Editor's Note: GolfDigest.com has asked Kevin Hinton, one of its Top-20 Teachers Under 40 and the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y., to analyze players competing in this week's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. His next installment looks at Dustin Johnson, one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour and a contender this week in the PGA.
Long-hitting Dustin Johnson is looking to make a bid for his first major championship this weekend at Whistling Straits. The three-time PGA Tour winner is five-under par through two rounds and is in excellent position to make up for his final-round collapse at this year's U.S. Open. He is averaging over 307 yards off the tee this year on the PGA Tour, trailing only Robert Garrigus and another potential contender this week, Bubba Watson. The below clip gives us an excellent look at Johnson's unique but extremely effective golf swing.
The two most notable characteristics of Johnson's swing are his bowed left wrist at the top and his massive lower-body rotation through impact. These two elements work in tandem to create immense power and a ball flight that favors straight shots to fades. Johnson's bowed left wrist produces a shut clubface at the top. The grooves of his club are pointed toward the sky, where a square face hangs at about a 45 degree angle, and in an open face, the toe of the club points towards the ground. Having a square face at the top of your swing certainly does not guarantee consistent ball striking. It can be a good thing to practice, but the key is to return to a square face at impact. In addition to Dustin Johnson, many tour players have played successfully from a closed-face position, including Zach Johnson, Paul Azinger and Rory Sabbatini. The common denominator amongst them is they all rotate their body very aggressively through impact. This rotation neutralizes the clubface and prevents the ball from curving left. This technique can hold up very well under pressure because these players are not required to consciously close the clubface at any time through impact. Rather, the opposite is true: the harder they rotate and do nothing with the clubface, the straighter the ball will typically fly.
There is a lot that the amateur player can learn from Johnson's swing. If you tend to be a slicer, try and mimic Johnson's backswing position. By flattening out your left wrist, or even bowing it, you will strengthen your clubface position, making it much less likely to slice. I give this feel to my students all the time, knowing it is unlikely many people will actually do it to the extreme that Dustin Johnson does. If you are in the opposite camp, and tend to hook the ball or have a closed face at the top, try and copy Johnson's body rotation through impact, as well as how "left" his club swings through impact.
In the video clip, you can see that his club "exits" (when the club reappears on the other side of his body) well under his left shoulder. This is the sign of a fader. A "high" exit through your neck or head will definitely lead to pushes and hooks. Since Johnson naturally had a closed clubface, he learned that all he needs to do is swing his club enough to the left through impact, an eventually the ball would fade. So if you have fought a closed clubface and hooking the ball, you need to fight your instinct to aim your body and swing the club more out to the right. Rather, you need to convince yourself of one of golf's many "opposites". The more you aim to the left, and the more your body rotates to the left, and the more the club arcs to the left, the more likely the ball will curve to the right and not hook.
*-- Kevin Hinton