Analysing the "Dustin Johnson Move"

 

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In this short review paper, I will be describing the "Dustin Johnson Move". 

Dustin Johnson has a remarkable tendency to bow his left wrist during his backswing action and he keeps it bowed throughout his entire downswing and early followthrough. Many uninformed golfers and golf instructors wrongheadedly believe that because Dustin Johnson bows his lead wrist during his backswing action that it causes his clubface to become markedly closed relative to his clubhead arc by his end-backswing position. They also wrongheadedly believe that by having a very closed clubface at his end-backswing position, and by maintaining his bowed left wrist throughout the entire downswing and early followthrough action, that Dustin Johnson can simply turn his body into impact without having to use a left forearm supination action in his late downswing (which is called a PA#3 release action in TGM terminology) in order to square the clubface by impact. I will demonstrate that this "belief" is a fallacy! Many golf instructors also teach their golf students (who use a neutral left hand grip) to bow their lead wrist during the early-mid downswing using a technique called the *"motorcycle move" (or the "twistaway maneuver") and they wrongheadedly believe that it is the same technique used in the "Dustin Johnson Move". I will demonstrate that this "belief" is also wrongheaded and obviously false!

(* I have described the "motorcycle move" in this short review paper at http://perfectgolfswingreview.net/MotorcycleMove.html )

Consider Dustin Johnson's address position and backswing action.



Image 1 shows Dustin Johnson at address. Note that he has a moderately strong (3+ knuckle) left hand grip. He acquires a moderately strong left hand grip by having his left humerus internally rotated at address so that his left antecubital fossa faces away from the target. He then pronates his left forearm so that he can place his left palm partially over the top of the club handle. When he grips the club handle in the palm of his left hand, his left palm is angled somewhat to the right and that causes the clubshaft to be angled to the right (away from the target) when the club handle lies diagonally across his left palm. Most importantly, note that the clubface (which can be held square to the target at address) is closed relative to the back of his left hand by a significant amount (eg. 30-40 degrees). Note that the back of his left wrist is scooped/cupped at address and that his left hand is slightly ulnar-deviated.

Image 2 is at the P1.5 position (early takeaway position). Note how he is starting to palmar flex his left wrist so that it appears to be more visually flat (rather than scooped/cupped) while simultaneously moving his lead wrist in a radial direction. Note that it causes his clubshaft to become angled backwards away from the target. Most importantly, note that it doesn't change the degree of clubface closure relative to the back of his left hand because he is not using a finger-torquing action to twist the club handle in his left hand while he palmar flexes his left wrist.

Image 3 is at the P2.5 position. Note that he left wrist is now more bowed. However, note that his clubface is not closing more relative to the back of his left hand.

Image 4 is at the P3 position. Note that he continues to bow (palmar flex) his left wrist. However, note that his clubface is not closing more relative to the back of his left hand.

Image 5 is at his end-backswing position. Note that he has a markedly bowed left wrist. Note that his clubface is parallel/horizontal to the ground and golf instructors often refer to that more horizontal clubface alignment at the P4 position a closed-clubface alignment. Most importantly, note that the clubface is not more closed relative to the back of his left hand than it was at the P1, P1.5, P2.5 and P3 positions. However, if you refer to the watchface area of his left lower forearm as a reference point, then the clubface is more closed relative to that reference point (when compared to his P1.5 position) - but only due to the fact that his left wrist is more bowed (more palmar flexed) at P4 than it was at the P1.5 position, and that changes the angular relationship of the back of his left hand relative to the watchface area of the back of his left lower forearm. It is also important to realise that the clubface is partially closed relative to his clubhead arc during his backswing action and that it doesn't progressively open as seen in a golfer who has a neutral left hand grip and who uses the intact LAFW swing technique where the left forearm increasingly pronates as the backswing evolves - but that is only because i) the clubface is 30-40 degrees closed relative to the back of his left hand and ii) the back of his left hand is palmar flexing more as his backswing progresses.

Now, consider Dustin Johnson's downswing action.


 

Image 1 is at the P4.7 position, image is at the P5.2 position, image 3 is at the P5.5 position and image 4 is at the P6 position.

