What were you up to at age 19?
A) Going to school. B) Working. C) Partying night and day. D) Playing and winning on the PGA Tour.
You are fibbing if you answered “D.” Unless you happen to be Jordan Spieth.
In July 2013, Spieth became the youngest Tour winner since 1931 when he claimed the John Deere Classic at age 19. Think about the precocious golfers who emerged in the 82 intervening years—Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and you realize what an astounding feat it was.
It was no accident, either. Spieth was a junior phenom growing up in Dallas, earned All-America honors as a freshman in helping the Texas Longhorns win a national title, and turned pro in 2012 during his sophomore year.
His rookie season on the PGA Tour was nothing short of sensational. Besides his victory, Spieth nabbed a pair of runner-up finishes (and counting as of mid-September) and a coveted berth on the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Obviously, Spieth's mental makeup sets him apart from other golfers his age. But make no mistake: He's got a swing that's built to last. Let's break down Spieth's move and divine a lesson or two.
Spieth's signature: Huge rotation around a steady head and spine.
Who else does it: Hunter Mahan
What it looks like: To be sure, a number of things about Spieth's swing stand out. There's the bowed left wrist at the top of his backswing, a la Dustin Johnson, as well as a “soft” left arm reminiscent of Curtis Strange; the downswing knee flex and “squat” shared by Woods and McIlroy; Sergio Garcia's powerful “lag” coming into the ball; and enormous hip rotation with a left leg “snap” like Woods, McIlroy and Gary Woodland.
But we'll focus on the core of Spieth's action.
From address to the top of the backswing, Spieth's head stays remarkably steady. Where many golfers, even great ones, move the head a good bit laterally to the right, Spieth's noggin strays very little from its original position. Naturally, his spine stays centered over the ball, too.
Meanwhile, Spieth uses his youthful flexibility to make a full 90° shoulder turn with excellent hip rotation. With his upper body stable, Spieth's right hip simply turns back and away from the ball, positioning him for an easy transition to the downswing.
Why it works for Spieth: The less the head moves off the ball as you swing back, the easier it becomes to return the club to the address position at impact. By staying centered on top of the ball, Spieth simplifies the process and, in effect, shortens the distance his hands move away from the ball—without limiting his power.
How it can work for you: Emulating Spieth's action is easier said than done, especially for amateurs who lack the youngster's suppleness. But if you can attain a 90° shoulder turn while standing upright, you're capable of integrating this move into your swing.
Tom Watson is a big proponent of turning the body around a stable spine. Click on Watson's name and you'll find a great tip on learning this tried-and-true method. It may not turn you into the next Jordan Spieth, but you're never too old to play fantastic golf.
Jordan Spieth – Fine Technique Powers Phenom's Swing
Without any doubt, Jordan Spieth is one of the very best golfers in the world – and he may be on his way to becoming one of the best of all time. In 2015, Spieth came as close to winning the Grand Slam as anyone since Tiger Woods, taking home the first two majors of the year and finishing T4 and runner-up in the final two. While he did not manage to win a major in 2016, he did post a T2 at The Masters, and made the cut in the remaining three. Spieth is sure to be a key member of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team for years to come, and there are almost certainly more majors to be added to his collection.
In many ways, Spieth is somewhat unique among the young golfers on the PGA Tour today. Unlike many of his contemporaries, who have games build on incredible power, Spieth has soared to the top thanks to a stunning short game. Of course, that is not to say that he is a short hitter – not by any stretch of the imagination. Spieth averages more than 295 yards off the tee during the 2016 season, which is more than enough power to keep up on today's huge golf courses. However, that number still leaves him behind the likes of Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, and others.
Without the overwhelming power of other young players, Spieth takes golf courses apart through great strategy, accurate iron shots, a steady nerve, and a clutch putter. In an age that has seen golf become more and more one-dimensional, it is fun to watch Spieth win tournaments with an all-around game that seems to only get better when the pressure is on. If you had to identify one single strength that stands above the rest when it comes to the game of Jordan Spieth, you would likely point to the lack of a specific weakness. He's a great golfer from top to bottom, which is why he has accomplished so much at such a young age.
With all of that said, you don't play quality golf on the world stage without the foundation of fine technique underneath it all. Spieth has a unique golf swing with some quirks that are all his own, but that swing produces quality shots time after time. His action is repeatable, it holds up under pressure, and it allows him to play the variety of shots needed to navigate the difficult courses that he faces each week. In the content below, we are going to look at a few specific points from within the swing of Jordan Spieth that have helped him to have so much success. If you can learn from some of the points that are highlighted below, you may be able to improve your own game as a result.
