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It is reasonable to say that golf is not an easy sport; it requires countless hours of practice, and possibly studying technique, in order to begin showing some progress.
Unlike many sports, golf normally isn’t one that any physically fit person can pick up and quickly get good at, although it occasionally can happen with people who have exceptional natural talent.
To become a good golfer, it can be very beneficial to focus on the details related to body posture, grip, alignment, angles, movement, etc., all while analyzing factors in the environment that could influence your shot.
Golfers everywhere, including pros, have spent years trying to master the golf swing.
When swinging a golf club, not only do you have to hit the ball with great strength and speed, but you also need to be very precise with your ball contact and aim — remember that a 1.68″-diameter ball must go into a small hole that is often hundreds of yards away.
Learning to play golf is certainly an intricate process. Nevertheless, with the right guidance and dedication, you can certainly become a great golfer.
This article will cover the basics and fundamentals on how to swing a golf club.
The instruction that follows isn’t necessarily guaranteed to be perfect for everyone (there is no such thing as the “perfect golf swing”), but it is generally regarded as the standard for the golf swing, and it provides a great foundation from which you can find what works best for you.
Carefully read through these steps to ensure you have all the information necessary to develop an exceptional swing.
Note: If not specifically stated, you can safely assume the guidance below is based on a right-handed swing.
Ball Placement & Alignment
In order to begin building your skills for a great golf swing, you need to align your body with the ball correctly.
While this may seem like such a basic fact, you’d be surprised how much golfers, especially beginners, don’t do it properly. This alone drastically reduces your chances of hitting a good shot.
If you are right-handed, place yourself in front of the ball, with the left side of your left foot facing the direction in which you will hit the ball. Do the same with your right foot if you are left-handed.
Place the ball at a distance where it aligns with the club’s head while having your arms extended (though not completely stretched out), as if you were getting ready to hit it. See the image below for an illustration of this.
With your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, place the ball at the midpoint when using wedges, and gradually move it forward (closer to your left foot if right-handed) as you move to longer clubs.
This means that the ball will be nearly aligned with your left foot but inside the heel when using the driver (see video below).
The reason for doing this is that longer clubs should hit the ball as the club is moving up in the arc in order to elevate the ball and increase its speed, unlike wedges and short irons, which have plenty of loft and which are made for short distances.
Posture is very important for acquiring a good swing.
Without good posture, even the best golfers can hit bad shots. It’s not always easy to hone in on a posture issue either.
Improving your stance can make a big impact on your overall golf game and easily help you get rid of common swing issues such as a slice (left to right ball flight for a right-handed player) or hook.
As you may have noticed in the image above, the ideal posture consists of bending your upper body slightly towards the ball and keeping your back straight without slouching or bringing your head too far back.
Also slightly bend your knees, as this will make for a more comfortable stance when you take the swing. A tense body will work against you hitting the ball solidly and powerfully, so remember to keep your arms relaxed and have them hang naturally down towards the ball.
Before you take your swing, be sure your weight is evenly distributed on both feet, as this will help you start the swing with proper balance.
To balance your weight, you can try shuffling your feet just like the guy in the video above (time 1:03).
Concentrate your weight on the balls of your feet (between the toes and arch); this will help you shift your weight with ease through the golf swing.
Maintaining a good stance is something that amateur golfers often struggle with. Our bodies naturally want to slouch, since that is the effect gravity has on our bodies, but it is very important to fix poor posture in order to get off on the right foot and develop a consistent, accurate swing.
If you are having problems keeping good posture, try the following exercise:
- Place a golf club against your nose, chin and belly while standing straight.
- Bend forward while keeping the golf club in the same position against your body.
- Repeat until you get used to this movement.
There are several different grip styles in golf, and it may take you quite some time to figure out what type of grip you feel most comfortable with.
We will go over the three main grips in the game. These have proven to be effective for golfers, and they are the ten-finger grip, overlap grip and interlocking grip.
First, you must follow the general rule that will apply to any grip you pick, which is that it needs to be relaxed. Just like with your posture, if your grip is too tense, it will not do your swing any good.
Having a relaxed grip allows the club head to naturally turn over through the ball, thus increasing your chances of making contact with a square clubface.
Here is a description of each of the three grip styles:
Having a close resemblance to the grip used in baseball, this is also called the baseball grip.
It is perhaps the most basic grip used in golf and probably the best to start off with if you are a beginner because it’s quite easy to remember.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on adopting this grip:
- Place your left hand at the very bottom of the golf club (opposite the clubhead).
- Close your fingers in such a way that the club is primarily in contact with your fingers as opposed to the palm.
- Point your thumb directly towards the club head.
- Place your right hand right above your left hand so that your right pinky is touching your left index finger.
