Almost every great ball striker who ever lived has waggled the club. However, this fundamental is almost never taught today and it’s rarely seen outside of the players on the PGA Tour. As a result, few golfers take full advantage of this simple yet vital body action done immediately before starting the swing.
Essentially, the waggle motion provides a smooth transition from the static position at address to the dynamic movement of the swing. These techniques act as a trigger to relax, tune up and tone up the muscles that will be used during the swing. It also gives them a feel for the pace at which the movement of the swing will take place. Unfortunately, most recreational golfers and even some modern Tour players get too mechanical over the ball. They stop moving and take too much time before they draw the club back, which almost guarantees to create tension.
Jack Nicklaus initiated his backswing by turning his chin to the right, so it points at a spot a couple of feet behind the ball. This distinctive move served as a trigger to help get his swing started, and it allowed him to turn more easily. A tilt of the chin also helps to identify the line for your backswing so it doesn’t get too far inside or outside. It previews the straighter-back path that is suited to a basic fade or a more inside path that is suited to a basic draw. It’s a principle that Alex Morrison advocated and discussed in his 1940 book, Better Golf Without Practice. Morrison recommended holding the chin back through the strike to keep the right shoulder from becoming too active and causing the club to swing down from the outside. This action prevents an over-the-top move.
Practically every fine player in the game, present and past, has kept their arms and hands moving until taking the club back. Historically, Johnny Revolta; a marquee golfer from my father’s generation and winner of the 1935 PGA Championship, is widely credited for being the first to realize the importance of a precise and refined waggle of the hands and arms. Revolta was a master of the short game and a real “hands” player. He was one of the first to make use of the waggle as a precursor or mini-simulation of the upcoming golf shot. He also used it to establish the club-head’s path on the backswing and for overall swing tempo.
It seems that Revolta was the first to vary the speed and rhythm of the waggle according to the different circumstances he encountered. On normal shots, he waggled the club head back and forth along the target line. For a fade, he waggled on a slightly out-to-in path. For a draw, he followed an in-to-out line. Essentially, it’s good form to feel that your weight is moving back and forth slightly as you waggle the club. It keeps your arms, wrists and legs from becoming taut.
The lesson here is that waggles, when not exaggerated and done properly, are an integral part of your swing. And, to a degree, they have varied among the top players. Bobby Jones kept his entire body “lively” with little hesitation into his swing; Lee Trevino did a little dance step from left to right previewing an open stance and fade. Gary Player kicked in his right knee to trigger his backswing and, of course, Nicklaus swiveled his chin. The point is, good players all do something prior to beginning the swing, and you need to find what works best for you. Be sure to practice your waggle, just like you would any other part of your game.
How to Waggle the Club Properly: Hold the club slightly above the ball. Use your hands, wrists and arms to motivate the club in the back waggle. Then, use them again to let the club return in the forward waggle. During the back waggle, the shaft moves on the same angle established at address. Allow the left hand to control this motion with some help from the right hand. Keep the left arm in the same space as at address and allow the right arm to bend slightly and touch the inside of the right hip. The lower body picks up on the rhythm being created and reacts in unison with the coordinated movement of the entire body. In the forward waggle, the entire shaft and movement of the club moves on a slightly flatter plane and more from the inside as compared to the back waggle. This matches the change of plane and path from the backswing and forward swing. Certainly, the clubface returns back to the ball squarely or as appropriate for the desired result.