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Golf Swing Instruction
How can we explain the golf swing here when professional players spend all their lives working on their swing? Because the fundamentals of the golf swing don’t change. They’re based on scientific facts such as power, thrust, centrifugal force, levers, and more.
If you take the tour players and break their swings down to the fundamentals; (like what happens at address, back swing, impact, and follow through), about 95 percent of what they’re doing is the same. Their swings look different, because each player’s swing has its own personality. But, fundamentally, their swings are very similar. They have to be, or they wouldn’t be playing on the tour.
We’ve taken the golf-swing fundamentals and made them easy to understand, without the technical mumbo jumbo. It’s like electricity – - you need to know how to work a light switch. But you don’t need to be an electrician to use it.
You’re looking for results, and we’re going to put you on the right track to getting them. Incorporating these ideas into your swing will take time and practice. But as long as you’re working on the fundamentals, you’ll be working toward developing a consistently good golf swing.
What about Quick Fixes?
There aren’t any. Everyone wants results now. It’s human nature. But that same human nature requires time to learn a new physical skill. If you’re slicing the ball, a common fix is to adjust the grip to a stronger position or a hook grip. It might make your ball go straighter today, but it’s like putting a bandage on a bleeding artery.
You’re slicing the ball because you have something fundamentally wrong with your swing, not just your grip. If you don’t identify and fix the real problem, it will lead to other problems, too. A slice can be caused by a hundred different things. If it’s your pivot, you may end up with back problems too. Not just a hooked ball.
You have to identify the true problem and treat it, not just the symptoms.
We hear the same thing over and over again. Everyone wants to hit the ball farther and straighter. When you improve the fundamentals of your swing, you’ll hit the ball farther, and you’ll also hit it straighter. Power and control go hand in hand. With the proper fundamentals, you’ll have more power and control.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Watch good players and tournaments. People learn by imitation. When a husband and wife come to me, they often have very similar swings. They’ve imitated each other unconsciously.
- Don’t watch struggling players. You don’t want to imitate their swings.
- Practice on the driving range, in your living room, or even your backyard. You don’t have to leave your home to get quality practice.
- Focus when you practice. It’s much better to spend ten minutes and concentrate on what you’re doing than spend an hour just whacking balls.
- If you’re hitting a bucket of balls, take breaks.
- Think about what you’re doing, and rest when you’re tired and frustrated.
- Don’t wear sun glasses they impair your depth perception. Most professional golfers don’t wear them as a result.
- Don’t give unsolicited advice to your friends when you’re playing golf, and never give unsolicited advice to strangers – - not even if they’re very attractive and you’re sure you can help. It is extremely rude.
- Try walking the course. The tour players always walk. There’s a reason. It gives you much more time to concentrate on your next shot. And it actually improves the speed with which you play.
- Have a professional videotape your swing, then watch it, and analyze it.
The Four Stages of Learning
- Unconsciously incompetent. You don’t know what your problems are, and you don’t know how to identify them.
- Consciously incompetent. You see a lot of your problems, but you don’t know how to correct them.
- Consciously competent. You know how to correct your problems, but it will take time and practice.
- Unconsciously competent. You play well without thinking about it!
Each stage takes time, but with practice they’ll go more quickly. Even if you practice in your back yard or living room, you’ll be developing the skills to be “unconscious”.
Don’t Learn to Hate Golf Before You Learn to Love it
When you’re learning to play golf, have fun, and don’t torture yourself out on the course. If you hit your ball into the sand bunker, try to hit it out once. If you can’t get it out with your club use your foot wedge (kick it) or pick it up! But don’t sit in a bunker for 10 minutes racking up strokes and your blood pressure. Take it easy on yourself in the beginning. Give yourself breaks, and if you need to put a ball on the fairway, you’re learning a game. Never forget, games should be fun!
Six Fundamentals of Golf
There are six fundamentals in the golf swing:
- Grip: How you hold the club.
- Posture: How you set up to the ball. This is a key to a successful golf swing. It includes: •Width of stance. •Knee flex. •Straightening of the back. •Bending from the hip socket. •The angle the back maintains throughout the swing.
- Pivot: How you move your body from your head to your toes (excluding your hands and arms).
- The hand and arm relationship: What the hands and arms do in the golf swing.
- Alignment: How you pick and set up to your target.
- The mental side: The ability to play without thinking about it.
There are five physical fundamentals and one mental fundamental.