- When you close your right hand, your left thumb should be touching your right palm, and your right thumb should be pointing slightly to the left.
It can be argued that this is the preferred grip among professionals. Due to requiring a stronger finger contact than the ten-finger grip, the overlap offers better stability.
Both grips are actually quite similar, but the overlap grip involves an extra step.
- Start with a ten-finger grip.
- Instead of resting your right pinky above the left index finger, bring it over the left hand so that it rests between your index and middle fingers.
The interlocking grip offers the most stability. Because it actually involves a lock-type position of the fingers, the idea is that it helps keep the club in a steady position throughout the swing.
This grip is often ideal for people with small hands.
- Start with a ten-finger grip.
- Place your right pinky between your left index and middle fingers; similarly, place your left index between your right pinky and ring fingers.
Choosing the right grip is important, not only to have a more powerful, accurate and consistent swing, but also to avoid a very frustrating slice, which is typically caused by a bad grip.
Perfecting this may take time and require a lot of work, but it will certainly be worth having one less thing to worry about so that you can place more focus on other aspects of the swing.
Note that in addition to the grip types above, there are also types related to hand position known as weak, neutral and strong grips.
I recommend starting out with a neutral (normal) grip and adjusting it later if you feel like a different grip strength will work better for you.
Tip: If you’re slicing, try turning your hands slightly to the right to make the grip stronger. This should encourage more of a draw shape.
Now that you have all the base work down, you’re nearly ready to make the swing.
In the backswing, you bring the club back from your starting position to get speed and energy.
Though people often place more importance on the downswing, getting your backswing right is probably just as crucial, as a poor backswing can mess up everything that follows.
Follow the four steps and tips below to ensure you have a good backswing:
- With the club at the starting position, begin rotating your shoulders, arms and hips to your right.
- Keep your front arm straight and against your chest. Your front arm is the one closest to the target.
- As the club gets to be perpendicular to the ground, begin twisting or “cocking” your wrists so that the club moves up and around your body.
- As you continue rotating your arms, your back arm will begin to create an “L” shape, or a 90 degree angle, and your front arm should bend slightly. By now, some of the club should be above your head.
Also keep in mind the following:
- Generally, the farther back you bring the club, the more speed you will be able to deliver into the ball, and hence the farther you’ll be able to hit it.
- Having a flexible physique will allow you to take the club farther back, rotate your shoulders more, and get the club in a position to generate maximum speed.
- Many golfers often struggle with keeping their legs bent during the backswing. Resist the urge to stand straight in order to get better results.
All Backswings Are Different
Remember that not all backswings are created equal. While the backswing described above is an “ideal” backswing, there will be differences from golfer to golfer.
Use it as a guideline and find out what works well for you.
The downswing is probably the most important part of the entire process. This is the part where you make contact with the ball and see the fruits of everything you have done beforehand.
Not only do you have to focus on how to hit a golf ball with accuracy, the correct strength and at a specific angle, but you also have to keep in mind everything else that you have learned such as posture and grip.
This is generally the toughest part in golf training. Nevertheless, if you practice all the basics that we have gone over, it will be much easier to focus on your downswing.
Practice the following for a great downswing:
1. Lead with the lower torso.
Allow the lower part of your torso to lead your downswing so that your swing path is the correct distance from your body.
Many beginners tend lead with their shoulders, which causes them to have a very wide downswing, tense up, and make poor contact with the ball. See the video below for more on this.
2. Lag the club.
As you begin your downswing, allow the club head to lag behind the rest of the shaft so that when you finally bring it down for the hit, it’s moving at a high enough speed.
See the above image for an illustration.
3. Shift your weight.
As you bring the club down, shift your weight from your back foot to your front foot. This will help improve speed as well as balance.
4. Straighten your arms at impact.
At impact, your arms should be more or less extended.
5. Rotate your hips.
Allow your hips to rotate through impact. This will help you hit it more solidly and help your shot gain more distance.
6. Keep your eye on the ball.
It’s important to keep your eyes on the ball until impact. Some golfers (even pros like David Duval and others) can hit solid shots without doing this, but for most golfers, this leads to poor ball contact.
Following through is important, not only because it helps you see your ball flight, but also because it gets you in the habit of allowing the downswing and impact to run its full course smoothly without any sharp or shaky interferences.
Because the downswing happens so quickly, it is difficult to know when exactly the ball will actually make contact with the clubface.
To ensure an effective follow-through, be sure to keep your body moving naturally with the club even after you’ve hit the ball. This implies the following:
- You must keep your entire body moving after you’ve made the strike, all while keeping your eyes on the ball flying off in the distance.
- Your weight should shift completely to your front foot, with your back foot only resting on its toe.
