Many golf resources will focus on the hardware because they want to sell it to you. They tell you the secret is the club or the ball. A few will say that the secret to hitting the golf ball is wearing a particular gloves or shoes. In reality, the secret is the swing. Here is a general primer on how to swing a golf club.
We’ll discuss the good general golf swing as well as particular swings for certain situations.
The General Golf Swing
The first step to mastering your golf swing is taking the right stance. You should stand with your front foot a little ahead of the ball. The ball will be lined up with the middle of your body. Your feet will be a little wider apart than your shoulders.
Bigger clubs will be played towards the front foot, if you’re right handed, while smaller clubs will be played toward the middle of the stance. This means that if you’re right handed, your left foot will be a little closer to the hole.
The next step is getting your hands in the right position. While arms form a Y shape with the club, you don’t want your arms to be rigidly straight. Instead, the elbows need to be slightly bent. However, you don’t want to be so close that your elbows have to be bent so that the club is at the right position.
The solution is having the knees slightly bent so that the arms can be slightly bent. It is actually hard to swing the club with totally straight knees. Your upper body will be bent slightly toward the ball, but the torso should be bent a little away from the target. Your forearm should be parallel to your spine. This creates a triangle or “special K” position considered ideal.
Check your alignment. Both your feet and shoulders should be pointed in. At the same time, the feet and shoulders will be aligned with an imaginary line that is pointed at your target. This means your head and the front of your body is at ninety degrees to the hole. This is called the square alignment.
Balance your weight mostly on the balls of your feet. This is contrary to our normal practice of putting most weight on the balls of your feet. Don’t worry – this isn’t a permanent expectation. You’ll shift your weight forward and backward through the swing to transmit as much power as possible. However, your weight needs to be equally distributed between your feet before you start the swing.
Get a grip. First and foremost, you’ll want to have a soft but firm grip on the club. If the grip is worn, you’ll get blisters from game play. If you have blisters, break out the tape to cover them. Next, hold the golf club with a relaxed grip. That gives you better accuracy because the club can turn over as you swing. A tight grip won’t help. Instead, it hinders your swing. If you don’t have someone giving you pointers on how to hold the golf club, you can start by mimicking the grip a baseball player has on a baseball bat.
Your right pinky will be touching the left index finger, the right hand just below the left hand. Tighten the grip just enough that the palm rests on the edge of the left thumb. The right thumb will point a little left of center, while the left thumb points in the opposite direction. This is the most basic grip.
A more stable grip is the overlap grip. The interlocking grip is the most stable grip, which is why it is used by pros, but it is hard for beginners to use without holding the club too tightly. This grip is better for those with small hands, and the overlapping grip is hard for those with small hands to manage. Experiment with these basic grips, weak and strong, until you find one that is comfortable when you swing the club. For example, if your ball slices, your grip is too weak, while a hook is the symptom of too strong of a grip.
Now we’ve reached the mechanics of the swing. The backswing is when you lift up the club and bring it over your head. Rotate your torso by shifting weight from the ball of the front foot to the ball of the back foot. Remember to rotate using your hips. Rotate the torso so the club’s head travels a little behind your hands. This is akin to pulling a swing or loaded slingshot as far back as possible so the load will go as far forward as possible on release.
A common mistake for amateurs is trying to swing the arms too far back instead though they tend to miss the ball or hit the ball without controlling its path. It also breaks proper posture.
As you bring the club down, keep the front arm slightly bent and start to bend it a little more. On the down-swing, “follow through”. Have the shaft angle increase to ninety degrees. Right before the club head impacts the ball, lock the front arm in the same way it was locked at the start of the backswing. And keep your hands low on the follow-through. In general, the lower your hands are, the lower the ball’s flight.
This will transmit as much power as possible to the ball. Force equals mass times acceleration. Your ball and club have set mass. The only factors you really control are the acceleration of the club, managed through the swing, and how much power is transmitted to the ball. If your arms buckle during impact, they absorb some of that energy, so less is transmitted to the ball.
