With his recent win on the challenging TPC Stadium Course at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jason Dufner returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since the 2013 PGA Championship. Dufner has always been one of the best ball-strikers on Tour and his precision iron shots were a key component to his most recent victory.
Jason Dufner has often mentioned how he learned the game of golf by reading Ben Hogan’s famous “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” book, which is not a bad choice since Ben Hogan may arguably be the best ball striker of all time. One of the most important lessons from the book is something that I see every single tour professional do, and my students who are struggling to hit the ball solid fail to do. At impact, the shaft of the club must be leaning forward, and the lead wrist must either be flat or bowed towards the target.
The forward shaft lean allows a player to strike the golf ball first in a descending manner and compress the ball into the ground which creates power, spin and consistency. The forward shaft lean is also something that I think is overlooked because too many people focus on trying to get the club in a good top of the backswing position or bring the club down on plane and not over the top. While I will agree that these elements can make life easier to get the club into a good position at impact, I’ve seen many a good looking golf swings get ruined because they fail to focus on having the shaft leaning forward by making sure the lead wrist is flat or bowed.
A good drill that I do with almost every student to see if you are able to create this proper impact position is to place a small object (I’ll use either a penny or business card indoors) in front of the golf ball about 3-4 inches. I then have my students make swings attempting to hit the ball about 50 yards with a club that normally goes 120-150 yards, where they make contact with the golf ball first and then hit the object with the club head afterwards. Make sure to be aware that the club head is contacting the object and that a poorly struck golf ball doesn’t move it. By having the shaft leaning forward at impact with the lead wrist flat or bowed it will be easy to contact the ball first and then the object after. If the student is successfully able to perform the drill for 50 yard swings then I will allow them to move up to 75 then 100 yard swings and eventually full swings. By learning to create this correct position at impact the result that students will usually see is that these mini swings hit the ball farther with a more consistent launch angle with less effort.
Next time you’re watching golf on television pay close attention to replays of golf swings they show and watch how the shaft of the club will be leaning forward at impact. All the professionals do it and it is something you should be doing too if you want to improve your ball striking.