The Golf Swing: Hitting the Ball, Straight and True… or Otherwise

man after golf swing

The game of golf can be one of the most rewarding pastimes for any age participant.  It’s out in the fresh air, it moves along at a leisurely pace, and it can be time well spent with friends or business associates.  But nothing can be more frustrating about the game, if the ball simply won’t go anywhere near where you want it to.  That’s why it is important to learn how to hit a golf ball, properly, and with results that are at least somewhat predictable.

Golf is a game of mechanics. In order to hit the ball where you want it to go, and that is typically in a straight line, there are a series of mechanical motions you should be comfortable with to achieve this end.It’s called the golf swing, and it involves several critical components.  They are:

  • Stance
  • Grip
  • Backswing
  • Downswing
  • Followthrough

Your Golf Stance

Everyone is built differently, but there are some basics to the stance which are pretty universal.  You should stand with your feet about shoulder length apart, with the ball centered between your feet.  Once you’ve planted your feet, your back should be bent forward at an angle of about 35 degrees.  Once in this position, the ball should be at a distance away from you so that your arms can comfortably hang straight down, with the club head reaching the ball.  Your weight needs to be distributed evenly on the balls of your feet, while in this position.

Your Golf Club Grip

The traditional golf grip has your dominant hand on the bottom, with the pinky of your non-dominant hand curled just at the end of the club.  Your dominant hand should be placed just below your non-dominant hand, and the pressure on the club should come from the creases of your fingers, rather than your palms.  Both your thumbs should be pointing straight down along the path of the club shaft.  Overall, your grip should be loose, but firm - you’re not trying to asphyxiate the club shaft with your hands; you're trying to aid the club in making proper contact with the ball.

The combination of your stance and grip should have your body, the ball and your target all in parallel.

Your Backswing

To start your swing, you should gradually shift your weight to your back foot, raising your arms slightly in a straight line.  Then, a smooth and continuous motion, your arms, shoulders and hips should be rotating backward as you swing your club backward.  Your arms should be fully extended.  When your club comes to about shoulder height, try to bend your wrists so that your club goes higher, above your head.  You.ve reached the end of your backswing.  Your head should be down, still, and looking squarely at the ball.

Your Downswing

At the top of your backswing, your front shoulder needs to be tilted downward slightly; you should feel it tucking into your chin, as you keep the bend at your hips.  When you start the downswing, your front shoulder should feel like it is moving downward, toward the ground.

Now then, as part of the fluid motion of the downswing, your weight will be shifting from your back foot to your front, with your front hip turning toward the target.  Now things speed up as your body turns toward the target as part of the swing.  The whole motion needs to be smooth and swift, with no herky-jerky or hesitancy.  Your eyes should be on the ball the whole time, head held still. At impact with the ball, it should feel like your body has returned to the original position of the stance.

At this point, with the clubhead contacting the golf ball, you should feel all of your weight on your front foot; your back foot should still be on the ground firmly.  A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • You should have your hip bump up toward the target at this point
  • Stay bent at the hips at this point, extending your torso
  • Have your front shoulder tilted up

All of these components aid in driving the ball forward, in the direction you want.

Your Follow-through

All of the preceding motions are intended to get the ball moving toward its intended target.  The top half of your body should be turned, as part of the swing, so it is facing the target.  Your arms will cross the front of  your body, As part of the follow through, make sure that your back foot turns so that your toes are also facing the target.  The front foot remains perpendicular to the target, as it was in your original stance.  You are not hunched over; during the follow through, your torso should be extended, head up.

Controlling the Force

Your swing needs to account for the distance you want the ball to travel.  Putting and driving, obviously, require vastly differing amounts of force.  Learning to control the amount of force you put into your swing will help determine how accurate a golfer you will become.  This involves, primarily, increasing or decreasing backswing.  There’s also the element of lift - the further you want your ball to go, the more lift you will need. That’s the amount of height the ball achieves as it arcs towards its target.

Finally

It’s important to note that these are just the basics of a general golf swing.  Learning how to hit a golf ball has so many variables and aspects to it - a conservative estimate calculates twenty-four distinct components, and through extrapolation, over 400 quadrillion (400,000,000,000,000,000) ways to hit a golf ball - that one short summary will obviously not cover the co (inadvertently or otherwise) to the basic swing to make shorter shots, or make the ball fade, draw, slice, or hook.  

Your friends at Back 2 Basics Golf are always around for tips and advice.  Have a look at some of the most innovative golf-related products around. Fore!

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