- The club will have made a complete turnaround and end up behind you.
- You can hold this pose until you see the ball land or fade in order to avoid distractions while the ball is in the air.
So far, we have gone over the mechanics of properly hitting a golf club.
Golf may not be an easy sport to learn, but it is definitely one where you can excel if you put in the hard work.
Details, angles and precise motion are essential components in golf, which is why every single shot requires very careful thought and consideration. Overlooking one small detail, such as grip tightness, can lead to negative results in your swing, which is why it is very important to practice often.
I’ll also say this one more time: I’m not claiming that this is the only way to swing a golf club. There are many effective swings out there that produce great results for golfers of all stripes.
Having said that, there are some fundamentals that all good swings have in common, and there is also a “standard” method for swinging a golf club that is helpful to the average player; this guide goes over all of these things.
This article teaches you how to swing a golf club, but if needed, you should keep looking for guidance anywhere possible. There are different teaching styles and methods in the fast-growing world of golf.
There are also special programs and other resources for people who want to quickly take their golf game to the level they want it to be at. In addition to your swing, remember to consider other aspects of golf such as equipment and technology (GPS, rangefinders, etc.).
For example, take Jeff Richmond, the man behind Consistent Golf. Jeff recently stumbled upon a swing move used by golfing legend Ben Hogan that Hogan had never revealed to the public.
Once Jeff started using this move, he saw a quick and substantial improvement in his golf game.
He currently teaches this “Hogan move” in his training program. With this program, you gain instant access to:
- an 85-page PDF that gives you everything you need to start using Hogan’s secret move
- 53 extra free pages that include additional pictures illustrating the move
- mental golf drills to assist in prepping you before a round
- 7 videos that demonstrate not just the secret move, but also Hogan’s slow-motion practice and waggle, to improve your game even more
- various tips, tricks and techniques from a golfing expert
- and much more!
This is a move that I’ve incorporated into my own swing, and it ended up bringing my handicap nearly to zero.
It’s a move that beginners have used to take them from being a hack that can’t break 100 to being a great golfer that regularly shoots in the 70s and impresses the heck out of their friends.
Whether you’re a beginner to golf or are an experienced golfer looking to improve your game, I highly recommend you check out this program.
Alternatively, you can read my full review of the program.
Thanks for reading this guide. Feel free to drop a comment below with questions or feedback, or share the article if you liked it using the buttons below.
I’m not really a beginner in golf – I’ve been playing for a couple years now, but I have a ton of room for improvement. This is one of the best overview guides I’ve seen. It goes over pretty much all of the important elements of the swing; the stuff you talk about is really good for developing good swing habits. The only thing I’d say is that I think you should have expanded a little more on the neutral/weak/strong grip types. Overall, great piece Paul.
Hey Ken. A lot of work was put into this article and I appreciate your comment. Regarding neutral/weak/strong grips, I’ll just briefly describe the three here:
Neutral Grip: In a neutral grip, the “V” shape created by the thumb and index finger of your right hand is more or less pointing upward (or down the center line of the shaft), and you can see two to three knuckles from your point of view. They say that a neutral grip allows you to shape shots easier. If your hip speed is medium, I would suggest trying this grip.
Weak Grip: In a weak grip, the “V” is pointing to the left of center towards your right shoulder, and you can see one to two knuckles from your point of view. A weak grip promotes a fade ball flight and is recommended for players who have hooking issues. Weak grips are ideal for players with slow hip speeds.
Strong Grip: In a strong grip, the “V” is pointing to the right of center towards your left shoulder, and you can see four to five knuckles from your point of view. A strong grip promotes a draw ball flight and is recommended for players who tend to slice the ball (which, in the case of amateurs, is many). Strong grips are ideal for players with fast hip speeds.
my dad sent me this article. very comprehensive, thanks for this. I just got into golf a few months ago and I had no idea there were all of these “accepted” grip types… i’ve been using the ten-finger grip without realizing it!
Thanks for the visit. It’s not surprising that you found yourself using the ten-finger grip; many beginners do this. With that said, I would suggest trying the other grip styles to see if you find any of them more comfortable.
My son just got into golf, and lets just say that it doesn’t come naturally to him. His swing is all wrong (his backswing in particular is an abomination), and while I’ve tried to give him some gidance, it hasn’t helped as much as we’ve wanted it to. I recently sent him the link to this page becuse I thought it could help him. He’s going to be on the range tomorrow putting a lot of this stuff into practice. Here’s hoping that he can develop a half-decent golf swing. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks, Paul.
Good to hear it Jeff. You’re right that golf doesn’t come naturally to everyone; some people quickly start hitting the ball great, while others have a hard time getting a feel for it. Just out of curiosity, what in particular is your son struggling with? If he follows what’s in the guide, he should definitely be on the right track, but maybe I could be more targeted in my assistance.
