The full swing combines all the different swing elements you've learned so far, including aim, stance, grip, posture, takeaway and half swing.
If one part of the swing is a problem, it will affect the whole system. On the other hand, if you've got a proper grip, stance and posture, you're set up for success. Your takeaway should be low and smooth as you begin to shift your weight from the left leg (right-handers) to the right and build power. If the hands and left arm stop at 3:00 for a half swing, then a full swing should find them extended to any point between 10:00 and 12:00. (This varies depending on the golfer's flexibility and comfort.)
To begin the downswing, you should feel your left heel press down into the ground, which shifts weight from your right side to the left. This is the point where clubhead speed builds as you swing into the ball.
Your right arm should be fully extended after striking the ball, with your upper body and arms rotating around to the left. Most of your weight should be on the left or lead foot at this point, with the back foot used for balance. Your eyes, chest and hips should face the target at the finish of a full swing.
There's a lot to think about when learning the full swing. However, if you put in the time at the driving range to perfect the fundamentals, you'll soon find that you're thinking only about how good it felt to hit a crisp golf shot.
Since the golf swing is so complicated, it is important that you take some initiative in discovering your best golf swing. We will help guide you along the way but it is still important that you experiment to find what works best for you.
Basics of a Full Golf Swing
Golf is a complicated game. Of course, as a golfer, you already know that. There is more to learn when getting started in golf than perhaps any other sport you could pick up, so there are likely to be plenty of moments of frustration early in your golf experience. In fact, frustration is something that carries on as long as you choose to play this great – but challenging – game. No one has ever mastered golf, and that includes the best players in the history of the game.
One of the best ways to learn how to play better golf is to strip away a lot of the 'noise' so you can focus simply on the basics that are required to make a great swing. While there are endless opinions and ideas that you can read or listen to regarding the golf swing, there are only a few basic fundamentals that are essential to hitting good shots. No two swings look exactly alike, which means there is more than one way to get the job done. As long as you are sticking to a few basics that will provide you with a sound platform for your swing, you can allow your own style to creep into the game as well.
The golf swing happens too fast to allow you to think about very many things while the club is actually in motion. Thinking about more than one or maybe two swing mechanics while you are hitting a shot is basically impossible, and you will never get great results when your mind is flooded with different ideas. The professional golfers that you watch on TV are able to boil their swing technique down to basic fundamentals, and you should be working toward the same goal. When you can stand over the ball with a perfectly clear picture of what it is you are trying to do with the club, you will be poised to play some excellent golf.
This article is going to touch on a few of the main fundamental basics that should be included in the golf swing of every player. The first step for you to use this information is to check on the status of your current swing to see if you are meeting these basic requirements successfully. If you are, you can move on to other, more-complex swing mechanics, while knowing that your basic fundamentals are in place. If not, take some time on the range to work on these building blocks of a good swing. While these might not be the most exciting points to work on at the driving range, they are sure to provide you with great results. Remember, keeping the game as simple as possible is always the best way to go, and focusing your efforts on the simple basic swing elements included below is a nice start to a simple and repeatable swing.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Everything Starts with Balance
When talking about basics within the golf swing, it all starts with balance. It is balance that will allow you to hit solid shots, and it is balance that will allow you to build power in your swing. Simply put, if you are serious about becoming the best golfer you can be, you will need to invest time and effort into mastering your balance. You would have to wait a long time to see a professional golfer with poor balance, and for good reason. There are many different ways in which you can swing the golf club, but all of them start on a platform of good balance.
Plenty of golfers understand that balance is important to a good swing, but very few know exactly what good balance looks like. There are plenty of misconceptions in the world of golf related to balance, so you want to be sure you have a clear picture in your head of proper balance before you start working on this basic fundamental. Following are three points that you will want to pay close attention to in order to confirm that you are remaining on balance during your swing.
- Starting centered. Perhaps the single most important part of making a balanced golf swing is starting from a balanced position in the first place. If you aren't balanced when the swing begins, it will be nearly impossible to find your balance once the club is in motion. At address, be sure to center your weight evenly between your two feet, with your knees flexed and your back tilted out over the ball. You should feel centered and athletic at address, as if you could move in any direction at a moment's notice. Most people don't think of golf as an athletic game, but an athletic stance is certainly one of the key components to making great swings.
