Viktor Hovland was clearly ready to play the PGA Tour. The 2018 U.S. Amateur champion was low amateur at the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open, and immediately made it through the Korn Ferry finals that fall. But as he started his professional career, he was determined to fine tune some of the details that separate great players from average ones. His latest projects—more clubhead speed, better accuracy and more precise short game shots—are ones any player can use.
And as evidenced by his multiple victories in 2020, at the Puerto Rico Open and the Mayakoba Classic, these concepts have propelled his game to an elite category. Our cover star is ranked in the top 15 in the World Ranking at the time of this writing.
CHECK YOUR LEAD WRIST TO SLICE-PROOF YOUR SWING
“Before I talk about the position of my left wrist, which helps me consistently square the face at impact, you might be curious about that pumping action I sometimes do at the top of the swing,” Hovland says. “To hit a power draw, I slow down the transition from backswing to downswing by pumping the club twice. It’s like a rehearsal, and it helps me create more clubhead speed. If you try it, you might find it also improves your timing, allowing you to complete a fuller backswing before starting the downswing. Another thing that can help you is getting to the top in a good position with your lead wrist. My lead wrist is in flexion (above), which means it’s slightly bowed (palm down). If your wrist is extended (palm up), the clubface will be open at the top. You’ll have to do something in the downswing quickly to close the face, or you’ll probably slice it. It’s a lot easier to avoid a slice if you fix your wrist position at the top of the swing.”
SPEED EVERYTHING UP TO GENERATE MORE POWER
“My project has been increasing clubhead speed. To do that, I’m trying to make everything in my swing faster. It makes my hand path longer, my turn bigger, and I’m pushing harder off the ground (above), which translates into a faster clubhead. That’s a big difference from what many amateurs do. They try to swing faster but don’t turn their hips or shoulders more. That restricts speed. It should feel like you’re letting the clubhead go (below) instead of directing it through impact with your hands.”
ACCURACY STARTS AT ADDRESS
“One of my tendencies is to aim too far right, and that’s when I get into trouble off the tee. My stock shot is a little fade. But when I’m lined up right of my target (above right), my instinct is to push my hand path out to make my swing go more left. But that changes my swing path and makes it harder to produce a quality fade. To avoid that, I make sure my shoulders and hips are in line with my target (above left). Don’t ignore the importance of checking your alignment.”
USE A WEDGE THE WAY IT’S DESIGNED
“Hitting high, soft pitches used to be a challenge because of the flexion of my lead wrist (small photo, above). Flexion is good in the full swing, but it makes it harder to get the ball way up—you hit down on it too much. To take advantage of a wedge’s loft when pitching, I now grip the club stronger with my left hand, meaning turning it away from the target, but weaker with my right hand. This combo puts my left wrist in extension (above) and lets the club glide, not dig, along the turf to create good loft.”
CREATE DIFFERENT CHIPS FROM ONE SWING
“I mostly play low chip shots, but on tour you need to elevate the ball, too. My basic chip setup is with the ball in the center of my stance and my hands slightly ahead of it (middle photo, above). To chip it higher or lower, I don’t change where my hands are or what I do during the swing—all I do is change my ball position. For a shot that flies lower and runs out, I play the ball just in front of my back foot (far left). For a higher shot, I play the ball off my instep and open the face (near left). Then I’m free to pick my landing spot and let feel take over.”