Most golfers know their “dominant eye” heavily influences putting alignment, but did you know the dominant eye affects the long game, too? More specifically, it has a major impact on your backswing. Think of Jack Nicklaus and his pre-swing head turn that accounted for his dominant eye.

Since then, however, few other players have made it a priority to make the similar adjustments. Not factoring in your dominant eye can cause poor backswing movements, particularly with the torso, and will cause problems later on during the transition.

First of all, let’s figure out which of your eyes is dominant. For that, we consult Travis Weza from Combine Golf. Follow the instructions below.

“Begin with your arms out, wrists bent at 90 degrees upward and allow your palms to face away from you (like you are telling someone to “stop” moving). Bring your hands together so that your fingers overlap and form a triangular peephole with your thumbs and index fingers. Focus on a small object across the room. While viewing the object through the peephole, first close your left eye. If you still don’t see the object, switch eyes. The eye that sights the target is your dominant eye.”

Now that we’ve established which is your dominant eye, the next step is to understand how it influences your setup and backswing so you can make the proper adjustments.

Left-Eye Dominance

People who are “Left Eye Dominant” (the ones who sighted the object above using their left eye) must rotate their heads at address towards their rear shoulder and/or bend laterally to the right (for right-handed players) to allow the body to adjust for this dominance. Jack Nicklaus did this perfectly, as you can see again and again in the swing-video montage below — watch how he tilts his head just before he begins the backswing.

If you see the ball in this manner at address, then you’ll eliminate the need to rotate your head during the backswing. Let’s say you set up with a centered head but with a left-dominant eye (as Jack had). What would happen? As you rotated to the top, your head would also want to rotate rightward in order to keep the ball in focus. If you did not allow this to happen, you would greatly restrict your backswing, or you might even lift your head up and lose your spine angle instead.

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Jack Grout — Nicklaus’ longtime teacher — understood this and helped Jack to see the ball in a slightly different manner. He simply rotated his head to the right at address to make sure the ball was in the focus of his left eye. This way, his head was already using his dominant eye and was ready to accept the full rotation of the shoulders to the top.

Now, I understand that some players prefer not to do this; if you do not like this feeling of turning your head at address, then you can tilt the spine laterally to the right at address. This will place your head behind the ball and your left eye will be closer to the ball in this setup position. These types of setups will prevent the head from laterally moving to the right during the swing, which causes the backswing to move off plane to the top.

Right-Eye Dominance

Now let’s check out Aaron Baddeley’s swing from a few years ago.

For a player like Aaron Baddeley, who is right-eye dominant, you can see how his head and spine are in a much different position compared to Jack Nicklaus. It is not an incorrect position, but one that just accommodates a different eye-dominance.

A player seeing the ball with their right eye, as in the example above, will require a much more centered spine at address and a head position that is more centered looking down at the top of the ball, not so much the back of the ball. This type of right eye control will give you a slightly more upright swing if you are not careful. These types of players usually require a bigger plane angle shift from the top, or stronger leg action during the transition to hit the ball from right-to-left. Basically, this position requires a touch more flexibility to achieve the rounded swing, so they will tend to play from a more upright position; it’s simply easier on the body.

I would suggest that most right-eye dominant players play the ball primarily from left-to-right, as this tends to match what their set-up position forces them to do. But it’s not a requirement.

If you are right-eye dominant and you set up with too much spinal bending behind the ball, then you will see a noticeable cocking of the head to the right to compensate for this faulty spinal bend at address. We have all seen this player — it looks like his head is tilted with their chin towards the target slightly so they can “see” the ball better. If you want to center your head and make everything work more effectively, then I would make sure your spine is over the top of the ball and things will work much better overall in the backswing.

Hopefully by now you have at least a basic understanding of how your dominant eye affects your backswing. There is NO perfect amount of tilt, rotation, or centering to accommodate for your dominant eye, however, so please take your time and experiment to find your best position. Just make sure your dominant eye and your address position match and you will be off to the races!

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  1. More nonsense to fill the heads of golfers. No reason to obsess about eye dominance. Golf isn’t a focal aiming game. You can hit the ball with your eyes closed if you have good setup at address. Perform an athletic golf maneuver and you will return to impact in the proper position. Sorenstam and Duval didn’t look at the ball at impact. Turn your OCD brain off and go work on your chipping distance control.

    • Totally agree. If anything I think it would behoove most amateurs to lose sight of the ball during parts of their swing during practice. Being “ball-bound” is REALLY detrimental. Try picking up the ball mid-downswing. Or hitting the ball with your eyes closed like you said. Focus on other things like target, body motion if you’re working on your swing. And putt looking at the hole, your action will change dramatically. Just mess around with your focus, you’ll learn a ton. Then when you go back to looking at the ball its just one small piece of information, don’t lock onto it like a MIG in Top Gun.

  2. Tom, I have certainly noticed that how I rotate my head has made a big difference. If I rotate my head slightly towards my rearward should i hook more and if i rotate slightly towards my forwards shoulder I slice more. It seems to shift my plane a bit. To bad a centered head didn’t make me hit it straight.

  3. Tom, I would question the ball flight relationship to dominate eye. We know Jack played left to right as a left eye dominant player and I can names hundreds of right eye who play a hook.

