The Anatomy of a Golf Swing
The golf swing features many parts that must work together to execute a well-struck shot. A golfer must consider the stance, grip, swing and tempo when making a golf swing. Understanding the different aspects of the swing and practicing them on a driving range can be the key to consistently hitting accurate shots and, therefore, posting lower scores.
The golf grip is the way the club is held in the golfer’s hand. For right-handed golfers, the left hand is at the top of the club with the right hand immediately below it. The positioning is reversed for left-handed players. There are three common kinds of grips: the baseball grip, in which both hands grip the club like a baseball bat; the interlocking grip, in which the pinky finger on the bottom hand and the pointer finger on the top hand interlock; and the Vardon grip, an overlapping grip in which the pinky finger of the bottom hand rests in the gap between the pointer finger and middle finger of the top hand. It was popularized by legendary golfer Harry Vardon in the early 1900s. The grip, regardless of style, should not be too tight, as this will cause tension in the shoulders and make it more difficult to complete the swing.
For most shots, the golfer's feet should be about shoulder length apart. The ball position depends on the club being used. For a driver and fairway wood, the ball should be played just off the heel of the front foot. For long irons, the ball should be played about an inch or two farther back than a driver/fairway wood. For short irons and wedges, the ball should be played in the middle of the stance. Playing the ball forward, as for fairway woods and long irons, helps players get the ball in the air.
Novice golfers sometimes make the mistake of swinging too hard in an attempt to hit the ball farther. The key to adding distance is solid contact, and keeping an even tempo throughout the swing. At the top of the backswing, don’t force the club downward but instead allow it to change direction in a natural motion. The backswing and the downswing should be done with approximately the same rhythm.
The golf swing should be a controlled arc around the golfer’s body. During the take back, the golfer’s weight should shift to the back side of the body as the chest rotates and the club goes backward. The club changes direction at the top of the swing, and on the way down the golfer’s weight shifts back to the front side. At the contact point, the front arm should form a straight line with the club. The follow-through should be a natural continuation of the momentum generated by the downswing as the ball takes flight.
Some golfers believe they need to swing harder to hit the ball a greater distance or to help lift the ball to get it higher in the air. In fact, it is making solid contact with the ball that creates distance and loft. When swinging the club, focus on an even tempo to improve contact, which will result in greater distance. When swinging an iron, let the loft of the club get the ball into the air. Trying to help the ball get airborne by adjusting the body during the swing only leads to poor shots.
Addressing the Ball
Preparation before you hit the ball is an important part of golf. Consistency is the key to a good swing and a good score, and you can put yourself in this mindset by following a “pre-shot routine.” First, survey the shot and establish a target line, taking into consideration any hazards, contours or weather conditions, such as wind. Check your grip to make sure the club lies across your index finger back to the base of the pinky, and not the palm of your hand. For a tee shot, your feet are shoulder-distance apart, with the ball positioned on the inside of the forward foot. Bend your knees, and allow your arms to hang down from your shoulder sockets without tension. Your weight should be back near your heels. Square the clubface and your body to the target.
Sweep the club back by turning your shoulders around your spine. You can think of the backswing as turning your back to the target. Maintain a steady tempo with your arms, hands, legs and body moving together for a smooth motion. As you take the club back, your weight will shift to the back foot. Keep the club head low to the ground on the takeaway. The toe of the clubface will be pointed up during the backswing, and your wrists will cock to 90 degrees as your front shoulder approaches the back armpit. Keep your balance through the swing, and do not sway to the side. The goal of the backswing is to coil the body and place the club in the correct position for a powerful downswing.
The Downswing and Follow-Through
Begin the downswing by shifting your lower body toward the target. Your back shoulder will drop slightly, allowing you to swing through the ball more efficiently. Your weight will shift to the front during the downswing. Rotate your hips toward the target, generating power with a quick motion as your body uncoils. Keep your wrists cocked and your thumb pointing up through the downswing, as if you were shaking hands. Your arms will be straight as you hit the ball. For distance and accuracy, hit the ball squarely in the sweet spot. Follow through with your front foot down and your chest facing the target. At the finish, your right toe will be pointed at the ground and your right heel will be up.
Before you swing the club back, you need to be set up for success. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and square to the target line. Grip the club and bend from the waist. Your weight should be equally distributed and your arms should be relaxed. When you have a proper setup it's much easier to make a proper swing.
A proper takeaway is important to starting the swing on the right track. Many golfers start the swing by whipping the club back with their hands. This motion leaves the rest of the body behind and throws off a golfer's timing. Start your swing by turning your shoulders back and keeping the clubface square. To check this, keep the grip of the club pointing at your belly button for the initial two feet of the swing.
Rotate Your Body
Many golfers allow their hips to sway during the golf swing, rather than rotate. This causes all kinds of trouble and leads to a variety of mis-hits. Focus on your right hip and make sure it does not move laterally during the backswing. If you can rotate your hips without the right hip moving sideways, you will start to develop a more consistent swing.
After hitting the ball, you want to make sure to swing through to a full finish. In a good finish position, you should have all your weight on your front foot and your chest should face the target. To develop good balance, try swinging to this position and holding the finish for three seconds.
As a beginning golfer, learning the basics of the game will serve you well through the years. It may not seem so at first, but it is a lot easier to struggle through the learning process at first than to later try to correct bad habits that have become ingrained. Start out by getting professional instruction, selecting the appropriate clubs, and spend a lot of time practicing on the driving range to best prepare yourself for many years of pleasure playing golf.
What most players do not realize is that where you place your phone/camera will greatly change the look of your swing. Almost on a daily bases, players will tell me about a fault in their swing they would like to improve. One example would be their top of backswing position being across the line (pointing to the right), but when I video their swing, the club is not across the line. Their swing has not changed. It is exactly the same as when they videoed it themselves, but what has changed is the positi…