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Why Do Top Golfers Change Their Swings

By: | Thu 14 Mar 2024

I was astonished to discover that Viktor Hovland has changed his swing coach. The Norwegian had an incredible year in 2023, winning The Memorial, the BMW and the Tour Championship, as well as the FedEx Cup. He was also a star for Europe at the Ryder Cup in Rome.

Every aspect of his game improved during what was a stellar season. Unbelievably, at the end of it all he decided that he needed to find a new direction and has turned to former player Grant Waite. And Waite has decided to make some serious swing changes with Hovland.

The result is that every aspect of his game has gone south.

Hovland justifies the changes by saying that he is a curious golfer. For the life of me, I cannot understand what he is doing. If it ain’t broken, why would try to fix it?

Of course, Hovland is not the first golfer to attempt to change a winning swing.

Viktor Hovland

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Nick Faldo was a proper golfer early in his career but decided that his swing would never allow him to win a major. So he went to David Leadbetter and asked him to rebuild his swing. Faldo went through a miserable period but he was steadfast in his belief that what he was doing was the right thing. Many outsiders shook their heads in disbelief.

But then it all clicked into place. Faldo went on to win six majors. He knew what he was doing.

After winning The Masters by 12 shots in 1997, Tiger Woods concluded that his swing wasn’t good enough either. So he rebuilt it. It cost him two years of his career but when it clicked into place he produced arguably the best golf anybody has ever played, winning the US Open, The Open and the US PGA in 2000 and then adding The Masters in 2001 to hold all four majors. He has since rebuilt his swing on two further occasions.

It doesn’t always work that way though. Sandy Lyle won The Open, The Masters and The Players Championship with a technique that was all his own. Unbelievably, he decided that he also needed to change the way he swung the golf club. He was never the same golfer again as he consulted one coach after another.

Rickie Fowler was one of the best golfers in the world when he also decided that his game simply wasn’t good enough to win the sport’s biggest prizes. The result? He tumbled down the world rankings, missed playing in five of the eight majors in 2020 and 2021. The harder he worked, the worse he seemed to get.

And then he had a lightbulb moment. He went back to Butch Harmon, with whom he had worked in the early part of his career. And the results were almost immediate. He finally returned to the winner’s circle at the 2023 Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Padraig Harrington, a three-time major champion, has spent most of his life tinkering with his golf swing. Even now, as he enjoys huge success on the Champions Tour, Harrington is still searching for that special something.

Seve Ballesteros, perhaps the most naturally gifted golfer the world has ever seen, spent most of his career playing approach shots from the rough but he possessed a wondrous short game. He also tried to make swing changes and the harder he worked the wilder his tee shots became. It is testament to his genius that he was still able to win tournaments when swinging like an 18-handicapper.

Many, many golfers have lost their swing - Ian Baker Finch, a former Open champion, got the yips with the driver. It was such a problem that it forced him to give up playing competitive golf. David Duval is another former Open champion and former world number one who was also forced to quit the PGA Tour because he reached the point where he had no idea where the ball was going. Bill Rogers ended up hating the game. Ben Curtis is yet another former Open winner who came to hate the game. The list goes on and on.

I sincerely hope that Hovland knows what he is doing. He is a fabulous talent, a potential world number one and a golfer who is capable of winning multiple majors. It would be terribly sad if he were to lose his way permanently. And utterly baffling!

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Tags: Viktor Hovland PGA Tour dp world tour

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