Six Lessons We Can Learn From Sam Snead

Like many of golf’s great players, Sam Snead relied on swing keys to help him achieve consistency. As his membership in golf’s hall of fame attests, these swing keys served him well during his career. What’s interesting is that many of them are still used by today’s pros to do the same thing.

Below are several time-tested swing keys that can help you achieve consistency and knock that golf handicap down a few notches.

1. Relax Your Hands
Your hands are one of the keys to your swing. If your hands are tight and tense, your body will be tight and tense, and you won’t be able to swing freely. If your hands are loose, you’ll not only hit the ball farther but you’ll even swing smoother as well.

Snead used to think of gripping the club with the same amount of pressure you’d use to hold a bird just firm enough to let it fly away but not firm enough to hurt it. Others think of holding a tube of toothpaste in their hands, just firm enough to squeeze a little toothpaste out of the tube but not hard enough to push out too much.

2. First Move Down
Different golfers key on different things to begin their swings. Some focus on pulling downward with the left arm (for right-handers). Others concentrate on turning the front hip in slightly. Still others key on lowering the left heel slightly. For Snead, it was all these things. Since you can think of all them at once while you swing, choose whichever move reminds you to make your first move down.

3. Hit The Dimple
A lot of my students ask during golf lessons what to look at when putting the ball. Apparently, a lot of people also asked Sam the same question when he was playing on the tour. He had a simple answer. Pick out a dimple on the ball and try to hit it.

The idea is to make the club strike the farthest back part of the ball every time. Zero in on that particular dimple, then putt away. If you hit that dimple squarely your putter is probably moving and facing in the right direction. You’ll get solid contact unless you’re chopping at the ball or swing up to it. Aiming for the dimple will improve consistency.

4. Cure The Slice
The slice is probably the biggest swing fault among recreational golfers. To cure a slice, check to see that:

• The club starts back inside the line
• Your left side is completing the turn
• The left arm/hand dominate the backswing/downswing
• The stance is not the same for the intentional slice, hindering a complete pivot.

For a quick cure, try hitting the ball to the right of the fairway. This approach aids in bringing the club into the ball more from the inside than the outside.

5. Lobbing to the Green
Snead always relished a challenge. And trying to hit a lob shot over a hazard to the green is a challenge. Snead’s advice when pitching over a hazard with little green between him and the hole was simple: You want the shot to fly high and land soft-one that will settle in its tracks. To execute this shot, you first need to address the ball with the clubface laid back more than usual, increasing the loft.

Once you’ve done that, take the club straight back and break your wrists early in the swing. Strike down through the ball with the hands leading through the clubhead, and with the wrists snapping into the ball. This produces a high lob that lands softly. The whole swing should be leisurely and rhythmical.

6. Swing in “Waltz” Time
Everyone has his or her own pace. Some golfers play at a fast pace. Others play at a more leisurely pace. If you had seen Sam play, you would have noticed that he always swung the club slowly and smoothly. He called it swinging in waltz time and that was his swing key for keeping his swing under control.

Sam liked to tell the story of the time he gave a lesson to player who played like he was going to a fire. He couldn’t get at the ball quick enough in an effort to try and hit the ball 400 yards. The divots were flying father than the balls. Afraid the guy might hurt himself, Sam stepped in and told the guy to slow his swing down. Next time Sam saw the man, he was amazed. The man had slowed his swing down to waltz time.

Sam Snead was one of the games best players and teachers. Like many golfers he used specific keys to trigger his golf swing and achieve consistency. The six we explained above were just a sample. By incorporating them into your swing, you’ll be well on your way to reaching that single-digit golf handicap you’ve always wanted.

Copyright (c) 2006 Jack Moorehouse