Doug Sanders Compact Golf (1964)

Seeing I just interviewed Doug Sanders for our site I thought it would be good to extract a few nuggets from his 1964 book about the swing- Compact Golf

As he mentioned in the interview there is a lot of merit to having a shorter hand swing going back and a wide stance. Here are some great thoughts from his book.

“Anyone that wants to play golf for very long and improve and enjoy it, has to build a game that will be dependable under many conditions and on many different types of golf courses

“Hitting a golf ball is a physical act.If you know something about your swing, can control it and feel what it’s doing, then you stand to improve your score and start winning more often”

“Because my stance is quite wide and use not a lot of body turn, the action looks awkward and unnatural. The fact is that it feels natural to me. Sam Snead’s flowing move has been used as the ideal model for twenty five years. Yet no-one else can swing like Sam, so in one sense every golfer has an unnatural swing”

“One thing which my swing type can do easily, that the longer sweeping swing has trouble doing, is hitting control shots. With a short swing and little body turn I can hit shots down very low or up very high, or hook or fade as much as I want. Long swingers have to rely on their big body turn to get back into position. Mine is in my hands. I have the feel there and do the work there.”

My thoughts: You need to know YOUR swing and be able to FEEL your swing. It is no good trying to swing like Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus if you don’t understand the motion and feel the motion you are trying to create… Doug talks a lot here about being able to FEEL the swing…FEEL the hands…this is one reason I really love the module work because it isn’t a guess or an attempt at a swing. It is diligent work based on allowing you to FEEL the motion and make it your natural motion, He also talks about conditions and different courses. Golf is not played from a flat driving range so you need to work on all different types of grass and ground conditions and uphill,downhill, sidehill…remember on the course you don’t get to drag another ball over for a re-do like you can on the range…get some course time in to improve and not just be a ball beater

“My swing is really not too much different from that of anyone else in my league. The most noticeable differences are the wider stance and the shorter or more restricted backswing. But if you were to match photos of my swing with someone else’s- put my feet 8-12 inches closer together and extend my hands another 8-12 inches higher- my swing would be just about the same. So the fact is that my swing is not unorthodox at all. It’s just that I don’t continue the arc back quite as far. I feel that this shorter swing demands a wider stance, this gives the leverage for maximum distance and power”

“Building a perfect championship swing takes years of constant practice. This is impossible for a person who’s playing only on Saturdays or men’s days on Thursday’s or even both. Their muscles simply aren’t toned to be whipping a club around the way Jimmy Demaret has been doing for forty years.”

“The principle behind using a shorter swing is this simple: any time you shorten any kind of precision movement, you have less margin for error. It’s just like throwing darts at a target board. The closer you move in, the better chance you have to throw a bulls eye. The farther back you move, the longer and harder the throw you must make. You make fewer bulls eyes. The point being is that the short swing is much more likely to get the shot started in the right direction and to put it in better shape down the fairway”

“If a person would cut down their swing and use more force right at impact, they would get a lot more distance. A long loose swing doesn’t necessarily generate clubhead speed; it just looks pretty. The simple fact is thata golfer who cannot keep the ball in the fairway a high percentage of the time will never score consistently well”

My thoughts:This is very much in tune with a shorter hand swing…as per Sam Snead diagram in his book and even though Hogan had a long clubhead swing he actually had a reasonably short hand swing going back. The ‘more force at impact’ logic is right on the money… the later you can speed up the more angles created to deliver to the ball…and the more mass can be delivered to the ball. Once you speed up too soon…the party is over, all bets are off and you will have a tough time…He talks about toning the muscles …this is the impact bag we use here to aid the students and tone their correct golfing muscles…again all his thoughts here are very much in tune with the ABS module work

“The rules of golf don’t say anything about how a player has to swing at the ball, just what type of club he has to use. A person’s size, shape, temperament, age, co-ordination, strength and other factors will decide what his swing looks like and how it performs. Unless the person is more vain than he is anxious to play the game well, he shouldn’t give a hang what his swing looks like. It’s the results that count”

