As Trackman launch monitors and 3D swing analysis technology become more popular, I believe it will usher in a new age in the world of professional golf, and golf instruction as a whole. Today’s current ‘fad’ teaching styles will give way to a new style of swing – a style who’s origins date back over 100 years!
This ‘classic’ style of swinging, featuring much more active hips and legs, and a free release of the clubhead, can be seen as far back as 1900 and before. James Braid, John Henry Taylor, and Harry Vardon, dubbed ‘The Great Triumvirate’, won 16 British Open titles in 21 years. The trio was astonishingly dominant – one coming in runner up the 5 times they didn’t win.
This early swing of the three featured a free lifting left heel on the backswing, with a swinging spine in each direction. The left arm was allowed to bend slightly at the elbow, for the sake of suppleness. The clubhead was thrown with a lashing sidearm baseball type motion. Braid reportedly woke up one day with this concept, and soon was driving balls ridiculous distances for the times – perhaps as far as 375 yards!
The classic swing style continued in the hands of Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones in the 20’s, the latter whom continued to refine the style with much careful thought and practice. It was about this time that a teenage Mike Austin probably watched and was influenced by Jones at Eastlake Country Club.
Although there is evidence to suggest that Austin was naturally gifted at golf from an early age, it was the Eastlake period where he really started to shine. A big strong lad, Austin started to hit more prodigious drives seemingly all the time. First, the drives over a 300 yard lake, then 350, and later on in the 30’s over 400 yards in tournament play!
An obviously gifted athlete, Mike Austin was equally as studious. Presently, his college background has come into question, but nevertheless, the knowledge and understanding of his subjects was gained somehow. Psychology, physiology, then physics and engineering – their secrets were all mastered by Austin and applied to the golf swing. By 1946 when Austin earned a PhD in Kinesiology, he had taken the classic swing model and refined it to scientific perfection.
Mike’s raw swing slowly became more measured and precise, and with it, the distance and accuracy continued to improve. Mike’s study of the human body and the physics that guide the swing and the impact with the ball yielded what many people called ‘the perfect golf swing’. Mike himself claimed that his technique was, ‘The most efficient way to hit a ball.’
The advantages of this style of swing are numerous. All 12 levers of the body are moved in a manner to produce large amounts of power, while also swinging the clubhead around a perfect elliptical wheel into the ball, transferring the most energy possible from the collision. The spine is also used for leverage, to transfer weight from foot to foot. The clubface is precisely controlled by the wrists and forearms, in the same manner as many other sports motions such as tennis, racquetball, and baseball.
Its ability to reduce risk of injury is another great advantage of the Austin swing. Because the joints only move according to their design, within normal range of motion, they undergo significantly less stress than the modern golf swing. The lumbar spine, especially, can be at great risk from the style of golf stroke that one chooses. Many of today’s styles place exponential torquing forces on the lower back, and the chronic injuries to many young stars is well documented.
So I say, bring on the technology! Trackman is already supporting the advantages of Mike Austin’s “Under, Up, and Out’ philosophy – showing that the ball will carry and roll farther when hit upwards from the inside on a driver.
As the scientific community has finally started throwing their new toys at the golf swing to unravel its mysteries, I have no doubt that the classic swing, and particularly the Austin swing, will hold up to scrutiny, and usher in a new age of teaching and swinging which will look suspiciously like 1950!