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It took Seve Ballesteros just four starts at Augusta National before he won his first Green Jacket. 

The five-time major champion was the first European to win the Masters when he defeated Gibby Gilbert and Jack Newton by four shots in 1980.

That triggered a boom in European wins over the next 20 years, with the likes of Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal all following Ballesteros into the winner’s enclosure.

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On the Thursday of the 1977 Masters, a fresh-faced 19-year-old Seve teed off, with only two previous major starts under his belt. That did, however, include finishing in a tie for second at the 1976 Open championship.

Although Augusta typically favours experience over youth, Seve – who celebrated his 20th birthday on the Saturday of the tournament – finished the week in a tie for 33rd.

Over the next two years, he would steadily improve with back-to-back top-20s, finally breaking through with his first Masters win in 1980. His second, and last Masters win came in 1983, winning by four strokes over Ben Crenshaw and Tom kite. 

So, as we approach the 85th Masters – and what would have been Seve’s 64th birthday this coming Friday – we take a look at what you can learn from his timeless golf swing.  

1. Arm & hand position 

Tension is a speed killer, and Seve knew this. He let his hands and arms hang freely, below, allowing the elbows to soften as he gripped the club. Amateurs often do the opposite. 

They grip the club tightly and lock the arms in place causing a rigid motion through out the swing. If the arms are locked, the ability to hinge the wrists in the backswing is lost, making it very difficult to produce a sufficient amount of clubhead speed.

Seve Setup 2

2. Setting the club in the backswing 

This is where we see the first pay-off from having such a relaxed set-up.

Seve can set the club with his wrists, below, whilst he starts to turn the upper body away from the ball.

This is a great move to practice on occasion, reminding yourself to get the club in position from the takeaway. 

Seve Sets Club

3. Hips & shoulders 

This may be the most important lesson you can learn from Seve. He turns to the top, below, and maintains a bend with his hips and shoulders. The temptation for most amateurs is to stand up – also known as early extension – during their backswing. 

This causes a multitude of issues with strike. If you ‘stand up’ in the swing, you could swing the club over the top of the ball (also known as a top). Or you could steepen the shaft in order to make contact, and hit the ground too early (also known as chunk/duff). Seve maintains that position perfectly. 

Seve Hips And Shoulders

4. Downswing 

Seve had a beautiful rhythm to his swing. To replicate that, you need room in the downswing… and Seve had plenty. He’s actually fairly steep compared to the modern player, with the shaft of the club coming down more in-front of his upper body.

Seve Downswing 1

This allows him to create a separation between his left arm and his chest, below, so he can swing the arms freely into impact. He has maintained a slight bend in his right elbow, and it sits close to his right hip. From there, he can rotate the shoulders, arms and lower body together and release the club down his target line. 

Seve Gap In Arm

5. Impact

As he releases the club, below, he allows the right foot to come off the ground, driving his weight onto his left side. Try copying that. If the weight moves back during the backswing, it needs to move forward during the downswing. 

You can see the shoulders are still tilted and the right shoulder is down. That’s how you really compress the ball. 

Seve Impact

6. Finish 

If I was to show a student a classic finish position, this would be it. Seve, below, has held his spine angle to perfection, negating the high right shoulder that most of us struggle with. If you want a mental image of how this should look, just imagine a C shape between your lower and upper body. 

If you move up and out the shot early, everything you’ve done up until the point is jeopardised. For all you slicers out there, keep the right shoulder down like Seve and you’ll find some control over your left-to-right ball flight. 

Seve Finish

Of course, Seve also had a fiery, competitive nature. Combine that with his timeless swing, and you had a player primed to perform under pressure. 

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