Grip is how you hold the club. Your hands should be fixed on the club; they don’t move. Their only job is to hold on, like clamps. They don’t manipulate it by snapping the wrist or forcing the club. We’ll discuss the hand and arm relationship more later.
There are three conventional grips, in order of preference:
- The overlap, called the single overlap: The pinkie of your right hand overlaps the index finger of your left hand.
- Interlock: The pinkie of your right hand and the index finger of your left hand intertwine (interlock), or wrap around each other.
- Ten finger, commonly known as the baseball grip: All eight, actually ten, fingers touch the grip of the club; they don’t overlap or interlock.
Any of these grips are fine as long as you also meet these basic guidelines:
- The grip is neutral, so the backs of both hands oppose each other, and the palms are facing each other.
- The club is held in your fingers, the middle digits of the fingers, and not the palms.
- The butt end of the club is held down by the palm of the left hand.
- The thumb of the left hand is extended right down the center of the shaft.
- When you close down with your right hand, the “V” formed by your thumb and index finger points towards your right shoulder, or somewhere between your chin and your right shoulder.
- Grip pressure needs to be medium. So on a scale of one to ten, ten being a death grip on the club, and one very loose, you want between a four and a seven. Your wrists, however, need to be relaxed.
A grip that’s too strong is when the hands are turned to the right too much. If the hands are turned to the left too much, the grip’s too weak. Crossing yourself up is when your right hand is turned to the left too much, and your left hand is turned to the right too much – - that’s death.
If you develop blisters, it’s probably not because you’re holding the club too tightly or too loosely, but because you have a problem with the quality of your grip.
The grip is something you should evaluate right off the bat. Make sure you have a proper grip, and then check it every time you set up to the ball.
Your grip isn’t something you should be playing with and changing all the time. If you mentally need a new start, go buy a new driver, or putter, or something fun.
Posture is how you set up to the ball. Everything is built on this foundation. If you have a problem here, it’ll show up later in your swing, possibly disguised as something else. This, like your grip, is one of the first things you think about when you set up to the ball.
Feet should be shoulder width, both feet slightly flared, toes pointing out about five to ten degrees.
Minimal knee flex. If you lock your legs and then unlock and slightly bend them, that’s all the flex you need.
Bending from the hips:
It’s important to bend over from the hip sockets, don’t slouch from the shoulders.
Your back remains straight, then bend with that straight back from your hips. Proper posture allows you to make the golf swing and protect your back.
Hands and Arms:
Your hands and arms should hang directly below the shoulders. To check the location of your hands and arms, set up to the ball as described above. Then let your left arm hang loose. See where the hand is, that’s where you should be holding the club.
Posture isn’t negotiable. It’s a requirement to being able to make a good swing. Without it, you’ll always be coming back to that and never be able to move on and progress. It’s basic from a physical stand point, protecting your back, and from a motion stand point, being able to make a good swing.
Nothing good can come from poor posture. Good posture protects the back and puts the body in the right position to make a good swing.
I’ve seen a lot of people with poor golf posture, primarily because they don’t know any better. That keeps them from being able to work on more sophisticated issues. Remember your posture when you’re setting up; in particular, keep your back straight and bend from the hips.
Grip and posture are two things you can quickly check because you work on them while you’re standing still. They should be the first two things you cross off your list. The other aspects of the golf swing take much more time and concentration because you’ll be working on them while you’re swinging the club.
Check your grip and your posture, and move on.
Pivot is how you move your body. It’s how you move from your head to your toes without using your hands and arms, so pretend your arms are invisible for a moment.
As simple as the word “pivot” sounds, the motion is very complex. The pivot moves every muscle in your body, and all this happens in less than two seconds. Your mind can’t key into what’s happening that quickly.
Because it’s so complex, we’re going to make it easy by breaking it into four segments with a drill, called the elbow drill. The elbow drill slows everything down so you have time to think, and train your muscles.
The elbow drill is an exact replica of the pivot you should make during the swing. As a result, it demonstrates and reinforces the motion you should make during the swing. It’s a mechanical drill that will give you a sense of feel that you can then repeat.
It’s an excellent drill, and one I still do everyday. I do it before a practice session and before I play to stretch and mentally prepare my muscles. Even if I don’t actually hit a ball during the day, I still swing a club in my living room, or backyard, and I still do my elbow drills.
You can obtain feel through mechanics, but you can’t obtain mechanics through feel.
Position 1 – Address:
- Place something on the ground to represent the ball.
