Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin looks at not one shot in particular, but how Jason Dufner, who won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in a two-hole sudden-death playoff over Ernie Els, uses his distinct waggle to hit great shots, time after time. Perhaps you, too, can improve your game simply by adopting an effective waggle.
By Kevin Hinton
In general, the purpose of the waggle is to prevent tension from building into the golfer's hands and body prior to hitting a shot. Tension is a huge killer of the golf swing, and movement prevents tension. Most instructors, including myself, would advise that small movements are typically better than large movements, and it is important to do the same thing every time prior to hitting a shot.
Jason Dufner, who works with Golf Digest Teaching Professional Chuck Cook, breaks both of those rules. His waggle is not small, and the number of times he does his "thing" (let's call it the Dufner Dance until a better name surfaces) varies greatly. Throughout the final round, Jason hit some shots where he'd waggle four to seven times, other shots where he'd waggle more than 10 times. It varies because he's waiting to feel comfortable and able to visualize his shot prior to starting his swing. This is an important lesson. Do your best to never hit a shot without a clear image of how you want the ball to fly. Visualize the shape of your ball-flight, and "see" your shot landing at your target.
Once Dufner does set the club behind the ball, he begins his swing almost immediately. This is a really good aspect to copy because the longer the club sits in a stationary position, the greater the chance that tension can build. Of course, there are always exceptions...Jack Nicklaus is a significant example. Nicklaus would often stand over the ball for what seemed like an eternity prior to beginning his swing. Typically, this is ill-advised, but Jack never hit a shot before he was ready, and that is super important. And he did keep his arms and hands moving until he took the club back.
The moral of the story here is, waggles are an important part of your swing, and they vary greatly among the top players. Historically, Lee Trevino kind of walked into his swing, from left to right previewing an open stance and fade. Gary Player kicked in his right knee to trigger his backswing. And Bobby Jones kept his entire body in flow with little hesitation into his swing.
The point is, great players all do something prior to beginning the swing, and you need to find what works best for you. Be sure to practice your waggle, just like you would any other part of your game. It doesn't need to be as dramatic as the Dufner Dance, nor does it need to take so long. Develop one that helps eliminate tension and helps facilitate a smooth beginning to your swing. Don't ignore it...it's more important than you might think.
Finally, check out Ben Hogan's waggle here: