The pursuit of a repeating swing that will withstand the pressure of championship golf is a challenge for professionals and amateurs who compete at the highest level. Even the casual golfer realizes that the way to increase pleasure on the golf course, as well as shoot lower scores, is to make a consistent pass at the ball.
The best way to achieve that goal is through sound fundamentals. Although I have tweaked my swing over the years to find out what works best for me, I have remained faithful to the basic fundamentals my dad taught me when I was barely old enough to swing a golf club. Those fundamentals-grip, posture, stance and setup-are the foundation for a good swing and often the difference between the high and low handicapper.
My quest has also been educational. I have learned more about the golf swing and the game in general than I imagined. For example, knowing how to play a knockdown shot in some extremely adverse conditions almost got me into a playoff at this year’s British Open at Royal Birkdale. I am learning how to turn up the power or throttle back when necessary. On the following pages, I will share some of that knowledge by going through the basics from the longest strokes to the shortest.
The final and perhaps most important-fundamental concerns work ethic. I’m a firm believer that you get out of the game only what you put into it. The amount of time you practice is not as important as the quality of your practice. Work hard to maximize your enjoyment of the game, which is the common thread among all golfers of all abilities.
Why I interlock
Too often, players lose control of the clubhead because one hand becomes dominant at some point in the golf swing. The result is inconsistent ball flight and loss of distance control. A player’s hands should work together, especially on pitch and chip shots, where accuracy and proper distance are paramount. I believe the interlocking grip, where the right pinky intertwines with the left forefinger, helps the hands work in unison. It is also more comfortable for players with small hands.
Setting the hands
Start behind for power
Most high handicappers don’t know where to position their hands at address. They either forward-press ahead of the ball or cup their left wrist noticeably away from it. Both can lead to any number of problems, not the least of which is inconsistent contact and a loss of power.
For the driver, set your hands slightly behind the ball and your forward shoulder. From that position, your hands take the club back together as your body rotates away from the ball and your weight transfers onto your right side.
Positioning your hands slightly behind the ball at address also sets your right shoulder lower than your left. This puts your body in position to swing the clubhead into the ball from slightly inside the target line, resulting in a powerful ball flight.
Look like an athlete
I usually can tell a player’s ball-striking ability by the way he or she sets up to the ball. Poor posture usually yields poor results.
Good posture gives a player the appearance of an athlete and a good start on making a solid swing.
The spine should be fairly straight, backside stuck out slightly and knees comfortably flexed. Arms hang naturally from the shoulders. Avoid burying your chin in your chest. When your chin goes down, your back tends to bow and your weight slips back on your heels, making an in-balance swing difficult at best. Also, a low chin restricts your shoulder turn-you’ll never hit it very far or consistently.
Shorten the backswing for control
Selecting the correct club is crucial on tight driving holes. I suggest using a 3wood or long iron over a driver when accuracy is the priority, as it was here at Bay Hill’s watery 11th hole earlier this year.
Shortening the backswing is also helpful in controlling ball flight. Make a full shoulder turn while restricting your hip turn. At the top, the left wrist should be slightly cupped and the left arm extended to put the club shaft in good position, short of horizontal. From there, just let the hands and arms drop naturally.
Don’t cut it short
While keeping your clubshaft short of parallel at the top, make sure you still turn your shoulders completely. A full shoulder turn is essential to hitting the ball farther because it helps load the right side. Some players attempt to complete their turn by lifting their hands and arms instead of turning their shoulders well behind the ball. The result can be either a weak fade or pull hook. You know you’ve made a good turn if your left shoulder is directly under your chin and your back is facing the target. The direction of the clubshaft is an indicator of the good position at the top of the swing. It should be pointed at the target.
Shake hands with the target
High handicappers rarely swing through the hitting area. They raise the body and head, and a serious power shortage occurs. For consistent ball-striking, keep your head steady through impact, your right shoulder moving under, not out. Here my lower body is unwinding, and I’m really firing my right side through the hitting area. Notice the good extension of my right arm and club shaft straight down the target line. You want to feel like your right hand is shaking hands with the target.
Hold that position
Holding your finish is a good drill for players who have trouble completing the follow-through. It’s also a good way to work on your balance. Take your normal full swing with each club and hold the finish until the ball hits the ground. If successful, you’re swinging under control. If you fall off balance, it shows you’ve lost control of your golf swing. On a full, in- balance follow-through, your belt buckle should be pointing at-or left of the target.
How to play the bump and run
I like to employ the bump-and-run chip shot when there is plenty of green to work with and I want to get the ball rolling quickly. To play the shot, set up in a slightly open stance with your hands slightly forward and your weight more toward your left foot. An imaginary vertical line drawn from your sternum would meet the ground two or three inches in front of the ball. The ball should be in line with the big toe of your right foot. Remember to maintain the angle of your left wrist through impact. Make sure the length of follow-through matches the length of the backswing.
Thumbs up for the solid stroke
I use a reverse-overlap putting grip, palms facing each other with the index finger of the left-hand over-lapping the last two fingers of the right hand. I believe it helps the hands work together better.
The back of my left-hand faces the line of the putt.
The key to “locking in” my grip is my thumbs, which I place directly on top of the grip, in perfect alignment with the shaft and putter head. Grip pressure is a matter of personal prefer ence and comfort. Just make sure you keep it constant throughout the stroke