By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
With his dominating win at East Lake, Henrik Stenson not only became the first European player to capture the FedExCup, but he also became the first player from across the pond to lead the PGA TOUR in ball-striking (since stats were kept in 1980). Stenson’s ball-striking skills were on full display during the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, and drew raves from NBC analyst Johnny Miller, a pretty fair ball-striker during his day.
What makes Stenson such a good ball-striker, particularly with his irons (he also led the TOUR in greens hit in regulation, at nearly 72 percent), is his ability to really squeeze and compress the ball. By compressing the ball, he utilizes the loft of the clubface to launch the ball, which creates solid contact. It also helps transfer maximum energy to the ball and gives him favorable launch and spin conditions to maximize distance and direction.
Stenson clearly manages his path and clubface very well, but he squeezes the ball as well as anyone I’ve seen on TOUR. He does that by sustaining the downward pressure of the clubhead on the ball to the low point of the swing, adjacent to his left shoulder. What I mean by that is the clubhead keeps moving down, past the ball, peeling the divot all the way to the low point of his swing. A good analogy would be that of driving a nail into the wall—the more you sustain the down after impact, the farther you drive the nail into the wall.
He accomplishes the down by purposely trying to hold his arms and club shaft down into the finish (i.e., abbreviating his finish). You’ll often see Stenson rehearsing a three-quarter length, knockdown-type swing. In his mind, he’s committing to sustaining the down in his swing. His mentality is that the clubhead is not going to swing up, even though it eventually has to release and come up. By mentally committing to the down through the shorter follow-through, he’s able to sustain the downward pressure longer and compress the ball.
In order to compress the ball, the shaft must be leaning forward at impact, and whether or not it’s leaning toward the target is a function of the right wrist. To really compress it and peel off a nice, long divot, the right wrist has to remain bent to the low point of the swing. If the wrist is straight or bowed at impact, then the clubhead is going to come up off the ground immediately after impact, if not before. Your torso must also support your arm swing by rotating open to the target through impact. Without the support of your chest, your body will stall out and you won’t be able to sustain the down; you’ll wind up flipping the club.
As a drill, take some waist high to waist high swings with a 7-iron, making sure that your hands don’t swing any higher than waist height on the follow-through. Focus on the efforts of your right arm through impact, as you want it pushing down and straightening past the ball. Feel as if it continues to push down and out through impact, as that’s how you peel a divot in front of the ball. After a while, it may start to feel like you’re hitting the ball farther than before with only half a swing. That’s the beauty of compressing the golf ball—if you learn how to sustain the down, like Stenson, you’ll hit the ball farther and straighter with less effort.
Travis Fulton is Director of Instruction for all TOURAcademy locations nationwide. For more game-improvement tips from the TOURAcademy instructors, on-the-spot club recommendations and 3D previews of each hole you play, download the TOURCaddie PRO app at www.pgatourcaddie.com.