This is the swing that made me want to play golf. As time moves on it is apparent that while Arnie’s influence on the game is well recognized his prowess as a player has been somewhat forgotten, probably because of the ascendancy of Nicklaus and Palmer’s failure to win any regular tour majors after 1964. But with 6 majors, 62 Tour wins and 5 Senior majors Palmer certainly ranks in the top 10 all-time best players. Certainly he was peerless from 1958 to 1964, a period not unlike Watson’s great period in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
I love watching Palmer lash at the ball with his incredible hand and arm strength, but it is his pivot motion that is the most fascinating under slow motion scrutiny. From a slumped over setup position (no one would allow that in a talented student these days) Palmer established hugely acute angles in his spine with a shoulder turn steeper than almost any you could find amongst top players. His bowed wrist and shut-faced backswing recalls Dustin Johnson and David Duval, while his finish is totally unique. No one has ever finished with the flourish of Palmer, his body twisted, the club whirling above his head as though he was still keeping the ball from hooking long after it was sent screaming down the fairway. He was a joy to watch, and his aggressive style of play excited millions of viewers and made him golf’s first media superstar.