- Put the golf club behind your back and through your elbows. The golf club will help with your posture. It keeps your shoulders back, insures you’ll bend from the hips, and not slouch from the shoulders.
- Spread your feet about shoulder width.
- Equal weight distribution front to back and right to left.
- Bend from your hip sockets keeping your back nice and flat, with knees slightly flexed.
Position 2 – Back Swing:
- Shift your weight to your right foot.
- At the same time, tilt your shoulders vertically so that the left shoulder points down, and the right shoulder points up. The left end of the club will be pointing approximately at or behind the ball position.
- As you’re shifting your weight to your right foot, release to the instep of your left foot, so you can get “behind” the ball.
- Your head does not move up in the back swing, just to the right.
- Check to see if your right foot, right hip, and head are in a vertical line.
- If you drew a line from the ball up, you’d be behind the ball now.
Position 3 – Impact
- Start with your hips.
- Shift your weight to your left foot, by leading with your hips in a slight lateral motion.
- Point the club end in your right elbow down at your right foot.
- At the same time, release to the instep of your right foot.
- You now have 90 percent of your weight on your left foot.
Position 4 – Follow Through, Post Impact
- To finish the drill, release your hips by rotating them through, so your hips, belly button, and shoulders are facing the target.
- Almost all your weight is on your left foot; your right toe is simply balancing you, it isn’t actually supporting any weight.
- Your eyes are looking down the target line, not down at the ground.
If you can make a proper elbow drill, you’re pivoting correctly. Now you need to learn to pivot with the club in your hand, and not behind your back.
Hand and Arm Relationship
Hand and arm relationship is based on proper grip, posture, and pivot. If you have all three, you’ll probably have a good hand and arm relationship. If you have a problem in any of those areas, it’ll show up in your hand and arm relationship.
Picture a bicycle wheel. The hub turns the spokes, which turn the rim. The hub generates the power to turn the spoke. The spokes simply transfer the power; they don’t increase it or decrease it by any movement of their own. They just stay straight. These spokes then give the rim the power to move much more quickly than the hub.
The golf swing works on a similar concept. The body is the center of the wheel, the hub. The arms are the spokes. The hands are simply connectors between the spokes and the rim. The club head is the rim. The body generates the power, and the arms and hands transfer it to the club and club head.
That sounds simple, but many people instinctively snap up the club with their hands and arms in the back swing and flip, push, snap, crackle, and pop, in the down swing. Manipulating your hands isn’t necessary. It actually decelerates the club (which is bad), and the leading edge of the club will start moving up (which is also bad). All the hands and wrist have to do is hold on.
There is a certain amount of hinging and unhinging that automatically happens as a by product of the force generated by swinging the club. It’s a basic part of the swing, but don’t force it in any way.
From Address to the Top
At address, the left arm is straight, the right arm is slightly bent, the elbows are close together. You don’t want your elbows to look like they are bowlegged. You want the elbows to be turned in.
At the top of the back swing, the left arm will be as extended as possible. The right elbow will be bent in and pointing down at the ground. Similar to a waiter’s arm when he carries a tray.
The arms will go back as far as the tilting of your shoulders will allow. It is different for every person depending on the size of their chest and the length of their arms.
Down Swing – Maximum Club Head Velocity
At the top of the back swing, the club and your left arm are at a 90 degree angle. In order to reach your maximum club head velocity, you need to maintain that angle as deep into your down swing as possible.
The way you do so is to start the down swing with your hips, not your hands and arms. When your hips are pulling, your left arm is the primary lever, and the club is the secondary lever. The centrifugal force caused by your hips will then pull your arm, which in turn pulls the club. The angle between your arm and the club will actually get tighter at the beginning of the down swing because of the weight of the club head and the changing of the direction.
The law of the lever states that the club will move as far and as fast as it has to in order to catch up with your left arm. The club is moving fastest when it does catch up with your left arm. This happens at impact.
The club is automatically released as a result of the combination of the angle your arm retains and the power caused by centrifugal force. You don’t have to force the club to release, or catch up with your arm, the motion your body is making forces it to do so.
From Impact to Finish
At impact, the left arm is straight, and the right arm is almost straight. The hands are slightly in front of the ball.
Both arms stay straight about one-quarter of the way up in the forward swing. Then the left arm starts to imitate what the right arm did in the back swing. It will start to hinge, and the right arm will hinge with it.
That leads us into supinate and pronate.