It is very hard for me to keep correct posture during the shot. After each try, I feel very tired because of the need to focus on every part of my body. Golf is very hard for some people. I’ve been trying to get better for the past few months, and I recently gave up. With that said, the tips given in this article are very useful. I hope to get out on the range this week and try some of this – I’ll let you know how it goes…
You don’t need to think so hard during the swing. Once you assume a good posture, you shouldn’t really need to think about it. Do it enough and it becomes natural. You may have been taking the wrong approach, and I’m interested to hear how you do next time. Let me know!
Another great post Paul. I agree that posture is a very important part of the golf swing. I have played golf for a few years and I notice that my shot tends to turn out much better when I keep focused on the ball and keep an “athletic” position. When I get lazy with it, I usually make poor contact.
Yup, I’m not surprised. At the same time, make sure you’re not rigid, because that can be awful for your swing; be relaxed enough to get into the right positions throughout the swing. Thanks for your comment!
I think that some people just can’t learn how to swing a golf club properly. I tried many tutorials and I feel that my body can’t properly fit into the positions (posture and swing movements) that are depicted in the pictures and videos.
What you have here looks all well and good, but I can’t see it deviating from other online instruction and making any difference in my game. Is there any hope for me? Or it is true that you have to have a natural ability to be able to play golf?
I think everyone can learn to make a good golf swing with enough practice and dedication, unless you have some sort of physical disability. This article is geared more towards beginners who have no idea how to swing a golf club and need a solid foundation for doing so. As I mentioned in the article, every golfer needs to figure out what works for them ultimately. What I would recommend you do is just learn the basics, get out there and practice until you see results. I hope this helps.
I never put much importance on my grip.
I used to not care how I handled a golf club. I only took it to my hands and made a swng, not caring about how tight my grip was or how tense my body was. i just tried to manpulate the ball flight with my arms.
Now I’m starting to realize that there’s a lot more to it than that. I naturally use an overlap grip. My question is: should I change it? How will I know in which situation I need to use another grip with different tension?
Hi Jack. As I mentioned in the article, you should go with the grip that you feel most comfortable with and that gives you the best results. I would try the ten-finger and interlocking grips and see how they work out for you. Generally, you wouldn’t change your grip from shot to shot, but you could if you wanted to I suppose. That said, grip is very important. Good luck.
Hey Paul, I’m left-handed. I’m assuming everything taught here will work well for me, just in reverse?
That’s right, fellow lefty. Thanks for visiting the site.
I golf, and my husband got into the game a few months ago; he trains every week, but he still sees very bad results. He has a really hard time hitting respectable shots… many of them don’t get more than a few feet off the ground, and some balloon into the sky. To be honest, his swing looks pretty awful. I think it would serve him well to understand the fundamentals of the swing so that he can get on the right foot.
He is very stressed…. he says his body can’t move fluently with the golf club. I have tried to find a way for him to keep calm and stay relaxed and focused. I’m afraid that he could give up and just quit the sport. He was so happy when he bought his first set of golf clubs (a newer Callaway model). So I want to help him to start hitting it better and enjoy golf more. Do you have any advice for us?
It sounds to me like he’s having a hard time making solid contact; that’s normal for new golfers. He should go over this guide to make sure he has the basics down, get a little bit of a nicer swing, and just practice from there. Aside from this, it’s hard to diagnose what his problem is without seeing him in person. Are his shots relatively straight or his he spraying them all over the place? He could try to determine what’s causing his problems and then make appropriate adjustments. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. If you have any specific questions, I’ll try to answer them. Best of luck!
I really don’t understand why physics is so important in golf. They say that the main thing is to keep good posture and distance between the legs and ball, and also to avoid gripping the club too tightly. And another thing is to focus on how to move with the right speed to achieve a solid strike in the center of the face. But there’s something I don’t understand: my grandparents have played golf since they were young, they met on a golf course. and they didn’t focus so much on all the technicalities of the swing. They just stayed relaxed and tried to develop feel for shots. They ended up becoming very good golfers, and they have a lot of fun too. I want to get good at golf, but when I read many instruction-type articles like this I feel discouraged because it seems like there are so many things to think about.
This is a bit of a tough one Craig. I’d say physics definitely has its place in golf, but it’s important to not get too mired in mechanics because it can be paralyzing. You have to draw the line somewhere, and beyond that you go by feel, practice, and just play golf. Everyone needs a foundation, though, and you have to do what is necessary to develop it. I would suggest getting down the basics of the swing (if you don’t have them already) and then just follow in the footsteps of your grandparents, playing by feel and hitting the shots you need to hit. Thanks for the comment, and good luck.