"Some of the prettiest swings in the world are wasted on clipping dandelions before the average golfer ever hits a ball. It’s surprising how many golfers have an uncomfortable passion to hit a longer ball than they can usually control"

"Golfers who try to imitate their heroes and swing trying to look pretty and yet looking terrible by swinging from their heels for distance have trouble putting any type of round together. They need to forget about how they look and how far they can hit the ball and think instead about where the next shot should land and how they are going to get the ball from here to there"

The ONLY important part of a golf swing is getting the club in position two feet before it reaches the ball on the downswing and two feet after it passes through the ball. So in retrospect it is much easier to maintain the same pattern every time with a short swing than one that comes from up behind the head”

My thoughts: Dynamics of the swing are far more important than the so called 'pretty ’ swing. Work on your dynamics and the ball will take the correct route. Doug clearly states the P3 to P4 position and as Lag calls it - the hitting arena- is the most important part of the swing. The ABS students know this is the crux of the module work and why we talk so much about keeping the club and shaft on it’s true plane from hip high down to hip high through. Control of the ball should be the goal…Also plan ahead. Get the ball in position to make your next shot easier. Very basic simple logic that has become forgotten in much of today’s golfing circles


Thanks for posting this, it inspired me to actually buy a copy of his book.

Just wonder what your thoughts are about Doug Sanders’ swing…what are the aspects that you think he does really well from an ABS perspective…bearing in mind that his restricted shoulder turn limits the potential for shoulder action in his swing?


“The most ego satisfying part of golf, at any level of ability, is a long drive. Distance seems to have replaced accuracy in the minds of many people as the key object of the game.Golf course architects are making the 7000 yard course commonplace for tournaments now and for all golf in the future. Think of it. This means the 18 holes average out in length to 400 yards per hole. Yet very few players average 200 yards per shot all the way around. Thus the average golfer has three choices if he ever hopes to get his golf score near par. He can stick to short, open courses where good scores are easy, but not very satisfying. He can try to become a better putter, important but often unpredictable. Finally, he can get his swing under control and then let the club help him gain maximum distance.
After all my talk about a controlled swing and the value of accuracy you may have gotten the impression that distance is unimportant to me. More important you may believe that the short swing doesn’t and can’t generate much power for those big drives you want. Neither one is true, and you should learn why. The fact is that I wouldn’t be able to make a living on the tour if I couldn’t hit the ball a long way off the tee”

“I don’t rate with the top sluggers for distance from the tee. The few super hitters have rare combinations of strength, co-ordination, aggressiveness and feel that is next to impossible to imitate. But I do get longer than average distance and certainly more yards to ratio to length of swing than anyone on tour. So, where does my power come from? Generally speaking, clubhead speed at the point where it contacts the ball is the biggest factor in distance. But clubhead speed has to be combined with several other things- balance, direction of the swing’s arc, proper hand position- for a good shot. The average player loses his best chance to achieve his maximum speed at the ball because the longer his backswing the less chance he has to hit the ball flush every time. The average player is known to ‘hit from the top’. This simply means that at the top of the backswing, which is usually too long, the average player is in such a hurry to kill the ball he uncocks his wrists too soon, lunges with the body and swipes at the ball like he is chopping wood

“Distance can be more easily accomplished when you keep your swing and everything connected with it, more compact. A long swing for the average player tends to lose more power than it accumulates by the time it reaches the ball. But a shorter swing- one that takes the club back below a point that puts the club shaft horizontal- keeps the swing compact and retains all the stored up power. It keeps and uses maximum velocity

"The short controlled swing makes it easier for my hands and wrists to return to the hitting zone in proper position. From my position at the top of my swing -about shoulder high- there is nothing to hamper the full free use of my wrists and hands in developing ALMOST maximum clubhead speed, and in guiding the club on a path through the ball that gives it a straight long flight"

