Images and analysis of 82-time PGA Tour winner 'Slammin' Sammy' Snead's driver swing, circa 1961.
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As a senior in high school, Golf Academy lead coach Skip Guss had the good fortune of running into Sam Snead on the range at Boca West Country Club and striking up a friendship with the legendary golfer known as 'Slammin’ Sammy'. Snead was the only one on the range that day, and as Guss fondly recalls, “It was like walking into Yankee Stadium and the only one taking batting practice was Babe Ruth.” Snead’s uncanny ability to swing the club with amazing grace and rhythm has been admired for decades, and will continue to be the gold standard for many more decades to come. For a more detailed look at Snead’s driver swing from 1961, just a year before he turned 50, check out the following analysis from Guss.
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Snead’s grip was perfection! If you look at his lead hand, the back of the hand matches the clubface, as does his trail palm. Based on how he holds the club, he knows where the clubface is at all times. His setup is balanced and athletic, and he’s ready for action.
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'Slammin’ Sammy' was known for his accuracy, but he was also a very powerful man who would have no trouble hanging with today’s longest hitters using modern equipment. Note the one-piece takeaway (i.e., shoulders, arms and club all moving together) and how low the clubhead stays to the ground, which creates tremendous width.
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Halfway back, he’s coiling into his trail leg and his wrists are beginning to hinge. There’s little head movement – he’s simply rotating around a fixed axis (i.e., top of his spine). Snead’s motion is very disciplined, but it’s not at all mechanical, as you’ll start to see in the next frame.
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As with most players those days, his front heel comes up off the ground on the backswing and his knees are almost touching. This is in response to the tremendous amount of shoulder rotation he has. Gary Player referred to Snead as the 'greatest athlete ever,' and that athleticism is on full display here. He’s simply allowing his body to do want it wants.
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The amount of shoulder rotation Snead has at the top of the backswing is extraordinary. He’s like a rocket ship – fully loaded and ready to fire!
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BEST MOVE: Not only is this Snead’s best move, but it’s one of the best moves in the history of golf! The downswing is lateral before it’s rotational and this move is as good as anyone who’s ever played. His lead knee is separating from the trail knee and driving the lower body into position to set up a powerful release of energy through the ball.
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After a tremendous shift onto his front side, the lead leg is starting to brace, creating a solid foundation for the upper body to explode against and deliver a crushing blow to the golf ball!
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At impact, he is hitting against a firm, braced lead side and his trail arm is beginning to extend, unleashing every ounce of energy into the ball.
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Halfway into the follow-through, Snead has completely 'let it go.' His arms are fully extended and he’s released the clubhead. The photos don’t do justice to how powerful Mr. Snead was. The last time I teed it up with Mr. Snead I was 25 and playing professionally, and he was 68, yet he could hit it with me or past me.
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Perfect balance! I’m convinced if Snead were a dancer he’d be Fred Astaire. He was a powerful man with exceptional footwork and rhythm, attributes that few athletes possessed. In terms of similarities with Tiger Woods, I’d say they shared the same determination and competitiveness. Even in his 60s, Snead was working hard on his game and was prepared for the next round to be his best round. Maybe that’s why he was able to shoot a 67 at age 67 and a 78 at age 85. It didn’t hurt that he had the perfect golf swing as well.
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Skip is the owner of Skip Guss’ GolfRite Academy, a year-round golf learning facility located in the Boston suburb of Southborough, Mass. A former PGA Tour player, Skip has given more than 32,000 golf lessons over his 30-year-plus coaching career, with students ranging from beginners to LPGA and PGA Tour winners to a U.S. Amateur champion. During his career, Skip had the privilege of being personally instructed by such playing and coaching legends of the game as Sam Snead, Jack Grout (Jack Nicklaus’ lifelong coach), Bob Toski and Peter Kostis. For more information about Skip or to book a lesson, please visit www.golfrite.com.
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