The Happy Gilmore Swing: Does It Work? + How To Do It Well

The Happy Gilmore swing: we’ve all seen the movie…but is it an effective swing method or just a bit of slapstick comedy?

It’s a cinema classic: we all remember waiting to see if the powerful Happy Gilmore swing sported by Adam Sandler’s character would be enough to win the Tour Championship and get his grandmother’s house back from tour star Shooter McGavin.

But in real life, there are actually instances of pro golfers using the Happy Gilmore swing.

So for players always looking to improve their game, it does beg the question; does the Happy Gilmore swing work?

In this article we will dive into:

  • The mechanics and inner workings of the Happy Gilmore swing,
  • How major champion Padraig Harrington has used it in his practice,
  • The pros and cons of the Happy Gilmore Swing,
  • Our final verdict: does the Happy Gilmore swing work?

Let’s tee off!

The Happy Gilmore Swing: Does It Work? + How To Do It Well 1

The Happy Gilmore Swing: Mechanics and Inner workings

First off, let’s take a look at the swing we’re all talking about. Here’s a clip from the movie:

Before jumping into the complex mechanics of how Happy Gilmore swings his driver, let’s take a quick look at a few driving principles that all good drivers in the game have in common.

Typical Factors For A Good Drive

  • Load well into their rear leg in the backswing to accumulate maximum power potential.
  • Maximize the X factor – separation of upper and lower body in the transition.
  • Belt buckle to the target – complete rotation through impact and weight shifted to the front leg when finished.
  • Timing – with the driver, as well as every other club in the back, timing is everything when it comes to distance and accuracy.  Not every good player has a perfect swing, but all of them have very good timing.
  • Balanced – complete control over their body and golf club throughout the entire swing.

After watching the above video and thinking about the above bullets, you might be wondering, how does the violent, out of control looking, Happy Gilmore swing help with any of this?

golfer practicing the happy gilmore swing

How To Perform The Happy Gilmore Swing

The Happy Gilmore golf swing very much resembles the slap of a hockey puck. 

It starts with the player behind the ball facing the target and is executed by taking your backswing while running up the ball, planting the rear leg, taking the downswing while making impact and planting the front leg simultaneously. 

As dramatized in the movie, this style of swing can produce explosive results

Analysing Happy Gilmore’s Swing – Is It Legit?

As awkward and unorthodox as the Happy Gilmore swing is, it exhibits many qualities of very good drivers that we outlined above. 

This swing style forces you to load properly into your rear leg as after the run up, you plant that leg with 100% of your weight. 

This aspect of the swing is a giant contributing factor to Happy’s ability to hit the ball absurd distances. 

The X factor is something you will hear a lot of long drive champions talking about.  It is essentially, how much separation can you get between the lower body and upper body.  

The Happy Gilmore swing does this more than anything else as you are literally taking your backswing while you are running forward. 

The momentum of this, when done properly, will create maximum separation which is huge for distance.

golfer teeing up for a happy gilmore swing

One of the most common tips in the world of golf is, “belt buckle to the target.”

This is a great cue to help players get through their shots.  Getting a complete turn through the ball and a complete weight shift to your front leg is essential for distance and control. 

With all of the forward momentum created from the Happy Gilmore style, your belt buckle will get through to your target without you even having to think about it.

Happy Gilmore Golf Swing: Timing

To successfully execute the Happy Gilmore swing without missing, topping, or chucking the ball; perfect timing must be executed

Every great player in the world has impeccable timing and coordination between their upper and lower body throughout the swing and the Happy Gilmore method embodies this in full. 

golf ball flying into hole

Happy Gilmore Swing In Real Life: Padraig Harrington’s Hockey-Style Drive

Padraig Harrington is a professional golfer most well known for his win in 2007 at the Open Championship and his wins in 2008 at the Open Championship and PGA Championship.

Here he is breaking it out at the 2014 PGA Championship:

Despite his championship level play in the late 2000s, Padraig has always been a tinkerer with his golf swing and in an effort to pick up distance in his 40s and 50s, has tinkered with the Happy Gilmore Swing.

In a 2017 driving range interview with Harrington by Sky Sports, the major champion had this to say about the swing method, “I physically do a better golf swing when I do a Happy Gilmore. I don’t lift in any shape in the back swing and plant much better, and once I do that I can get my arms down underneath my shoulders a lot better.” 

All of these things allow him to hit the ball farther and straighter as better mechanics combined with forward momentum usually equals long and straight drives.

Pros of the Happy Gilmore Swing

  • When done correctly, it generates lots of power,
  • Helps golfers feel correct sequencing in the swing,
  • Generates maximum X factor for distance,
  • Great drill to improve balance and coordination.

Cons of the Happy Gilmore Swing

  • Dangerous for your equipment as a fat shot could break a shaft,
  • Takes countless hours and repetitions to be able to complete successfully,
  • Very difficult to hit the ball solidly as most players will hit the ball fat or miss it altogether when first trying it.
golf ball flying after a happy gilmore swing

So Is the Happy Gilmore Swing Legit?

The Happy Gilmore swing helps players learn and feel a lot of principles that all great drivers of the golf ball do. 

These include weight shift, rotation, timing, and balance. 

For learning these things, the answer is yes; the Happy Gilmore swing works. 

If you are looking for a new drill to do on the driving range, we absolutely think mixing things up and trying a few Happy Gilmores can improve your driving.

If it didn’t, major champion Padraig Harrington would not be using it. 

Does the Happy Gilmore swing work on the golf course?

For almost every player out there with both low and high handicaps, the answer is absolutely not.

This swing style is much too inconsistent and is not conducive to scoring

It could be a fun thing to break out after your group already has a shot in play during your next four man captain’s choice tournament but in individual stroke play, we recommend leaving this drill on the driving range.

Takeaways On Happy Gilmore’s Swing 

If you are a golf fan and have not seen the Happy Gilmore movie, drop your plans for tonight, rent the movie and enjoy.  It is a movie steeped in golf history and the fictional character of Happy Gilmore is truly a legend in the game.  

Happy’s unique swing style can teach us a lot about how to master the fundamentals of good driving as shown by major champion Padraig Harrington. 

It can be used as a fantastic drill in practice and we think that every player out there has something to learn by trying it out. 

We don’t think that it should ever be used on the course by most players but who knows, maybe you’re in the minority and by using it in play, you can soon be hitting 400 yard drives, just like Happy!

Photo of author
Hello, I’m Patrick Stephenson, a golf enthusiast and a former Division 1 golfer at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. I have an MBA degree and a +4 handicap, and I love to share my insights and tips on golf clubs, courses, tournaments, and instruction.

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