Supinate and Pronate
Supinate and pronate, big words you’ll hear a lot in the golf world. Supinate comes from the word supine – lying on the back. Supinate means the right arm is lying on its back. Think of carrying a bowl of soup in your right arm, it would make your right arm lay back. Pronate comes from the word prone – face down. It’s when your right arm is face down.
The right arm supinates going back, and pronates coming through. That keeps the club moving at a right angle to your target line at impact. This motion or rotation of your arms is much more efficient than pushing with your hands and wrist. By supinating your right arm on the back swing and pronating it on the down swing, your arms create the only motion necessary to release the club.
Supinating and pronating also allows you to make one fluid movement while making sure the club head is moving down on the ball at impact. People are surprised when they find out the club head is moving down on the ball at impact. It’s natural to think that the club head would be moving up. However, when the club head is moving down on the ball, it creates a more efficient spin, and causes the ball to go up.
The Quarter Shot
I do quarter shots every day, right after I do my elbow drills. I originally used the quarter shot to warm up, then I realized how valuable it is in making changes to my swing.
The quarter shot is the next progression after the elbow drill. It is a mini-pivot, but the quarter shot is more advanced than the elbow drill because it includes the club.
The quarter drill helps you implement changes in your technique. It allows you to take the full swing and break it down into a much more controllable swing, the quarter shot. When you’re making the full swing, things are moving so quickly that you don’t have an opportunity to focus on the changes you’re trying to make.
Take your sand iron and set up to the ball as you would in any other shot. After addressing the ball, start your pivot by shifting back to your right foot. Tilt your shoulders so the club is parallel to the ground and the target line, and the toe of the club is pointing up.
Start your down swing by shifting your hips to the left. Once you have shifted your hips, rotate them towards the target. Allow your shoulders and the club to move with your hips. As you tilt your shoulders, the club will move to a point where the shaft of the club will be pointing to your target, parallel to the ground, and the toe of the club would be again in a vertical position.
How do you incorporate this? Let’s say you’re trying to make a better weight shift to your right foot. When you’re doing the quarter drill focus on getting your weight shifted early in your swing by releasing to the instep of your left foot. The drill allows you to move slowly enough that you can think about it, feel it, and reproduce it.
To Make a Quarter Drill
- First – make a swing and stop at a quarter position going back. Focus on the change you want to make. Then start your down swing by shifting through to the left, letting the club brush the ground. Continue in a forward swing coming to a stop at a quarter position. The toe of the club is up, and the weight is on your left foot.
- Second – make a quarter swing where you don’t stop. Go back and through, without hitting a ball, thinking about the change you want to make.
- Third – Step up to the ball, make the swing and hit the ball.
First, you’re stopping the action, and consciously thinking about it. Second, you’re trying to reproduce that sensation in a continuous motion. Third, you’re adding the ball. This keeps the ball from becoming so intimidating.
Don’t judge how you hit the ball, but whether or not you made the change you were trying to make. This drill will eventually allow you to hit the ball differently. You can see how this drill can be valuable to warm up with, or even to work on a very sophisticated change in your swing. Work slowly and simply, it doesn’t always have to be hard work.
In the back swing, think of your back. It connects your hips, torso, and shoulders. It allows you to make a one-piece motion when you shift your weight, and tilt your shoulders to get to the top of your back swing. Your back has the large muscles that allow you to raise the club with minimal force from your arms, which have smaller muscles.
Pivot and weight shift happen and work together. In one motion, you need to:
- Shift your weight with your hips and back directly over your right hip and foot, not beyond them. This is a slight lateral motion from left to right. If your hips or head go anywhere outside your right foot, it’s considered a sway, and it wasn’t a slight motion, you went too far.
- Tilt your back (which is still flat), so that the right shoulder points up and the left shoulder points down. Your flat back will actually now be behind the ball.
- Don’t come out of your posture by raising your head when you move into your back swing. Your head moves horizontally as your shoulders are tilting.
- Your hips and back move together. Rotate your left hip down, forward, and to the right, so that it moves with your back.
- Don’t over rotate your hips, or twist them too much. If you don’t force it, it’s likely to come naturally. If you keep your back flat, when you tilt your shoulders, your hips and shoulders will move together.
All these things need to happen at the same time. They really can’t be separated because they work together. I’ve listed them here separately for sake of clarity. That’s the back swing, now on to the forward swing.
Your hips start the forward swing. Your left hip shifts all your weight directly over your left foot. This produces a whip-like effect, where your hips are pulling your shoulders, which pull your arms, and finally the club. As a result, the club head is moving much more rapidly than your hips, arms, or hands.
