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November 7 2013

8:53 AM

On the Mark: Clubface awareness

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Dustin Johnson has a closed clubface at the top of his swing but gets it to square at impact.

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

The PGA TOUR is becoming a truly global initiative and last week the spectacle descended upon Shanghai China for the World Golf Championships–HSBC Champions.

From the opening round, the TOUR’s elite put on a show of superlative golf and low scoring but it was Dustin Johnson who grabbed the tournament with an incredible second-round 63. From there he piled on the pressure and closed with back-to-back rounds of 66 over the weekend. His virtuoso performance resulted in a three-stroke victory and his second victory in 2013. In an odd twist of fate, thanks to the new wraparound schedule, Johnson, who won the 2013 season-opener at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions will be the only person ever to win two season-opening events in one calendar year.

Much is made of Johnson’s athleticism and power. There is a lot of conversation and discussion about his golf swing too, especially with regard to his bowed lead wrist and closed clubface at the top of his backswing. It highlights for me an important lesson as to understanding the influence of the clubface on the ball-flight and direction.

My childhood background in cricket has always had me convinced that the bat-face/clubface’s alignment throughout the swing and then at impact has a bigger influence on the direction of the ball than any other factor. With that being said it is important to realize that, more than anything else, your swing work should be directed toward presenting a squaring clubface along the correct angle of attack in order to deliver consistently accurate and powerful shots.

Johnson, under the expert guidance of Butch Harmon, does a super job of doing just that. As mentioned, he carries a bowed wrist and a closed clubface at the top. Instead of adjusting the wrist position at the top of the swing (a task that would be very difficult and potentially risky) Dustin went about applying, and gaining an understanding of, what was necessary to avoid the harmful left shot that could result from the closed clubface.

In order to make accommodations for the closed clubface at the top, Johnson makes an aggressive and fast unwind of his hips and torso along with a full extension of both his arms through impact and beyond. These two mechanisms “open” or square the clubface and help him to deliver reliable and consistent shots.

Everyone should realize what mechanisms result in the face playing more open through impact and on the other hand which mechanisms cause it to close more. Further, if you tend to play with the clubface in an open situation at the top (the face of the club will appear to hang down toward the ground) then you need to ensure that the downswing emphasizes a closing of the face to deliver the ball on line. Conversely, if you carry a closed clubface at the top (the face will look toward the sky) you need to ensure that you make downswing moves to open up the clubface en route to impact.

In order to improve your consistency become intimately aware of your clubface’s tendency and then find players who tend the same way. Go ahead and pay attention to what your model (whoever that may be) does during the downswing and impact in order to hit quality shots. Strive to emulate your model and not just any golfer. As I mentioned earlier, a player’s downswing delivery is very much a function of what the top of his or her swing looks like. Not every model is for you.

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.

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