- Still centered at the top. It is during the backswing when most golfers get their balance all wrong. There is a mistaken belief among a large number of golfers that they need to move their weight away from the target during the backswing. This simply isn't true. Ideally, your weight will stay where it is during the backswing, remaining evenly distributed between your two feet as you turn away from the target. So, as you are making your backswing, your focus should be solely on keeping your balance without moving your lower body to the right (or the left). You should feel 'stacked' at the top of your swing, with your knees still flexed and your lower body looking much like it did at address. If you can find this position, you will be able to fire into the downswing with confidence, knowing that you are starting forward from a balanced and powerful position.
- Get left. The last piece of balance advice that you need to understand is the fact that your weight should be all stacked up on your left leg when you have completed the swing and are watching the ball sail toward the target. Unlike the backswing, during which you want to stay centered, you do want to move laterally in the downswing (along with your rotation). The downswing should be a nice blend of lateral and rotational movement, leading you into a powerful impact position that enables you to hit through the shot cleanly with no hesitation. As long as you are moving left properly in the downswing, you won't have to force yourself to get up onto your left foot in the finish, as that will happen naturally as a result of the swing that you have made.
There isn't anything 'sexy' about practicing the balance in your golf swing, but there is no better way to spend your time if you are serious about lowering your scores. Good balance is always useful, and it always shows up when you need it. If you can master your balance on the driving range with every club from the driver down to your wedges, you will love the results that you are able to achieve on the course. Good balance simply makes the whole game feel easier, and that is a feeling that every golfer can appreciate.
Shoulder Turn Sets the Stage
With your balance in a good place throughout the swing, the next basic element of the golf swing to work on is a nice shoulder turn. The shoulder turn takes place during the backswing, when you use the rotation of the shoulders to move the club up into position. Many amateur golfers simply swing the club back with their arms without getting their shoulders too involved in the action, and a lack of power and control is the result. In order to build the kind of powerful swing that you have always dreamed of having, a great shoulder turn is going to be an essential ingredient.
As you stand over the ball, thinking about your shoulder turn is a great way to get your mind focused on the task at hand. In fact, if you want to use the shoulder turn as your only swing thought, you will be heading down the right path in terms of keeping your swing simple and straightforward. The goal for your shoulder turn should be to move your left shoulder under your chin during the backswing. If you can do this while staying on balance and not coming up out of your stance, you will be in a great position to start your downswing from the top. Most amateur golfers never get into this balanced, loaded position, so you will have a leg up on the competition if you are able to find it on a regular basis.
It is important that you allow the shoulders to dominate the action in the backswing while the rest of your body simply comes along for the ride. Specifically, you don't want to let your hands and arms get too involved in the process of moving the club away from the ball. This is a concept that is difficult for many golfers to grasp, and it is ultimately the reason that so many players slice the ball. When you start your backswing with too much hand action, you will set the club on an inside path right from the beginning. With the club stuck inside, you will have to choice but to come over the top during the transition, meaning you will be hitting from outside-in by the time you reach impact. In the end, you will produce a slice, all because your hands were too active early in the swing.
Therefore, fixing your slice can be as simple as making a better shoulder turn with quiet hands. It should be noted that this will be a hard habit to break (if you have in fact been using your hands too much early in the swing). A takeaway that is controlled by the shoulders will often feel weak, especially at first. You will be tempted to engage your hands faster, but resist that temptation and stick to the goal of getting your left shoulder under your chin. Spend plenty of time on the practice range hitting shots with your short clubs until you are comfortable with this style of takeaway.
Maintaining a great shoulder turn from the first hole to the last requires plenty of patience and the ability to maintain your tempo even when you get frustrated or excited. It is easy to rush yourself on the course – whether you are doing so out of anger or as a response to adrenaline – and a rushed swing is one that is unlikely to include a full shoulder turn. Do your best to keep a level head for all 18 holes and you will find that your results quickly become far more consistent.
The Mysterious Lag
Even if you don't know how to lag the club, or if you aren't lagging the club very well currently, you have likely heard this sometimes mysterious golf term. Many golfers are unclear as to what lag is, and even more don't understand why it is important. Rest assured, lag is one of the very basic fundamentals of the game, and a swing that lacks lag will always fall short of its potential. Lag is one of the main sources of power that you have available to you as a golfer, so it is essential that you understand how to tap into it. It is actually a relatively simple concept to grasp, but it can be a serious challenge to actually incorporate it into your game.
