Grip, stance, balance, posture, swing plane, backswing, downswing —— enough already! So much to think about just to hit a hard little ball straight ahead two hundred yards. So let’s take it a step at a time.
No single aspect in isolation determines whether or not you have a satisfying swing. Grip is essential, so are balance and the rest. To get them all working in concert, relax and take a good deep breath. Anxious tension in the arms commonly leads to a poor swing.
Move your heels apart to about shoulder width and don’t be afraid to jut your butt. Take a firm grip, but don’t squeeze the life out of the club. That produces that evil tension.
Think first about three components of swing: backswing, downswing, and swing plane.
Backswing is just what it sounds like —— the part of motion when you take the club back in a smooth arc with your thumb knuckle above your right ear. When you draw it back your club head traces out a circle. Think of that circle as the rim of a round table tipped on edge.
Point your chest away from the target.
Now for the downswing, where you swing the club down and through the ball. This is where physics becomes your friend. A heavy club head, swung in a circle gains a large angular momentum. (A fancy way of saying something you knew already: when you swing a heavy thing in a circle, it whacks whatever it hits real hard.)
Take advantage of that and let your natural body motion carry the club head through the ball’s position, toward the target. Swing down in the same plane as your back swing. (Remember the rim of that round table!)
Ah, so simple. Simple to say, hard to do. But here are some hints about how to achieve that smooth, forceful swing.
Keeping your left elbow straight, take the club straight back and up. That’s the backswing plane. Let your left arm roll slightly clockwise at the start of your backswing. Be sure your wrists are cocked at a 90 degree angle by the time your left arm is parallel to the ground.
Keep your feet on the ground to anchor that backswing. Remember not to start your downswing with your shoulders. Start your downswing with your lower body. As you bring the club down, turn your belt buckle toward the target. Turn your hips as fast and as powerfully as you can, while retaining control.
At the bottom of the arc, your wrists ‘snap’ and you follow through, as if the ball weren’t there. (By now, it isn’t!) Your left arm has swung across your body near the right armpit.
Your shoulders will turn from parallel to the target line, to perpendicular to the target line. Your weight should end on your left foot and keep your eye on the ball.
Of course when you do it this way your shoulders will still turn but you should feel much more torque building through your body.
Instead of creating torque by turning your shoulders, turn your lower chest away from the target. (Torque is another of those handy physics terms. It just means a force in a circle. For those who like science, a larger force from a longer club creates a lot of torque. So whack hard with a short club, or not so hard with a longer club… you get the same torque.)
Your finishing position should be:
– Weight balanced on your front hip,
– Back toe on the ground,
– Hands should be up above your front shoulder and your chest,
– Back knee should be facing the hole,
– Ball much further down the course in the direction you want.
Golf — Swing Drills
There are dozens of sometimes clever, sometimes ridiculous tricks for improving your swing. We’ll review some shortly. And hope they’re viewed as clever, not ridiculous! But, first, some basics.
STANCE AND BALL POSITION
Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart (unless you are Mr. Universe); slightly less for short irons, wider for long irons and wedges. Aim the club directly at the target and imagine a line between your position and it. That’s the target line. Your body should be parallel to the target line, with the line of the shoulders perpendicular to the club face. Imagine you’re standing on a ladder on the ground, with your feet on one side, the target line on the other. One rung connects you to the ball. If you’re driving, you know you have the ball teed correctly if the top of it is slightly above the club’s head. For a putt, since the common putter has a short, flat face, it should align along the ladder rung.
WRISTS AND GRIP
The grip should be firm, but not tense. You want control, not muscle. Your wrist position is essential to creating maximum impact at the proper angle. That does a lot more for distance than brute force. The most common mistake is to allow the lead wrist to collapse at impact. To firm up the wrists, take a club and raise it just using the wrist, keeping your arm at your side. Point the toe parallel to the ground and hold for five seconds. (Tough, isn’t it!?) Repeat until your forearm feels used, but not sore. Switch arms and repeat. Take some swings with one hand/arm only. It’s not a natural thing and doesn’t improve your swing by itself; it’s too different from a two-handed swing. But it helps develop control.
Take your normal address. (Address: the stance and position with respect to the ball before the swing.) Hold a club across your shoulders, then turn as if you were making a backswing. Get someone to watch you and verify that the club points four feet or more beyond the ball.
Remember that a swing is a kind of rotational movement. Key to that movement is to stay in the same plane on the downswing as you were in the backswing. Think of that plane as a round table top, tipped on edge and placed on the ball. The bottom half of the rim of that table is the arc your club should go through on the entire swing.
Practice a backswing to downswing movement, but stop at the point of impact to verify that the clubface is along the rung of that ladder. If the clubface is open, you’ve rotated your right forearm too much. (For right-handed golfers.)
Place a half dozen tees in the ground a few inches apart along the rung of the ladder. Swing at one, then move forward to the next. With practice, you should be able to consistently clip the middle of a tee while staying in the swing plane.
RHYTHM AND BALANCE
That leads us to the last important elements: rhythm and balance. You can see it in person or on television — the greats all have beautiful rhythm. That’s key to a consistently good swing. But you can’t have good rhythm without good balance and vice-versa.
The proper position and stance are static, balance is dynamic. Start with the static — you can’t do otherwise. But you need to retain good balance and rhythm through the entire swing.
Don’t rush your swing. With the spine tilted away from the target at address, your weight should be evenly distributed between your right and left feet. Then take a smooth pull back and an easy swing down.
As you practice a few swings have a friend gently push your shoulder blades, lower back, one shoulder in one direction then alternate. In every case, you should be solid and not about to fall over at any time. (We assume you’ve saved the drinking for AFTER the game) Every portion of the swing should be smooth and on the backswing and the downswing you should feel like a well-oiled machine.