If you hit the ball at an angle or less than ideal position, then only a fraction of the energy in the swing is transmitted to the ball. Note that all of our advice here is focused on maximizing power so that you get the ball as close to the green as possible at the start of your game. Putting is a whole other ball game so to speak. Everything we’ve talked about so far is maximizing your drive.
As the golf club head is approaching the impact point, make sure the shaft is leaning forward. This position helps make certain that your hands are ahead of the head at impact, and that helps the club head hit the ball before it would hit the ground. (If the club head hits the ground, you transfer all that energy to the ground, and that’s how you get divots.)
Remember to swing your hips to help transfer energy into the shot. You’re then using your entire body to transfer power, not just your hands. As you swing your hips, transfer your weight to the lead foot. Don’t lift your back foot into the air; you could fall or simply lose your balance. Instead, as you lift the heel up, balance on the toe.
We’re not done yet. Now comes the follow through. The club will have swung to a point a little behind you. You should be balanced on your lead foot. The back foot should be balanced on the toe.
Humans have long used the word “look” to signify attention, because we instinctively give what we’re looking at our full attention. As you’re making the backswing and afterward, keep your eyes on the ball. Don’t lift your head once you hit the ball. You may alter the trajectory of the ball as it leaves the ground and throw it off course. Keep your eyes on the ball until the follow through has been completed.
Don’t try to hit the ball as hard as possible. You’ll lose control over its trajectory, and that risks hunting for a ball hit way off in the bushes. That’s why there is so much emphasis on form in golf in the first place.
How to Putt a Golf Ball
When you’re putting a golf ball, you need to apply just the right amount of force. If you’re hitting uphill, you’ll need more power than if hitting downhill. If the ball goes past the hole and may go downhill after that, then you may err on the side of caution and go gentle. If the ball would have to travel uphill after going past the hole, then hitting it a little harder isn’t an issue.
When you’re putting a golf ball, check your alignment. Gauge the distance to the hole, so you can correctly estimate how hard to hit the ball. In general, right handers should practice hitting putting with left hand. The left hand acts as a guide to the right in general, and you’re less likely to hit it too hard when you’re using your non-dominant hand.
Then hit it just hard enough to reach the pin. Control arguably matters more in putting than it does when swinging a club while aiming in the distance. So don’t lift your head as you’re putting. If you’re within three meters or ten feet of the cup, never look up because you’ll throw off the aim. Listen for the ball in the cup, and if you don’t hear it, then you can look up to see where it went.
You can, however, keep your eyes on the ball as you’re putting. In this regard, how to swing a golf club when putting is similar to a putting swing. You can and should eye it before you swing, and you should look at it after the swing.
A good way to avoid making mistakes is to practice putting from different distances over and over again so that you know how hard to hit the ball when you see the ball from that specific distance. However, if you’re putting uphill, hit it a little harder than if it were on flat ground. This won’t cover every situation. For example, if you’re putting downhill, the ball will do most curving (if it will curve) in the last third of the trip. Yet you don’t have to worry about this much if the ball still ends up very close to the hole.
How to Adjust Your Swing in Response to Common Problems
We previously described the impact a bad stance and swing can have on the ball. If you are right handed and your ball curves from left to right during flight, you need to keep your knees flexed during your swing. The same issue can occur if your knee travels backward during your hip rotation.
If the ball travels a little to the right before spinning to the left, a hook, then you’ve accidentally given the golf ball a counter-clockwise spin. If you can see more than two knuckles on the left hand when gripping the golf club, try a weaker grip. Another potential cause is a stance that is too far to the left.
However, if you over-compensate, you’ll be left with a hooking golf ball. If the root cause is the club face closing too soon, you could try holding the club with both thumbs pointing toward the ground. That position during the golf swing slows the closing of the club face. If you’re slicing, you could try a thumbs up position so that you close the club face at the right point.
A thin drive is one that doesn’t go as far as you expected. This can be solved by keeping your eye on the ball and head down during the backswing. If you look up during the backswing, you increase the distance between the base of your neck and the ball. This makes it harder to hit the ball in the center of the club, the sweet spot of the club.