Note that Dustin Johnson maintains a bowed left wrist throughout his early-mid downswing action. Most importantly, note that his clubface is about 30-40 degrees closed relative to the back of his left hand during his early-mid downswing and that he is not closing the clubface more by using the "motorcycle move" (which involves a twistaway maneuver where the left hand's 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers twist the club handle more closed secondary to activation of the flexor digitorum profundus muscles that cause the flexing fingers to twist-torque the club handle in a counterclockwise direction). Note that his clubface is only about 30-40 degrees closed relative to the clubhead arc at the P6 position (if a vertical clubface at the P6 position is arbitrarily regarded as being reflective of a neutral clubface alignment at the P6 position). Note that the back of his bowed left wrist is roughly facing the camera at the P6 position and that it is approximately parallel to the ball-target line at the P6 position.

Image 5 is at the P6.5 position and image 6 is at the impact (P7) position where his clubface is square to the target and the clubhead arc (which is now also square to the target). Note that the back of his left hand rotated counterclockwise by a significant amount between P6 and P7 and many golf instructors/golfers wrongheadedly believe that it is simply due to the fact that Dustin Johnson is rotating his body more counterclockwise during his late downswing action. However, most of the counterclockwise rotation of the back of his left hand (and therefore clubface) between P6 and P7 is due to a left forearm supination phenomenon (which is called a PA#3 release action in TGM terminology) and it is not due to a body rotation.

Here is the proof!

 

Image 1 is at P5.5, image 2 is at P6, image 3 is at P6.5 and image 4 is at impact.

Note how much his body is rotating counterclockwise between P5.5 and impact. However, and most importantly, note that his counterclockwise body rotation is not causing his left upper arm to rotate counterclockwise during that same P5.5 => P7 time period (relative to the ball-target line) - note that his left antecubital fossa is facing away from the target to the same degree at impact as it was at P5.5 even though his body is much more open at impact than it was at P5.5, and that phenomenon is biomechanically possible because his left humerus is rotating clockwise in his left shoulder socket during that same late downswing time period (while his body is rotating counterclockwise).

Look at his left lower radial bone (just above his left wrist crease) relative to his left antecubital fossa at the P5.5 position. Note that it is rotated more clockwise, which means that his left forearm is significantly pronated at the P5.5 position. Note that his clubface is not yet square to the clubhead arc at either the P5.5 or the P6 position. So, how does he square his clubface relative to the clubhead arc during his later downswing between P5.5/P6 and impact - if he is not rotating his left humerus more counterclockwise during that P5.5/P6 => P7 time period? The answer is obvious if you look at his left lower radial bone and if you note how it is rotating counterclockwise (relative to his left antecubital fossa) between P5.5/P6 and impact - and it is biomechanically due to a left forearm supination phenomenon (PA#3 release action). Note that Dustin Johnson's left forearm is far less pronated at impact than it was at the P5.5 position. The back of his left hand is not facing the target at impact even though his clubface is facing the target at impact, but that phenomenon is fully expected because he adopted a moderately strong left hand grip at address that caused his clubface to be angled closed by ~30-40 degrees relative to the back of his left hand at address.

These images prove that Dustin Johnson squares his clubface during the later downswing via a PA#3 release action (secondary to a left forearm supination phenomenon). The question then becomes, does he use more-or-less left forearm supination during his late downswing compared to another golfer who adopts a moderately strong (3-knuckle left hand grip) at address but who doesn't use the bowed left wrist technique (like Dustin Johnson)?

The answer, which many golf instructors/golfers will find counterintuitive, is that Dustin Johnson has to use more (and not less) left forearm supination during his PA#3 release action because he uses a bowed left wrist technique - compared to another professional golfer (who adopts a similarly strong left hand grip) but who doesn't frankly bow his left wrist during his golf downswing action.

Consider Keegan Bradley at address and at impact.

 

Image 1 is at address, and image 2 is at impact.

Note that Keegan Bradley adopts a moderately strong (3+ knuckle) left hand grip at address and that means that he has significantly pronated his left forearm at address (in a similar manner to Dustin Johnson). Note that his clubface is about 30-40 degrees closed relative to the back of his left hand at address. His hands are slightly behind the ball at address, which means that he has to bend (extend) his left wrist to a very small degree to get his clubshaft to become aligned perpendicular to the ball-target line at address (which is merely his stylistic preference when it comes to clubshaft alignment at address) and it has the insignificant side-effect of causing the clubface to be marginally closed to the ball-target line at address.

