It wouldn’t be accurate to say Jimmy Walker came out of nowhere to win three of the first eight events in the 2013-14 PGA Tour season. But it’s not far from the truth.
Walker’s previous results landed him comfortably in the “journeyman” category. No victories in 187 tour starts. A career-best finish of 30th on the money list. One could argue his portfolio of astrophotography images was as impressive as his golf record. (The images are, in fact, pretty amazing.)
But a funny thing happened on the way to career anonymity. Walker won the Frys.com Open. Then he won the Sony Open in Hawaii. And in February 2014, he claimed the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by a stroke over Dustin Johnson, joining Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval as the only players since 1999 to win three times in their first eight starts of a season.
The lanky Texan may not yet be a household name, but he’s come a long way in a few months. Let’s break down Walker’s swing for clues to his success.
Walker’s signature: A wider-than-average stance.
Who else does it: Graham DeLaet
What it looks like: Typically, golfers are taught to address the driver with their feet shoulder-width apart – that is, with the insides of the feet directly aligned with the outsides of the shoulders. Walker spreads his feet a little farther to provide a more stable base. This is a really good idea for tall golfers, who often struggle to maintain balance.
Why it works for Walker: The wider stance not only bolsters his balance, it keeps his lower and upper body connected. As Walker turns away from the ball, his hips stay beneath his shoulders, with no lateral sway off the ball. This “stacked” rotation greatly improves a golfer’s chance of making solid contact.
Walker’s wide stance also helps maximize his body’s length by promoting a huge swing arc, a la Davis Love III. At the top of his backswing, Walker’s left arm is perpendicular to the ground, his hands stretched far from his head – an incredibly powerful position which, unfortunately, few of us have the flexibility to copy. It’s no surprise he averages better than 300 yards off the tee.
Coming down, Walker’s legs stay steady thanks to that wide base. He drives through the ball with a full release of the arms, remains beautifully balanced and strikes a classic pose at the finish.
How it can work for you: While a wide stance works especially well for tall folks, it can do wonders for regular-sized golfers, too.
If you struggle to keep your balance throughout the swing, or you sway laterally going back and through, moving your feet out just a half-inch or so could bring you into sync. It’s also a good fix for hitting the ball fat or too high, as the added width shallows out the club’s path into the ball.
By spreading your feet, you may even tap hidden reserves of power. A wider stance limits hip turn; provided you can still rotate the shoulders sufficiently, this increases your “X-Factor” – the torque-boosting coil of your midsection.
Experiment with different stances to find a width that works best. Two things to remember: 1) Narrow your stance slightly with each shorter club, and 2) Go too wide and you may restrict your hip turn too much.
Here’s a tip that will help you transition more easily: Widen Stance to Add Power, Accuracy
Get your stance width just right and who knows? Maybe you’ll end up a star like Jimmy Walker.