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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Dufner Way

Surprise -- it's not Keegan Bradley's swing! Keegan's been analyzed to death over the last couple of days, but Jason Dufner -- who actually hit more fairways and greens than Keegan -- has received very little attention apart from his waggle. That's a shame, since Jason is not tall like Keegan -- at a more common 5' 10", I suspect his swing would help a lot more people.

To make matters worse, there's very little footage on YouTube of his swing. I found only 3 down-the-line videos.

But I think you can learn something very important from Jason... and I was fortunate enough to find a clip that shows it. Here it is:

It's no secret that Jason is self-taught and a self-confessed Hogan disciple. He's got that waggle and relatively flat plane Hogan had. (Actually, I think I'd call it a neutral plane since his left forearm is exactly shoulder height. You can see that clearly in the video.) It's an extremely simple swing -- that's part of the reason he's so accurate with it -- and for those of you who worry about such things, he doesn't have a great deal of separation in his downswing. That's a term that describes how much sooner his hips start the downswing before his shoulders start down. It's barely noticeable with the driver and not noticeable at all with an iron. Personally, I think that's a good goal for those of you who are trying to increase that separation -- keep it minimal and you'll be more accurate.

But there's something Jason Dufner does when he starts his backswing that many of you might find useful. You'll find it just past the 00:16 mark. I don't know if some of the analysts have considered it part of his waggle, but it deserves some "air time" on its own.

After he waggles, Jason starts his backswing by quickly moving his right knee toward the target. (That would be the left knee for you lefties out there.) I'd describe the motion as a kick-in move. Some of you may be familiar with a motion called a "forward press" that many putting teachers like Dave Stockton teach their putting students, where they move their hands slightly toward the target before starting back. It helps a player ease into the stroke.

Jason is using a big version of that. He kicks his right knee slightly toward the target, and the slight "rebound" he gets from it helps him start his backswing more smoothly.

For those of you who have trouble starting your backswing, this is a wonderfully simple way to get you moving. It's sort of like a tennis player rocking from one foot to the other while waiting for the serve, or a basketball player preparing to move either way if his opponent tries to put a move on him.

Between the waggle (to relax his hands, wrists, and forearms) and this kick-in move (to get his lower body relaxed), Jason is able to start his swing with a syrupy motion that doesn't move him off the ball or throw him off balance. It's a useful motion to incorporate into your swing, especially if you tend to tense up before hitting a pressure shot.

It certainly worked well for Jason Dufner. For a guy who's never won more than a Nationwide tournament, his swing held up under major pressure pretty well... about $865k worth of "pretty well," in fact. That works for me!


  1. Thanks for this article Mike. I am glad that you took the time to bring attention to this somewhat subtle trigger that Dufner uses to relax his lower body and ease into the stroke.

    Watching Dufner last weekend, there was just something about that pre-shot routine (and not just the waggle)!! I just knew that he was going to hit it relatively straight every shot - his strategy for calming the nerves was clearly on the pre-shot routine and not the actual shot at hand - and this really seemed to work for him.

    I tried to bring some of the waggle pieces back into my game at the range the other day (after the PGA Championship) and it worked quite flawlessly. Remember when Sergio did the waggle about 15 times before every shot and also remember that this is when he was on the top of his game!! And Mike Weir with the "half take back" (although injuries seemed to have affected him more than anything else – but he did lose the “half take back” for a time after he won the Masters, as I recall).

    Why do players move away from these types of effective nuances when they appear to work for them - are they embarrassed? Better to be slightly embarrassed and win $865k than to lose your card entirely. Not sure why Faldo and others kept "counting the waggles" - it's not for them to judge!! If he is playing within the rules and this works for him, why make a mockery of it!!

    I was quite intrigued and inspired by Dufner's performance last week. I was pulling for him. Just a couple simple tweaks to 2 or 3 strokes down the stretch and he would have won it. Seems like quite the classy guy too!!