“There are times when even the best golfers are faced with shots calling for both unusual accuracy and maximum distance. Usually the demand for accuracy wins out. The best showing I made in the US Open came on this kind of course at Oakland Hills CC outside of Detroit. The Open of 1961 played 6,907 yards at a par of 70 with 11 holes over 400 yards and 113 traps. I used a 2 wood on most of the driving holes to keep the ball in play in the fairways. I had the lead after 36 and 54 holes, but ended up in second place when Gene Littler finished with a final round of 68”

My thoughts: Doug talks a lot about maximizing swing speed at impact and beyond. Acceleration too soon in the swing is a killer. He talks about using his hands and wrists but also using body speed and believes a shorter hand swing is paramount to helping achieve this. This again goes along with short hand swing which we try to incorporate in our module work. I liked his thoughts about accuracy should be the premium thought over distance.


"The grip is the only link between the clubhead and the many body muscles that work during the swing. The swing must therefore transfer both feeling and strength between the club and the body"

“I believe the hands should be fitted on the club that makes the grip feel firm but still flexible. Neither the twist of a swing nor the shock of the club striking the ball at up to 100 miles per hour should jar it loose. The hands can work together and produce maximum power in minimum distance”

I grip the club tightly, because with a lot of power in a short swing I might otherwise have a tendency to feel I’m losing the club on the downswing. Of course you should never grip it so tightly that you get tensed up all through your body. You have to relax but grip it firmly with the hands

My thoughts: These are great thoughts very much in line with our belief that you feel the club and the swing through your hands. A firm grip helps keep the club from twisting at impact or with mis hits. Great stuff right here talking about mod 1 and mod 5

Doug Sanders swing was a thing of beauty…even though 99% of the golfing world would look at it and laugh because it looked so ungainly with some of his follow through positions and because of his short backswing.
I had the unique opportunity of not only watching about 2 or 3 clinics from Doug but also caddying for him in an event back in 1986. He was only 53 years old then and still very competitive on the Champions Tour. What I witnessed was this…if you went beyond the look of his swing and watched the ball and the control of where his shots went and how they flew, you couldn’t deny what he was doing was correct. He hit the ball to the correct portions of the fairway to make his next shot easier. I would give him a yardage to the hole and he would strike his approach dead perfect distance each time. He would play bump up shots running the ball up or hit flying approaches next to the hole…all with correct distance control. That was a real eye opener to me seeing it all up close.
He only played in the event as a celebrity, as he was out in Australia watching the Australian section of his Doug Sanders Junior Championship, but he still got it around Yarra Yarra in a 70 and a 71 for a 3 under on the two rounds which would have had him making the cut easily in the event proper if he was entered in that side of things. Add the fact that we were paired with Leslie Nielson (of Naked Gun fame) and you can understand how crazy the two days were and that his mental side of things probably wasn’t even 100% into the game at hand!!

Doug really knew the drill about golf ball control. The big thing we should see with his swing is not only was it short…it was FLAT… he rotated his arms off the ball in the backswing…he kept his hand swing short but this allowed him to keep the club even farther BEHIND himself coming down. He created tremendous LAG in his swing by keeping the club short and behind him…his hands got back to impact whilst the club still had a long way to travel… he had it down perfectly as he eliminated the excessive hand action that would stall the pivot. He had to use body work to create speed and get the club moving through impact on the correct path and with force. This allowed him to control his ball so well…it really shows us that the backswing doesn’t matter…his backswing set him up for all the correct intentions of transition and strike at impact and post impact work. Anyone who is advanced along the module work will then be able to see how well he executed Module 1 through Module 7…he may not have always looked so pretty with some swings but the intentions and the dynamics were certainly there for all to see if you know the true determining factor in what makes a good golf swing.

If you have access to the Vault check out his videos I have posted in there. If not watch the videos I attached to the second interview I did with him this past week in the ABS Interviews thread. He did all the right things for a functional swing that combined accuracy with as much power as he wanted to achieve.


