Graeme McDowell hit quality knockdown shots during his win at Harbour Town. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Another great finish at the RBC Heritage this week as Graeme McDowell got it done at Harbour Town. Certainly, it was not a surprise to see the Irishman play so well in tough, windy conditions on Sunday as the sporty little knockdown shot he hit during the first playoff hole turned out to be the difference.
I love to watch the PGA TOUR when the wind is blowing because it really separates the guys who are controlling their ball flight. In windy conditions, there is a premium on controlling the impact condition because any small issue can be greatly exaggerated.
Often times, I will take many of my students and teach them how to hit a knockdown shot early in lesson plans. This allows students to shorten their swing frame and begin to control the club shaft, club head and club face at impact. At the TOUR Academies, we call these the “Big 3” and each is critical when trying to hit that 6-iron through the wind like Graeme McDowell did late on Sunday afternoon.
Club shaft: The significance of the club shaft when hitting a knockdown shot is to lean it forward at impact. If you are a player that leans the club shaft away from impact, then you are more than likely going to struggle in the wind. In order for the club shaft to lean forward you must learn to keep the trail wrist bent through impact -- learning how to do this in a smaller setting like a knockdown shot is highly recommended because it will teach the importance and value of this critical fundamental in the golf swing.
Club head: With the club shaft forward, the club head can now be moving down. This is another key piece of a knockdown shot because the club head needs to be moving down through impact. Again, if the club shaft is leaning away from the target, then the club head is more than likely moving up through impact. However, what’s key here is most of you don’t need to steepen your overall swing shape to hit down. If you get too steep with your swing shape then you run the risk of the launch angle being too high, so continue to make your same swing shape with high emphasis on forward lean in the club shaft with a club head moving down, creating a nice shallow divot.
Club face: With the club shaft forward, the club face will be delofted. This is critical because the club face has huge value to the overall launch angle of the ball. If it’s delofted then the ball will launch at a more penetrating angle – thus knocking it down. In addition, it’s important that the lead hand squares the club face up through impact. Be careful that when keeping the trail wrist bent through impact you don’t “hang on” to the club face. This means the lead hand knuckles are too much to the sky. This creates an open club face and usually higher shots to the right. Instead, feel the back of the left hand “turn down” – knuckles to the ground. This closing effect to the club face is needed not only for trajectory but overall direction as well.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.