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Swing Analysis: Mike Austin

It was an eye opener for me to read the Wikipedia page on the life of Mike Austin. I knew he was considered a long hitter in his day and that he had spent a considerable amount of time establishing himself as a teacher of the game, but I didn’t know that he had a PHD in Kinesiology, that he was an intelligence agent and flew planes for the Canadian forces in WWII, that he was a renowned hustler known as “The Golfing Bandit”, and that he roomed for a time with movie star Errol Flynn. Austin still holds what is considered the record for the longest recorded drive in tournament history, 515 yards, accomplished while playing with Chandler Harper in the 1974 US National Seniors Tournament in Las Vegas. Harper said that Austin flew the ball to the front of the green on a 450 yard par 4, and when it rolled over the green it ended up on the tee box of the next hole, some 65 yards past the middle of the green.
Austin’s teaching was based on his belief that power came from an athletic motion powered mainly by the lateral movement of the lower body and aided by a free release of the hands through the impact area. His backswing is reminiscent of Sam Snead in its under-plane takeaway and full windup at the top, which he followed by initiating the forward movement from the ground into a classic sidearm throwing motion that you will see him demonstrate in a short clip where he is showing an audience the move. Much of what he advocates in his teaching, and actually does in his swing, fits right in with my own teaching preferences. We would diverge a bit in the application of the arms and hands through impact, as I would be more conscious of the direction of the lower body thrust and the hand and arm path (I would have them move more leftward with less hand rotation), although what he does with all his swings is closer to how I would approach the driver swing. Nevertheless, his move is fluid and powerful, and you have to hand it to a guy who actually earned a degree in the field that he refers to in his teaching, as opposed to the majority of golf instructors today who claim to be experts in “biomechanics” while actually having accumulated no formal training in the subject.


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