Some junior golf phenoms burn out and never reach their potential. Others start winning early and never stop. Looks like Harris English belongs in the latter category.
A four-time state champion as a high schooler in Chattanooga, Tenn., English moved on to the University of Georgia and became a four-time All-America pick. He turned pro in 2011, won a Nationwide Tour event the same year, then broke through on the PGA Tour at the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic. Rest on his laurels? Not English. He kicked off the 2014 season by winning the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
English has the talent and temperament to accomplish bigger and better things. It helps to be a birdie machine – he ranked third on Tour with 368 birdies in 2013. Blessed with the gift of height, the 6’3” golfer uses his natural ability to pound 300-yard drives with regularity. He’s also solid with the irons and putter.
Keep an eye on this 24-year-old. If his past is any indication, he’s got a very bright future.
English’s signature: Uses long arms to full effect.
What it looks like: English is lean, lanky and athletic. In other words, he’s built to drive the ball miles. And he’s got a swing that ensures his gifts aren’t wasted.
English sets up tall and relaxed, then draws the club back with a classic one-piece takeaway. His arms and hands stay in front of the chest throughout the backswing, even as English stretches them as far as he can get them away from his body. This creates the wide swing arc nearly all big hitters display.
On the downswing, English maintains separation between arms and body – more than most tour pros, in fact. There’s a noticeable gap between his right elbow and his right side, which contradicts the commonly held notion of keeping the elbow tucked against the rib cage.
Pay special attention to English’s follow-through – it’s remarkably similar to Singh’s. Both arms extend away from the body, toward the target, all the way to the top. Unlike most players, English doesn’t fold his left arm early, but keeps it nearly as straight as his right arm all the way – and in front of his still-rotating chest all the while.
Why it works for English: If you play or follow baseball, you know that power hitters are most dangerous when they can fully extend their arms. English does this with his comfortable, spacious posture and by moving his arms, shoulders and hips in sync.
At setup, English doesn’t crowd himself by leaning over, and he positions his head behind the ball (with the driver) to promote a wide takeaway. Coming down, he thrusts his hips laterally to create additional room for the arms; by keeping his right elbow away from his side, he keeps from getting “stuck” behind his body and pushing or hooking shots.
English never stops turning his lower or upper body, rotating into the follow-through and finish. Otherwise, his arms would take over and he’d hit massive hooks.
How it can work for you: Tall golfers are prone to overswinging; their long legs and arms make it difficult to develop a compact swing. It’s not impossible, however, as English and others prove.
The first goal is to take advantage of your build with a wide, one-piece takeaway. This drill will teach you how:
Next, you must keep the arms, shoulders and chest moving together all the way to the top. The key: When your shoulders stop turning, your arms should stop as well.
From there, it’s all downhill. With your hips leading the way, the arms and chest turn in harmony. As you enter the impact area, focus on “throwing” the hands toward the target by stretching those arms. Use this practice tip to ingrain the correct motion:
- Tee up a ball to hit, then place a second tee in the ground about 8” past the ball, on the target line, with about an inch of the tee above the turf.
- Your goal is to swing the club directly over the second tee, clipping it on the way by.
- If you hook the ball or your arms break down early on the follow-through, make sure your shoulders keep turning through the shot.
Long-armed golfers would be wise to emulate Harris English’s swing mechanics. This big guy may well be golf’s “Next Big Thing.”