When it comes to swing tips, YouTube, The Golf Channel and various golf magazines have meant that there is a ton of stuff out there. Like many, you may find a lot of this advice confusing and even contradictory at times. Sometimes it is best to just focus on golf swing basics.
The simple fact is that the golf swing is complicated. It is also a simple fact that everyone swings the club differently, in fact, a golf swing is almost as unique as a finger print. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few simple tips and tricks out there that can benefit all golfers.
This article aims to give you some nuggets that you can try. We are going to take it right back to basics here and give you some pointers to help you on your way, no matter what stage of your golfing journey you happen to be on.
One thing, one philosophy that every golfer should try to live by is that simple tends to be best in golf. A single swing thought is better than many, a single target is better than many and a single putt is better than many. Consider your game as you read this and see what you could change.
Golf Swing Basics Guide
With the golf swing being such a complicated and athletic motion, you must pay most attention to the moments that you can have full control over. The pre-swing phase is absolutely one of those moments and this is when it really pays to give the fundamentals of set-up your utmost attention.
Being the only part of your body that is actually in contact with the club, the grip is a vital part to get right. This is something that you are in full control of and that you should always be aware of. It is something that a good coach will always check, even if you’re the best player in the world.
There are three well-accepted types of golf grip, the baseball grip, the Vardon/overlap grip and the interlock grip. Baseball grip is both hands touching and is great for juniors or the smaller handed among us. This is more of a beginners grip and most golfers will move off fairly quickly.
The Vardon grip, favoured by most pros, is similar but the pinky of the lower hand rests between the fore- and middle fingers of the upper hand. The interlock grip, favored by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, is similar to the Vardon but you actually interlock the pinky and forefinger.
Once you decide what grip you are using, lay the hands on the club and point the v’s between your thumb and forefingers between your chin and your back shoulder. Now you’re ready to swing the club but don’t squeeze it, have just enough pressure so as not to drop the club in the swing.
Every golfer has had aim and alignment issues during their time playing. You know, that moment when someone you’re playing with points out that you are actually aiming straight into the trees or a water hazard and you thought you were aiming down the middle. It happens.
Hone it on the Driving Range
If you ever watch the world’s best golfers working on their game at a tour event, this is worth doing, you will see they use alignment aids. Yes, even the best in the game are constantly checking their aim and you should be too.
Use a club or alignment stick as a guide and line-up using that as you practice at the driving range. Take your time to make sure the guide is lined up properly then make sure your body is lined-up right too. You can also take aim then place the stick to check if your aim is off.
Aim Small, Miss Small
It was the great Dr Bob Rotella, golf psychologist of multiple major winners, who championed the idea of aiming small to miss small. This is absolutely one of the most powerful things that any golfer can do to improve their game. It can’t be over-emphasized, aiming correctly is key.
Humans are natural hunters, our brain has evolved to hit targets and we need to tap into this in golf. Many golfer will aim for the fairway or for the green, this is not good practice. If you “aim” for such big and general targets then when you miss them you are missing by quite a distance.
By focussing your mind on the smallest target that you can see comfortably, this would be a branch of a tree on the horizon, for example, you will hit better shots. Try this, it really does work. If you take just one thing from this article please make it this, aim small, miss small.
Your grip is good, your alignment is good, now we need to check your stance. This is really important as it will enable you to shift your bodyweight around efficiently during your swing and give you more power, if you get it right. First thing to think about is how far your feet are apart.
For most shots, your feet should be around shoulder-width. For drivers this should be a little more for stability and for wedges you may want your stance slightly narrower. Your weight should be on the balls of your feet for all of these shots, stand in a nice athletic position.
Your hands should be dangling naturally, ie don’t have them reaching out away from your body or too close to your body. You want them pretty much perpendicular to the ground. From here you are ready to swing the club.
You’ve now done your pre-launch checks and we are ready for take-off. If everything is correct then you have set yourself up for the best chances to swing and hit the ball well. Here are some basic tips to help you swing it smoothly.
Taking it Back
The backswing is, in some ways, like the pre-swing in that you have more control here. It is important to take the club back slowly but deliberately. This will give your body time to make adjustments and keep everything in check, it will also help prevent you swinging too quickly.
One great tip is that the very first move, the first 50cm or so, should be made with just your shoulders tilting slightly. That feeling will help keep the club on a good path, then you should think about tilting your shoulders more as the club rotates around your body.
You will know you’re swinging the club back correctly when you feel great tension across the big muscles of your back and into your glutes. This is you building tension in the swing that can be unleashed as you unwind back down to impact and launch the ball.
Stop and Go
The transition is that very brief period between your backswing and your downswing. The most pronounced transition you will see is that of Hideki Matsuyama, but we don’t need such a pause. The transition is that moment to set your body for the controlled explosion of the downswing.
As the downswing starts, you want to think of your lower body leading the movement. Many make the mistake of starting the downswing with their hands, this can lead to problems like casting. Have a think, maybe even watch a video of your swing, what starts your downswing?
If your lower body and hips lead the downswing, your hands are there to guide the club only and your hands are steering, you’re onto a winner of a downswing. Top players have their hips so open at impact, this is because that is where their speed is coming from, try to emulate this.
If you allow your larger muscles to do the work, you will create maximum speed with minimal effort and you will also maximize consistency. We start to make mistakes when we allow the hands to get too active or we “whip” our hands at the ball to gain speed.
The Follow-Through and Golf Pose
The golfers pose may seem like a trivial, it may not be as trivial as you think though. Focusing on getting into that traditional and proud position with high hands and your heel up can actually help you with your club path through impact and onto the finish.
Like the downswing, during the follow-through we should be focussing on the big muscles doing the work.
Think of your hips completing their turn, your belt buckle should point at your target, then your shoulders fully rotate to a finish. Keep the hands high and you’ve got it.
Different Types of Swings
The Bunker Swing
Sometimes on the course we are faced with situations that require your standard swing to be changed for maximum effectiveness. In the bunker we want to open everything up at address. This means your feet and body should be aiming left of the flag (for right handers) and your club should be open so the face is facing the sky more.
Then you want to swing the club “outside” which means taking it away from your body and, without rotating the clubface through impact, let the club track your body in a motion left of the flag. This helps you hit the sand first and splash the ball out in a cushion of sand.
In the Rough
When you are in the rough you want to swing just like normal. The only difference is that it may help to bring the ball back about an inch in your stance. This will help you with a more steep angle into the ball with the club which can make for a crisper contact and an easier escape.
As you can see, the golf swing has a lot of subtle complexities to it and it can be hard to get everything right. The good thing to know is that the more you practice the better you get. That’s the beauty of golf, it tends to reward hard work but it certainly takes a lot of time to get good.
One of the best things you can do for your game is to get yourself a coach. You need to find someone that you get along with and preferably someone who doesn’t over-complicate things. Golf is a simple game but it is very easy to make it horribly complex.
The things that you need to take from this article is that the fundamentals are something you should be working on tirelessly. Your set-up is key to a successful golfing life so pay it all of the attention it deserves. Never ever hit a shot without picking out a small target to aim for.
During the swing keep it smooth and let the big muscles do the work. It sounds counter-intuitive but you will get more clubhead speed but swinging smoothly than you will by hitting it hard. Take your time, slow it down and most importantly enjoy it. Playing golf is a privilege you should savour.