The golf swing is a complex, unnatural motion that can only be perfected through practice and drills. What is paramount to remember is that there is no one ideal swing that works for everyone. Watch any PGA Tour event some Sunday and you’ll see as many different swings as there are players. But the following tips should give anyone who plays bogey golf – or worse – some idea of what might be wrong with their swing.
There are, of course, other factors that come into play when swinging a golf club. Remember that your hands are the only part of your body that actually touch the equipment, so a firm but flexible grip, regardless of which of the three major grips you choose, is important. Also, one’s head need not stay “down,” but instead should remain still throughout the swing with eyes focused on the ball.
Without a doubt, the most important aspect of the game of golf is the swing. The proper golf swing can be divided into three segments: the backswing, the downswing, and the impact and follow-through. By improving your form in each of these individual motions, you can easier diagnose flaws in your swing, and through detail-intensive practice on each motion, you can improve your overall swing, play better golf, and, above all, have more fun on the course.
The focus of the backswing should be placed equally on body rotation and club and arm extension. Ideally, the backswing is a one-piece motion that is smooth and fluid. Few golfers can actually maintain a straight front elbow, but it should be kept as straight as possible to help control the backswing. The back elbow should be bent (90 degrees is ideal).
Believe it or not, your arms do not start the downswing. Instead, a proper downswing should begin in the legs and hips. To begin transferring your body weight from back to front (and thus increase your distance), the knees, thighs, and hips should all begin moving forward, with the knees first, then thighs and hips. The motion should be quick and smooth enough to give the feel of a snake uncoiling.
The Impact and Follow-Through
At impact, the forward (left) arm and club shaft should form a straight light. The body weight should be on the outside of the forward heel and the inside of the rear foot. The heel of the back foot should be slightly raised with the back knee bent slightly inward. Hands, wrists, and forearms should rotate so the grip end of the club points toward the target. Finally, the wrists should rotate over and the elbows should bend, with the clubhead behind you. Your bodyweight should finish on your front heel with your back foot on its toes.
These drills can be practiced virtually any time – at home, in the office or at the club – and should be repeated at least 20 times before stepping onto the practice range, training your muscles to feel natural while performing an unnatural motion.
Backswing: Hold the club normally, getting into your usual setup stance. Then lift the club off the ground and move your hands down the shaft until the grip touches your belly-button. Remain in your regular stance. Slowly begin your backswing, stopping when the club is parallel with the ground and the clubhead is pointing directly away from your target.
Your weight should be on your back foot (preferably the heel) and the club grip should still be touching your belly button. Now cock the club by rotating your wrists towards your body, pointing the club behind your shoulders toward your target.
Downswing: To best simulate the lower-body motion of a snake uncoiling, begin at the top of your backswing and begin to slowly shift your weight by driving your knees, thighs, and hips toward your target. While the lower body is uncoiling, the hands and arms should be naturally downward into position for impact, with the club parallel to the ground. At this point, take notice of how your weight has shifted onto the front foot.
Impact and Follow-Through: Begin at the bottom of your downswing, with the club parallel to the ground. Slowly bring the club through the ball until the arms, wrists, hands and club are wrapped around your front shoulder. The club grip should now be pointing at your target. Remember, at impact your hands should be in front of your front hip, ahead of the ball.
Again, practice these drills 20 or 30 times – beginning slowly and deliberately, eventually reaching full speed – before actually hitting a ball on the driving range. When you do practice, try to notice how each part of your body feels during the swing, and notice where the ball ends up after you hit it. This will help you diagnose and fix problems before you step on to the first tee box.
Finally, develop a pre-shot routine that you will use before every swing. Jack Nicklaus was once timed at a tournament, and over four days, approximately 270 shots, his pre-shot routine always ranged between 14.3 and 15.2 seconds from the time he set up to the time he struck the ball.
You can’t be Jack Nicklaus, but you can become more consistent, and consistency in a pre-shot routine will only help take your mind off the imposing task at hand – hitting a skinny fairway off the first tee with your boss watching, for instance – and let your body do the work.