It is a fascination among golfers to choose the player or players who would be considered to have the “best” swing on the Tour at any particular time. Back in the 40’s and 50’s the argument would have been between Hogan and Snead. In the 60’s both Palmer and Nicklaus had somewhat different looking moves and you might find an argument for someone like Gene Littler. In the 70’s the classic move belonged to Tom Weiskopf. Moving into the 80’s the guy most mentioned would be Tom Purtzer, the subject of our analysis here, while moving into the 90’s it might be Steve Elkington. I should note that what is meant by “best” is obviously not “the most successful”, but rather more of an aesthetic term to describe the overall look of the lines and the movement of the swing. In this sense, as you can see clearly here in the earlier version of Purtzer’s swing, he fits into this category as his swing demonstrates what would conventionally be called a “great” swing, meaning that it has a smooth rhythm, appears unhurried and effortless, and has plane progressions that are normal and pleasing to the eye. It could even be said that Purtzer’s lack of dynamic movement (he barely lowers at all during his swing) creates the illusion of machine-like precision.
Of course, after analyzing most of the great players of the past 80 years, we know that lowering is a staple of the most successful swings. What always intrigued me about Purtzer was his lack of success relative to the general consensus that his swing was so incredible. Now that I look at it more closely, it is obvious to me why it was more inconsistent than swings that were less aesthetically pleasing but more functional. His backup move in transition is reminiscent of Seve, and from all reports he never had the short game to make up for his ball striking inconsistencies. Still, there are many elements that are classic and worthy of study and emulation, especially in the backswing. However, the upper body backing away in the forward swing causes the hands to approach impact relatively high and the arms to release away from the body past impact, both of which conspire to complicate the squaring of the face at impact. It would be my guess that he viewed the optimum follow through path of the club as “down the line” and backed out of the shot to accommodate his desire to extend the club and the arms to the target.