"I once read an article written by a doctor that pinpointed the basic principle behind a correct golf stance. He described how most golfers keep their feet too close together and then showed that a wider stance is much more stable during the rapid twisting swing. That’s exactly my feeling too. Correct placement of the feet assures good balance. In other words, the whole hitting apparatus must be set up properly from the ground up"

“I think it’s important to discuss my extra wide stance in more detail. This is one of the two facets of my ‘controversial’ game (the other being the length of my backswing) and the average golfer should know why it is important. The short swing and the wide stance go together. If you intend to build a game with a shorter, controlled, powerful swing, then the legs must be the supporting pillars. They need to be planted solidly, with the spikes dug in firmly. A good test is to watch a boxer in action. For a solid punch he always has his feet spread good and wide. Your own stance should be wide enough that no-one could get you off balance with an ordinary push”

The wide stance also creates more muscle power in the downswing. This is because the feet stay firmly planted in throughout the swing. The foot and leg muscles are in a much better position to give thrust when the club gets into the hitting area near the ball. they give the swing more kick”.

“With a narrow stance the body must be swung and turned a great deal. Whenever a player makes a big body turn he’s likely to sway off center and get the club more easily off target. With a wide stance and less body movement the club can come back with more control and stay a bit more square. Finally, the wider stance on a full power shot is more likely to guide the club through the ball on a straight line. With the wide stance I feel like I am using my legs to extend the line of my body further along the path of the ball. I can keep the clubhead on target longer, both coming into the ball and on the follow through”.

"When I am not playing well my ball usually goes to the left. To offset this I think of keeping my right elbow in close to my hip on the downswing. This helps me hit from the inside and makes my left side clear out of the way faster to avoid missing left"

My thoughts: This chapter is pure gold!!! The talk about keeping grip to the ground, enhancing your ground pressures to help aid the rest of the motion. He talks a lot about keeping the club square through the ball and beyond…keeping the club on true plane. It should come as no surprise that some of the greatest ball strikers ever- Moe Norman, Lee Trevino and Ben Hogan ALL employed wide stances…Doug’s thoughts go very much along with their view. Module 2…and Moe’s ‘Pyramids of Egypt’ thoughts about his legs…Doug calls his legs ‘the pillars’
The right elbow staying close on the downswing is perfectly in tune with what we promote in Advanced Ball Striking. He says he does this so he WON’T hook the ball doing this as it instinctively makes his body work better through the shot…most people think keeping the right arm in tight is the cause of hooking… Just another great insight into reversing your natural instincts or thoughts to make a better game


“It doesn’t matter which club I am using or what kind of shot it is, the clubhead, hands, shoulders and hips start moving together”

“Once the swing is started there should be no conscious thought about what the various parts are doing. Everything except a feeling of relaxed effort should be blanked out. Much has been said about the bending of the wrists during the backswing. The best advice I can give is not to worry about it. In a normal picking up of the club, the wrists will bend about shoulder height to cock the club to the top”

"For me the solid wrists on the backswing are important. this helps me build up power in a short swing and keeps me from losing control of the club too early in the swing and going too far at the top. My wrist break actually doesn’t occur until almost the maximum height of the backswing. When everything is moving naturally together, the principal elements are the legs, shoulders and arms. Let me emphasize that their functions are the results, not the causes of a working swing"

With too long a swing you can’t know or feel so much where the clubhead is

The main thing people do to ruin their swing is to try and beat the ball to death. This gets you off balance and off line and the results are hooks, slices and topped shots. Being too anxious to kill the ball is usually called hitting from the top. The wrists get uncocked too soon. This usually throws the club outside the line of flight coming down, and the whole downswing ends up in a lunge and a slap at the ball”

The downswing needs to be smooth and solid and a one piece movement. In their attempt to hit too hard the average golfers uncocks his wrists early and throws the hands and club at the ball too hard. A short swing like mine is so compact that it eliminates the chances for many of the common extreme movements. Many of the ‘dont’s’ of the full length swing become no concern. You really can’t hit too much from the top with a short swing even if you try

"I delay uncocking my wrists until I am at least half way through my downswing. This conserves the power until I am in the hitting area. As the result of exercise and years of competitive golf I have pretty strong forearms and wrists that make it possible for me to wait until the last possible moment to slam the club into the ball."

