Eye Dominance in Golf: A Piece of the Golf Puzzle
Did you know that eye dominance in golf can play a huge role in swinging consistently well? Even though a golf swing only takes a second or two, your eyes can affect everything.
When most people start playing golf it’s common to hear, “Are you right or left-handed?” While that’s a good first question to ask, the next one should be about eye dominance. In general, most golfers play golf with the same hand they write with but there are some notable exceptions like Phil Mickeslon.
But aside from your primary hand, your eyes can impact our aim from behind the ball, setup, and other parts of the golf swing. So let me ask, do you know if you’re left eye dominant or right eye dominant?
Today we’ll make it easy to understand which is your primary eye and how to make subtle adjustments for big changes in golf.
Eye Dominance in Golf
When it comes to the golf swing most focus on grip, posture, stance, takeaway, and wrist action… but what about the eyes?
Honestly, eyes are not discussed very much. In fact, after watching golf on TV for decades I hardly ever remember an announcer talking about this subject. Justin Leonard is one of the few to talk about this subject in the 2022 US Open. Otherwise, it’s hardly a conversation you’ll hear at the range with your buddies.
Other than a player getting LASIK surgery to help read greens better, eye dominance is almost a hidden part of the golf swing. But understanding the role of your dominant and non-dominant eye can impact how you set up to the golf ball and what type of adjustments you might need to make.
So, are most golfers dominant with the same hand? Or not?
According to Shanborn Eye Specialist, “Sixty-five percent of people have a dominant eye that is the same as their dominant hand. That is, if they’re right-handed, their dominant eye is their right eye (or left eye if they’re left-handed).
Eighteen percent of people are cross dominant, with their dominant eye different from their dominant hand. Interestingly, 17 percent of people have no identifiable dominant eye.”
- Your eyes can play a big role in the golf swing even if the topic is rarely discussed.
- Eye dominance affects your visual perception and impacts aim, depth perception, ball position, and other parts of your golf swing.
- It’s important to know your dominant eye so you can try to mimic golfers with the same dominant eye. For example, if you’re a left eye dominant golfer you shouldn’t try to set up and swing like a golfer who is right eye dominant.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the pivotal role your eyes play in the golf swing.
Golf is a Visual Sport
Golf is a very visual sport and your eyes can cause a lot of problems without even realizing it. Think of your eyes as a cone of vision – the retina makes focus a priority and peripheral vision on the outer parts of the eye.
As Sports EdTv said, “When the eye is static the brain will take information from every part of the cone (visual field) central and peripheral. In the drive for instance the centre of the cone will be focused on the back surface of the ball, while the outer part of the cone will be tracking the path of the downswing as the image of the club traverses peripheral retina.”
The timing, aim, head movement, and even grip can differ greatly based on your dominant eye.
Start by Identifying Your Dominant Eye
Before getting into setup and swing changes it’s important to identify your dominant eye first and foremost. For some people this is easy to do as you’ve probably realized what eye runs the show since you were a kid.
For example, I can barely see out of my right eye despite being a right-handed golfer. Due to optic nerve issues and a cataract, the vision is blurry and minimal at best. This leaves my left eye to do pretty much everything and once I realized it, drastically changed my game.
Just because you’re a right-handed golfer, doesn’t mean you are a right eye dominant (or vice versa for left-handed golfers). So it’s important to first establish that there are two types of right or left-handed people – since 90% of humans are right-handed we’ll focus on them to keep things simple.’
How to Determine Your Dominant and Non-Dominant Eye
Before getting into why this matters, start by doing a test to determine which is the dominant eye and which is the non-dominant eye. Here’s how to determine which eye is the primary (this YouTube video is very helpful too):
- Start by making a triangle with your hands by using your thumbs and pointer fingers.
- Then, focus on something in the distance like a picture on the wall or a clock within the triangle.
- You want to keep both eyes open. Then, close your left eye – does the object stay centered or does it move?
- If it stays centered your right eye is your dominant eye. If it moves out of center your left eye is your dominant eye.
You can also use two other tests mentioned in this YouTube video as well. Here’s why this is so important when it comes to hitting golf shots.
