Want to become totally confused when you step up to the golf ball? Read a lot of articles about the "right" way to hit a shot. The head position during the golf swing is a classic example. Should you rotate your head toward the target like Annika Sorenstam, perhaps the best woman golfer in history? Or should you anchor your head by looking at the ground at the point of impact, as Jack Nicklaus, perhaps the best male golfer in history, did during his career. The old rule from golf instructors was clear -- "Keep your head down." Recent golf instruction is not as adamant on head position during the swing.
The Nicklaus Approach
Nicklaus' approach is sometimes called "old-fashioned," but it led to a record number of major championships. As Nicklaus wrote for "Golf Digest," your head "needs to start behind the ball and stay there all the way through impact." Nicklaus looks down, with the ball positioned over his left cheek, then swivels his head a tiny bit to the right to start the backswing. At impact, his head remains just behind the ball.
The Sorenstam Approach
Sorenstam's head rotation during the swing astonished many golf instructors, but her success, as well as the success of male pros such as David Duval and Darren Clarke, convinced many experts that the move works better than keeping the head still. When Sorenstam starts her downswing, her head begins to rotate toward the target. In fact, at impact her eyes have moved away from the ball. Famed golf instructor Jim McClean, writing in "Golf Digest," says Sorenstam's head rotation increases her power and distance.
Confused yet? Rest assured, you're not alone. Tiger Woods says that his head position is exactly the same at address as it is at impact. Yet as Forever Better Golf notes, Tiger's head clearly moves slightly toward the ground during the downswing and at impact. Teaching guru David Leadbetter says that your head should swivel just after impact "to allow your eyes to look under the shot." Another renowned instructor, Joe Dante, rejects the notion of keeping your head down or still. His advice is to keep your head back behind the ball, similar to the Nicklaus approach.
OK, so how to you deal with such a diversity of opinion from top pros and instructors? You'll want to find an instructor who is on the same wavelength. If you can't understand your teacher when she talks about the golf swing, she's probably not the best one for you. And you might want to take lessons from a teacher who is flexible rather than autocratic when it comes to the "right" head position during the swing, as well as other elements of the golf swing. Find a swing and head position that works for you and produces a consistent result.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.