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January 23, 2012

Bill Clinton's golf swing: Big move, but big trouble too

Posted at 3:53 PM by Brady Riggs | Categories: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Brady Riggs

How would I describe former President Bill Clinton’s golf swing, as seen at last week’s Humana Challenge in Palm Springs? Entertaining and dangerous. Seriously, I don’t know what those people were thinking when they stood in front of or to the side of him at that tournament. I would be behind all of the celebrities, or next to the flag –- those are the only safe places.

Here’s a video of Clinton in action in Palm Springs.

Let’s start with the good stuff. At 65, Clinton still has a lot of flexibility left, and he creates some decent speed with his swing. He’s a big guy who still has some athleticism; he doesn’t look like an old man out there. See the way he gets off his back foot? He’s really swinging at it and not leaving anything in the bag. It’s an aggressive move.

Unfortunately, it’s not a good move from a technical standpoint. His grip is too weak and his left shoulder is open, so he is set up to hit the ball right. He also doesn’t keep his balance through the swing. At the end, he staggers around a little, so the swing feels a little incomplete. From where he starts, Clinton doesn’t have much of a chance to do anything with the ball. In fact, everything he does is to compensate for the right-side miss he sets up for. If he fixed his grip, he’d do a lot better very quickly.

Clinton and President Barack Obama played golf together last fall, and afterward Clinton said he shot 92 and lost “by a shot or two.” That sounds about right to me. Back in 2008 I analyzed Obama’s swing, and everything about Obama’s swing looks more solid than Clinton's. That said, Obama doesn’t swing the club as aggressively as Clinton. His swing is more conservative and flat-footed. Clinton has a bigger swing with a wider range of motion, but that weak grip doesn’t give him much of a chance. Obama won’t hit it as far as Clinton, but Clinton is more likely to find trouble.

Both of them have better swings than most of what I see on the driving range every day, and it’s great for golf that presidents and former presidents love the game. (George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are both avid players as well.) But if you ever find yourself watching a president at a celebrity pro-am, remember to stand back, way back.

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