Rock Solid Address Position
It should come as absolutely no surprise that Jordan Spieth sets up to the ball in a picture-perfect position prior to getting his swing started. It is hard to imagine making any significant changes to this position when trying to copy it for your own game, as it is about as close to 'dead on' as you can get. While it is a mistake to try and copy the swing of a touring professional position for position from start to finish, there is nothing wrong with copying an address position. Since this is a static position, you should be able to replicate it in your own game with just a little bit of practice time and effort. So what is it that makes his address position so good? The following points are the main components to consider.
- Hands under shoulders. This is a point that many amateur golfers get wrong, but Spieth is in a perfect position when it comes to his hands and shoulders. At address, he has his hands hanging directly under his shoulders, which is a great indication that there is a lack of tension in his stance. By allowing the arms to hang freely down, Spieth is in a great spot from which to get the swing started smoothly. Many amateur golfers stand either too close to the ball or too far away, and they have trouble freely swinging the club as a result. In your own game, work on getting your hands perfectly under your shoulders at address and you should see instant improvement.
- Sitting into the stance. With flexed knees and his backside pushed out behind him, Spieth is able to get into a balanced and athletic stance that will allow him to easy move back and through the swing. Unfortunately, this is another position that is frequently missed by the average golfer. Rather than setting up with plenty of knee flex, the typical amateur stands relatively straight-legged over the ball, leading to a stiff and awkward swing. Practice taking your stance in front of a mirror and make sure you get down deep into your lower body to provide the base you need to make a powerful swing.
- Head up and eyes down. Forcing the chin down into the chest is another popular mistake among the amateur set, but not surprisingly, this is a mistake that is avoided successfully by Spieth. At address, he has his chin up and out of the way to provide room for his left shoulder to swing back cleanly. If you keep your chin down into your chest, your left shoulder will be 'blocked' during the backswing and you will wind up with a turn that falls short of its potential. While it is naturally important to keep your eyes down looking at the ball throughout the swing, you don't want to force your head down as well. Strike a balance between the two by keeping your head up and your eyes down and you will be in great shape to get the swing started.
There is nothing in the list above that requires any level of talent to accomplish. If you are willing to pay attention to detail, and you are willing to rehearse your address position on a regular basis, you can build a stance that will serve you well round after round. There is really no excuse to play from a poor stance – golf is a hard game, but this is one part of the game that doesn't need to be a challenge. Spend some time in the near future working on correcting any flaws in your stance and you can look forward to playing from a great position for years to come.
Once the club goes in motion, there is plenty more to notice – and to like – about Spieth's swing. The next point we are going to look at take place halfway back, when the club shaft is parallel to the ground in the backswing. There are a number of positives to take away from this portion of the swing, including the fact that the clubface has remained beautifully square and the fact that Spieth has held on nicely to his address position (with the exception of a slight straightening of the right leg). However, the point we are going to cover here actually has to do with the extension in his arms at this phase of the action. Rather than allowing his arms to come in close to his body and fold up during the takeaway, Spieth has maintained great extension with his arm swing and the swing as a whole has a wide arc as a result.
So what is so great about a wide arc? Well, for one thing, that width is usually going to lead to power later on in the swing. When you make a wide swing you are providing distance between the club head and the ball – and that distance can be used up later as you are accelerating down into impact. This is why taller players usually are longer hitters, as they have more room between their arms and the ball with which to work. Even though Spieth is of relatively average height for a tour player, he gets the most out of his swing by keeping great extension going back.
As you might suspect, this is another point where most amateur golfers come up short. It is extremely common for the left arm to fold up quickly upon on the takeaway, meaning the swing will take a narrow path and there will always be more clubhead speed that could have been achieved with a better arc. While it might feel 'weird' at first to extend the arms back away from the ball in the takeaway, that is exactly what needs to be done if speed and power are going to be created.
Extension in the backswing is good for power, but it has a number of other benefits as well. Specifically, it can be a great help when it come to striking the ball cleanly on the way through impact. A narrow swing is often a steep swing, and steep swings require perfect timing in order achieve a clean hit at the bottom. By adding extension as you go back, you should be able to flatten out your plane slightly, making it easier to put the sweet spot on the back of the ball at impact. There are certainly plenty of other elements of the swing that need to be in order if you are going to hit the ball solidly on a regular basis, but good extension is one of the key pieces of the puzzle.
As you are working on adding extension to your backswing, be sure to keep yourself as well-balanced as possible in the process. Many players wind up pulling themselves to the right (and away from the target) as they try to reach back for more width. This is the wrong way to go about adding to your arc. You shouldn't feel like you are 'reaching' back so much as you are simply rotating away from the target with your arms extended just as they were at address. This is again why it is so important to get into a good stance before starting your swing. With the fundamentals of the stance in place over the ball, you can simply turn to the right knowing that everything is going to fall nicely in line from there.
If you think that adding extension to your swing could benefit your ball striking, the first thing to do is record your motion on video to determine if extension is actually a problem. You don't want to spend time working on something that you are actually doing right to begin with, so take a moment to capture a video of your swing before you head to the range to work on this point. Only when you are sure that you need to add extension into your backswing should you go ahead and work on adding width to your arc in search of added power and speed.
