaft parallel to the target-line and the clubface square. I love the move so much, a few months ago I advised my daughter, Isabel, to do the same thing. We call it “The Justin” and she does that to ensure she doesn’t snatch the club too far in behind her in her backswing.

While watching Thomas I thought about the waggle and felt inspired to write about it. 

Before I share my thoughts, I want to share the insights of one of the great U.S. Open champions of all time, Ben Hogan. In his book, Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, Hogan called the waggle the bridge between the address and the actual start of the swing.”  He also spoke of it as an “extremely important part of shot making” and sort of “miniature practice swing” and a “dry run for the upcoming shot.

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So, if Hogan devoted about four and a half pages in one of the great instructional books of all time to the waggle, and most of the game’s top players, including Thomas, use their own variation of the waggle, I feel like it should be incorporated by every golfer. It takes no talent, and it can set you up for ball-striking success.

Some things to bear in mind:

— A good waggle galvanizes your awareness of the path the club will take away from the ball in the actual backswing. I have always believed that a good start to any endeavor, including the golf swing, sets you on a course to success.  Or in the worst case, sets you on a course where minimal compensation for a bad start is needed.

— A relaxed waggle reduces tension in the forearms and shoulders. Tension in my opinion, is a huge wrecker of a golf swing.

— The waggle keeps your body in motion before the swing — this sets the table for some decent rhythm and timing.  And while we are on the subject, the waggle can be used to set the tempo and cadence of the upcoming swing.

— A minor variation to the waggle (adding focus to the downswing segment) can reinforce a square approach of the clubface into impact. Incidentally, Hogan highlighted this in his writings.

— Initially the waggle may feel awkward, but just like your golf swing, keep repeating it, keep working on it, keep refining it and very soon in will be part of your golf DNA. 

If you are unsure how to develop your waggle, watch some of the game’s best and see what they do before the shot. I copied Curtis Strange when I developed my waggle and it is so ingrained that, to this day, I still use it.

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Golf.com Contributor

On-course announcer and analyst Mark Immelman is passionate about the game of golf. As a decorated instructor, award-winning NCAA college golf coach, and an accomplished golfer, Mark brings a robust knowledge and vast experience to his role as a television broadcaster and golf instructor. He is currently a Golf Analyst for CBS Sports HQ, and an Analyst and On-course Announcer for CBS Sports and Golf on CBS. He currently also serves as a Studio Analyst and an On-course Announcer for PGA TOUR Live  for PGA TOUR Live.

The older brother to 2008 Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman, Mark grew up in Somerset West, South Africa. After a successful amateur career in South Africa he was offered a golf scholarship to Columbus State University (Columbus , GA). He enjoyed a prolific collegiate tenure highlighted by his four-time All-America selections, two-time Academic All-America awards, and two NCAA Div. II National Championship victories. After graduation, Mark had a short season as a playing professional, but quickly turned his attention to his true passion – golf teaching.

As a golf instructor, Mark believes in cultivating ability and talent by providing comprehensive, holistic golf instruction that is easily understandable and of the highest quality to golfers of all abilities and skill levels. His passionate approach and keen knowledge of the game have led to him being a sought-after mind by leading Professional and Amateur golfers alike. Through his career he has taught and/or consulted to PGA TOUR and European Tour professionals and tournament winners such as: Larry Mize, Loren Roberts, Trevor Immelman, Scott Brown, Patton Kizzire, Louis Oosthuizen and Will Wilcox. He has been recognized as one of “Golf Digest’s Top 20 Instructors Under 40”, Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in the State of Georgia” and Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 – Georgia’s Best and Brightest”.

As a NCAA College Coach at Columbus State University (since 2001) Mark continues to coach the Columbus State Men’s Golf Team and his program is a perennial contender for Conference and National Titles. He is a two-time NCAA Div. II Atlantic/Southeast Region Coach of the Year, two-time Peachbelt Conference Coach of the Year, and the 2009 NCAA Div. II National Coach of the Year.

In 2019 Mark was selected as Captain and Coach of the (Arnold) Palmer Cup International Team. His team triumphed over the United States Team in the Palmer Cup Matches held at The Alotian Club outside of Little Rock, AR.

Mark’s additional broadcast duties include being a guest analyst on the CBS Sports “First Cut Podcast”. CBS Sports also uses Mark’s unique voice for audio and promotional PGA TOUR advertisements and promotional reads.

He has also served a 6-year tenure as a Play-by-Play Announcer for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio.

Additionally, Mark hosts “On the Mark”, a PGA TOUR Podcast, which to date has been downloaded more than 3 million times in more than 125 countries.

He has also written golf instructional columns and articles for Golf Digest SA, Golf Digest USA and is currently penning instructional pieces for Golf Magazine. As an author, Mark has published two e-Books on golf instruction: “Scandalously SImple – The Easy Way to Accurate Golf Shots” and “Golf is a Game of Recovery”.

You can learn more about at MarkImmelman.com