What I learned from watching celebrities play golf
So many celebrities are keen golfers. You’d think that with their enormous wealth and the top-tier golf tuition it could afford, their games would be flawless. But this is rarely the case.
Recently I watched a few videos of celebrity golf swings to see whether I could learn anything, and I was surprised by the glaring errors that I saw. These are guys in the top echelons of Hollywood and political circles and their stances are off, they don’t follow through properly, and various other golf swing rules are broken or ignored completely.
And you know what? I found this strangely motivating. It levelled the playing field a little bit: if these guys get it wrong even with the money to get the best tuition, then maybe wealth isn’t a barrier to playing good golf.
We decided to commission a PGA professional to take a look at some of these swings and pick out the most actionable tips to improve your golf game…
Your back and shoulder muscles should do the work, not your wrists!
Ray Romano taught us this. When he steps up to the ball, Ray aligns himself and the club really well. “But it all goes wrong with the first move”, as our PGA professional said.
From here, Ray puts too much movement into his wrists, leading to a scoop action at the bottom of the swing. “This is usually a subconscious attempt to help the ball into the air”, our professional says, before explaining that often it just makes your shot unpredictable.
Using the power of your shoulder and back muscles is the best way to swing. Resist the urge to use the wrists.
Avoid shifting your weight too early to transfer as much power to the ball as possible.
Justin Timberlake is another celebrity golfer we looked at, and he was one of the best we saw. His swing has a great address position and great alignment, but despite this, he suffers slightly on the downswing.
At the moment of impact, almost all of Justin’s weight is on the left leg, and as our PGA professional noted, “this is a distance killer on long swings”. Staying mindful of where your weight is throughout your swing will help you to get more distance and consistency in your game.
Keep unnecessary movements out of your swing
Jack Nicholson taught us this. His swing is wild, with a really noticeable unbalanced finish. As you can see below, Jack’s torso is centred over both legs rather than being over his leading leg:
This lack of balance means the geometry of his swing is inconsistent, and as a result his shots will be less accurate and more unpredictable.
The takeaway here? It’s important to focus on maintaining the correct posture right the way through your swing.
Avoid swinging slightly under the plane
Once you start thinking about swing geometry, you can go pretty granular. Another thing to look at is clubhead height on the upswing. US president Donald Trump is a good example of a golfer who doesn’t raise the clubhead as high as received golfing wisdom recommends:
His red line is much more shallow than it should be.
Interestingly, Don still achieves a powerful swing despite this, showing that you can play a good game even if you flout a few best practices. Our PGA professional said that Trump would probably be more consistent if his clubhead was higher, and that he may be able to squeeze a bit more power out of his (admittedly already powerful) swing.
Aim the club shaft at your left shoulder, rather than straight vertical
This focus on consistency and accuracy isn’t just relevant with drivers and woods, though. Watching Will Smith’s swing showed us that you need to be attentive while putting as well:
Note that Will (on the right) aligns the club shaft with the centre of his head, rather than with his left shoulder or shirt badge, as demonstrated on the left.
These little rules of thumb will help you to be more consistent, and as we know, consistency on the putting green is an important part of your game.
Avoid moving your hips forward as you swing
It’s not just the upper body you need to look out for either. Watching Samuel L Jackson play shows us the risk of early hips extension, where you move your pelvis closer to the ball at impact. The risk here is that your hips get in the way of your arms and club, and interrupt your swing.
The green arrow shows Sam’s hips moving relatively far forward.
Often being aware of this and making a conscious effort to not move your hips forward can control early hips extension.
It’s interesting to note that Barack Obama’s swing also suffers from a lack of hip clearance on his downswing.
Stand up straight, and if you’re not able to, learn how to compensate!
This was inspired by Clint Eastwood’s swing. Because of old age accentuating a natural stoop, Clint leans quite heavily over the ball. This means his back isn’t straight at address, requiring compensatory movements through the rest of his swing.
Here you can see Clint’s angle of approach versus what is recommended.
Obviously some people are restricted by their natural body shape, so improving posture isn’t always an option. If this is the case, it’s worth learning about which compensations you can use to improve your swing, to reduce the overall impact.
What we learned…
It was quite fascinating watching these celebrities play, and seeing how golfers of all shapes and sizes (and wealth levels!) have flaws in their game. It’s motivational for a couple of reasons: firstly, there’s almost unlimited scope for improvement. And secondly, it shows that improvement is just as possible for the average golfer as for the celebrities.
So with that, we’re off to practice what we’ve learned!
Thanks for reading. You can read our full write-up and analysis of all the celebrities we analysed over at the Glencor Golf blog.