Friday, January 15

From the Archives: Golf’s Greatest Swings: Sam Snead

(Editor’s note: This first appeared at ARMCHAIR GOLF in January 2008.)

THE GREATEST GOLF SWINGS of all time. Who’s on your list? How do you even determine such a thing? Beauty? Effectiveness? Wins? Majors?

It’s subjective, a matter of opinion, which I think will make it a fun subject to explore as an occasional series.

Here’s a quick list off the top of my head: Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Harry Vardon, Mickey Wright, Gene Littler, Moe Norman, Gene Sarazen, Annika Sorenstam, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh, Lee Trevino, Steve Elkington and today’s subject, Sam Snead.

The graceful, athletic Snead had a drop-dead gorgeous golf swing and was a splendid ball-striker. Wrote Al Barkow in Sam, “The sound heard when Sam Snead hit an iron shot was like the door of a Rolls-Royce slamming shut.”

“I know many of us pros would go out and watch Sam hit balls,” Jack Fleck said. “It would help our rhythm, timing and balance immediately.”

“He is, in a word, an athletic wonder,” wrote Herbert Warren Wind when Snead was in his 60s.

As for getting any clues from the man himself, Snead once said, “Golf is played with the arms.”

The File on Sam Snead
Nickname(s): Slammin’ Sam
Era: Late 1930s through 1960s
Tour wins: 82
Major wins: 7
Other: In World Golf Hall of Fame. Played on seven Ryder Cup teams. Won Greensboro Open eight times. Honorary Masters starter. Never won the U.S. Open. Balky putter throughout his career.
Case for swing greatness: Power, grace, tempo, balance and longevity. Snead’s first Tour win came in 1937; his last in 1965.

−The Armchair Golfer


Mike said...

You forgot one notorious fact: He was responsible for the USGA creating Rule 16-1e, otherwise known as "the Sam Snead Rule," which outlawed croquet-style putting (straddling the line of the putt and hitting the ball between your legs).

I don't know whose putting woes were more legendary, Snead's or Hogan's. In either case, there's no telling how much they might have won if they could have putted worth anything.

The Armchair Golfer said...

I think Snead's putting problems were worse. Hogan, more famous for his yips toward the latter part of his career, was actually a good putter earlier. It's hard to win 60 some odd PGA Tour events and nine majors and putt awful.

Mike said...

True... but don't forget that Snead won 82 PGA events and 7 majors. Plus, you've got Snead's 165 total wins, all despite his horrid putting. I guess that says something about Snead's ballstriking.

However, I'll grant you that Snead had no U.S. Opens, while Hogan nabbed 4. That is definitely an edge Hogan's earlier putting gave him.

Anonymous said...

What about Moe Norman? A great swing may be a thing of beauty or an ugly hack, but the whole purpose is to get the ball to where you want it to go. Moe was the recognised master in that department without question.

The Armchair Golfer said...

No doubt, Moe had one of the most effective swings ever. He was a genius.