  2. Dave, you have to remember that too many of the commentators have a "mechanical" bent to their thinking. Unless something repeats exactly the same way each time, they don't believe it can be reliable. Consistency isn't just about ritual, but most modern teachers don't see that. Peter Oosterhuis made the observation today during the Wyndham broadcast that since Jason didn't swing until he was ready, that irregular number of waggles might be considered a routine of sorts. He's in the minority to recognize that.

    Why do players move away from such things, even after they've been successful using them? I think it's that mechanical mindset again -- things like waggles just don't seem to provide a clear mechanical advantage. Besides, it's an "old" technique, so it must not be important anymore, right? New is always better.

    Bringing up Sergio and Weir reminds me of something about the Dufner waggle I didn't mention, but it's part of what makes him different... and probably more successful with it. If you watch these clips again (and any other video of Jason's swing), you'll note that there is no pause between his last waggle and his swing.

    Other players waggle, then stop, then swing. But not Jason. He finishes his waggle by setting the club behind the ball and then he immediately swings the club back, no hesitation. This has been either overlooked or simply not mentioned in every analysis I've seen, but I think it's an important part of the process.

    I've heard several commentators say Jason probably blew his chance to ever win a major last week. Then he did really well at the Wyndham today, and everybody seemed amazed. I bet Jason Dufner surprises everybody and becomes a multiple winner -- with at least one major -- before his career is over.

    1. Hey great site, I've shot 2 under and 15 over in the same week based on what I think is a "manufactured" swing. I know that my lack of consistency revolves around not having a simple swing. This is one of the biggest reasons I've been watching J. Dufner a lot lately. I love the simple swing and will definitely try to incorporate a waggle and even the right knee kick to start the swing. It seems to me that its about a smooth flow between the pre-shot and the strike. Do you know why he waggles? It almost seems like hes ingraining a swing path before he pulls the trigger. Just wanted your thoughts on how I can simplify my swing and get out of this mindset of trying to find the right path, tempo etc..
      Also I totally agree that Jason will be ay the top of the leader boards more and more. Like right now at the Zurich.. THanks again,

    2. Ian, I don't know exactly how Jason got started waggling. My best guess is that someone early on advised him to stay loose until he actually hit the ball; a waggle is a natural way to do that. It's also possible that he picked it up from Ben Hogan's book Five Lessons, since Hogan also waggled. Waggling isn't the only way to keep your wrists and forearms loose before you swing, but it's definitely a good way.

      You're correct, though. He's practicing his takeaway in place of a full practice swing. If you start correctly, you automatically eliminate a lot of swing problems.

      As for recommendations on how to simplify your swing, you can start on my "Some Useful Post Series" page. Almost any of those will help you. And if you're in the mood to blow $4.99, you might want to get my Stop Coming Over-the-Top book, which covers some of the same material but has it all organized and expanded in a way I can't do in blog posts. You can find out more about that book by clicking on the cover image in the sidebar.

      And if you want to simplify your mindset -- this is going to sound silly, but I'm serious -- just do it. That kind of stuff is in the Stop Coming... book, but here's one simple tip that I think most instructors miss: Just decide where you want your hands to be at the top of your backswing, then swing them there. Here's the reason:

      Did you know that, geometrically speaking, all you need are 3 points to create a plane? Your hand position at setup is one of them. Decide where you want your hands to be at the top of your backswing; that's your second point. Then figure out where the top of your finish should be; that's your third point. If you swing from your setup to the top of your backswing, then down through your setup position to the top of your finish, you'll create a swing plane. And as long as you make a good takeaway, you'll start on plane.

      Once you understand your swing, it really can be that simple. It becomes just a matter of "take the club back to there (top of backswing) then hit the ball."

      By all means, take a look at the "Some Useful Post Series" page -- the button is under the blog header. I'd suggest starting with the deadhanded approach shot. That's a version of Steve Stricker's swing. You can't get much simpler than that.