Your shoulders follow your hips, and your arms follow your shoulders. Follow means they come behind. Never push with your hands or arms. The arms must come behind the hips and shoulders to reach their maximum velocity. Maximum club head velocity is good, very good. Because this is where you get distance.
At impact your back and legs look like a letter “K.” The left side of your body is straight, and the right side is angled in.
After impact, your hips will continue to rotate toward the target, your shoulders and arms will follow. About 95 percent of your weight will be on the left side of your body now. Your hips, belly button, shoulders, and eyes are facing the target.
The Head: Fact versus Fiction
A lot of golf instructors say, “Don’t move your head!” What they’re trying to communicate is, “Don’t come out of your posture by raising your head and shoulders during the back swing.!” Since that’s an awful lot to say, many people just say, “Don’t move your head.”
The concept is good, it just doesn’t completely explain the issue. As a result, people often develop other problems because they’re trying to make sure they don’t move their head.
The head does move, and has to in order for you to shift your weight. Power comes from thrust. Thrust is shifting your weight from your right side to your left side. Therefore, your body has to move. If your body is going to move, your head has to move also.
The average pro’s head moves approximately two inches to the right to get to the top of the backswing. Then at the start of the forward swing, it moves an additional inch to the right. It then moves three inches down, and eleven inches forward through the forward swing.
Many people develop a problem in swing because they’re trying to keep their head from moving. As a result, they cripple their swing because they don’t release their hips through impact. In trying to keep their head down, they don’t look up after impact. Then their hips can’t rotate forward because of the placement of their head.
If you think your head is moving too much, it’s a symptom of another fundamental problem such as, coming out of your posture. Your head is moving as a result of another problem, it’s not the cause. Your head will move, that’s a requirement of a proper golf swing. If, however, you think it is moving too much, you need to look somewhere else for the problem, don’t just focus on your head.
Alignment is how you line up to your target. It’s important in achieving your goals, because a great swing and poor alignment does not make for a happy golfer. In putting, it’s particularly important, and the better you get, the more crucial it becomes.
Once you’re comfortable with grip, posture, pivot, and hand and arm relationship, you can work on alignment.
When you’re setting up to make your shot, make sure you’re focusing on your target, not a distraction, such as a water hazard or sand bunker. If you’re thinking about a hazard, your body is naturally going to focus on that point. Acknowledge the hazard, but focus on your target.
There are a lot of ways you can properly align yourself to your target. When you look at the target and away from the ball, you loose all your orientation. So use an intermediate target. Something between the ball and your target. Make sure you can see it when you’re looking at the ball. It’ll usually be a discolored blade of grass, a twig, a clover, anything that stands out. It must be something that’s already there; you can’t place something on the ground to help.That’s illegal!
To pick your intermediate target, stand behind the ball and look through it at your target. Pick something you’ll be able to see when you’re looking at the ball. It should be about six to twelve inches away from the ball.
Keeping your eyes on your intermediate target, move to the ball. Set your club directly behind the ball, with the club face pointing at the ball and your intermediate target. Take your stance with your feet, hips, and shoulders parallel to the target line.
Most people think their body should be pointing directly at the target. But if your body and your club face are both pointing at the target, then you have a “shut” club face, and you’ll probably hook the ball. The ball would travel from right to left and not toward your target.
The direction of the club face and the ball should point and extend all the way through your target. The line the ball will make is a straight line. Your feet, hips, and shoulders should be on a parallel line that would end just left of your target line.
Like a railroad track, your feet, hips, and shoulders are on one track, and your club face and ball will be on the other track. Your body will actually be aligned just a little left of your target.
Picture your target in your mind’s eye. Positive thinking and visualization will improve your game.
Proper alignment: Like a railroad track, your feet, hips, and shoulders are on one track, and your club face and ball on the other track. Your body will actually be aligned just a little left of your target (parallel left).
Mental: The Ability to Play Without Thinking About it
True confidence comes from knowledge and experience. Think of something you do very well, basketball, snow skiing, tennis, playing the piano, using a computer, anything. You have confidence in your ability because you know what you’re doing, and you’ve had lots of experience! You can achieve the same thing with your golf swing.
You’re getting the knowledge right now, and practice will give you the experience. Quality practice will give you confidence out on the course, and it doesn’t require “hard” practice. It’s working smart, not hard, that counts in your practice time. Quality practice means:
- Practice on the driving range, not out on the course.
