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.
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.
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.
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!