Quietly, Hunter Mahan has risen to the ranks of golf’s elite. A pair of wins in early 2012 brought the 30-year-old Oklahoma State product to the attention of many fans, but he’d already spent several seasons building the foundation for a stellar career.
Mahan finished among the PGA Tour’s top 30 money winners every year from 2007-11, and ranks fourth in 2012 as of this writing. His game has no glaring weaknesses – he drives it straight and reasonably long, hits tons of greens in regulation and makes more than his share of putts.
His game, in other words, appears built to last.
Mahan’s signature: Powerful rotary action through the swing, most notably with the hips.
Mahan earns plenty of praise for the effortless action of his full swing. But there’s a lot going on – especially down below.
Mahan reaches the top of the backswing in great position – full shoulder turn, club parallel to the ground, back of the left wrist flat and everything on plane. It only gets better from there. He starts the downswing like nearly all top players, by moving the left hip toward the target. Unlike some, however, Mahan’s lower body rotates left rather than sliding laterally. He remains well balanced as his right side drives around through the ball, generating more power than his 5’11”, 175-pound body would indicate.
At impact, Mahan’s hips have turned to nearly face the target directly, a hallmark of many young pros today.
Why it works for Mahan: His swing may not be precisely textbook, but it’s awfully sound. That said, Mahan’s favored shot – the fade – could easily morph into a push were his lower body less dynamic. The hip rotation clears the way for his shoulders and arms to work freely into impact, where he releases the club beautifully.
By rotating around his core rather than sliding side to side, Mahan stays centered over the ball. That’s why his swing is so efficient: It requires no intricate hands-and-arms manipulations that demand feats of timing. It’s the reason he’s so consistent, too.
How it can work for you: If you tend to shift sideways on the backswing and/or downswing, concentrate on rotating around your head, spine and chest. Practice by placing a club across the back of your shoulders and turning right, then left, while standing upright. Do this repeatedly, with the feet shoulder-width apart, to ingrain the correct rotary motion, then use the same drill while standing in your golf posture.
To activate your lower body for a downswing like Mahan’s, visualize turning your belt buckle toward the target (around to the left) as you swing down and into impact. The belt buckle should face the target at the completion of the swing.