November 13 2013
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
When he absolutely had to hit a good drive on the 72nd hole in Sunday’s final round of The McGladrey Classic, Chris Kirk delivered -- well, sort of -- hitting one of his patented draws into some manageable rough left of the fairway. That proved to be the difference, because while he was able to stay out of trouble his playing competitor, Briny Baird, hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker, drawing a horrible lie in the sand with the ball below his feet. Baird’s next shot went into the water, snapping the tie and handing Kirk his second career victory on the PGA TOUR.
Kirk has one of the more unusual setups in golf in that he stands very erect, with little bend in his knees and not much tilt from his hips. But what’s not unusual is that, like many TOUR players, he has a go-to shot that he can rely on in times of pressure, like the 72nd hole Sunday. Kirk likes to shape the ball from right to left with almost all of his clubs, and he does it as well as anybody on TOUR. If I were to write a prescription on how to hit a draw for my students, Kirk would be the model. Here are three components you can take away from his swing that will have you drawing the ball more consistently.
TAKEAWAY: CLUBFACE LOOKS AT THE GROUND
On the takeaway, Kirk keeps the clubface looking down at the ground, in a slightly shut position (i.e., toe pointing to 10 o’clock). There’s very little face rotation on his backswing; as a result, he doesn’t have to rotate it very far coming through impact. If the toe were pointing up halfway back, in an open position, it would require much more face rotation through impact to hit a draw. The other advantage to taking the clubface back this way is that it encourages you to hit the inside of the ball and, thus, swing more from the inside coming down. If you took the face back slightly shut and hit the outside of the ball, you’d pull it dead left.
TOP OF BACKSWING: LEFT ARM COVERS RIGHT SHOULDER
On the backswing, Kirk swings his left arm across his chest and very much around his body, so that when viewed from behind, his left arm is covering his right shoulder at the top of the backswing. There’s not a lot of up and down movement to his left arm; his left bicep stays very tight against his chest. This is what we refer to as a very deep shoulder turn—the deeper you can turn that left shoulder, the more likely your swing direction is going to be to the right, or from the inside. In order to hit a draw, it is encouraged the swing direction is to the right, so that the clubface is closed relative to the path the clubhead is traveling on. The face will still be pointing slightly right of the target line at impact, but because it’s closed relative to your path the ball will start to the right and gently curve back to the left. Golfers who swing their left arm too upright on the backswing have to drop their arms and loop the clubhead to the inside on the downswing in order to hit a draw, which is very difficult to do.
DOWNSWING: PATH MOVES TO THE RIGHT
The last component to hitting a draw as Kirk does is to make sure that your swing direction is to the right, or from the inside, coming down. Let’s say you’re standing in the middle of a clockface and your target is at 12 o’clock, in order to hit a draw you want to direct your swing out toward 1 o’clock—or about 3 to 5 yards to the right of your target line. Again, this will create a condition in which the face is closed relative to the path of the club, causing the ball to curve from right to left. I recommend drawing the ball from a square setup, or alignment, but if you have a hard time curving the ball then you may want to take your stance line and rotate it more to the right to promote more right-to-left spin.
I find that if you follow traditional instruction and aim the face at the target—with your body pointed in the direction that you want the ball to start—that you’re very likely to miss left since the face is looking down your target line at impact. The ball starts straight down the target line or a little left and then curves farther left. You’re much better off aligning square and moving your swing direction more to the right so that at impact, the face is looking a little right of your target—albeit closed to the path. Remember: The clubface is approximately 80 percent responsible for the ball’s starting direction, so in order to hit a draw it has to be slightly open, or looking right, at impact.
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.