By Jeremy Ellwood published
How to swing a golf club
Even at the highest level of the game the top professionals swing the golf club in very different ways. There is certainly more than one way of getting the job done - think Jim Furyk or Matthew Wolff, for example.
But if you’re new to the game or still in the early stages, getting the fundamentals as correct as possible will certainly help you to develop a more consistent golf swing.
Many of the different-looking swings you see actually rely on compensatory movements at various stages to be able to deliver the club back to the ball squarely.
While good players may be able to time these movements consistently thanks to many hours of practice and repetition, for lesser golfing mortals, it’s a tougher challenge and one that invariably leads to inconsistency.
Here, we break down the fundamentals from grip to follow-through pooling advice offered by a number of our expert team of top coaches. The whole movement only takes a second, so getting the fundamentals right in each element of the swing will give you a better chance of the whole thing knitting together more effectively.
For example, setting up correctly will give you a better chance of taking the club away correctly. Taking the club away correctly will give you more chance of completing the backswing effectively and so on…
While some golfers play well with stronger or weaker grips, a neutral grip is the ideal starting point.
A strong grip is one in which the upper hand sits on top of the grip too much and the lower hand too much underneath the grip, with things vice versa in a weak grip.
In a neutral grip, the club’s grip should run along the base of the little finger, on through the other fingers until intersecting the middle part of the index finger.
When you wrap your hand over, the V created by the thumb and index finger should point at your right shoulder.
In the game’s most common overlapping grip, the little finger of your right hand sits over your left forefinger and middle finger. The resulting V created by the thumb and forefinger of your right hand should point towards your right chest.
A good athletic posture is key to generating power - check out any tour pro’s posture and you won’t see them slouched over the ball.
To get your posture correct, let your arms hang freely down from your shoulders to the ball ensuring that your shoulder blades are back rather than hunched forward.
Now, bend forward from your pelvis while maintaining your spine angle. This will also dictate how far from the ball you should stand with each club.
Finally, just ‘soften’ or flex your knees a little into position.
Ball position is then very important - if the ball is in the wrong place as you start your swing, you are reducing your chances of good contact and the right ball flight.
But all your clubs vary in length from wedge up to driver, so how do you find the right ball position for each club?
A simple way is to start with your feet together. Then, with a short iron, take a little step left with your left foot and the same length step right with your right foot.
With a mid-iron, take the same little step left but a slightly bigger one to the right, and with a long iron the same step left again, but a slightly bigger step still to the right.
This will set your sternum in the right position to help each and every iron bottom out correctly through impact.
The only variation is with the driver as you need to hit up on the ball more. So, take just a tiny step with the left foot, then a nice big one with the right, taking care not to go too wide as this will reduce your ability to turn effectively
A smooth, fluid tempo in the initial movement away from the ball is critical. Any short, snatchy movement will really throw the sequencing of your swing out.
A common error is to over-rotate the hands and arms at this point, which then fans the clubface open.
A good exercise is to grip halfway down your driver with the shaft touching your left hip at address. In a good takeaway you will retain that shaft/hip connection for the first 18 inches or so.
If you over-rotate your hands and arms, the shaft will separate from the hip.
Another good takeaway tip is to pop a tee-peg in the back of your glove, which should point pretty much towards the target at address.
In the early part of a good takeaway, the tee should point more or less at the ball.
Again, any over-rotation of hands and arms will see the tee pointing more towards the sky, meaning your clubface is very open and will be difficult to return to square at impact.
But while a good shoulder turn away from the ball is important, it will only generate power if the shoulders have something to turn or coil against.
This means your hips need to rotate less than your shoulders as you take the club up to the top (perhaps 45˚ versus 90˚).
One way to work on this is to make sure you keep your right knee nicely flexed as you take the club back.
If it straightens, your right hip will move backwards and you will lose power as your hips will rotate too much leaving your upper body little to coil against.
Any lateral movement will also make it much harder for you to get back to the ball consistently and generate any power, so guard against swaying rather than turning. Make sure you can feel more weight on your right leg at the top than at address.
Finally, your arms are important too. The triceps in your left arm should be nicely loaded at the top. If you let the left arm bend or collapse at the top you will lose that tension and with it the ability to store energy to release back into the ball at impact.
Weight transfer is the big key in the downswing
Keeping your body weight too much on your right side makes it impossible to achieve good impact. Start your downswing with a shift of your left or lead side towards the target to encourage your weight to transfer to your left side.
Try standing your golf bag by your left foot at address, then start your downswing by moving your left side towards the target, making contact with the bag through impact.
A good thought to have is “butt of grip to lead pocket” as you swing through. Try to get the feeling of the butt of the grip pointing to your front trouser pocket on your lead leg at impact.
With an iron, you should be hitting down on the ball so the effective loft on the club at impact should be less than it would have been at address.
This simple truth is hard to grasp as golfers understandably feel the need to try and help the ball up by scooping at it with the hands or holding back on their right side in a bid to help it up.
Both these will be highly counterproductive and lead to very inconsistent striking.
A good way to encourage the downward angle of attack required with an iron is to set a sheet of card or towel down a few inches behind the ball. You must then look to miss this at impact to encourage the ‘ball first, ground second’ impact required.
You can vary how far behind the ball you place the sheet or towel as your striking improves.
Another good way to encourage the correct weight transfer to your left side is to make the first thought at the top of your backswing to shift your right knee across towards the left.
Driver impact differs as you do want to hit this club on the up to optimise spin and flight. A good set-up will help you to achieve this, with the ball further forward, the stance a little wider and the spine angled away from the target more than with an iron as the right shoulder tilts down more.
Finish and follow-through
Good poise, balance and a full flowing finish can be great indicators that what has gone before has also been good.
A great thing to focus on as you work through the pointers in this feature is how well-balanced you are once the ball has been despatched.
Good balance will often indicate that the weight transfer required for powerful, consistent ball-striking has been good, with most of your weight transferring to the inside of your right foot going back, then on to your left as you swing through.
Poor balance as you finish could indicate poor weight transfer, which can significantly impact power and ball-striking.
If your balance is off at the end of your swing, you will know there are probably still things to work on in what preceded it!
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
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