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How To Improve Your Golf Swing: An In-depth Analysis

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When starting your golf journey, it’s easy to be sold on the latest and greatest equipment of the year. Many golfers begin to believe he/she can buy a game and not work on the actual mechanics of his/her golf swing. This thought process cannot be farther from the truth.

I would argue that focusing on proper training and the fundamentals of your swing will…

At best – Lower your scores at a quicker pace

At worst – Make your rounds a more enjoyable time.

Don’t get me wrong, once you develop a consistent swing having properly fitted clubs in the bag becomes crucial for a better golf game.

But the focus of this post is for improving your swing. If you’re new to the game, hopefully by the end of this writing you will have a much greater understanding of the what’s, why’s, and how’s of the most important part of golf… Your Swing!

Table of Content

Basics of a Golf Swing

Techniques/Tips to Improve

Common Problems

Analysis of Famous Golf Swings

Tools You Can Use

Don’t Practice the WRONG Way

Resources and Further Reading

Golf Swing Basics

The golf swing sequence is an extremely complex motion. But it can be broken down into basic categories:

  • The Golf Setup (Grip, Posture, Alignment)
  • The Golf Takeaway (From the Ball to Waist Height)
  • The Golf Backswing (From Waist Height to the Top)
  • The Golf Downswing (From the Top to Impact)
  • The Golf Follow-Through (From Impact to the Finish)

All of these categories are equally important; however, if anything in the Setup is out of place, the rest of the swing will be difficult to execute properly.

Golf Swing: The Grip

The grip is the only connection between you and the golf club. Careful attention needs to be paid to the placement of your hands. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Basics of a Golf Swing Gif 1 on Howard's Golf

The most important factors when gripping the golf club are the position of your hands, and how firmly you hold the golf club.

Regarding grip pressure, from a scale of 1-10, where 1 is barely holding on and 10 is squeezing the life out of it, you want to be somewhere between 4 and 5. 

Golf Swing: Posture

How you stand in relation to the golf ball and the shot you’re trying to execute is crucial to consistency. Posture really boils down to having the proper angles from your knee bend, pelvic tilt, and a straight line from your hips to the top of your head. Most importantly, you need to feel comfortable with your posture. Otherwise, a smooth, fluid swing is difficult to achieve. Watch this Me and My Golf video explaining golf posture…

Basics of Golf Swing Gif 2 on Howard's Golf

Golf Swing: Alignment

Alignment is often the most underrated fundamental in golf, but one that requires plenty of attention. Even a slight deviation in your alignment can cause a big miss. The best way to hone your alignment is to work on it all the time.

Basics of Golf Swing Gif 3 on Howard's Golf

Now that you have the setup squared away, you’re now ready to set the club in motion. And that starts with a solid takeaway.

Golf Swing: One-Piece Takeaway

When you start the club in motion, you want the club, along with your hands, arms, and shoulders to start the takeaway in unison. This needs to be with a smooth, slow tempo. Your hips should also begin to turn slightly as the club swings above the ground

Golf Swing Takeaway: Wrist Hinge

As the club begins to move off the ground, with your hands approaching hip height, your wrists should begin to hinge. Then you are setting yourself up for a solid finish of your backswing.

With the club halfway back, it’s time to complete the backswing, which is comprised of finishing your turn, your wrist hinge, and establishing the correct swing plane.

Golf Swing: Completing your Shoulder/Hip Rotation

Turning your shoulders and hips is key to maximizing the amount of effortless power and speed you can generate. The key is to turn as much as possible without any additional strain on your body.

Golf Swing Backswing: “Setting” the Club at the Top

Once your wrists are fully hinged and the club has reached the top, the club should feel secure, with the thumbs and index fingers on both hands providing support.

Golf Swing Backswing: Bonus Detail

When you reach the top of the backswing, the path which the shaft has traveled on is known as the swing plane. Ideally, the shaft should be pointing relatively close to your target line. Sound a little confusing? This video should help.

