When we think of Luke Donald the first thing that comes to mind is the syrupy rhythm and the perfectly balanced finish, which make his swing appear graceful and uncommonly effortless, sort of a refined Fred Couples. Add that to a mechanically sound backswing and you might expect Hogan-like approach and impact alignments. And if that were the case you would have to wonder why Donald hasn’t dominated more tournaments like he did the recent Match Play Championship.
Alas, the proof is in the video, where we see how Donald’s transition and approach to impact dictate a hand and forearm oriented release pattern that is, in my opinion, more complex and difficult to manage than one in which the hands pass closer to the body (in the neighborhood of the original shaft plane) and thus are not required to roll the clubface nearly as much in order to square it. The key is the direction of the initial hand and arm movement starting down. The sequence is obviously correct (he wouldn’t be the great player that he is without it) but his hands head directly for the ball, which brings them to the shaft parallel position well above (and away from the body) the position they occupied at address. From this approach angle Donald has to bend the wrists downward to reach the ball in addition to the normal task of rotating to square the face. His shaft angle at impact is a massive 8 degrees above his original shaft plane, way up there by any standards. Watching the violent rolling of the hands through impact we can easily see why slow-motion video analysis is the only way to effectively view the impact area of a good player. Who would think that a player with the outward, naked-eye look of perfection that Donald exudes would have such a convoluted release pattern that taxes his talent to the nth degree and perhaps explains why his ball-striking statistics are not the best? That said, if you watched him plow through his matches you saw him timing his swing well and showcasing the best short game (until Tiger gets his back) on the planet.