The Forgotten Waggle

The legendary Ben Hogan considered the “Waggle” to be a critical feature of the golf swing. 


Do you experience inconsistency in your swing and results? It could be due to tension that results in poor or varying tempo. You might want to check your waggle. As you become a more advanced player, you might enjoy the “dress rehearsal” advantages that a waggle produces.


What’s a waggle you say? Unfortunately too many newcomers to the game have no idea of what I am talking about.


Recently I was observing a very dear friend who was lamenting her lack of progress, and especially her lack of consistency. She is an excellent athlete with good power, suppleness, and coordination. A bright and intense student, her experience at the game is only about four years, but she has devoured the game attending a well-respected golf school as well as regularly taking lessons from at least four instructors. She has a nice swing and plays a lot too, last year recording more than 175 rounds. Be that as it may, she had never heard of the waggle.


Watching my friend hit some shots, I quickly spotted the culprit: physical and mental tension producing arm and hand pressure making for an inconsistent and sometimes choppy tempo. Her first reaction was that she must first quiet her mind and muscles, but I remind her that if she gets too focused on that, she will always have different thoughts to contend with. Besides a better routine will produce more pleasing results and some of those mental demons will evaporate. And  if she continues as is, she has no easy way to feel or rehearse her swing once she addresses the ball. A well-executed waggle could go a long way in dissolving all these issues and produce a nice platform to continue her progress. Besides, in now thinking about developing her pre-shot waggle, she will begin to focus upon a positive precisely repeatable routine and effectively quiet her “monkey chatter.”


Any beginning golfer not being introduced to the waggle is not a good thing. Rather it is a terrible thing that not a single one of my friend’s instructors apparently see the need for a beginner to address the pressure of beginning a golf swing (full, half, chip, lob, pitch, etc.) from a dead stop. That borders on professional malpractice!


If you look at a golf magazine, the pictures never communicate the motion that the better player’s body takes before they commence their swing. You just see still photos, which is one of the reasons why no one has experienced long term improvement by reading a magazine instructional article. Maybe you don’t think that this is important, but no less than Ben Hogan spent a full chapter in one of golf’s classic instructional books on the waggle. And closely watch most any accomplished player and you will discover that they all employ a waggle.


In any sport in which the participant has to initiate rather than respond to action, there is always an ancillary shift in motion before the “essential” motion occurs. The pitcher rocks his body or shifts his hands before delivering the pitch. The basketball and tennis players dribble the ball and rock their bodies before shooting a free throw and serving respectively. A bowler grasps and has their ritual placing their fingers, body, and feet before rolling. Golfers do this with the waggle and in fact, the waggle is the “bridge” between the address and the beginning of the swing.


The waggle is as unique as a person’s signature. Some believe that there is scarcely a bad or incorrect one though the legendary Ben Hogan prescribed a very specific method. Rather it is usually a wavering of the club with the clubs or hands, but it may also be a shuffle of the feet, a cock of the head, or a shifting of the knees or hips or a combination thereof. The point is that the purpose of the waggle is for the golfer to gain a sense of feel, a rehearsal of motion, and a pace of timing to the forthcoming swing. It is so much easier to glide or bridge into the swing from a little seemingly irrelevant motion than it is to start from a frozen dead stop or point of stillness, yet this is what a newcomer to the game will typically do unless corrected.


When you pause in stillness over a shot, anticipation and tension grow. With that, it is really a challenge to create the tension-free, rhythmic flow that a great swing is all about. The proper waggle is as Hogan says, more than that. It is a “dry run for the shot coming up.” As the golfer takes the club back on the waggle, so will he/she take the club back on their actual swing and returning the club to the ball they will adjust the club to come back squarely to the ball and on the intended line.


In “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons” he goes into considerably more detail saying that the waggle practically gives you a full rehearsal of the swing you’ll be using, and that the rhythm of the waggle varies with each shot you play. In fact, the publisher and Hogan use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS to communicate the procedure as well as the requirement not to groove your waggle.


So yes, there is some benefit to getting the tension out, but as Ben Hogan wrote, the good golfer is doing something much more purposeful than that – “conducting an instinctive roll call of the parts of the body he will be using, alerting them and refreshing their memory of the movements they’ll be making during the swing.” There is perhaps no one in the history of golf given the equipment that hit the ball as powerfully and accurately as Ben Hogan (who also taught the game) so when he insists upon learning and executing a waggle, you’d be wise to employ it in your game.


Your next step should be to either read “Ben Hogan’s Five Fundamentals” beginning on page 65 or to locate an instructor who is fully competent in teaching and illustrating how a waggle can help your game. When you begin to employ one, you will find that your consistency in hitting your best shots will improve dramatically.


Check out a video of Hogan’s waggle at: You will note that Hogan’s club never becomes stationary at address.


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