- Always take a practice swing, even if it’s a half one, before your full swing.
- After your practice swing, walk up to the ball and hit it. Don’t think about what you’re doing during the actual swing. Thinking is what you do in the practice swing.
- After your swing, evaluate the shot. Were you pleased with what your body was doing? Don’t worry about where the ball went. Focus on the aspect of the swing you’re working on.
- Try to relax, make sure you’re breathing regularly.
- If you get frustrated, take a break. If you keep working while you’re tired and frustrated, you’ll loose focus and be building bad habits.
Golf needs to be something you enjoy. Five or ten minutes of quality time is much more valuable than an hour of poor practice!
On the practice tee, you should be working on the fundamentals, focusing on one thing at a time. You can’t work on several things and have any success. Pick one aspect, and focus on it until it’s right.
Working on the fundamentals is done on the range, not on the course.
The range is where you work on your golf swing; the course is where you play golf. Many times, I’ll see people on the range, and I’ll ask them what they’re thinking about, and they’ll say “Nothing, I’m just trying to groove my swing.”
That’s a vague answer, which means they’re just whacking balls. The range is very forgiving. It’s a wide open area that doesn’t penalize your shots. As a result, that’s where a lot of people “play” golf.
Then, out on the course, I’ll ask what they’re thinking about, and they’ll say, “I’m thinking about stayin
g in my posture,” or “I’m thinking about keeping my left arm straight,” or a number of different answers. They’re working on their swing because the ball went in the rough, or missed the green, or something else unpleasant.
If you work on the fundamentals on the range, you won’t have to out on the course. Practice on the driving range. Play on the golf course.
Out on the course, all you have to think about is getting the ball in the hole, being mentally tough. Placing it on the tee and getting it in the cup with as few strokes as possible. That’s all.
Putting: The Short Game
An average of 43 percent of the strokes you make in a game of golf will be putts. The next highest is your woods, at 25 percent, followed by 13 percent chipping, 10 percent irons, and 5 percent hazard shots.
Putting is incredibly important. Most people want to hit the ball farther and straighter. That’s important, but effective putting makes the difference between an average golfer and a good golfer.
Don’t forget the mental side; tell yourself you are a great putter, and you’re going to sink every putt you look at. Then practice to gain confidence in that belief.
False confidence is when you believe you can do something, but you don’t have the experience to back up that belief. So first believe in yourself, then practice so that you’ll be confident in that belief. Eventually, you’ll be making your putts and loving it.
Good golfers enjoys working on their putting. They work on their three to four foot putts until they’re confident they’ll always sink them. They learn how to read the green to see which way it will break, and when they do get bored, they work on 20 – foot putts! Try to hit five of those in a row!
Enjoy working on your putting, it can make a difference to 43 percent of your game!
The Mechanics of Putting
- Posture is generally the same as in a full swing: Back straight, bending at the hips, your knees may flex a little more than in the full swing if you like.
- Stance can vary from shoulder width to feet almost being together. There is a lot of flexibility here.
- A neutral grip is preferred. A grip is very individual in putting, there isn’t one particular grip that is best.
- Your arms and shoulders form a triangle. Whether your arms are straight or bent doesn’t matter. It’s that you maintain the way you’re holding your arms throughout the stroke. So if they’re straight, keep them straight; if they’re bent, keep them bent. Don’t change the angle of your arms during the putt.
- Ball position: There isn’t one prescribed ball position, but most of the better players have a ball position that is toward the instep of the left foot.
- Eyes directly over the ball.
- Putting is a pendulum motion. Only the shoulders and the arms move. The hips and legs stay still.
- Your wrists don’t cock or hinge. Remember, they’re only clamps holding the club!
- There isn’t any weight shift in putting.
- Eyes are looking at the ball, not tracking the putter. If your eyes are on the ball, you’ll see an after image of the ball after you hit it. If you’re tracking the putter, you won’t.
- Learn to have real confidence in your putting by practicing, even in your living room. It’s fun and rewarding!
During the Stroke
How to Read a Green
Reading a green is surveying a green, and determining how you need to hit the ball to make it go into the cup.
How do I determine the way the ball will roll? You have to be able to use your imagination here. I frequently imagine a rain storm, and how would the water flow? The water, and your ball will always go toward the lowest side of the green. It will go from the high side of the green to the low side.
If the green appears to have a lot of undulation, and you’re not sure which way the ball will break, just remember, a hill always has a high side and a low side. The ball will naturally go towards the low side.
