Viktor Hovland Unhappy with His Golf Swing

It sounds ridiculous to hear from Viktor Hovland at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that he doesn’t like what his swing is doing. 

Viktor Hovland - AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Viktor Hovland - AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am / Al Chang/ISI Photos/GettyImages

“It's been a little bit frustrating so far this year,” he said about the problem.  “Feel like my swing hasn't been quite as good as it has been in previous years, so it's been, felt like I've tried to prioritize just being home and practicing, putting a lot of work in.”

His issue, he said, is that his ball flight is now a draw, and what he has hit when he is most successful is a fade. So, he decided to stay at home and work on fundamentals.

“Don't really want to fight through something while playing,” he added. “It's just not that fun, and I don't see the point of it.”

He said his recent results reflect the fact that his swing is out of sync.  He has only played three times this year, the API being his fourth. He said his recent results reflect the fact that his swing is not right.  He was 22nd at Sentry, 48th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and 19th at the Genesis Invitational.

“It's just the mechanics of the swing. Just haven't been able to hit the shots that I want to,” he continued. “When you're seeing a shot, and your swing is not producing those shots, it becomes very tough to compete, especially at this level.”

Though he won the Tour Championship last season ($18 million, thank you very much!), he was still not satisfied with his play.

“I actually prefer my golf swing better in 2021, kind of early 2021 I feel like my ball striking was the best,” he continued. “Now don't get me wrong, I definitely swung it well last year, but it wasn't as good as I would have wanted.”

This explanation reminds me of one time when Dave Stockton, Jr., was doing video tips for The Golf Show, a syndicated TV program, which was sponsored by Buick.  We were on the range at Torrey Pines, which is, or at least was, a tiny range in terms of length and width. Dave, Jr., said something along the lines of it’s important to go with what you have that day. I had been around a lot of PGA Tour players and never heard one of them say that. It was fascinating.

“Some days you get out of bed and you can only hit a fade,” is more or less what he said. “So that day, you need to go with what you have.” In other words, hit the fade. Plan for it.

Other days, you might get up with a draw, and the idea is to play that.  Dave, Jr., said it was just the way things worked, that your body would feel a different way on different days.

Dave, Jr.’s father is the two-time PGA Champ Dave Stockton who was captain of the 1991 US Ryder Cup team, in the contest that became known as the War by The Shore at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.  So, Dave, Jr.’s, information was a result of his experience and his father’s know-how.

It’s the lesson of what do you do when you get to the course and realize your game has gone south for a day. You need to find something that works.

The problem with just getting through the day is that if a guy has been playing a fade and his ball is now drawing, he can’t align properly or confidently.  He might aim for a spot in the fairway where his fade would land, and instead a draw comes out and instead of being in the center of the fairway, he’s in the left rough. He can’t be sure where the ball is going. That’s horrible for a Tour player. It’s horrible for anybody whose golf has an actual pattern versus those who just hit and hope.

Hovland is trying to revert to the fade he used to have.

How is he doing it? It’s not by working on swing plane.         

“I'm just pressuring the ground a little bit differently and, yeah, just doing a couple things different off the ball that is causing a chain reaction,” he explained. ”It's just a matter of trying to get the swing started the right way, and I should be able to find my groove from there.”

Hovland noted that he has spent a lot of time looking at old swings and seeing how his swing has changed over the years.

“I've had a lot of multiple different patterns, and I've been able to make a lot of different things work. I would say this pattern that I've got going on now is a little bit, it's different in a different way. So, it's been a little bit more challenging,” he offered.

He says he is just the kind of person who likes to hit a golf ball flush.

“I really just cherish being able to hit the shots exactly the way I want to,” he added. But he’s smart enough to have given himself some good self-talk.

He knows he won the Tour Championship without loving his ball striking.

“At the end of the day, we're golfers, we're not ball strikers,” he concluded. “I got to pat myself on the back and tell myself, Okay, even though my swing doesn't feel great right now, I can still compete. That's very important to remember.”

Hovland has a new coach in Grant Waite, a New Zealander who played on the PGA Tour for many years. And he’s moved from Oklahoma to Palm Beach, Florida. Both of those changes probably take some getting used to.

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On the plus side, it’s easier for Hovland to visit family in Norway because he can fly from  Miami. Stillwater, Oklahoma, requires a few more connections. And Stillwater has a thing called winter, whereas South Florida is tropical.  

“It's hard to beat it for golf, especially this time of year,” he said. But he does miss friends in Oklahoma.