Every golf fan can name a players’ swing they like the best. It may not be the most textbook or conventional, but for whatever reason, their motion just fits their eye the best.
May favorite golf swing? There’s only one, and it belongs to Jason Dufner.
When you hear the phrase “conventional golf swing,” think Rory McIlroy. His arms extend wide and up on his backswing. His lower body lowers and spins on the downswing. Torque. Flexibility. Power. His move is a thing of beauty, executed to perfection. It’s the kind of swing most golf instructors point to as the model.
But for as undoubtedly brilliant as Rory’s golf swing is, there are trade-offs. The reason 5-foot-9 Rory can launch drives over 350 yards is the same reason he’s often accused of being a “streaky” player. McIlroy didn’t win anywhere between November 2012 and May 2014, then won two majors in three months, then none since. There’s a lot of moving parts in his golf swing. When it’s all clicking, he’s undoubtedly the best golfer on the planet. When it’s not, he’s not.
Which brings us to Jason Dufner.
Duf overhauled his swing in 2009 under the guidance of world renowned golf instructor Chuck Cook, and now acts as the showcase of Cook’s method. The tenants of Cook’s philosophy are simple: Golfers’ arms, relatively speaking, are full of lots of smaller muscles, prone to bouts of inconsistency when they all aren’t firing at the same time. Cook’s solution is to transfer as much emphasis as possible to players’ bigger muscles in the torso. Keep the arms ultra-connected to the torso, and the golf swing because relatively simple.
You can see it in the first picture above, but look again at how close Dufner keeps his right tricep to his torso on the backswing. His backswing is short because that’s the point: A longer backswing would require his arms disconnecting from his body, which is exactly what he’s trying to avoid.
Duf’s swing is as efficient as Rory’s is beautiful, and the results prove it. His ball-striking has remarkably consistent over an eight year stretch, finishing 34th, 29th, 25th, 8th, 21st, 13th, 18th, 23rd, 21st in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green between 2009 and 2017.
Timing has been rendered such a non-issue by Dufner’s super-efficient golf swing that his baseline is always crazy high.
Dufner is probably a big win or two away from cementing himself in golf’s Hall of Fame. If he gets there, it’ll be because who overcame two things that have consistently held him back: Putting, and driving distance. His lack of distance could be attributed to his golf swing, which emphasizes precision over power, but the 5-foot-10, 180ish pound Dufner has also never been the most athletic guy on the PGA Tour. Get Dustin Johnson swinging like this, and he’d have no problem hitting the ball far.
In truth, Dufner’s lack of distance does only makes his ball-striking stats more impressive. His Driving Distance over that same time period — 102nd, 140, 125th, 64th, 107th, 122th, 121st, 70th — has been well below average, yet even so, he remains an elite overall ball-striker on the PGA Tour.
Dufner succeeds in spite of, rather than because of, those two issues. You don’t need to hit the ball far or putt well if you hit it as consistently as Dufner. When he’s on, he’s one of the best — at the very least, one of the most consistent — players in golf. If you’re looking for a horse at the U.S. Open next week, don’t be surprised when you see Dufner’s name pop onto the Sunday leaderboard.