  4. Great article – thanks! I’ll be re-reading it a few times. I have already started to realize this recently as far as how my right-eye dominance and swing interact – the easiest shot for me to do (especially with woods) is a fade. I can do a high draw, but if I am not careful on my setup it often turns to more of a hook.

  5. Great article Tom, I’d completely forgotten about this aspect of Nicklaus’ swing. Taught myself using ‘golf my way’ years ago followed by a few pro lessons. Luckily I figured out not to copy Nicklaus’ flying elbow!

  6. I am a left eye dominant, left handed. So similar to what you touch on with Baddeley, I completely agree. I always find myself lining up more to hit a cut and a fade and I swing my best when I am standing taller and my weight is more centered. I have a lot of trouble drawing the ball especially with my driver. When I do try and try and draw the ball I have the tendency to hit snap hooks cause it just feels very “Un-natural” for me.

  7. You’re wrong about the eye dominance being a thing when one eye is closed and the other open observ…
    When u look down at your nose you can see more of one side of it. That’s your dominant eye.

  8. My Son, When did the doctors release you? They told me you would one day be able to rejoin society. I welcome you back with open arms. Please make every effort not to relapse. You don’t want to have to go through the program again.

  9. Maybe it has nothing to do with eye dominance, however, golfers indeed have a large issue with trying to do something side-on, which our binocular vision and brain cannot decode. As far as eye dominance – I know that it is not static and varies day-by-day, as well as, during the day and changes based on the amount of light. That all being said, when we look side-on, eye dominance plays a large role for our alignment , as well as whether we are comfortable at address – since we are not using our binocular vision, but a twisted version of it.

  10. You’re all focusing on the wrong thing. Binocular vision is primarily depth perception. It doesn’t play a role in aiming. The dominant eye plays a role in aiming. The two combined enable you to hit a target while moving, i.e. Hitting a golf ball while you are turning. Soccer players do tilt their head when they are just about to kick the ball. Baseball players do the same, and any other active sport. So if you were right eye dominant, you could close your left eye to aim at the ball, then open both eyes to help with actually hitting the ball with the club head.

    It’s never just one thing, it’s a combination of both.

    You can’t hit a golf ball well (distance and power control) with ocular vision alone, and you can’t aim well with just binocular vision either (i.e. If you look at a target with both eyes and then start turning your head all the way to the right and then all the way to the left, you will notice that when you reach your peripheral limits, you will notice you may start seeing double. With one eye, it doesn’t happen because your mind tells you to stop at the peripheral limitation of the single eye.)

    Again, it’s the combination of both depth perception and dominant eye aim that help you track the ball during your swing and hit it well. So yes, knowing your dominant eye can contribute to help you hit the ball well, because you can adjust your setup to give you a better chance at hitting the ball well. It’s like a right handed rifleman that holds their weapon up on their left side but aims with their right eye and wonders why they cant hit targets consistently and has a hard time operating their rifle. You tell them that being right-eye dominant, they should setup up with rifle to the right side and it’ll be easier to aim at your target and track it.

  11. Eye dominance plays NO part. You’re not aiming at the back of the ball. Simply place the driver or club behind the ball. If you do everything right in the swing you will come back to the point of impact, square. You can do it with your eyes closed. David Duval and Annika Sorenstam weren’t even looking at the ball at impact. There is not “aiming”. Good grief. Eye Dominance is fodder for the cover of your silly Golf Digest rags.

  12. That’s a negative to both of your responses. Aiming plays a role. You cannot specifically talk about exact impact split millionth of a second. The golf swing and hitting the ball well and hitting it towards the intended target is built upon ALL the factors before, during, and after a swing. If I went by your logic and placed the club behind the ball with both eyes open, nothing would happen…because that is NOT a golf swing. You’re both narrowly focused only at point of impact. If eye dominance was not relevant, a rifleman would not need to look down the barrel to be accurate. ALL sports players look past their target at impact. Baseball players, and soccer players, etc. because the MOTION has to continue on PAST the point of impact otherwise you’d inadvertently be stopping your head from moving at impact. Your brain has a natural tracking mechanism. You can steadily see it when the camera guys are tracking golf balls in flight. They ALWAYS over shoot the ball because they’re subconsciously tracking the path, and their brains take them past the point because the brain is predicting the next logical direction. Try sitting on a train and then looking out the window. Same idea happens, your brain naturally allows your eyes to continue forward instead of stopping on each and every thing, aside from the fact that you are traveling too fast to look at every object anyway.

    You can NOT discount the before or after portions of a golf swing and only focus on the impact zone. Again, the combination of ALL the factors create the swing and contribute to your ability to hit it well.

    You want to test your eye dominance? Try to hit the ball with one eye shut and record your results. Then hit the ball again with the opposite eye closed and then see if you can hit it even remotely close…and we’re not talking half swings, we’re talking full on driver down the fairway splitting drive. You CAN NOT hit identical shots consistently switching between eyes.

    Only caveat would possibly be ambidextrous people, and of course those that practice with only one eye and alternating.

  13. Did you even read what I wrote … there is definitely an issue when we “humans” try to make a side-on golf swing looking down the line … who is talking about seeking out lessons … and guess what – my dominant eye does affect my alignment, causing me to go left with both of my eyes being used … so what do you think is causing this issue that I see most golfers struggling with?