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Luke Donald: Golf Swing Analysis

When we think of Luke Donald the first thing that comes to mind is the syrupy rhythm and the perfectly balanced finish, which make his swing appear graceful and uncommonly effortless, sort of a refined Fred Couples. Add that to a mechanically sound backswing and you might expect Hogan-like approach and impact alignments. And if that were the case you would have to wonder why Donald hasn’t dominated more tournaments like he did the recent Match Play Championship.
Alas, the proof is in the video, where we see how Donald’s transition and approach to impact dictate a hand and forearm oriented release pattern that is, in my opinion, more complex and difficult to manage than one in which the hands pass closer to the body (in the neighborhood of the original shaft plane) and thus are not required to roll the clubface nearly as much in order to square it. The key is the direction of the initial hand and arm movement starting down. The sequence is obviously correct (he wouldn’t be the great player that he is without it) but his hands head directly for the ball, which brings them to the shaft parallel position well above (and away from the body) the position they occupied at address. From this approach angle Donald has to bend the wrists downward to reach the ball in addition to the normal task of rotating to square the face. His shaft angle at impact is a massive 8 degrees above his original shaft plane, way up there by any standards. Watching the violent rolling of the hands through impact we can easily see why slow-motion video analysis is the only way to effectively view the impact area of a good player. Who would think that a player with the outward, naked-eye look of perfection that Donald exudes would have such a convoluted release pattern that taxes his talent to the nth degree and perhaps explains why his ball-striking statistics are not the best? That said, if you watched him plow through his matches you saw him timing his swing well and showcasing the best short game (until Tiger gets his back) on the planet.


4 Responses to Luke Donald: Golf Swing Analysis

  1. drew williams May 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Very good presentation. Do you have other videos of current players with comparisons
    to Ben Hogan’s swing?

  2. Tom Hurst May 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    One of the things you rarely mention,
    but is emphasized by my teachers the father and son team of Ted and Mark Sheftic. I have had so many mixed opinions about the role of the hands that I have been very confused about the feelings I should try to achieve at impact. Your evaluation of Luke Donald and the role of his hands resonated with me, because he seems to use his hands completely incorrectly as I have been schooled by the Sheftics. In addition to the fact that his hand position at impact IS NOT A REPLACEMENT OF WHERE HIS HANDS APPEAR TO BE AT THE ADDRESS POSITION OR (the Hogan circle) I feel as if my whole golf career was trying to imitate Donald——– without getting his results. It looks almost as if it is a FLIP—- with the hands.
    I am currently trying to achieve an impact position where my left hand is pointing down(arched) while at the same time trying to strike the ball with the back of my left wrist—- and the left hand is partially facing the ground. (getting release with my body turn)
    I am spending so much time on this because I believe I have always been early and somewhat of a caster. If the left wrist is not flat at impact ——–it may negate a lot of other good things in the swing——————- Sheftic says it’s simple—– cock the hands back— and then uncock on the forward swing. Perhaps this is a bit wordy and maybe sometime in the future you could illustrate with one of your wonderful analyses focusing on what I perceive as a complicated piece of the golf swing.
    I remain a devoted viewer of your website and at 88 probably the source of more pleasure than anything else that comes to mind quickly. Tom Hurst

  3. Al Gordon March 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    Hi Mr DeFrancesco, great analysis as usual. I think I’m getting a bit confused on your thoughts about hand movement from the top of the swing. I had thought you advocated a hand path traveling out directly towards the ball from the top of backswing? Not attempting to criticize in anyway, just curious. On a side note, I just finished watching a video regarding the “D-plane” and was thinking that the steeper shaft plane might help counteract its effects on the steeper downward striking shots more commonly used in the lower irons? Possibly explains Luke’s phenomenal accuracy in the lower clubs, and struggles with the longer distance irons? (Honestly I can’t really say he struggles with longer irons, secondhand unverifiable.). Stupid D-plane, stupid Internet. Every answer I find only leads to two more questions.

  4. Tom Hurst March 13, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Is it possible you could respond to me directly regarding a site by Joe Mayo re:”hand path and flexion of the lead wrist”——- Since I place such great value on your insightfulness and some of Mayo’s comments seemed to have clarity for me for the first time———I crave your commentary—– the site is a youtube as follows—————————–https”//———— if you would like to charge me for this —that would be fine tom hurst

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