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The Nicklaus Way
An Analysis of the Unique Techniques and Strategies of Golf's Leading Major Championship Winner
Good Habits Never Die
The solid fundamentals Jack Nicklaus learned from teacher Jack Grout
One summer day, in 1981, while working as assistant editor of England's Golf Illustrated magazine, I was sent on assignment to review a new course opening on the outskirts of London. Quite honestly, I forget the name of the course, but I will never forget the day. Jack Nicklaus, the course architect, was to play an exhibition match with three other top professionals: Severiano Ballesteros from Spain, Isao Aoki from Japan, and Bill Rogers from America.
Once I got the news of the assignment, I could not wait for the exhibition day to arrive in a fortnight's time. Because the event was open only to the press, I looked forward to getting a close-up view of golf 's greatest player of all time and pick up some pointers that I could pass on to readers and apply to my own game.
I had seen Nicklaus play before in official tournaments, but my view was almost always hindered by huge galleries and having to stand so far behind the ropes separating the gallery from the players. Therefore, I had never been in a position to analyze Nicklaus's swing. Besides, I had not been writing about instruction back then, so I was not all that interested in technical secrets.
In 1981 my outlook was different. I was very excited about seeing Nicklaus play because I knew I would be able to get close to him on the practice tee and during the round. From these vantage points, I could closely analyze his swing, shot-making game, and strategic play.
On the day of the exhibition, Nicklaus did not let me down. From the time I arrived on the practice tee to meet him and watch him hit warm-up shots, I started gaining insights into technical points of his setup and swing that were never mentioned in his classic book Golf My Way, written in 1974. What surprised me most, as I watched Nicklaus select a club, address each shot slowly and surely, hit on-target shots with woods and irons, and analyze the ball's flight, was his intensity. Nicklaus's all-business mindset really impressed me, especially considering that he was playing in a casual event, not warming up for a major championship.
Nicklaus's strong-willed, determined attitude played a major role in his winning ways, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. But even in his amateur days, winning two U.S. Amateur championships before turning pro, he has been a serious golfer. He has always stuck to a strict work ethic and maintained the same steady and strong competitive spirit. These assets, plus knowing that to promote the best possible swing and shot, you must carefully take the time to correctly line up your body and the clubface, allowed Nicklaus to rise to the top of the golf world and stay there for a very long time.
Even today, though Nicklaus is admittedly entering his career twilight years, every golfer can learn to cut strokes off their score simply by copying this golfing master's preswing steps and address routine -- vital fundamentals taught to Nicklaus at an early age by Jack Grout, the golf pro at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.
Nicklaus began taking group and private lessons from Grout at age ten, his father and mentor, a member of Scioto, often looking on. Many golfers have heard that Grout was the golf instructor who taught Nicklaus, but few know just how educated Grout was on the intricacies of golf swing technique. That Grout evolved into such a technical whiz had a lot to do with the people he associated himself with. At age twenty, when he became an assistant to his older brother Dick, the pro at the Glen Garden Club in Fort Worth, Texas, he played and conversed with two young golf talents: Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. As if this were not enough, Grout also learned from pro Henry Picard, when he later worked as Picard's assistant at the Hershey Country Club in Pennsylvania. When you consider that Picard was the man who provided Hogan with golf hints learned from Alex Morrison, the teacher of the 1920s and 1930s, and that Hogan dedicated his classic book Power Golf to Picard, you can appreciate the wealth of golf knowledge passed on to Nicklaus. If Grout, Hogan, Nelson, Picard, and Morrison were compared to universities, you'd be talking about Nicklaus getting an education from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, and Cambridge.
Because Grout had watched great players swing and great teachers teach, by the time he began teaching Nicklaus in 1950, he knew what really was theory and what really was fact regarding golf technique. Grout taught pure fundamentals that Nicklaus followed to the letter, a chief reason why Nicklaus became a great player, as well as why you should consider modeling your game after this golfing legend. Grout believed that good fundamentals allow you to better coordinate the movement of the body with the movement of the club. Furthermore, if you set up correctly, you can swing at high speed and still maintain a rhythmic action, returning the clubface to a square impact position consistently. Since young Nicklaus liked to go after the ball, he was more than willing to stick faithfully to the fundamentals of the setup, provided he could give the ball a good old-fashioned whack.
Grout, unlike his fellow teachers, believed that a novice golfer should learn to swing hard initially, then acquire accuracy later. He was sure that a golfer who gets too accuracy-conscious at the outset will rarely be able to hit the ball hard later on. This unique philosophy literally played right into Nicklaus's hands. Once Nicklaus put a golf club in his hands, Grout enjoyed watching his star student wind up his body like a giant spring on the backswing, then swing the club down powerfully into the ball.The Nicklaus Way
An Analysis of the Unique Techniques and Strategies of Golf's Leading Major Championship Winner. Copyright © by John Andrisani. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.