Who Is He?
Some say that Lee Trevino was so straight off the tee that he only left the fairway to answer the phone! It is this legendary accuracy and supreme ball striking that have led him to such an outstanding professional career. He has won all of the major championships, apart from The Masters, and he has won them all twice each, with six major titles and 89 career victories. It was well deserved when he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.
For those golfers that Trevino was struggling to beat with his play, there was always the option of talking them to death.
What He Does
Far from a classic looking golf swing, Lee Trevino used his unorthodox movements to good effect and was one of the world's greatest ball strikers. From a slightly slouched and rounded back address position, Trevino made a very fluid movement to the top of the backswing, which resulted in a relatively bent left arm, and a very badly bowed left wrist position. The badge on the back of the left handed glove would be facing almost directly up to the sky at the top of the backswing. Trevino then dropped the golf club very aggressively down behind him and attacked the golf ball from the inside angle.
This is all accompanied by a very dynamic and sometimes swaying looking leg action. His left knee often swayed well past his left foot during the downswing, which resulted in him being off balance through impact and walking off after the golf ball as he followed through.
What Can You Learn?
Trevino's swing goes to show that with correct ball striking and a good understanding of your swing and it's accompanying faults, a golfer will often still be able to compete at the highest level. Trevino has some very unorthodox movements, however, he understands them and is able to control them enough. Through the latter stages of his career, like most of the more mature golfers, he has learned to live with his swing and no longer fights to make changes, he is happy to embrace his uniqueness.
What Should You Avoid?
Trevino's bowed left wrist at the top of the backswing would cause many golfers to deliver a club face to the ball which would be aiming too far left in a classic closed or shut position. This would result in golf balls flying left of target for the right handed golfer.
Also, Trevino's excessively dynamic leg movement and lack of stability in his lower half would cause many golfers problems with their stability and height of golf swing, resulting in inconsistent ball striking.
Lee Trevino Pro Golfer Swing Sequence
In many ways, the history of golf hasn't really been fair to Lee Trevino. Sure, he is remembered by millions of golf fans, but often it is more for his personality than it is for his golf game. To be sure, Trevino brought plenty of personality and life to a game that could often use more of it. But beyond that, he was truly one of the best players in the history of golf. Very few men can claim to own at least six major championship trophies, but Trevino is in that club. Trevino won the U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship twice each, with the Masters Tournament standing as the only major he did not claim. By any measure, Trevino had a stellar, Hall of Fame career, even if you set aside his infectious personality.
These days, most of the top professional golfers have swings that look largely the same. There are a few subtle differences from player to player, of course, but the modern game is played with the same basic technique by just about everyone on the professional tours. That was not the case decades ago, however, and Trevino is a perfect illustration of that point. His swing was uniquely his own, and it was not something that any instructor would direction his or her student to follow. Obviously, Trevino made this unique swing work beautifully, as you can't have the kind of success that he had in his career without being an excellent ball striker.
There are a few things that the average golfer can learn from the swing of Lee Trevino. Even though it wouldn't be a great idea to copy is swing frame-by-frame for your own game, there are still plenty of points that you can pick out and use for your own improvement. In fact, this is the best way to work toward a better golf swing, no matter which pro player you are using as a model. It is not a good idea to to attempt to copy any players swing completely, as all golfers (and people) are unique. However, you can pull different bits and pieces from the techniques of a variety of players in order to put together a swing that is completely your own.
Before getting into the specific parts of Trevino's swing that you can imitate to improve on your own performance, we should make a point about not being afraid to be an individual on the course. It should go without saying that Trevino had no reservations about being himself and doing things his own way – that much is perfectly clear from watching him hit even just a single shot. In the same way, you should not be afraid to come at the game from your own perspective. You don't have to look like anyone else, or swing like anyone else, in order to play great golf. As long as you are willing to stick to your own game plan, and you have confidence in what it is that you are trying to do, it will be possible to post good scores.
All of the instruction points included below are written from the perspective of a right handed golfer, as Trevino himself played right handed. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Playing with a Strong Grip
The grip is a highly personal part of the golf swing. You have to feel comfortable with the way your hands fit on the club, so it can be tricky to tell someone else how they should hold on to the grip – only each individual knows how the club feels to them during the swing. With that said, it is worthwhile for every amateur golfer to at least experiment with the idea of using a strong grip. There are many benefits to a strong grip for the average player, and few drawbacks to speak of. While it is certainly possible to play well with a weak or neutral grip, the typical weekend golfer will usually find that they play at their highest level when employing a strong left hand grip.
u are unaware, a 'strong' grip is one that has the left hand turned significantly to the right on the top of the grip. The best way to check on the position of your grip is to determine how many knuckles you can see on the back of your left hand at address. If you can see at least three knuckles – or even all four – you will know you are using a strong grip. However, if you see only two, or even just one, your grip falls into the weak category.
