Dustin Johnson is without doubt one of the most athletic and powerful players in the world today. Dustin ranks number one in driving distance on the PGA Tour averaging 319 yards, eight yards longer than his nearest rival Jason Day. Despite knowing these facts and figures about Dustin I simply could not comprehend how long or powerful he really was until I watched him for the Monday/Tuesday practice rounds at the British open. During the Tuesday practice round four members of the Harmon stable (Dustin, Rickie, Phil & Jimmy) were enjoying a friendly 4 ball match to prepare for Thursdays main event. They came to the 14th tee, a long par five which splits in two as you approach the green; one side designed to lay up to the green, the other designed for the more aggressive play. We watched as Fowler stood on the tee first and flushed his tee shot down the middle with a small right to left movement on the golf ball. Dustin who was the next on the tee let loose and cannoned his ball 20 yards past Rickie’s ball in the air plus an additional 50 yards or so of run. It was simply amazing to see Dustin looking 70 yards back as he awaited the 8th best player in the world to hit his second shot.
As we look at Dustin’s set up you can immediately see how strong and athletic he is from the get go. From down the line he looks tall and balanced and relaxed in the address position. On the right hand side you can see he has a strong left hand grip of the club which we tend to see a lot of with the more powerful players on tour. Again he looks very evenly balanced between his right and left foot, not considerably favoring either one. You will also notice from the face on view that his spine is angled away from the golf ball, and this again something you will see commonly with the best drivers of the ball such as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods circa 2000. Dustin has a slightly unusual move off the ball as he forward presses his hands and picks the club up sharply off the ground to begin his golf swing. This action closes the face slightly at the beginning of the swing and is something we will see throughout Johnson’s movement.
As DJ begins to take the club back you will see he sets the club nicely in front of his hands and just above the original shaft plane line. You will see from the face on view on the right, he has created a significant amount of angle between his lead arm and the club. This helps Dustin support the club and is the starting point of his exceptionally powerful shoulder turn in the back swing. I like that he has allowed his head to shift slightly away from where it started, as it allows him to load his weight into the right foot and create a lot of torque as he gets to the top of the swing. As we mentioned earlier if we look at the club face in both images you will notice it is pointing down towards the ground or what most people would regard as a “closed” position.
As Dustin begins to approach the top of the backswing we can see he has maintained a fantastic angle on the golf club, pointing almost directly at the golf ball. In this position we can see a much clearer image of DJ’s often talked about left wrist position and also how it affects the club face throughout the swing. If we look closely we can see that Dustin’s wrist is bending in such a way that we can start to see the logo on his glove, this is commonly known as a “bowed” left wrist position. From the face on view on the right you can see he has maintained an exceptionally stable lower body while beginning to create a powerful and wide turn with his upper body. When we combine Dustin’s width and turn we can begin to see why he is the longest hitter on the PGA tour.
TOP OF THE BACKSWING
Dustin’s position at top of the backswing is a phenomenal example of his athleticism, strength and flexibility. As you can see his lower body has had little or no lateral movement, and he creates a huge amount of separation between his upper and lower body which will translate into power and club speed in the downswing. As you can see on the right hand side the club has gone significantly past parallel but more interestingly DJ’s wrist is still in a bowed position and the club face is still “closed” pointing almost directly up towards the sky. Although there are some people out there who will try to do this, I would have to say that Dustin is most certainly not “trying” to create this position, instead it is simply a natural development from other movements in his swing.
As Dustin starts the downswing we can see he begins the movement by bumping his hips towards the golf ball, allowing him to unwind his power from the ground up. Looking at the down the line image on the left hand side we can see he has kept his hands nicely in front of his chest on the way down, and the club has remained on plane throughout. This is extremely important as if it gets stuck too far behind him or under the swing plane it could result in a significant amount of right to left curvature in DJ’s game when combined with his “closed” club face position. In fact by keeping the club more in front of his body on the downswing DJ has actually switched his ball flight to favor more of a left to right shape.
Looking at Dustin’s impact position on the left it’s amazing how much he has managed to open up his hips and square the club face to the target. I recently heard his coach Claude Harmon III mention that the harder Dustin hits it, the straighter the ball goes and that when Dustin begins to slow down he will end up hitting the ball into trouble. This would often go against the status quo, but with Dustin’s swing it is completely understandable. If Dustin’s body slows down and allows the club face to catch up, he will most likely be unable to stop the ball going left as his closed club face position in the back swing will catch up with him.
As Dustin release’s the golf club we see a huge amount of extension and width in his arms after he has launched the ball towards the target. You will notice that despite his club face being exceptionally closed in the backswing he does manage to resist it getting too closed in the follow through. You will see his head has stayed in line with its position throughout the backswing (although slightly lower) which I like as it will reduce how much he hits down on the golf ball.
DJ’s finish is one of balance and resolve, for someone who creates so much power he really does make it look simple. To me Dustin is definitely one of the best ball strikers in the world at the moment and despite some unusual positions in his swing has definitely created a golf swing that works for him and should win him several majors in the future.