Although golf can be difficult while you’re still learning proper technique, the game can be very enjoyable as you master your skills. One aspect that makes golf challenging is that even small details can have a big impact on your shot. It all starts with your swing. If you’re slicing or hooking your ball, if you’re just not getting the right yardage out of your shot, or if you’ve never hit a golf ball in your life, here’s the skinny on how to get the best out of your golf swing.
Start with your front foot slightly ahead of the ball.
Place your feet so that your front foot is slightly ahead of the ball; this way your club will be resting near the middle of your body. Your feet should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart with your golf ball toward the middle of your stance.
Play your bigger clubs (such as hybrids or drivers) more towards your front foot, and smaller clubs (like irons) towards the middle of your stance.
If you’re a right-handed player, it will be the opposite. Your left foot will be about one foot — often less — closer to the hole than the ball is.
If you’re a left-handed player, your right foot will be closer to the hole than the ball is.
Get close enough to the ball so that the middle of the club face reaches the ball with your arms out straight but still relaxed.
Don’t stand so close to the ball that you have to bend your elbows to accommodate the club positioning. At the same time, don’t stand so far away that your arms are fully outstretched. You want your upper body to be slightly bent toward the ball and your torso bent away from the target, but not dramatically so. Tilt your upper body slightly away from your target.
Check your alignment.
Alignment is the direction your feet and shoulders are pointed in. You want to align your feet and shoulders so that an imaginary line passing from your back shoulder to front shoulder — and back foot to front foot — is pointed directly at your target. This is called keeping your alignment “square.”
To check your alignment, get into your stance and place a golf club on the teeing area along the tips of your toes. Step back from the golf club and look at the direction it’s pointing in. It should be pointed either at your target, or at the hole itself.
Bend your knees slightly.
Instead of being a stiff mannequin, try to adopt an “athletic stance” by bending your knees slightly. Try a practice swing with your knees totally straight to see how hard it is — and how unnatural it feels — to swing a golf club without slightly bent knees.
Balance your weight slightly on the balls of your feet. Although this is more difficult than balancing your weight on your heels, it is easier to shift your weight forward, and then backward, as you perform your swinging motion.
Distribute your weight evenly on both your feet. Move the heels of your feet off the ground slightly in quick succession, shifting your weight between your front and back foot, to get a feel for an even stance. Although you’ll shift your weight during your backswing, and then your downswing, you’ll want to start off with an even weight distribution.
Whichever grip you choose to use, hold the club with a relaxed grip.
A relaxed grip will allow the club head to turn over when you swing, giving you better accuracy and usually better distance. This is referred to as closing through impact. As with most things in golf, the harder you try, the worse things get, as trying harder may cause your muscles to tense, hindering your swing. Try to keep it comfortable and natural.
Try the baseball grip.
This is a very basic grip similar to how baseball players hold a baseball bat, hence the name. Note: For all three of the following grips, the left hand (on a right-handed golfer) will be in the same position.
Place your left hand underneath the golf club, curving your fingers over the club so that they grip it securely. The golf club should be resting right where your palm meets your fingers; your left thumb should be pointed straight down the club to the club head.
Bring your right hand underneath the golf club so that your right pinky finger is comfortably touching your left index finger. Your right hand should be just below your left on the club.
Tighten your grip on the top of the club so that the lifeline portion of your palm rests on top of the left thumb. Your right thumb should be pointing slightly left-of-center, while your left thumb should be pointing slightly right-of-center.
Try the overlap grip.
While there’s nothing wrong with the baseball grip, the fingers are essentially disconnected from one another, which inhibits your hands from working together. The overlap grip connects the fingers by overlapping them. This grip offers somewhat more stability.
Start off with your hands in the baseball grip. Instead of keeping your right pinky and your left index finger side-by-side, lift your right pinky up. Move your right hand up the grip, and rest your right pinky either on the joint between the left index and the left middle, or on top of the index finger itself.
Try the interlocking grip.
This grip offers probably the most stability of the three by interlocking the left and right hands on the underside of the club. This grip is used by golf greats Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
To achieve the interlocking grip, start off with the baseball grip. Next, fit the left index finger between the joint of the right pinky and ring fingers while taking the right pinky and fitting it between the left index and middle fingers. Your right pinky and left index are essentially holding each other in an interlocking “x.”
Choose whichever grip feels the most comfortable.