Lee Trevino used a strong left hand grip as one of the keys to his productive swing, and the results speak for themselves. If you are thinking about switching to a strong grip in your own game, consider the following benefits that you may enjoy.
- Stability through impact. There is a reason they call this kind of grip a 'strong' grip – it gives you great control over the club head through the ball. If you have noticed that the club head feels a bit out of control in your current swing when you contact the ball, you may want to try turning your left hand to the right in order to give it some added strength. You still need to hit the ball cleanly in order to get that great feeling at the bottom of the swing that all golfers are looking for, but using a stronger grip is a nice place to start.
- Proper release. One of the problems with a weak grip is the difficulty you may have releasing the club properly through the hitting area. It is hard to use your hands to release the club when using a weak or neutral grip, because they simply don't have that much control over how the club is moving. Therefore, you have to make an aggressive move with your body through impact in order to get the club face into a square position. That isn't necessarily the worst thing to have to do, but it is difficult for some golfers to execute that move. Instead of asking so much of your body rotation, you could opt to use a stronger grip in order to make the release easier on the way down. Most players with strong grips have no trouble at all releasing the club, meaning they find it easy to at least start the ball on the correct line.
- Improved ability to hit a draw. This point is somewhat ironic, as Trevino used a strong grip to produce a fade throughout his storied career. However, most golfers who use a strong grip find that it helps them to turn the ball over from right to left (if that is something that they want to do). If you have long wanted to produce a draw on command, but never could quite make it happen, you might be able to finally cross that bridge thanks to the help provided by a strong grip. Not only will your improved ability to release the club help with hitting a draw, but you will also find that your takeaway tends to track more to the inside with the strong grip – another move that is usually needed to turn the ball over.
There are plenty of reasons to consider using a strong grip, so the best thing you can do is get out and try it for yourself. During your next trip to the range, experiment with your swing by turning your grip into a stronger position for a few shots to see what happens. You don't have to commit to anything long-term at this point – just hit a few shots and pay attention to how those shots look and feel. If you think there is potential to this idea, you can keep working at it. If not, you can go back to your old grip and move on from there.
Controlled Backswing Length
This is a point that countless amateur golfers could learn from – and they would almost immediately become better golfers as a result. Lee Trevino used a very controlled backswing that didn't get anywhere near parallel at the top before he transitioned back into the downswing. In the modern game, most players force themselves to get the club all the way to parallel at the top, if not farther. Not only is that unnecessary, it can make it much more difficult to make solid contact with the ball at impact. To quickly improve the quality of your ball striking without changing much of anything else about your swing, work on making a tighter, more controlled backswing turn.
It is important to not confuse making a shorter backswing with making a shorter shoulder turn. Lee Trevino did a great job of making a full shoulder turn within his golf swing – but he controlled the swing of his arms in order to keep the club in front of him and the overall swinging motion relatively short. It's the arm swing that you really want to watch out for in your own game. There is nothing wrong with making a big shoulder turn going back. In fact, that is exactly what you should be trying to do. However, you don't want to let that arm swing get out of control. If the arms swing back too far and the club drifts past parallel, you will be losing control without getting anything back in return.
One of the biggest areas of improvement you are likely to see when you employ a shorter backswing is your balance. Having great balance is a key to striking solid shots, and it was something that Lee Trevino mastered early on in his golf career. By maintaining control over where your weight is going during the swing, you can more predictably deliver the club to the back of the ball – and golf is all about being predictable and repeatable. Most amateur golfers have poor balance, and it shows when they hit the ball fat or thin on a regular basis. You should already know just how important it is to hit the ball cleanly, and swinging with better balance is a huge key to doing just that.
You might be surprised to find that you won't really lose any power off of your shots when you tighten up your backswing. It isn't so much the arm swing that you use which dictates how much power you can create as it is the rotation of the core of your body. This is why it is some important to key on your shoulder turn. If you can make a good shoulder turn back, and a great lower body turn through the shot, the power you are looking for will show up without a problem. In many ways, making a long arm swing is 'faking' a good rotation, only the ball isn't going to fall for the fake. Forget about making a long swing with your arms and instead make a great turn with the rest of your body – the speed you can generate this way will be impressive, and maybe even surprising.