Picking a Target
You’ve determined the pitch of the green, and the way the ball will roll. Now you need to pick a target that will start the ball on that line. That target will be an intermediate target.
If you think the pitch of the green will naturally make your ball roll a little to the left of the cup, pick an intermediate target that will aim a little right of the cup.
I actually get behind the ball, about three to four feet, and crouch down so that I’m looking through the ball at the cup. This is a very effective way to pick your intermediate target and determine the slope of the green.
Now that you’ve determined the break in the green, and selected an appropriate intermediate target you need to figure out how far the ball has to go, and how hard you have to hit it to make it go in the cup.
When you throw a ball to someone, you don’t have trouble getting it to them because you can see them. You can even throw a ball to someone who is moving without difficulty. But when you putt, you can’t see the hole. So I encourage people to take a few practice swings looking at the hole. This gives them the ability to estimate the stroke they need to make when they are looking at the ball and not the hole. It gives them depth perception.
To keep your depth perception fresh, you need to look at the cup within about five seconds of hitting the ball. At first, it will feel awkward to be looking back and forth between the ball and the cup, but eventually it will become comfortable.
You’ll notice the professionals look back and forth between the ball and the cup. They’re trying to keep their depth perception accurate and fresh.
Chipping is very similar to putting in that there is no body motion, it is simply shoulders and arms. There is no pivot. If you can learn the proper technique in chipping, you are guaranteed to take strokes off your score.
Technique – your feet and hips will have a slightly open stance. This will allow your hands and arms to move through impact without hinging your wrist. Your feet will be close together. The ball position will be back towards your right foot. Choking down on the golf club with your hands over your left thigh. This insures that you hit the ball first on the down swing.
Don’t break your wrist, or flip your hands, it is simply a pendulum type stroke. With the goal of getting the ball on the ground and rolling toward the hole as soon as possible.
Don’t confuse a chip with a pitch. They are very different techniques. A chip is more like a putt in that there is no pivot. A pitch is more like a regular shot there is a pivot.
You may want to work on your game by taking lessons from a professional instructor. One of the best things about taking lessons is it will speed up your results. An instructor can help you identify root problems instead of just the symptoms. That way you’re not spinning your wheels working on the wrong issue.
I was, and still am, a very good golfer. But the first time I taught a golf lesson, I realized I wasn’t a good instructor. I have since remedied that situation, and I am now an excellent instructor, of course.
A warning about taking lessons from a friend, who’s a fantastic golfer, but not a professional golf instructor. Good golfers aren’t necessarily good instructors. They play golf intuitively. They may be able to describe the way their swing feels, but that movement may feel differently to you. And what they think they’re doing, may in fact be very different from what they’re actually doing.
Whether you look to your local golf course or driving range for instruction, I have some general recommendations for choosing a golf instructor.
Golf instructors training may vary from years of apprenticeship to none at all. Some instructors have no other qualifications to teach other than their own ability to play, and some don’t even have that.
If your instructor is a PGA Professional, you can be assured they’re qualified to teach. PGA professionals go through an extensive training program and testing process. All you need to find out about a PGA professional is if your personalities work well together, and do you like their particular style of teaching.
Does the Instructor
- Want to teach you and believe you will improve? If the instructor is more interested in showing off, find another. You need an instructor who can properly demonstrate the swing. But they should focus on the mechanics of the swing in a demonstration, not how great their own swing is. When they’re giving you a lesson, you and your swing should be the number one priority.
- Act like a professional?
- Have a good grasp of the fundamentals?
- Recite clichés like, “Keep you head down, and keep you eye on the ball?” These clichés do have truths in them, that’s why they’re clichés. But you need an instructor who can explain why you’re moving your head, since it’s usually the symptom of another problem, not the true problem itself.
- Focus on one area with you, and conquer it? If the instructor gives you ten things to work on in each lesson, you’ll never be able to focus and improve.
- Tell you what your lesson plan will be, and how long it will take to get results? If they tell you they can fix a problem in one lesson, run! That means a quick fix, and that only adds to your problems. An instructor should evaluate your swing and work on the fundamentals. That may take a summer, instead of an afternoon, but the results will last. Short cuts may seem to help temporarily, but they can destroy some of the good things that you do.
Ask the instructor if you can observe a lesson. A good instructor will be pleased to have you watch a clinic or lesson, if the student doesn’t mind. The instructor’s actions during a lesson will tell you more than anything they say about the way they teach.
