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If you are a beginner golfer looking to get into the game, it's vital to spend some time honing the proper fundamentals. Attempting to run before you can walk is a recipe for disaster, so in the article below, PGA pro Keith Woods explains everything you need to know...
Working on your golf swing posture from the outset will ensure bad habits don't set in. For example, if you don't set your spine angle correctly, it will affect the plane of your swing, potentially leading to hooks or slices.
By contrast, if you get it right from the off, it will naturally ensure your arms and hands are in a position where they can function properly, allowing you to rotate effectively to generate power and accuracy.
Start by standing up straight and then place a club across your belt line. With your hands at either end, feel like you push the club back into your hips, which should push your bum out a little while keeping your back straight. From there, introduce a little knee flex and let the arms hang naturally down.
Once you have a a good handle on the posture, it's time to work on your alignment. Where you place the clubface and your body at address marks the start point of the swing. The reason it is so important to get your alignment right is that mistakes here will naturally send your swing in an inefficient direction.
When we refer to alignment we are not talking only about the clubface. Aiming correctly also means getting your body lined up accurately. The key is that your body should NOT be aiming at your intended target.
The simplest way to explain how clubface and body alignment work is to draw an imaginary line from the target to the clubface – this is your target line. Your feet, hips and shoulders need to be parallel to that line, which is why it always makes sense to lay down alignment sticks at address. It should look like you are stood on a railway track, with your body pointing a fraction left of target. Understanding this principle is essential, as is checking your alignment regularly.
Honing the perfect golf grip is one of the more challenging aspects of learning the game. But just what does 'the perfect golf grip' look like? After all, hands vary enormously in size and shape, so is there is a one-size-fits-all solution?
Analysing the world's best would suggest there isn't, as there many examples of players who have reached the very top of the game with what appears to be a weak or strong golf grip.
That being said, there is no denying that it helps to start off with a neutral golf grip. It will give beginners more control over the clubhead and provide the best chance of developing the range of motion required to make a powerful swing.
To achieve this, the first thing to do is focus on the left hand (right for left-handers). Point the clubface at your target, and then, with an open hand, ensure the grip runs from the middle joint of your index finger through to the fleshy pad at the bottom of your hand. Once you've done that, wrap the fingers round. If done correctly, you'll notice a line has formed between your thumb and forefinger which should point towards your right ear. You should also see between two and three knuckles on your hand when looking down.
Next, it's important to get the right hand in position so the two can work together as a solid unit. Place the fingers on the underside of the grip and then wrap the hand over so the left thumb is sitting cosily beneath the palm of the right hand.
Again, this isn't an exact science as a lot of it comes down to each person's unique swing, but there are some general rules it's very worth following. Starting with the driver address position, it's crucial to have the ball forward in your stance so you can hit up on it and optimise distance. Make sure your stance is nice and wide and the ball is in line with your lead heel or even a little inside.
As you work down the bag from there, move the ball position back incrementally. Once you get to your short irons - say, 9-iron and below - the ball should be roughly in the middle of your stance, with your feet no more than shoulder width apart.
The takeaway in the golf swing is so important as it can determine your angle of attack and the path from which you approach impact - both of which play a critical role in how the ball flies. A common fault is for golfers to drop the club too far on the inside, making it difficult to get it back into position to compress your irons or create optimal driver launch conditions.
A great drill to get you started can be done using just an alignment stick. Place it in the ground as shown above, with the idea being not to hit it when you take the club back. There are also some handy checkpoints that will help when you're starting out.
First, when the club gets back to parallel with the ground, you want the right forearm to be above the left. If your arms are level or, in extreme cases, the left is on top of the right, it's harder to control the clubface, which can lead to errant shots. Second, you want the clubhead to be matching your spine angle. If you can nail both of these things, you'll be in a great position to make an excellent swing.
If you've spent time working on the fundamentals above and are developing your swing, this is a really handy check to keep in mind. A common fault I see among beginners is they don't use their hips properly. The thing to look out for here is if they are sliding to the right in the backswing, rather than turning.
This is what's referred to as 'swaying' and if you are doing this, you’ll quickly ingrain a motion that makes it difficult to strike the ball well. A great drill is to place alignment sticks either side of your hips at address. You should be able to swing to the top without bumping into the stick on your right (left for right-handers).
Then as you swing through impact, your body should rotate against the front stick. This is a great way to check you're turning properly on the way back and shifting your weight on the way through - both essential elements to good ball-striking.
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Location: Golfsmart International, Hertfordshire
Keith has worked with Golf Monthly for over 20 years. He's Director of Instruction for The Faldo Series and has coached multiple Tour winners, including Sir Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros. His academy, Golfsmart International, can be found in Hitchin, and coaching is still at the forefront of what he does.
Students learn best when...
They are secure and comfortable with their environment including you, the instructor. We need to listen to the player, establish their goals and break down their fears and barriers to change, establishing trust and confidence. Communication is everything and the use of today's technology is essential, especially visually, as it helps enormously to get our message across.
Advice for practice:
Hit less balls in shorter sessions and have a plan. Why are you practicing? (purpose). Whether it's a technical swing change or a drill, try and measure the outcome. It could be visually, target and result driven, but above all, don't be afraid to experiment in your practice sessions. You'll be amazed what you can discover on your own and have great fun doing it.
A typical lesson:
There is no typical lesson but I would like to think that I am a good listener and communicator. I want to establish what the student knows and wants to achieve as I assess the priorities of their improvement. I choose my words carefully as its about clear communication, so that the player understands my reasons behind any suggestions given. One commonality of my sessions would be that the player is fully immersed in the session; it's not about me telling them to do something but the player discovering how to improve with my help.
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