Lee Trevino was never known as a long hitter, but he certainly hit the ball long enough to keep up with the other top players in the world during his day. Too many golfers in this day and age prioritize distance over control, and they pay the price when they can't hit a narrow fairway or stop the ball on a small green. Set yourself apart by making a controlled, shorter backswing and hit the ball on your target line time and time again.
Staying Behind the Ball
This is a point that is rarely taught in today's game, but it remains just as important now as ever. If you were to watch a video of Lee Trevino's swing from the face-on perspective, you would immediately notice that he does an incredible job of keeping his head – and the rest of his body – behind the ball beautifully at impact. The swing is almost all rotational with very little lateral movement to speak of taking place. This rotational focus is one of the biggest reasons why Trevino was able to strike the ball so cleanly day after day, week after week. With hardly any lateral action in his swing, Trevino's balance was always on point and he could simply turn hard through the shot without having to worry about making clean contact.
Unfortunately, this kind of swing stands in stark contrast to many of the swings seen on driving ranges around the world today. More and more golfers fall into the trap of sliding from side to side, as they feel that they can create more speed in this manner. That, of course, is a mistake. You will always be able to develop more speed by turning than you will by moving laterally, so you should drop the habit of moving from side to side as quickly as possible. It may be hard to break that habit at first if you are used to swaying in your swing, but stick with it until you get out of that mold.
When you stay behind the ball on the way down, you will have an easier time keeping your balance, and you will also notice that your swing is more stable as impact approaches. Even if you are on balance, it can still be difficult to make good contact if your body is moving around in a number of different directions. Staying behind the ball, however, you will feel grounded, centered, and ready to attack the ball with aggression. The still image of Trevino at impact is a beautiful one, and the quality of that position is no doubt related to the great golf that he was able to play throughout his career.
To work on staying behind the ball in your own swing, hit some practice shots on the range while thinking only about keeping your head perfectly still until the ball is gone. If you can keep your head in the same spot throughout the swing, you will know for a fact that you have stayed behind the ball properly. Only when your head drifts past the position of the ball on the way down do you need to worry about the rest of your body coming along for the lateral ride.
Aggressive Down Through the Wedges
This last point is one that applies only to the wedge game, but it is extremely important and will be helpful to the average player. When Lee Trevino hit a 'standard' wedge shot from the fairway, he did a great job of hitting down aggressively through the ball. He is hardly alone in this point, of course, as many pros hit down nicely on their wedges. However, Trevino was one of the best, and his skill with a wedge was a big part of the reason why he could keep up with – and defeat – many longer hitters in his day.
By hitting down on his wedges, Trevino gained a number of advantages. Some of those points are as follows.
- Plenty of backspin. This is one of the main keys, as having a high backspin rate on your wedge shots allows you to attack pins even when they are cut close to the edge of the green. Trevino was great at getting up and down from the fairway thanks in large part to the incredible spin he could put on the ball. Many amateur golfers think that backspin is some kind of magic trick, but there really isn't anything too it – you just need to hit down on the ball and make clean contact at impact. If you can do those two things, the ball will spin nicely. Once you learn how to hit down to create more spin, you will just need to spend some time practicing with those spinning shots so you can learn how to control them properly.
- Dealing with poor lies. When you hit down on your wedges, you are able to better deal with lies that are 'less than ideal'. Whether your ball is in the rough or just sitting in a bad spot on the fairway, you are going to inevitably have to deal with some bad lies from time to time. By hitting down aggressively through impact, those poor lies will largely be rendered meaningless, and you will be able to knock your ball up onto the green with ease. You can bet that Trevino dealt with all kinds of poor lies throughout his career playing around the world, and his ability to handle shots from bad spots certainly played a role in his success.
- Controlling trajectory. One of the worst things you can do on the course is to hit your wedges way up into the air. Many amateurs think it is a good thing to hit sky-high wedge shots, but that actually is a myth. Hitting high wedges will only cause you to lose control of the golf ball, both in terms of direction and distance. In order to capture control of your ball and place it near to the target time after time, you want to keep it much closer to the ground. Trevino was great at bringing the ball in low while using spin to make it stop, and you should attempt to take a very similar approach with your own wedge game.
As one of the best golfers of all-time, Lee Trevino doesn't need to apologize to anyone for the unique nature of his swing. Does Trevino have a swing that would come directly out of the pages of a golf textbook? No – certainly not. But who cares? With six majors to his credit as part of a Hall of Fame career, Trevino did it his own way and he did it well. While you shouldn't try to copy his entire swing, learning from some points such as those highlighted above can definitely help your own performance on the course.