Image 2 is at impact. Note that he has forward shaft lean at impact without having a frankly bowed (palmar flexed) left wrist. How does he get forward shaft lean at impact without having a frankly bowed left wrist? The answer is that he pronates his left forearm more and that angles the clubshaft more backwards relative to his straight left arm - note that the back of his left lower forearm (watchface area) is facing the ball-target line much more at impact than it was at address, which means that it is more pronated. Also, note that his left wrist is less bent (extended) at impact - compared to its address alignment - and that additional biomechanical fact helps create his forward shaft lean alignment at impact.

Now, consider Dustin Johnson at address and at impact.


 

Image 1 is at address, and image 2 is at impact.

Note that Dustin Johnson has an equally strong left hand grip as Keegan Bradley, which means that his left forearm must be significantly pronated at address. However, Dustin Johnson stylistically prefers to have his hands slightly ahead of the ball at address. He has forward shaft lean at address due to the fact that the club handle lies diagonally across his left palm, which is itself angled to the right secondary to his pronated left forearm alignment at address, and he doesn't have a bent (extended) left wrist like Bradley Keegan that will decrease the amount of forward shaft lean at address.

Image 2 is at impact. Note that he has a bowed left wrist which angles the clubshaft backwards away from the target. Most importantly, note how much more his left forearm is supinated at impact - compared to Keegan Bradley - and that means that he had to use more left forearm supination during his PA#3 release action (when compared to Keegan Bradley) in order to get a square clubface at impact, and that is because he uses a bowed left wrist technique that angles the clubshaft backwards relative to his straight left arm. If he didn't supinate his left forearm more and if he had a pronated left forearm at impact (like Keegan Bradley) then his clubshaft would be angled too far back away from the target with a clubface that is too open - secondary to the well-known biomechanical fact that having a bowed (palmar flexed) left wrist angles the clubshaft back away from the target (and also backwards relative to the ball-target line if the back of the left hand is closer to being parallel to the ball-target line rather than being perpendicular to the ball-target line and that angling-back phenomenon also opens the clubface more relative to the ball-target line) and it would compound the amount of backward clubshaft angulation (secondary to having a very pronated left forearm at impact due to his adoption of a moderately strong left hand grip) to an untenable degree.

Here is a composite image comparing Dustin Johnson's P1.5 position to his P6.5 position.


 

Image 1 is at P1.5. Note that his clubface is about 30 degrees closed relative to the back of his left hand. Note that there is still a small amount of cupping/scooping in the back of his left hand/wrist and that he has not yet fully flattened his left wrist - even though he is starting to palmar flex his left wrist during the takeaway. Note that the clubface is only minimally open relative to the ball-target line.

Image 2 is at P6.5. Note that he has a frankly bowed left wrist, which is angled at about a 60-70 degree angle relative to the ball-target line. Note that his clubshaft is angled backwards away from the target, but also angled inwards away from the ball-target line because the clubshaft angles backwards in a directional plane that is roughly perpendicular to an imaginary plane running along the front surface of his bowed left hand. Note how this significant degree of clubshaft angulation opens the clubface more relative to the ball-target line, even though the clubface is still about 30 degrees closed relative to the back of his left hand (which is more open to the ball-target line at P6.5 than it was at P1.5).

From that P6.5 position, where the clubshaft is angled back-and-inwards and where the clubface is still significantly open relative to the ball-target line, Dustin Johnson will need to supinate his left forearm more, which will rotate the clubshaft targetwards and decrease the amount of forward shaft lean present by impact, and it will also allow him to square the clubface by impact.


 

Image 1 is at address, image 2 is at P6.5, image 3 is at P6.8 and image 4 is at impact.

Note how much his clubshaft is angled back-and-inwards relative to his left arm at P6.5 and note how much the clubface is still open relative to the ball-target line.

Note how he is continuing to supinate his left forearm between P6.5 and impact, and note how how it decreases the amount of backward angulation of the clubshaft relative to his left arm by impact and also note how it allows him to acquire a square clubface by impact. 

Finally, note that Dustin Johnson has the same degree of forward shaft lean at impact as Keegan Bradley even though he has a bowed (palmar flexed) left wrist, and that "fact" is secondary to the extra amount of left forearm supination that happens during his PA#3 release action, which counteracts the tendency of his bowed (palmar flexed) left wrist to also produce forward shaft lean at impact.

 

Jeff Mann.

March 2018.