"A lot of power is generated by my right leg and hip, which takes the majority of the body weight through the ball. My wide stance helps me get distance by keeping me very solid in the crucial hitting area. I can then move forward with my weight and my right leg kicks much harder than it could with a narrow stance."

I think too much emphasis is placed on the follow through. Again this is a result and not a cause of a sound swing. In my swing the hands come through high and my left arm stays straight a little longer than usual

My thoughts: Again this stuff is pure gold. He perfectly describes to not be in a rush at transition and to delay the HIT until right at the ball…this again is the crux of the module work. He talks about his right leg thrust (brilliant stuff) and how he has strong forearms and wrists to propel late in the swing (which is exactly what we try to achieve with our bag work)…he even mentions the ideal PV5 position by getting high hands into the follow through area… All this proves Doug’s swing is an ideal ABS model based on his feelings and thoughts and the look he achieves even with an ‘abnormal swing’ as most instructors would call it.


"A short swing is more likely to get the ball started in the right direction. It certainly makes the next shot easier to play from the fairway rather than from the rough."

"A well planned golf hole that is narrow is built to penalize greediness. Any time a man hits too strong he should be risking trouble"

Any good golf course should put a premium on accuracy rather than distance

"Whenever I swing at a ball with my controlled compact swing I think I have a great deal of feel right at impact. The club is moving fast when it hits the ball but I think I know what it is doing better than most others do. Because I have so much control of the club, I can feel that the face is open a little or closed a little coming into the ball and I could adjust and use a little body movement to compensate for the swing error and put that club back on line"

"A good player who grooves his swing into a slight hook or fade always knows that the ball is coming into the target area from one side to the other. He has the whole fairway or green to hook or fade into. If he aims straight at the center he can never be sure that he won’t make an error to one side or the other and he therefore only has half the width to make it in. I try play the ball both ways. If a shot requires a fade around a dogleg or to a tucked pin I try fade it. If a hook is needed for opposite angle shots I try to hook it. The short swing makes it easier for me to execute more bending shots when I need them than most other professionals. It gives me more control right at impact".

My thoughts: These are all fantastic ideas about the golf course and certainly shows how the modern game has moved far far away from the ideals of what true golf should be played like. He plays the shots on their merits by shot shaping and he talks a lot about FEEL, and how he can FEEL impact and has the FEEL of shots in his hands… terrific stuff yet again

Chapters 9-19 are about trouble shots and pitching, chipping, shaping shots and putting…I will fast forward to chapter 20


I don’t think the rules and etiquette of golf are emphasized enough in general instruction to beginners or even or even non beginners. To be mentally in tune with the game and the course you should know the basic points of what to do and how to act. It might be compared with getting a driver’s license. Even if you know how to steer the car, the examiner won’t okay you unless you know which side of the road to drive on, the proper speed, when to stop, and when to yield the right of way”

“To most beginners and weekend golfers rules are unimportant and etiquette is catch as catch can . Rules of golf sometimes get complicated in odd situations but the basic rules are simple. They all resolve around the purpose of the game- to get the ball from the tee to the cup in the fewest strokes- and it’s cardinal commandment- play the ball as it lies. As basic as the latter point is, only a small percentage of amateurs observe it. Winter rules allowing improvement of the ball’s lie on the fairway during the wet season are used as an excuse for outright cheating by too many club players. It helps them hit a few shots a little better, but they only fool themselves. Even without the winter rules crutch, far too many golfers yield to the temptation to nudge their ball out of a divot hole or heavy clover at least once a round”

