We watch PGA Tour events to marvel at the things we can’t do, which is why it’s so intriguing to watch a player like Chris Kirk. No, we can’t shoot 29 under at Kapalua’s Plantation course to win a signature tour event like he did on Sunday, hitting one push draw after the next, but the way he plays golf feels attainable for the rest of us.
Watching Kirk swing, for a moment we feel that we too can swing like that. There is no flash speed or contorted body movements, which is why his swing is perhaps the best for an average golfer to learn from. His swing coach, Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher Scott Hamilton, agrees.
“His swing is really good on his body,” says Hamilton, who coaches numerous tour players including Tom Hoge, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker, Maverick McNealy and others. “He never has any injuries. It’s the version of a golf swing that used to be popular that nobody teaches anymore.”
If you’re familiar with Kirk’s game or were watching the coverage of The Sentry this weekend, you’ll notice he hits a draw with every shot. That’s something he has always done, says Hamilton, who has worked with Kirk since 2014. “He's the only guy I’ve ever seen on a range at a PGA Tour event that doesn't mind over-hooking it,” Hamilton says. “If it's turning and going way left, he doesn't care. He knows he can hold that off under the gun.”
Learning to play one shot shape and not trying to work the ball both ways is something Hamilton says will make your misses a lot smaller. In fact, of all the tour pros that he coaches, he says that Hoge is the only one who will regularly work the ball in both directions.
For the average player who has limited mobility, Kirk’s old-school draw swing is worth emulating. Here’s what you can learn from it.
1. Load your trail hip, but stay centered
To hit a draw, it’s important to load into your trail hip in the backswing, shifting your weight to your back foot. Yet Kirk has a tendency to overdo this, with his upper body moving too far to the right in the backswing. The key is to load into your trail leg while keeping your upper body centered over your lower half.
“He'll wind up and get his upper body behind his lower body,” Hamilton says. “That feels really draw-biased, but the problem with that is then the compression is not good, so I always work on keeping him pretty stacked up.”
2. Keep the width
Interestingly, Kirk doesn’t have as much shoulder turn in the backswing as most tour players. “The average tour guy gets around 101 to 115 degrees of shoulder turn. Kirk lives in the 90s,” Hamilton says.
Normally, when a player doesn’t have a lot of shoulder turn, it is difficult to come from the inside and hit a draw, but Kirk makes up for it by maintaining width in his arms.
“When he gets width, he gets his left arm not against his chest at the top because he doesn't have a huge shoulder turn,” Hamilton says. “If he swings his arms way more than his shoulders, then he has a hard time getting his arms back off his chest and then he pulls his arms steep.”
If you don’t have a large shoulder turn, you want to feel as though your hands are as far away from your chest as possible and that your left arm (for a right-handed player) is straight at the top of the swing.
3. Get a little ‘across the line’
At the top of the backswing, Kirk’s club is pointing to the right of the target. This position is slightly ‘across the line’ and is a cheat code if you’re looking to hit draws. “It just shallows a little bit more in the downswing,” Hamilton says. Be careful not to overdo it, though, as you might start to come too far from the inside.
4. Square shoulders at impact
Many modern tour players get their chest and shoulders well open to the target at impact in order to limit face rotation and hit more consistent shots. Kirk, however, has more of an old-school look at impact, where his shoulders are relatively square to the target. For amateurs, this is often a much more repeatable move, as getting well open requires a lot of strength and flexibility that average players might not have. Without that mobility, you’ll risk injury trying to get way open.
Hamilton says that with a driver, Kirk’s shoulders are six or seven degrees open, but with irons, his shoulders are square.
“Everything you see on the Internet is all about lead wrist flexion, shallow it four miles behind you and then spin way open,” Hamilton says. “That's not what he does. He's a guy that stays square to it and then goes into extension through the hit. His spine raises a bunch, which gets room underneath him. There's plenty of amateurs that are way more like him.”
5. Allow the face to turn over
Another key aspect of the modern swing is a very stable clubface through the impact zone. These players have very little manipulation of the face with the hands. Kirk, on the other hand, has a full release of the hands through impact, which allows him to hit push draws every time.
“He has a pretty fast closure rate,” Hamilton says. “He's not some guy that has some real quiet face through the hit. It's kind of like an old-school release.”
To get this old-school release and hit push draws like Kirk, allow your right hand (if you’re a right-handed player) to roll over your left through the impact zone. This will close the clubface relative to the path, and if you swing from the inside with square shoulders, you’ll hit a push draw just like Kirk.