Golf Swing Basics Gif 4 on Howard's Golf

If you’ve reached the top of the golf swing in a good position to transition into the downswing, most of the hard work has already been taken care of. Still, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

Golf Swing: The Downswing is All About Sequencing

With a solid backswing already established, the rest of the swing is all about transitioning your body motion in the correct sequence. There is a simple way to remember this: it starts from the ground (your feet) and works its way up, with your hips clearing, followed by your shoulders, etc. The last thing that should start down is the clubhead.

Golf Swing Downswing: Reaching Impact

If you follow the ideal sequencing into the golf ball, the impact should look a lot like this.

The downswing and impact happen so fast, you won’t know much about the shot until you’re well into the follow-through. However, the follow-through can provide plenty of feedback itself.

Golf Swing: Proper Follow Through

Notice how every good player you see on TV holds their finish on the follow-through? It’s not because they want to look pretty for the camera; they are able to hold that finish because of their balance throughout the swing.

That pretty much sums up the basics of what entails a good golf swing. In the next section, I will share some of the best tips I’ve used to help people with every facet of their golf swing that anyone can use to improve.

Techniques/Tips to Improve

Now that we have established the basics of a golf swing, there are ways to improve on each aspect of the swing. Here are some of my favorites.

It’s All About Balance

The golf swing is a very dynamic, complex motion, and a lot of things can go wrong if you’re not balanced throughout the swing. A simple way to improve your balance is to swing while standing on a foam log. If you can swing through to a balanced finish on a foam log (or on a balance rod), your ability to maintain balance with both feet on the ground becomes incredibly easy.

Golf Swing Basics Gif 5 on Howard's Golf

Rotation is the Key to Power

Many beginning golfers focus too much emphasis on developing speed through their arms and hands, which usually results in poor contact. Even when they do hit an okay shot, there’s almost no clubhead speed. The easiest way to improve your overall distance is to focus on rotation, back and through the golf swing. When you learn how to properly rotate in the golf swing, you will achieve effortless power and more consistency.

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

A bad golf swing with good rhythm is infinitely more desirable than a decent golf swing with horrible rhythm. A simple way to think about your golf swing tempo is with a ratio or a word cadence to help you discover your own personal rhythm. By utilizing this 3-to-1 ratio, you can develop the correct sequencing and improve your golf swing.

Ball Position Matters

When you address the golf ball, where the ball is located in relation to your feet is an often overlooked but incredibly important facet of improving your golf swing. For example, a ball position that is too far back towards your trail foot (the right foot for right-handed golfers) can cause you to swing too steeply. Conversely, when the ball is too far forward, it can cause you to lunge forward. Either way, it results in poor golf shots. For most golfers, it is far much easier to maintain the same ball position but widen or narrow your stance depending on the club. If you haven’t given much thought to ball position, you might just be surprised as to how much it helps when done correctly.

Keep It Simple

I will delve further into this in a later section, but it’s important to understand that all of these tips need to be integrated slowly. The last thing anyone wants to do is to try to improve their balance, their rotation, their tempo, and focus on ball position all at once. By working on everything, you won’t improve anything. Take it one tip at a time, then move on once you feel you have a firm grasp of the concept.

In the next section, I will share some of the most common problems golfers face, and the most efficient way to fix them.

Common Problems

No matter how much golf equipment and technology has evolved, there are still several common problems the vast majority of golfers struggle with. Here are a few of the most common problems golfers face.

Common Problem #1: Fighting a Slice

A slice, which is a shot shape where the ball curves from left-to-right for a right-handed golfer. About 80% of golfers struggle with a slice, most prominently with the driver. A consistent slice can be an incredibly frustrating problem. Luckily, there are a few basic steps any golfer can take to correct their ball flight.

Common Problem #2: Lack of Flexibility

One of the reasons most golfers struggle with consistency is due to a lack of flexibility. It’s very difficult to make a smooth, effortless golf swing and maintain balance if your muscles and connective tissue are tight and immobile.