The easiest definition of lag is that it can be seen as the angle formed between the left arm and the club shaft during the downswing. The word 'lag' refers to how much the club head is lagging behind the hands during the downswing. If everything else were equal, a player with more lag would usually be able to hit the ball farther than a player with less lag. Think of lag as stored up energy that you can use to unleash the club head into the back of the ball – if you have a large lag angle just prior to impact, your hands will be able to release the club head aggressively into impact and a powerful shot should be the result. On the other hand, if your lag is all but gone before you get to impact, your shots are likely to be weak and off target.
One of the nice things about lag is that your golf swing is almost certainly already producing the lag you need to hit good shots – you just have to know how to save that lag until the perfect moment. When you get to the top of your swing, there should be a big angle that has been formed between your left arm and the club shaft. If you aren't sure you are getting to this position successfully, ask someone to record your swing on video so you can see for yourself.
Assuming you do have a nice angle set at the top, the only thing you need to do on the way down is hang on to it for as long as possible. Most amateur golfers give up this angle right from the top of the swing, meaning they are wasting all of their potential swing speed well before the club actually contacts the ball. The goal of your downswing should be to hold on to that lag until your hands get down over the ball, at which time the club head will be released and all of that speed will drive your club head through impact with authority.
If you have ever tried to figure out how professional golfers are able to hit the ball so hard, even with swings that look effortless, it is because they are using lag properly. When you lag the club deep into the downswing it actually becomes surprisingly easy to hit the ball long distances with all of your clubs. You don't have to overpower the golf swing in order to generate speed – you simply have to know how to hold your lag and then deploy it at the perfect moment.
It is usually the right hand that is responsible for wasting lag, so make sure your right hand is just coming along for the right early in the downswing. The right hand can go ahead and get involved later in the downswing, but it should be the back of your left hand that is pulling the club down from the top. Simply by thinking about holding off this angle for as long as possible, you should be able to improve your swing speed in short order. However, it will take time to learn how to strike solid shots while holding your lag into the downswing, so plan on spending plenty of practice time before you master this important move.
If you can do just the three things correctly that are listed above – stay balanced, make a good shoulder turn, and hold your lag – you will be well on your way to quality golf. Of course, there are still some other basic fundamentals that you should understand in relation to the full swing. The points on the list below might not be quite as important as the three above, but they are helpful nonetheless.
- Eyes on the ball. This is one of the first tips you probably got when you started the game, and it remains relevant today. Not only should you keep your eyes on the ball while making a full swing, but you should also focus clearly on the ball while you are hitting short game shots such as chips and putts.
- Relaxed grip pressure. Keeping your fingers relaxed around the grip of the club is another key that should not be overlooked by the average golfer. Tension is a bad thing in the golf swing, and it all starts at the point where your hands connect to the club. If you squeeze the club tightly at address and throughout the rest of your swing, you won't have the feel for the club head that is necessary to make great contact on a regular basis.
- Solid footing. You probably haven't spent much time thinking about your footing in the golf swing, but it is key that you are able to keep both feet firmly on the ground throughout your action. If you can restrict your foot movement to only what is necessary to move the club back and through, you will have a much easier time finding the ball at the bottom of the swing.
- Be smart. Okay, so this is a mental game tip rather than a fundamental of the golf swing, but it is just as important. As you work your way around the course, it is your job to make good decisions and use your shots as efficiently and effectively as possible. Believe it or not, the choices you make are just as important as the swing mechanics that you use. Picking smart lines away from hazards, being patient instead of trying to hit miracle shots, and more will all help you get the ball from point A to point B as quickly as possible. There is a lot that goes into the mental game on the golf course, but most of it can be summed up simply be saying you need to 'be smart'.
Don't fall into the trap of allowing your golf swing and golf game to get too complicated. Keeping it simple is almost always going to be the best way to go, and the content above should help you do just that. Focus on the three key basics that were covered in the bulk of the article – balance, shoulder turn, lag – during your practice sessions to start making progress right away. It is a complicated game, but sometimes the best answers to the challenges that golf presents are the basic fundamentals of the game that have stood for centuries.