Former Walker Cup captain Peter McEvoy has said that he believes Nick Dougherty is the most naturally talented young golfer this country has ever produced.
All credit to Nick Faldo, who has nurtured 'Little' Nick since the age of 15, and more recently to leading tour coach Peter Cowan, who has worked with Nick over the last 12 months.
As we look at this swing in detail, I think you'll find several pointers that will help your game, too.
Create both the balance and the freedom to move
One of the key things that Nick has resolved with coach Peter Cowan is posture. He used to sit very much back on his heels, which encourages the club to go und the body too quickly. Pete gave him the image of a goalkeeper waiting to save a penalty - i.e. to feel that his weight is more on the balls of the feet, so that his balance is hanging forwards.
He has also improved his angles, the arms relaxed, with a lot of space at the set-up and free of tension. Another thing Pete stresses is the importance of winding up into the right side as you make a backswing, and to help Nick achieve that he has him nicely positioned behind the ball at address. Look how far his nose is behind the ball - a clear sign of his intentions.
Uncomplicated first move creates width and sets all of the wheels in motion
Avery orthodox first move away from the ball. One of the most interesting things, looking at the face-on position here, is that clearly he's resisting with the lower body. It's the knees that are providing the real brace
in this swing. The arms are swinging, the shoulders are clearly responding and starting to wind up, while the wrists are starting to rotate and 'cock' so Nick gets the club into a fairly 'toe-up' position at this early
From this perspective, if your grip is relatively neutral, you want to be looking at the back of the left hand, the face of the club mirroring it as the shaft reaches parallel. Very obviously he's
starting to move over and into his right side (against the flex and resistance provided by that braced right knee) and again this is something Pete Cowan encourages. Already the coiling process is well underway.
Hands, arms and body working together as the coil continues
The traditional halfway back position, with the left arm parallel to the ground. My preference here is that the wrists are fully cocked. This then allows you to focus on rotating the upper body to reach the top of the backswing.
As he moves through this halfway position, Nick is clearly now shifting into the right side. If we draw a line down from his chin, you can see just how much lateral movement is going on here. He is progressively moving further right to get his body fully behind the ball.
This is a key lesson: there are still an enormous number of club golfers out there who believe they have to keep their head still...which is destructive. You look at 99.9% of the world's top players and you will see they move their head, or set it behind the ball to begin with and then keep it relatively still as they coil up. Either way, their head is well behind the ball as they reach the top. One more point here is that the angle that Nick has created between his left forearm and the club will now remain unchanged as he completes his move to the top.
Get everything behind the ball for a truly powerful wind-up
The better you coil, the better you uncoil. Also, the more power you are going to get to enjoy playing with. In my view, if the wrists are fully cocked in the first half of the backswing, then the second half of the backswing becomes pure coil. And that's all Nick has done in the space of these two frames - from the 'set' position halfway back, he winds his body to reach this position at the top. In other words, all of the wrist action is in the bottom half of the swing, and the majority of the winding and unwinding motion occurs in the top part.
Because Nick has a strong grip, he is well aware that if the left wrist should become bowed he's going to be flat and closed at the top of the swing. So he's conscious of keeping the back of the left hand 'cupped'. (A good image is to think of having the badge on your glove pointing forwards towards a camera.) Nick is working very hard on maintaining this left wrist position to neutralise the clubface so that he returns the natural loft to the ball at impact - and thus fires his shots with the desired trajectory.
Let the club fall down and gather speed on way to impact
Given the time Nick has spent in Nick Faldo's company, it's hardly surprising that a fluid rhythm is one of the many qualities that we find in his swing. You can almost sense the patience and the calmness with which Nick starts down as he unwinds back towards the target. There are no signs of straining in the face, and though this is an athletic swing, full of power, it is also 'quiet'.
For me, this main image reveals that he gets the club travelling on a great plane, relating the shaft to the ball, and as he works with Peter Cowan, I have no doubt he will get the clubface into more of a neutral position (the face is still a little closed here). Still, this position is much improved; a year or so ago the hips would have been wide open by now, while the shoulders would still have been closed. In other words, there was some disparity in the recoil speed of his upper and lower body, to such an extent that he often ended up with the club trapped behind his body. At this point in the downswing, you ideally want your belt-buckle facing the ball, your legs more or less back to where they started, and the club tracking the ball from the inside.
Body action is the engine that powers the hands and the club
Club golfers often fall foul of throwing the club at the ball with the upper body, shoulder-dominant as they lunge the club forwards before pulling it across the ball. I think these images of Nick reinforce the importance of letting the club fall down into a good hitting position from the top, whereupon you can gather the necessary clubhead speed to rip through the ball at impact.
As long as you start the downswing with the lower body, shifting your weight across towards the target as the gears are reversed, you will find the club falls nicely down into this powerful delivery position. I like to describe the sequence as "swing-settle-swing" - you swing to the top, then settle your weight back to where you started before swinging through the ball.
One thing this angle proves beyond doubt is that as he makes impact, his body is anything but square to the ball. The hips are wide open, and to a lesser degree so are the shoulders.
The body is creating centrifugal forces which drive and accelerate the clubhead. At impact, the logo on the glove is looking straight at the target - and that's a great image to have in mind.
Get the back of your left hand 'slapping' the target as you strike the ball. Because he does have a strong grip, it is is important for Nick that he rotates his body well through impact. If the body stops, the hands get active, and suddenly he's fighting going left. The right arm is still slightly bent -another frame on it would be straight. But very definitely a body rotation has led this charge, the uncocking of the wrists adding to the speed through the ball.
It's a rollover...once the ball is on its way
The halfway-through position reveals a distinct crossover with the hands and arms, and my suspicion is that in the past this action would have taken place a little earlier in the swing. He is consciously trying to take his hands out of his swing; taking away the rotation of the hands. He doesn't want them flipping over through the ball. He wants to un-cock the wrists but he doesn't want rotation. By improving his body action, Nick is able to hold the hands 'off' until the ball is well on its way, and as a result is much closer to planting the natural loft of the clubface squarely on the ball.
Though the release has been made, Nick is still very much 'behind if. The eyes are now starting to come up, and from here the whole body will be free to straighten as he turns into the follow-through.
The left leg is nice and braced, which gives you a great feeling of hitting against something, and clearly his weight is moving over to the left side.
Body rotation calls the tune to the finish line
Through the ball into what you would expect - a traditionally well-balanced finish. Yes, the left foot is peeling up slightly, but that's nothing he needs to worry about (it simply reflects the fact that he has moved his weight laterally on to his left side, and rotated well). His weight is now deep in his left heel, which is a reflection of the fact that his energy has worked around him.
A lot of club golfers find themselves hitting the ball with their left heel up off the ground at impact. This is often explained by the fact that they are not rotating their left side out of the way, and so tend to fall forwards. If you lose your balance towards the ball, it is a strong indication that you are throwing the club in front of your body, and not rotating well to the left, so you need to work on it.
Nick's belt-buckle points to the left of the target at the finish, and if you can turn through the shot and get into the same sort of position, you can be fairly confident that you have rotated properly.