Everybody's golf swing is, to a certain extent, a reflection of their individual personality and identity. Few golf swings told us a truer story about their owners’ personality than that of Arnold Palmer, who would have turned 91 yesterday. It wasn't straitlaced or staid, nor should it have been. Instead, Palmer’s had a legendarily sweet, roguish disposition that was worthy of the swashbuckling lash he took at the ball.
To the naive observer, Palmer probably didn't appear much different than his peers. Indeed, his backswing was fairly typical for the era in which he played. But it had a little something extra, a hint of differentiation. Palmer's raised front heel was a familiar fundamental of the midcentury golf swing, but his was a bit more pronounced than others. Promoting a prodigious shoulder and hip turn, it enabled him to produce more speed than most of his peers, often at the expense of a bit of accuracy. Stacked and coiled above the ball at the top of his backswing, he was as ready as anyone to deliver a lightning-strike assault on the back of the ball.
From there, Palmer loosed a tornadic whirl on the ball. Fellow American king Elvis Presley would have envied the agility in Palmer’s hips, which whipped through impact and sent many a golf ball on a piercing journey through the air. The sheer effort of his downswing was enough to set Palmer off-balance sometimes; in the GIF above, you can see him catch himself ever so slightly. In such moments, we see him not as some untouchably elegant master practitioner, but a constant striver like every one of us. Like all great popular figures, Arnold Palmer blended exceptional talent with eminently relatable vulnerability. Long may his legacy reign.