Ideal at the Top
The top of the backswing is probably the single most analyzed position in the game, as it is an easy point to check and it can tell you a lot about what has taken place up to that point in the swing – and what is likely to take place as you head for impact. Continuing with the theme, it is no surprise to see that Jordan Spieth is in an excellent position at the top of the swing just as he was in our previous two 'checkpoints'. It is not accident that this young man has accomplished so much in golf in the early stages of his career – there just isn't much to criticize within his swing.
Much like we did for his address position, we are going to look at some of the key points which make up the ideal top-of-the-backswing position that Spieth is able to find time after time. Review the points below and think about which ones might be able to benefit your game.
- Right elbow pointed down. This might be the biggest point for the average amateur golfer to check out when they look at the top of Spieth's swing. When he arrives at the top of the swing, the right elbow is pointed directly down at the ground. Not only is this a great position, it is also a pretty big departure from the position that most amateur golfers find at the top. The average player tends to have his or her elbow pointing somewhere out behind them, which is a position that almost always leads to an over-the-top move and a slice. If you are one of the millions of golfers who fights a slice from time to time, make sure to check for this mistake in your swing before anything else. A 'flying' right elbow is a quick way to create a slice, even if the rest of your technique looks relatively solid.
- Still in that stance. Even though the club has been wrapped all the way around his back and his shoulders have turned tremendously away from the target, Spieth has managed to stay down in his stance nicely. Sure, that right leg is a bit straighter than it was at address, but that isn't a big deal. He is still tilted out over the ball nicely, and both feet are firmly planted on the ground. Even if you aren't an expert on the technical points of the golf swing, it is easy to see how this position at the top will lead to a clean and powerful strike at the bottom.
- Perfectly balanced. Another point that many amateurs fail to hit on during the golf swing is balance. It is incredibly important to stay balanced during your swing – in fact, you could say that balance is the single most important element of the golf swing overall. Players who are well-balanced during the swing tend to make solid contact at the bottom, while those who are leaning one way or another rarely hit the ball with the sweet spot. Of course, at the top of his swing, Jordan Spieth is perfectly balanced, which leads to an aggressive and powerful downswing that has no 'hold back' whatsoever.
- Flat left wrist. Many people think that Spieth plays from a bowed left wrist position at the top, but that isn't actually the case. When you freeze a video of his swing right at the top, you will see that the left wrist is perfectly flat. By extension, that means the club face is still square to the target line, and he will have an easy time hitting the ball on his selected line when the club comes back into impact. Amateur golfers often play from a cupped position with that left wrist at the top of the swing, which is another mistake that can lead to a slice.
It is hard to find anything bad to say about the positions that Spieth finds at the top of the swing – but would you expect anything less? For a two-time major champion whose worst finish in The Masters is T2, the swing has to be a reliable and repeatable piece of the puzzle – and that is exactly what it is. Jordan Spieth rides excellent swing technique, along with an impressive short game, to great scores on some of the world's toughest courses.
A Unique Follow Through
If you have been looking for something about Spieth's game that doesn't seem to fall in line with 'textbook' golf teaching, it would certainly be the follow through. As Spieth moves the club through the ball, his left arm begins to come up away from his side as he holds the face square to the target line for as long as possible. This is a unique move, and it is one that you will not see made by the majority of Spieth's professional golf peers. So is this a 'flaw' in his swing, or just a unique trait that allows him to play at a high level? Bet on the latter.
With this move, Spieth is often able to avoid missing the ball left. He will still miss right from time to time, but the left-side miss is almost completely taken out of the game due to the way he holds off the release. There isn't much of a release through the ball when swinging this way, which may account for the slightly distance disadvantage that Spieth faces on the tour. However, any loss of distance seems to be more than made up for with accuracy gains, as Spieth can control his golf ball like very few others in the world.
Not only does this interesting follow through style seem to help Spieth control the ball on longer shots, but it also may account for his tremendous wedge play. There aren't many players who can consistently wedge it as close to the hole as Spieth, and part of that talent is owed to this portion of his technique. There is no need for power in the wedge game, and by holding off the face through impact, Spieth is able to hit his target line time after time. Additionally, without much release to speak of, the club is stable through impact, meaning it is easy for Spieth to make solid contact on the sweet spot of the face of his wedges. Add it all up, and it points to one thing – impressive wedge shots that allow Spieth to save par or make birdie with an impressive level of consistency.
If you like to follow professional golf, and you enjoy seeing young and talented players turn into superstars, Jordan Spieth is an easy figure to root for. His attitude and personality have already earned him millions of fans, and there is no end in sight to the advancement of his popularity. With a fundamentally sound golf swing and an uncommon level of talent, there is almost no limit to what Spieth could accomplish before his career is complete.