Johnny Miller is best known for his 25 PGA Tour victories, brilliant ball-striking and on-course style—he was among the few who could look smart in a pair of bright plaid pants.

Even before he became a TV analyst, Miller had incredible, in-depth knowledge of the golf swing, with an understanding of swing mechanics on a level that rivalled some of the best instructors in the game.

“I’m very observant when it comes to the mechanics,” Miller said in a Golf Digest article from 1974, “The only way you’re going to learn is by observing. When I see a great driver, I try to observe exactly what he does differently to be so good. It’s the same with a great chipper or putter.”

This profound understanding of the golf swing certainly helped Miller capture eight PGA Tour victories in 1974 and win the PGA Player of the Year award.

Golf Digest Film Study: Johnny Miller’s Unique Grip Made Him an All-Time Ball-striker

“I think I understand my swing better than any of the other young pros,” Miller said. “That’s one reason I don’t get into slumps. If I hit it badly, it’s just for a short time because I go back over my basic keys. It’s almost always the same two or three problems.”

So who better to take swing advice from than Miller in his heyday?

In the same Golf Digest article from October 1974, Miller revealed a few of his swing keys, and I found one to be extremely helpful as someone who has a tendency to swing over the top on the downswing.

Line up left for powerful strikes

In the article, Miller said that one of his keys for a solid swing is making a good lateral shift toward the target on the downswing. Surprisingly, he said it comes from his setup.


Augusta National

“My swing is dictated by my address position. It’s just like lining up a gun. If you aim it at the target and pull the trigger, the rest of it is pretty elementary . . . it just flows,” Miller said.

Miller went on to explain that a proper setup is what allows him to still produce good shots, even when he makes a less-than-perfect swing.

“If you’re not lined up correctly and in a good address position, if you don’t have a good foundation, you’ve got to make an almost perfect execution or correct a fault with another error to get the shot online,” Miller said.

Miller’s setup key? To align your body a little left of the target. He explained that this adjustment promotes an aggressive lateral move through the ball.

“If you set up [to the] right, you can’t make that lateral lead because your body blocks you out,” Miller said. Which creates compensation, like an over-the-top move coming down.

“The average guy sets up to the right of the target and then makes a big strong move with his right side to pull the ball back on line,” Miller says. “This feels good . . . it’s a feeling of power . . . but it makes you come over the top with an outside-in swing. Not too many guys want to set up left of the target and make the lateral shift and the slight blockout that Lee Trevino and a lot of good players do.”

So there you have it, a quick lesson from Johnny Miller. Line up left to stop coming over the top and even swing a little like Lee Trevino. A smart, simple fix from one of golf’s legendary players.

Check out the Golf Digest Archives for more instruction gems from the game’s top players and coaches.