Improving your swing is rewarding, fun, and fundamental. With a proper golf swing, you’ll be able to enjoy and play golf the rest of your life.
You can’t buy a golf swing with a new gadget, or an expensive set of clubs, although it’s a lot of fun to buy those things. But you can buy good instruction. Then take the time, even five quality minutes a day, to practice properly. With an excellent approach, you’ll get excellent results.
The Clubs & Club Fitting
Do you need to make a different swing with each club? No, that’s why they make different clubs, so you don’t have to make different swings.
Before you go out and spend thousands of dollars on new equipment, you need to make sure that the equipment you buy is the equipment you need. How do you determine if a club works and fits you? The most important aspect is the flex of the shaft. There are four different categories: Regular (R-flex), Ladies (L-flex), Stiff (S-flex), and Extra-Stiff (EX-flex). Most women fit in the L flex, most men fit in the R-flex. But some men do take the S and EX shaft. There are exceptions.
You want to err on the flexible side. If you’re debating an S or R, take the R. You always want to err on the soft side.
The lie of the club.
Not the opposite of the truth, it is the truth. The lie of the club is important because it determines how the face of the club will move through impact. It’s how the club lays on the ground, meaning lie. When the club lays on the ground, the toe of the club should be up approximately one to two degrees. This allows a slight flattening out of the club as it moves through impact.
Length of clubs is determined by the length of your arms, the length of your legs, and how tall you are. Again, your professional club maker will be able to determine this.
The size of the grip is fairly easy. It depends on the size of your hands. But one of the keys you’re looking for is that the ring finger on your left hand is slightly touching the palm of your hand as you’re gripping the club and not digging into it.
A professional can fit you for clubs either statically or dynamically. Statically means you set up as though you were going to hit a ball with a club in your hands. They can tell by the way you set up the way the club should lie.
Dynamically fitting requires you taking a particular club out and hitting balls with it. A professional can watch you and tell what clubs you need. First have a static fitting, then a dynamic fitting. There is so much to choose from out there. You need to determine the flex of the shaft you need, the lie of the club you need, the length of the club you need, and the size of grip.
- Flex of shaft
- Lie of club
- Length of club.
- Size of grip
Whether it is a PGA professional or a professional club maker, you should be in good hands with either.
Birdie-One stroke less than par.
Cart path-It’s the path provided on the golf course on which you drive your cart. It’s intended to make sure the traffic moves in a consistent pattern and protects the rest of the golf course.
Chipping-The stroke used when just barely off the green. It is in between pitching and putting. It is a similar technique as putting (no pivot), but instead you most likely use one of these clubs: sand iron, ten iron, wedge, nine, eight, or seven iron.
Draw-The ball moves right to left. It starts out right of the target, then moves back towards the target. It is much more subtle than a hook.
Driver-This is the club you normally tee off with, meaning that the ball may be placed on a tee. It is considered a wood. It is the longest club in the bag, and it has the least amount of loft (except the putter). As a result, it is the hardest to control.
Eagle-Two under par.
Fade-The ball moves from left to right. It, like the draw is much more subtle than it’s counterpart, the slice.
Green-The area that surrounds the hole (cup). It is the most manicured part of the golf course.
Handicap-A handicap is used to make players of different calibers equal. After playing the same course ten times, the course can assign you a handicap.
Hook-An exaggerated ball flight moving from right to left.
Irons-Irons got their name because they were made of iron, in contrast to the woods. Today they may be made of steel, iron, or graphite.
Par-Par is how many strokes you have to get the ball in the hole in regulation.
Pitching-Pitching comes after chipping. It is a pivot oriented shot. It is used when it’s too far to chip, but does not require the full swing. It’s a similar motion, just not as powerful.
Putter-The club used when putting on or around the green. The putter has the least amount of loft, about 2 degrees. The putter is the single most important club used. You will use this more than any other club.
Putting-Putting is the stroke used to advance the ball on or around the green. Only the hands, arms, and shoulders are involved; there is no pivot. It is the most conservative golf swing made.
Slice-An exaggerated ball flight moving from left to right.
Tee-What you place your ball on when you tee off from the tee.
The tee-The start of every new hole.
Tee markers-Tee markers indicate where you should tee the ball up when you begin a hole.
Woods-They are the longest clubs in your bag. They get their name because they were originally made of wood. Today, they may be made of another substance, such as, metal, graphite, or titanium.