"Finally be a humble winner and a gentlemanly loser. Don’t ever let the score or your temper overshadow the enjoyable aspects of playing this wonderful of all games"

My thoughts: Great insight about how the ball should be played as it lies…something we have talked about numerous times here at ABS and that for everyone to play by the same rules the rules should be easier to understand so they may be easier to follow for allAnd never forget golf isn’t life and death…it is just a game


"Golf is a game not easily taught by words alone. Perfection in the mechanics of the swing can only be gained by practice and play. It doesn’t come overnight, or even in a year. The golf swing itself is not a complicated thing but the right knowledge of what your clubs can do for you are extremely important"

To me there is only one goal in swinging at the ball- keeping it in play and getting as near to the hole as possible. What the swing looks like or how it compares to other players swings is unimportant.”

My approach to the mechanics of hitting a golf ball will work for anyone regardless of age or physical build.

The role of the head in a golf swing is often misunderstood. It must be kept reasonably steady throughout the swing to serve as a center point but it cannot and should not be kept rigid. This only throws tension into both preperation and execution of the swing”

“With the basic principles of an effective swing in mind, golf becomes a matter of planning shots and controlling the ball

“Finally remember that golf is a game. It should be played for fun, relaxation, exercise and social enjoyment. Don’t let it ruin your disposition, your health, your friendships or your wallet”

My thoughts: What a great ending to a great book… the head is allowed to move…golf is not perfected overnight although most people want a magic potion to be better instantly…planning and controlling the ball should be the importance…how your swing looks should be of no consequence …I really wish I had read this book sooner. Doug Sanders is a class act and he lives the ABS swing thoughts and ideals whether he knew it or not.

Thanks very much for that Bradley. That is a fantastic summary.

Winning 20 times on the tour doesn’t happen by having poor technique or a bad golf swing. Sanders flat swing pretty much eliminated any chance of
OTT. Much tougher to over accelerate and lose shaft flex.

Mickey Wright also said “You can’t swing too flat”. Sanders also eluded to having his gear set up flat to match his golf swing. His thoughts on the golf swing,
the rules, and proper course design are spot on.

The last two generations have left us a tremendous wealth of information, knowledge and insight that we must not forget… as the game moves farther and
farther away from it’s keystone ideals.

I am always grateful for the treasure maps these great players have left behind for us to ponder, to explore and find our own truths.

I haven’t read it all yet, but every word has been magic so far. Thanks for the effort, man…

Been having a look at Doug Sanders and found this thread and wanted to give it a bump. Some gold in Sanders’ book Compact Golf.

Thanks for the bump nf, really enjoyed reading Hugo’s excellent review and definately reassured a big lightbulb I had on thursday :bulb:

Just figured out how to make a moving gif, thanks to IoZ for the help.

Sanders gif.gif

Love how Doug goes from slightly steep to flat entry and initiates with knee bend.

The God Move…

I can do it… but I can also not do it!

Looking forward to the day I don’t now how not to do it.
Get it into the DNA… takes time… but well worth the blood, sweat and tears.
Lots of Mod 5, 6 and SS.

Great gif there!

thanks for posting…

Thanks NFB for the bump I really enjoyed reading through and finding the MOD2 nuggets, wonderful stuff by Two digging into
Sanders… These thoughts, feels and moves could not be more timely for where I am right now. Thank you guys for your dedication!
Plan on checking out more of Dougs swing in the vault!


If you look closely at Sanders above, he actually starts slotting BEFORE he fully completes his rotation of the shoulders and hips.

Going a bit giftastic over here.

Trevino trans.gif

That’s ok NRG…keep 'em coming, they look great and appreciated. Trevino really sets into the legs nicely in my opinion.

Don’t recall if this was pointed out before, but have you considered NRG almost as a phoneme, or acronym, for ‘Energy’.

Good energy over the pond I reckon.

I think that has been pointed out before Ratter.

Anyway, it’s my CDO that is the source of the energy. (plus the dark nights)