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Manuel de la Torre: Swing the Clubhead

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Manuel de la Torre (1922-2016) became one of golf’s most renowned instructors by building on the swing philosophy of Ernest Jones and the teaching wisdom imparted by his father, Angel de la Torre. Jones advocated that golfers should focus their attention on the motion of the clubhead rather than complex bodily movements. This concept deeply influenced Manuel’s approach of using physics and biomechanics to develop an efficient yet simple swinging motion.

Manuel learned the fundamentals of instruction from Angel, a legendary Spanish professional who won five Spanish Open championships and participated in the US Open and Open Championship. Angel passed down core principles of grip, posture and the mental side of golf. Blending these influences, Manuel taught golfers to let the club swing freely while allowing the body to react naturally, rather than consciously controlling one’s movements. His student-centered approach focused on each golfer’s individual swing rather than imposing a rigid method. At its core, Manuel’s method echoes Jones’ and Angel’s wisdom that if the club is swung correctly, proper body motions will naturally follow.

Inspiration

In this post, we’ll look at Manuel de la Torre’s philosophy and teaching method. I’ve owned his book “Understanding the Golf Swing” since it came out, immediately buying it after watching a segment with him on the Golf Channel. Revisiting John Redman and getting familiar with George Knudson led me back to de la Torre’s simplicity and minimalist approach. While these three instructors have differing thoughts on ball position and grip, they are extremely similar in teaching a natural swing with passive hands, lack of manipulation, rooted in centrifugal force, and a trust in the body’s instinctual movements. They all believe that if you prepare for the shot properly and have a good foundation, you can let it happen without worrying about angles, positions, manipulations, or an abundance of swing thoughts. We’ve added to this theme with “Beyond Baseball,” a post on the 10 finger grip and Club Focused Instruction (CFI), which was inspired by Manuel de la Torre.

DALL·E 2023 12 08 11.34.50 A digital painting set in the 1930s 1940s capturing a private golf lesson with a young Manuel de la Torre his father and Ernest Jones. The focus is Edited

Manuel de la Torre – Bio

Manuel de la Torre was a highly respected golf instructor and a notable figure in the golfing world. Born in Madrid, Spain, in an apartment above the golf shop at the Real Club de la Puerta de Hierro, where his father, Ángel de la Torre, was the head golf professional, Manuel grew up deeply embedded in the world of golf. His father, a five-time Spanish National Golf Champion, and Ernest Jones, a family friend and colleague, heavily influenced Manuel’s approach to golf instruction.

De la Torre was a standout golfer himself, serving as the captain of the golf team at Northwestern University and achieving runner-up status in the 1942 NCAA Championship. He also had a successful career in professional golf, winning the Wisconsin State Open five times and the Wisconsin PGA Professional Championship five times. His contributions to golf earned him induction into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Northwestern University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

Manuel de la Torre Golf Swing 1990 (age 68)

As an instructor, de la Torre was renowned for his club-focused approach to golf instruction, a method that contrasts with the more common body-focused instruction. His philosophy emphasized the importance of the golf club’s movement during a swing, arguing that if the club is moving correctly, the golfer’s body will naturally follow suit. De la Torre’s methods have been validated by recent research, further highlighting the effectiveness of his teachings.

Legacy

Manuel de la Torre continued to teach at the Milwaukee Country Club throughout his career, sharing his wisdom with both amateur and professional golfers. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 94, but his teachings and philosophy continue to influence golf instruction to this day. His book “Understanding the Golf Swing,” published in 2001, distills his teachings and remains a valuable resource for golfers and instructors alike. Like Redman and Knudson, he also felt that modern golf instruction was overcomplicating what should be a simple game.

He leaves an immense legacy through his direct students like LPGA stars Carol Mann and Martha Nause, as well as through the Manuel De La Torre Golf Teaching group that is dedicated to propagating his swing philosophy. His teaching lives on because it blends a simple yet biomechanically sound swing technique with a mental approach that builds hope and enthusiasm in all golfers.

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Chasing Consistency

In almost all of the videos I have found of Manuel de la Torre, he asks the student(s) what they want most from their golf swing or golf game. No matter what they say, the answer he is looking for every time is consistency. Everyone occasionally lucks into a good shot, which keeps us returning for more. But we all strive for consistency and getting the most out of our abilities. We practice, read books, watch endless YouTube videos, and use the latest gadgets with the hope that it will make us more consistent and give us the confidence to step up to any shot and expect a good result.

