ERNIE ELS: MY SWING
The Big Easy on the technique that helped him secure four major titles
People talk about how
effortless your swing looks.
How technical are you?
The rhythm is just there; it’s
in my make-up and I’ve never
really had to work on it. I
wouldn’t say I’m technical, but
I’ve got a good understanding
of the mechanics. A lot of it my
dad taught me; also I learned
a lot from Phil Simmons, the
pro at Germiston back home in
South Africa. The fundamentals
to me are key. Even today it’s
the first thing I think about when
I go hit balls.
Do you like watching yourself
I don’t really make a habit of it!
But no, it’s fine. You obviously
get used to it.
What are your common faults
and how do you fix them?
My faults are the same now
as they were at the start of
my career. You’d hear a lot of
players say the same thing. For
me, it’s a tendency to take the
club back with just my hands
and arms, basically out of sync
with my body, and the club then
gets too far on the inside and a
little ‘laid-off’ at the top. So I’m
always mindful of that.
How many swing thoughts do
you like to have in your head?
As I said, I’m always working
on the fundamentals – grip,
posture, stance, ball position,
that kind of thing. I guess if
there was one swing thought
that’s stayed with me, it’s trying
to move the club away from
the ball with the arms and body
working together, and making
sure I fi nish my backswing
with my left shoulder behind
the ball. From there, you can
make a smooth transition and
go ‘through the gears’ into the
Which particular ‘feels’ have
worked for you and when did
they pay off?
It changes. I mean, you don’t
always have the same feel.
Every day is different, that’s one
of the big challenges with golf.
But early in my career I realised
the importance of having a
‘stock shot’ that you can rely on
under pressure. My bad shot,
even when I was a kid, was a
quick hook, when the hands get
too active. So I worked hard on
being able to hit a gentle little
fade. It’s a shot I’ve always felt
like I could trust, you’re kind of
blocking out the left side of the
golf course. You need that; you
need a stock shot.
Whose swing, past or present,
would you most like to swing
I always loved watching Freddie
Couples. It’s hard to think of a
more naturally gifted swinger of
the golf club than him. He’s also
the best long-iron player I’ve
How does your swing differ
now you are in your late-40s?
At the start of my career my
swing was longer, more loose,
and it had a lot more leg action
and hand action. But as you get
older your timing isn’t quite as
razor sharp, shall we say. So as
I grew into my 40s we shortened
the swing a little, also made it
wider and more compact. I still
have that nice smooth transition,
that just comes naturally to me,
but I focus on keeping my legs
and hands quieter and keeping
my upper body and legs in
sync. I’ve lost a little power over
the years, but I can still get it out
there pretty good.
What’s a good tip for those of
us of a similar age?
Try to stay fl exible and never
forget the fundamentals; that’s
the foundation of your swing
right there. Also try to stay in
love with the game.