Every grip has its distinct advantages and disadvantages, and there are many more variations of these grips that we haven’t mentioned — weak or strong grips, etc. Experiment with golf grips until your swing feels most comfortable and you fix some of your worst tendencies.
The interlocking grip, for example, is commonly prescribed for golfers with small hands (think Nicklaus), while the overlapping grip is hard for people with smaller hands to use.
If you’re having problems with a slice (ball moves left and then dramatically right for right-handed golfers), consider switching away from the “weak” version of your grip if you’re using it.
If you’re having problems with a hook (ball moves right and then dramatically left for right-handed golfers), consider switching away from the “strong” version of your grip if you’re using it.
Start your backswing.
The backswing is where you lift the club back from its starting position and bring it above your head. Try to rotate the torso on the backswing by shifting weight from the ball of your front foot to the ball of your back foot. Pay attention to the three distinct phases of the backswing:
Phase one: Move the hands straight back while keeping them close to your back leg. Try to keep your front arm straight while you do this. As the club head hinges backward between your left arm and the club shaft, the shaft becomes almost parallel to the ground.
Phase two: Continue a slight wrist break as you move your arm parallel to the ground. The club should be roughly perpendicular to your left arm (for right-handed golfers). The end of the club should be pointing slightly outside the golf ball.
Phase three: Rotate your torso back even further so that the clubhead travels slightly behind your hands at the top of the backswing. Your front arm should bend slightly during the last phase of the backswing.
Follow through with your downswing.
When swinging down, it should feel like you are dragging or slightly pulling the head of the club so that it lags behind everything else. Allow the 90-degree forearm/shaft angle to increase, then unwind rapidly through the impact area. This creates tremendous clubhead speed while allowing the body to move relatively slowly and maintain control.
Right before impact, try to lock your front arm again so that it’s completely straight again, just how it was when you started your backswing.
During your downswing, shift your weight from the ball of your back foot to the ball of your front foot. Allow your knees to move toward your target. Try to keep your front knee flexed, especially if you’re hitting a driver, as this will help your front leg take your weight.
Make sure to have the shaft leaning forward toward the target at the moment of impact.
This will help ensure that your hands are ahead of the club head during impact, which in turn helps the club head strike the ball before moving through the ground. Don’t forget to use your hips to swing energy into your shot; don’t just rely on your hands to produce the power.
Remember to follow through.
It isn’t critical how far back you take the club, but if you release the club correctly, you should follow through completely. Your belt buckle will be facing the target, the club will have swung through to a position somewhat behind you, and you will be balanced on your lead foot with the back foot balanced on its toe. You should be able to comfortably hold this finish as you watch the ball fly off into the distance.
Keep your eyes on the ball during the backswing, downswing, and follow through. Don’t lift your head as soon as you hit the ball to see where it’s going; this will only cause you to mis-hit the ball. Keep your eyes on the ball until you’ve finished your follow through.
Don’t try to pummel the ball with all your strength — easy does it!
Just as you shouldn’t try to strangle your golf club in your grip, you shouldn’t try to pound the golf ball with all your strength. The most important factor in achieving distance and direction is form, and good form is usually sacrificed when you try to go caveman on the golf ball.
Correct the slice.
If your ball is curving during flight from left to right (for a right-handed golfer), try to keep your knees bent and flexed during the backswing. It’s natural to want to straighten out your back knee during the backswing but try to avoid the impulse. Don’t let your knee travel backward either; keep it flexed in position and underneath the hip.
Correct the hook.
A hook is a ball that travels slightly to the right (for a right-handed golfer) and then dramatically to the left. This happens when the ball has a counterclockwise spin, meaning that it’s being hit from right to left instead of from back to front.
Try looking at your grip. If you’re a right-handed golfer and more than two knuckles on your left hand are visible when you hold the club, turn to a “weaker” grip and make sure only two knuckles are visible.
Make sure your stance isn’t aiming too far to the left. You can try to overcompensate a little to the right, but this can also make the hooking motion worse if you overcompensate too much. Place a golf club down on the ground to make sure you’re aiming straight at your target.
Correct swings that don’t hit the ball “squarely.
” Sometimes your swing is “fat,” others it’s “thin,” and your drive doesn’t get as much distance as you’d like. The most common remedy for this problem is keeping your head down and your eye on the ball throughout the backswing.
When you move your head back in the backswing, you’re actually increasing the distance between the base of the neck and the bottom of the ball.