Common Problem #3: The Dreaded “S” Word

Nothing causes that warm rush of shame more than seeing a simple wedge shot fly 45 degrees offline or feeling a 9-iron clank off the hosel. The shanks can sneak up on any golfer at any time and can seem nearly incurable at the worst of times.

Analysis of Famous Golf Swings

There is a lot we can all learn from the golf swings of some of the best players in the world. In this section, I will provide insight into what makes many of the best swings in the game work, and how you can learn from them.

Tiger Woods:

One of the most important things you can learn from Tiger Woods’ golf swing is his extension. His arms create an incredible arc and width without any sway or sliding in his lower body. The extension carries into the downswing and the follow through and speaks volumes about his ability to maximize his distance.

Vijay Singh:

The big Fijian’s golf swing is the only one I wanted to show you at full speed because of his incredible tempo. At 55 years old, he can still compete on the PGA Tour, and his longevity can be attributed to his smooth, rhythmic tempo from the takeaway through the finish. Despite the slow pace, he still generates plenty of clubhead speed. A good player to emulate when it comes to rhythm.

Phil Mickelson:

The greatest left-handed golfer in history uses his leg action to time his golf swing, which is longer than most professionals. Note how much his legs drive through to his right side on the downswing, which is key for him to square the club at impact. Rotation is key for any golfer, and Phil demonstrates how effectively it can be used.

Rory McIlroy:

Rory is arguably, pound-for-pound, the longest golfer on Tour. Like Phil, he also uses his lower body but does do in a very different way. On the downswing, he tends to squat with his hips. Therefore, turning the ground into a springboard, which helps him generate high clubhead speeds. He also has a very freewheeling, relaxed tempo, which is a testament to the confidence he has in his swing.

Jordan Spieth:

Jordan is a phenomenal talent, and certainly an anomaly in the modern game. Of the four other golfers on this list, he’s the shortest hitter by a mile but utilizes his greatest strength, his accuracy, to become one of the best young players the game has ever seen. His position at the top is unique, but the bowed wrist allows him to be incredibly accurate with his wedges and his irons, which is key to his success.

Tools You Can Use

Do an online search for golf training aids, and you’ll quickly learn that there are hundreds of various tools designed to help you improve your golf swing. Some of these tools are effective, while many are not. In my experience, here are the top tools that will help you improve your swing.

Swing Tool #1: Alignment Rods

As I had discussed in the fundamentals section, proper alignment is a must for any golfer to swing the club more effectively. While there are plenty of products on the market that are designed to help you with alignment, reflector rods at your local hardware store are just as effective, and won’t cost you more than five dollars for two of them, which is how many you’ll need.

How do you use them? Simply, set them up like a train track.

Not only will this help you get your body parallel to the target, you’ll also be able to check your takeaway path and your divot pattern in comparison to your target line. The best golf tool with the most bang for your buck.

Swing Tool #2: SKLZ Gold Flex

Tempo can be a tough thing to feel with a standard golf club, and this training aid has solved this issue for many golfers. Not only does it help develop your tempo, but you’ll also even get a bit of a workout by using it. Your swing can become more fluid, and the extra strength development will help you hit the ball longer. Even Tour pros find it useful. It’s great for warming up and can be swung anywhere you can find space for it.

SKLZ Gold Swing Trainer:

 SKLZ Gold Flex - Golf Training Aid for Strength and Tempo Training/Golf Swing Trainer

Swing Tool #3: EyeLine Golf Speed Trap Base and Four Speed Rods

One of the most versatile training aids ever designed, it can help you gain instant feedback on your contact, and the four protruding rods provide a physical guide to gauge your swing path. Each rod can be adjusted based on your tendencies; if you fight a slice, you can place the rods to promote an inside-to-inside path.

The combination of these three tools can set you on the path to a better golf swing. However, in order to make the best use of them, it’s important to practice and to practice well. That’s what I will cover in the next section.