Two Types of Golfers
According to Richard Hughes Optical there are two types of right handed golfers. As mentioned in this article, “Type 1 Individuals (Right Eye, Right Hand, and Right Foot) or Type 2 Individuals (Any Left Dominance within the three). While people may argue about the raw numbers, it’s enough to say that Type 1 individuals are far more common than Type 2 individuals and that the differences between the two are significant.”
This breakthrough came after PGA West teaching pro Jim Hartnett when he started to understand the role of the eyes in the swing. He was working with a variety of professionals and amateurs and understood that the dominant eye played a big role in the swing. He discussed this in dept in the book, “Golf for the Other 80%”
Eventually, Richard Hughes (with the help from others) found, “Not only does Eye Dominance play a significant role in a Golfer’s ability to make consistent contact, but the golfer likely has no understanding of why they fail to improve!”
So if you’re struggling with consistent ball striking, your eyes might be to blame.
Type One or Type Two?
If you’re right-handed with right eye dominant then you’re a type 1 golfer. If you’re right-handed with left eye dominant then you’re a type 2 golfer.
Knowing your dominant eye is key but don’t forget, both play a role in your golf swing.
As the same article mentioned above, “Just as each hand plays a role in gripping the club, the golfer uses both eyes to ensure clean contact and pure strikes; optometrists use the term Binocular Vision to describe this shared relationship.
During the swing, a golfer uses their combined cones of vision (Bi-Foveal Fixation) to maintain focus on the ball and the use of their peripheries to track the club through impact.”
Things get tricky when you move your head too much in the swing. Excess head movement can interfere with the dominant eye and lead to inconsistent contact. So if you hit a lot of thin or fat shots, this might be a contributing reason.
Don’t get me wrong, you still need strong fundamentals as well. But if it feels like you’ve tried everything, your eyes might be the issue.
Type 1 vs. Type 2
After putting this together Jim Hartnett found something very surprising – most Tour players were Type 2. Meaning, they had their main eye, hand or foot as the dominant one in their swing. While some pros were type 1, they tended to have less conventional swings which we’ll get into in the next section.
How Your Eyes Affect Your Aim
Now that you have a better understanding of your dominant eye let’s think about how this can affect your aim. As you know, aiming in golf is one of the most important things as incorrect alignment can lead to all kinds of issues.
Let’s say you’re a right-handed type one golfer – this can make aiming harder. Since your right eye is dominant, it’s farther away from the target and intermediary target. Conversely, if you’re a type two golfer with a stronger left vision, this makes aim easier as you’re closer to the target and your nose won’t get in the way.
If you’re a type one golfer who is right eye dominant it’s even more important to pick an intermediary target on every shot. This is something that is right in front of the ball and on the same path to your long range target.
But there are more issues than just alignment for the average golfer to face.
Left Eye Dominant Golfer (Type 2)
Now that you know the difference between type one and two golfers, let’s get into how left eye dominant can thrive in golf. If you’re a right-handed golfer and left eye dominant, you’re similar to Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. As mentioned above, studies have found that most professional golfers are actually cross dominant!
So, how should you set up and swing?
If you watch a video of Jack Nicklaus on YouTube you’ll notice he tilts his head back slightly right at address position. This allows him for his left eye to be directly over the ball (Justin Thomas is another elite ball striker who does this as well).
By rotating the head slightly back, it’s easier to see the back of the ball. This is why type one golfers tend to have longer, more fluid swings. As they take a bigger backswing they are still able to focus on the ball even if it’s well past parallel. A few good examples of this move include John Daly and Phil Mickelson.
It also makes it slightly easier to aim and focus on the target as they’re closer to it and their nose isn’t getting in the way.
Right Eye Dominant Golfer (Type 1)
Right eye dominant (type one) golfers need to make some adjustments vs. type two players.
Perhaps the best examples of these golfers are Annika Sorrenstam, David Duval, and Henrik Stenson. Each one of these elite golfers get their head up much faster than a lot of other players. This is because they are right eye dominant and want to maintain sight and naturally turn faster.
Since they are right handed they need to have more head rotation on the downswing to keep focused on the golf ball. These types of golfers also need to spend more time getting aligned at address since their right eye is further away from the target.