Manual de la Torre’s vision for obtaining consistency differed from what we see in today’s quick-fix YouTube instruction world. In his book, he lays out many of the cliches of modern golf instruction, such as “right elbow close to the body,” for example. Some myths he dispels, but where it gets interesting is the situations where he agrees that the movement or concept is important but posits that focusing on one movement can have a ripple effect that derails the swing. It’s better to obtain these positions naturally due to the good things that came before. His point is that if you start from a solid setup, with the proper fundamentals, and swing the club, the proper positions and movements, such as full weight transfer, will happen automatically. This is where Knudson, Redman, and de la Torre all agree and have won me over.

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Study in Simplicity

A great example is in Chapter 4 of “Understanding the Golf Swing,” entitled “Analyzing the Swing.” The first “practice exercise” asks you to stand in the address position but hold a golf ball instead of a club. He then asks you to throw the ball underhand as far as possible and hold your finish without thinking about anything else. Your weight is properly transferred forward as it should be in the golf swing without deliberate decision or maniuplation. Point taken. One the same note, he stated that when we throw a ball to a target, the first thing we do is look at that target and keep looking at it. We don’t think about it, our instincts take over. In his opinion, too many amateurs are ball focused and not target focused. Again, hard to argue.

De la Torre also stressed individuality in the setup and swing. In reading the Knudson book, George stressed a 25-45 degree open left foot. His reasoning was that for him, and maybe for most people – coupling that with a wider stance made for a more balanced setup with easier loading in the backswing. I am pigeon-toed, making Knudson’s setup uncomfortable and unnatural. After watching the de la Torre seminar linked below, I have returned to my natural, comfortable foot position. In the seminar, de la Torre was asked a question about foot placement by one of the students. His answer was, “Walk over here,” when the student did, he stopped and said, “Look at your feet now. That’s your natural position.”

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Word Games

Our last and perhaps most important piece of wisdom from Manuel de la Torre is the power that words and thoughts can have on our success. He stated that thoughts like “don’t hit it left” or “don’t hit it in the water” are unnatural and progress killers. In life, we would state what we intend to do, not what we don’t want to do. De la Torre also repeatedly told his peers humorous stories about how words and phrases mean different things to different people, so his focus shifted to feel.

An example he used in explaining this concept to a student who didn’t initially understand it was as follows. “If I want to go into the garage and get a broom, then I can tell you that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t say I’m not going into the Living Room, I’m not walking out the front door. I’m doing something, and that’s what I’ll say or think. Why does golf have to be different? You want to make a swing and hit the ball in the fairway or to the right side of the fairway. Deal in what you want to do, just as you would naturally in your everyday life.”

Finally, he recalls a playing lesson where he did nothing but tell the student what he should intend to do on each shot. Not how to swing the club, just what to think, as described above. The student shot a personal best by a large margin on that day. That’s the power of the mind. This concept of getting out of our way and letting things happen is explored in detail in our post “Discover the Flow State: Get Out of Your Own Way in Golf and Life.”

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Further Reading

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Understanding the Golf Swing
by Manuel de la Torre

Summary: Manuel de la Torre was a leading teacher of Ernest Jones’s swing principles, emphasizing a simpler approach focused on developing a true swinging motion rather than complex body movements. The book covers the philosophy of the golf swing, analysis of ball flights, techniques for special shots like pitching and chipping, the mental side of golf, and understanding golf courses. It argues that if the club is swung properly, the body movements will take care of themselves, so golfers should focus on the motion of the club rather than their bodies. The book blends golf philosophy and practical advice for golfers of all levels, from beginners to professionals.

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Club-Focused Golf Instruction
by Edward LeBeau

Summary: Club-focused golf instruction focuses on the golf club motion rather than body motion, an approach used by only 5% of instructors. This method, championed by Hall of Fame instructors Ernest Jones and Manuel de la Torre, allows faster learning and better play. LeBeau combines de la Torre’s expertise with educational principles into a powerful instruction manual bringing together decades of club-focused instruction experience. Scientific studies have verified club-focused instruction’s superiority for improving player performance over traditional body-focused methods.

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Ernest Jones Swing the Clubhead Method
by Ernest Jones

Summary: Ernest Jones’ 1922 and 1930 golf instruction book focuses on coordinating the motion of the body to develop an efficient, compact golf swing. Jones emphasizes keeping the wrists firm, maintaining proper posture, and clearing the hips through impact. The book uses photographs and drills to teach ideal positions in the takeaway, backswing, downswing, and follow-through. Jones advocates swinging smoothly in rhythm, letting the clubhead accelerate naturally rather than using pure muscular power. This technical guide provides step-by-step lessons on building sound fundamentals into an effective, repeating golf swing.

Videos – 1987 Full Swing Seminar

Introduction
Mental Game & Attitude
The Grip
Alignment
Setup
The Swing Concept

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