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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Gilmore Was on to Something

Published: May 10, 2009

Classic golf movies: “Caddyshack,” “Tin Cup,” “Happy Gilmore.” O.K., that’s a short list and you may quibble about “Happy Gilmore,” but have you ever wondered whether Happy’s ice hockey-inspired swing technique would work? Admit it, you’ve tried it once or twice with your buddies. But face it, your swing is no way to judge if it can be done.

Now, what if Happy’s running start golf swing method, which is not against golf’s rules, was tried by one of the world’s best players? The folks on FSN’s “Sport Science” show, which airs Sunday nights, recently got Padraig Harrington to give it a try.

Harrington has attempted the Happy Gilmore swing before, using it as a way to break the monotony on the practice tee. So for “Sport Science,” Harrington had no qualms about taking some hearty whacks at the ball. It was funny, impressive and informative at the same time. It turned out that Harrington generated about 7 miles per hour more club head speed with his driver doing it Happy’s way, and he increased his usual drive of 296 yards by about 30 yards.

So it does work. Although it took some clearly superior swing dynamics and athleticism by Harrington to run a few steps and still get his arms and torso into the same coiled and balanced backswing position as his normal swing. And he said his experience playing hurling in his native Ireland, a sport that requires hitting a ball with a stick on the run, helped him. In the end, Harrington said he would not be remaking his swing. He also didn’t think it would be worth it for the accuracy he might lose.

But, hey, if he was down two strokes late on a Sunday and really had to bust one on a long par 5 to make eagle, why not, right?

You can watch Harrington’s “Sport Science” segment on YouTube.