A few other examples of Tour players who are same-eye dominant golfers are Tony Finau and Jon Rahm. Both of them have very short backswings but generate a ton of power and basically get in the same position at the top of their swing. But they’re very different from someone like John Daly who is cross dominant and can track the ball with a huge shoulder turn.
FAQs About Dominant Eye in Golf Swing
Do you have more questions about the role of your eyes in this highly visual sport? If so, keep reading to learn more now.
How does eye dominance affect golf swing?
Your eyes play a big role in your aim, shoulder turn, and head movement. Not to mention a big impact on reading greens too. Use the three tests above to figure out your dominant eye so you can make any necessary adjustments.
Is Tiger Woods left or right eye dominant?
Tiger is a left eye dominant golfer.
Was Jack Nicklaus right-eye dominant?
Jack Nicklaus, like Tiger, is also a left eye dominant golfer. If you watch footage of Jack you can see how he tilts his head back to the right slightly at address. This allows him to see the back of the ball more with this left eye and make a long, fluid swing.
Is Phil Mickelson right or left side dominant?
Phil is type two player as he’s actually right-handed but chooses to play golf as a lefty (one of the few cross dominant players). He also has a fluid, longer swing than most golfers.
Some attribute this as one of the reasons he’s such a great short game player. Since his right hand controls the swing he’s able to hit all types of incredible short game shots by manipulating the club head better than most.
Can you play golf with only one eye?
Yes, as someone who doesn’t have hardly any vision in my right eye for several reasons I’ve become a +2 handicap. This statistically puts me in the top 1% of amateur golfers so yes, it’s possible. Regardless of your eyes, becoming a scratch golfer takes a lot of work on all aspects of your game.
Do type one or type two golfers hit it longer?
According to optician Richard Hughes type two golfers tend to hit it longer because they don’t lose sight of the ball with a big backswing. While type one golfers can lose sight of the ball with a big backswing and need to generate power elsewhere in the swing.
As he said on his website, “Type 2 golfers, on the other hand, does not have to make this compromise as they are able to maintain sight of the golf ball throughout all possible positions. This allows the individual to make a large shoulder turn without losing sight of the ball in their dominant eye.”
Some golfers who have found success in professional golf despite being a type one include Jim Furyk, David Duval, and Annika Sorrenstam. They all have a unique head movement in their swing and it’s likely from their right eye dominance.
Should you look at the ball or putter when putting?
You want to keep your head as still as possible when putting – regardless of which eye is dominant. If you watch the putter on the backstroke you’ll likely move too much and negatively affect your stroke.
The best example of this is Tiger; his head stays incredible still throughout this stroke. It’s no surprise that he’s one of the best putters of all time.
While amateur golfers do the exact opposite and move their head too much. This can change the putter path and loft significantly which leads to a lot of mishit puts.
I’ve learned that I’m a type two golfer and it has helped my game. Despite being right-handed, my left eye is my dominant eye as I can hardly see out of my right eye. I do think this has impacted my ball striking to an extent but with a lot of hard work and practice I’ve been able to overcome it.
But this goes to show that it’s an important part of golf instruction. However, most teachers (as I’ve worked with tons over 20+ years of playing golf) rarely, if ever address this issue. If you don’t though, it can lead to a lot of issues in ball striking.
While it’s important to swing your swing, don’t forget to know your body and tendencies too.
Final Thoughts on Determining Your “Aiming Eye”
Let’s keep things simple – type one players (same side dominant) have everything dominant on the same side (hand, feet, and eye). While type two players (cross dominant) have one aspect (hand, feet or eye) dominant aka cross dominant.
The majority of Tour players are cross dominant and make it easier to swing with a big shoulder turn. But there are plenty of notable exceptions to same side dominant golfers who have found plenty of success in professional golf.
Jim Hartnett and Richard Hughes have brought an important topic to the golf world and that affects more golfers than you might think. Here’s the thing, if you want to change your golf swing, you typically need to change your setup position. So much happens before you ever take the club back to start your swing.
But instead of just focusing on grip, aim, posture, takeaway, etc. it’s important to understand your body. This includes any physical limitations that might happen from injuries and your dominant eye. These are two important pieces of the puzzle that can help you swing more consistently and share with a golf instructor.