How Dustin Johnson gets power from a 55-year-old ‘coiled spring’ lesson

May 2, 2019

In April of 1964, renowned club pro Claude Harmon appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, accompanied by the plea: “Let me help your game.” Two generations later, Harmon’s grandson (and, yes, he’s the son of Butch), Claude Harmon III, is extending a similar helping hand—and many of the same fundamentals.

Here’s CH III’s take on how instruction has changed over the past half-century—and how it hasn’t. More importantly, here’s how timeless basics can quickly save your swing.

This is Part One of a four-part series. You can see the complete series here.

BY CLAUDE HARMON III, WITH DYLAN DETHIER:

My grandfather was a golf instructor, as was my father. My three uncles—Dick, Craig and Bill—also taught at a very high level. I’m turning 50 this month, and to look back at something my grandfather did more than 50 years ago just gives you all kinds of crazy perspective. Not only was my grandfather a great teacher, he won the Masters (in 1948)—as a club professional! That’ll never happen again. So I welcome any comparisons to him and to my family.

I’m proud of my Harmon heritage, but I’ve worked hard with some of the best golfers in the world to leave my own footprint on the game. Though you’ll never catch me in a shirt quite like the one he wore on the SI cover, it’s really cool to see how my grandfather’s teachings have stood the test of time. Here’s how one lesson from my grandfather 55 years ago helps Dustin Johnson — and can help you.

ADD POWER

1964, SI: “The idea that you should be comfortable at the top of your backswing is hogwash.”

MY GRANDFATHER’S TAKE: The coiled spring is a vivid image that my grandfather liked to use to convey a timeless idea: the idea of loading, turning and creating tension in the backswing. The big key here is that you can’t unwind what you haven’t wound. Coil that spring, wind it up and build plenty of tension so it will want to unwind all at once.

Spencer Heyfron

MY PERSPECTIVE: From the top of the swing, most people are trying to fire the gun, but they haven’t even loaded it yet. That’s what my grandfather is stressing in the picture above—you have to turn to load!


SEEN ON TOUR: HOW DUSTIN DOES IT

The best modern example of the coiled spring is what Dustin Johnson does at the top of his swing. Talk about rotation! There’s big hip turn and major shoulder turn. D.J. is super-flexible, sure, but one of the reasons he hits it so far is that he makes such a complete turn.

If you’re struggling to get distance, work on that feeling of making a longer backswing. Some people get so short with their backswing that they don’t have anything to hit through with. D.J. will never have that problem.

HERE'S THE DRILL

On the backswing, many amateurs tend to lift their arms and stand up straight—and right out of their posture. To correct that, I want you to be a helicopter. From your stance, stick your arms out to the sides, at shoulder-height (photo). Next, as in a regular backswing, make sure your front “rotor” is pointing toward the ground.


Feel that right hip load and that left shoulder turn, and really get into that coiled, loaded position. The helicopter image really emphasizes that feeling of turning while in your posture. You want that blade going down, not up.