Eyeline Golf Speed Trap:
EyeLine Golf Speed Trap Base & 4 Speed Rods

Don’t Practice the WRONG Way

Practice is important, but practicing without some sort of purpose or structure may cause more harm than good. For example, hitting hundreds of range balls without a defined goal in mind can often reinforce negative habits and tendencies. This form of practice makes it even harder to improve your golf swing. This section will break down how many golfers practice incorrectly and show you the proper way to practice instead.

Quality vs. Quantity

Hang around the driving range long enough, and you’ll notice many players going through the following process.

  • Buy the largest bucket of range balls
  • Take a few practice swings
  • Hit five wedges (maybe), a couple irons, then pull out the driver and swing away

If you’re just looking to have fun and not worry about improving your golf swing, there’s nothing wrong with this approach; however, with the right plan, you can do far better, with less time spent pounding away range ball after range ball.

A focused, purposeful half-hour of practice is far more useful than an hour of mindless swinging.

Prepare for Success

There are three things every serious player does on the range during a practice session. Even Tour players use these methods.

Pick a target for every shot

It’s far too easy to hit range balls with no specific target in mind. By focusing on a specific target, whether it be a flagstick, a yardage post, a dirt patch, or even a tree in the distance (which is ideal for woods), having a specific target develops proper alignment habits that will translate well on the golf course where you must have a target.

Use alignment tools for every shot

If you’re not used to aligning properly, it’s imperative that you train yourself to aim your body parallel to your target. This is where the alignment rods, which I discussed in the previous section, will come in handy. Although it’s best to move the alignment rods for every target, that can be tedious when getting started with a focused target. Instead, find an area of the range where there are multiple targets somewhat lined up with each other, at different distances. As you improve, adjust your alignment to avoid any biases towards one direction on the range and on the course.

Keep Your Intentions Simple

Many players try to focus on far too many things during their practice sessions. This often leads to frustration and confusion, leaving them worse off than they were. Whenever you practice, focus on one, maybe two keys that you want to improve on. Some simple keys are:

  • Your golf swing takeaway
  • Getting comfortable with a grip change
  • Making a full turn back and through
  • Focus on your golf swing tempo

By following these steps with diligence and patience, you can see improved results in your ball striking and your scores.

Improving your golf swing can seem like a daunting task. But with the right tools, some basic concepts, and proper practice techniques, you can improve your golf swing in no time.

Golf Resources and Further Reading

Golf Channel: How to Grip the Club Correctly

Golf.com New Way to Take Your Golf Grip

Golf Digest: How to Improve Your Grip

Me and My Golf: HOW TO CREATE A GOOD POSTURE FOR YOUR GOLF SWING

Peter Finch Golf: Perfect Golf Alignment Every Time

Golfconfidencepro: On Plane Golf Backswing Made Easy

Golf Digest: 6 Ways to Feel Perfect Impact

Westchester Magazine: Five Beautifully Basic Golf Swing Tips Every Player Should Know

Golf Channel: Improve Your Balance

Me and My Golf: Simple Golf Swing Rotation Drill For Consistency

Golf Digest: Better Tempo, Better Swing

Golf Digest: Keep Your Ball Position Constant

GolfTec Slice Infographic

Home Depot Reflector Rods

Peter Finch Golf: Perfect Golf Alignment Every Time

SKLZ Gold Flex with Tony Finau

GolfSwingHD 2018 Tiger Woods Slow Motion

Golf92094 Vijay Singh Driver Swing

PGA Tour: Phil Mickelson slo-mo swing analysis at Cadillac

European Tour: Rory McIlroy’s Golf Swing Super Slow Motion DTL 2016 WGC HSBC PGA Tournament

Titleist’s Jordan Spieth golf swing in slow motion 4K

Golf Monthly’s 9 Tour Player Practice Drills

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Howard’s Golf helps noobs, weekend warriors, and average joes lower their handicap. There’s a lot of information out there about golf. We’re here to discuss it.

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