It's the amateur golfer's lament: Why is my practice swing so much better than my real swing?
The obvious answer is that once the ball enters the picture, so do consequences. That causes anxiety, which short-circuits the swing – literally, in some cases.
If you make smooth, free-flowing practice swings followed by short, herky-jerky live swings, you need to work on the transition between backswing and downswing. The problem is, you're blending the two into one quick motion, which saps your power.
Learn to separate backswing from downswing with this simple exercise:
This drill will improve your timing and teach you to swing back with enough length, but be careful not to integrate a pause into your game swing. Unless you practice and play a whole lot of golf, a mid-swing pause can be very difficult to use effectively.
Longer Swing: Golf Drills Help Complete Your Turn
Making a complete turn is one of the many keys to creating a quality golf swing. Without a complete turn going back, there are a number of problems that you will face in the downswing. For one thing, your swing will lack speed because you didn't get back far enough to create space between the club and the ball. That space is used for acceleration, so a swing that lacks a good turn is always going to struggle to accelerate the club appropriately. Also, the rhythm of your swing can be thrown off by an incomplete turn, meaning you will have trouble striking the ball cleanly. If you hope to raise the overall level of your golf game on a consistent basis, making a full turn should be one of the points that is high on your priority list.
As you might expect, many amateur golfers struggle to make a full turn going back, and the results speak for themselves. Many of the common problems that are faced by the average golfer – such as a lack of distance or a persistent slice – can be traced to that short backswing. If you fall into this category, you might be surprised to learn just how much your game could improve through a longer backswing. This is a seemingly simple change to your technique that could have powerful and long-lasting benefits. With a longer swing, you should quickly start to hit the ball longer distances while improving your control at the same time.
Of course, these improvements aren't going to take place automatically. If you would like to hit longer and straighter shots, you are going to have to work on your technique on the driving range. The content below is going to provide you with some drills that you can use on the driving range to work toward a better backswing turn. These drills are relatively simple and easy to perform, but they will help you understand what is necessary in order to complete your turn properly. Take your time to work through this drills during an upcoming practice session and you will find that your golf swing is greatly improved as a result of your efforts.
Just as is the case with any change that you make to your swing, there is a big difference between making an improved golf swing on the driving range and making one on the course. Most likely, you will make progress rather quickly on the range, but that same progress may take some time to appear out on the golf course during a round. The problem, in this case, is mental. With so many other things to think about while on the course other than just your swing, it will be difficult to focus on the new mechanics that you have put in place. To give yourself the best possible chance at a smooth transition from range to course, it is important to put in plenty of practice time prior to playing your first round with the 'new' swing. Hopefully, your practice time will allow the new technique to become natural and comfortable, meaning you can focus your attention on the course rather than your swing during your next round.
All of the content 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.
Drill #1 – The Counting Drill
A big part of making a complete turn comes down to the timing of the swing. If you have good timing and tempo within the swinging action, you will be on track to make a great turn. However, if your timing is rushed or hurried in any way, the turn will likely get cut off short of its potential. With that in mind, the counting drill is a good way to make sure that your tempo stays in line throughout the swing. Tempo is something that many amateur golfers struggle with, while most professionals are able to use the same tempo over and over. Working hard to improve your tempo will not only help your turn – it will help your entire swing as a whole.
To use the counting drill, you will only need a space where you can safely make some golf swings. You can make these swings in your backyard if you like (assuming you have room), or you can make them at your local driving range. It is certainly possible to hit balls while using this drill, but it will be just as effective when used for practice swings. For the purposes of learning how to make a full turn, consider using a driver for the drill – although you could use any of the clubs in your bag. Once you have a club selected and you have space to make swings, follow the steps below to complete the drill.
- To start, take your normal address position and pretend that you are aiming at a specific target in the distance (of course, if you are actually hitting balls at the range, you won't need to pretend). It is important that you go through your full pre-shot routine as you would normally prior to hitting a shot.
- As the club begins to move back away from the ball, say the number 'one' out lout. This is the start of the counting process, and it is important that the count starts as soon as the club goes in motion.
- When the club reaches a position in the backswing where it is parallel to the ground, say the number 'two'. This is considered halfway back in your turn, and you shouldn't be rushing to get to this point. Turn away from the target in a controlled manner and make sure to count out this step as soon as the club reaches parallel to the ground.
- The number 'three' will be counted out when the club reaches the top of the backswing. Since this is a drill used to work on making a good turn, you are going to want to focus on turning your shoulders away from the target as far as possible. At the very moment that the club begins to transition from backswing to downswing is when you should say 'three' out loud.
- The last number to count is 'four', and you will do that when the club reaches the bottom of the swing (impact, if you are actually hitting shots). You will still want to swing the club through to a balanced finish, but you will be done with the counting as soon as you say 'four' at impact.
So what can this drill do for your swing? By counting from one to four throughout the swing, you will be working on building an even tempo that gives you plenty of time to finish your backswing. There should be no rush at any point in the swing, and you should feel like the time between each number is relatively even. Obviously, you will be taking two 'intervals' (between one and two, and between two and three) during the backswing, while you will only take one in the forward swing (between three and four). This makes sense because the downswing takes place much faster than the backswing.
Once you have mastered the counting drill, you can go back to hitting some regular shots without counting out loud. If you have been successful, your swing will now have an excellent tempo, and you will feel like there is no rush at any point in the action. Also, you should be doing a good job of finishing your turn on each swing that you make, no matter what club you have in your hand. Feel free to revert back to the counting drill from time to time during your practice sessions to make sure that your tempo is staying on the right track.
Drill #2 – Wrap Around
This is another drill where you don't need to hit golf balls in order to improve your swing. In fact, where you could hit balls with the previous drill if you wanted to, this is a drill where you won't be hitting balls at all. You can complete this drill anywhere you have room to swing your driver, so it is great for a quick practice session in the yard when you don't have time to head to the course. Not everything that you do to improve your game needs to be an hours-long practice session – sometimes, the best progress is made when you just have a few minutes to work on some basic fundamentals.
For this drill, you are going to want to use your driver (or, at least, a fairway wood). This is important because you need to use a club with a long shaft in order to make the drill work properly. With the right club in hand, use the steps below to perform this drill.
- Take your stance as usual, paying attention to detail just as you would on the course. Make sure there is plenty of flex in your knees, and position your feet just outside of the width of your shoulders.
- Make a full backswing with a specific focus on creating a great turn. At the top of the backswing, you are going to pause and hold your body in position. It is important that you hold your body and the club as still as possible once you 'freeze' at the top.
- While holding still, take your left hand off of the club and continue to hold the club in position with just the right hand.
- Bring your left hand around to the left side of your head and attempt to grab on to the shaft near the club head. If you can do so easily, you will know that you have made a good turn and the club has traced a long arc in the backswing. If you are unable to reach the shaft of the club with your left hand, you will want to work on improving your turn.
You can complete this drill in just seconds, but it will tell you a good deal about the kind of swing you are making at the moment. If your turn is insufficient and you can't reach the shaft with your left hand, there are a number of areas you could turn to for improvement. You could seek out better flexibility to make it easier to turn, or you could modify your address position to allow your body to rotate farther to the right. Also, you could look to your tempo to make sure you are providing yourself with enough time to get back fully.
The great thing about this drill is that it can be completed quickly and easily, just about anywhere. In fact, you could even do this drill a couple times on the tee while waiting for the group in front of you to get out of the way. Try doing this drill both at home (if you have the space) and during your next practice session at the range. Even just a few repetitions should be enough to improve the length of your turn and add power to your shots.
Drill #3 – Redundant Backswing
In this drill, you are yet again going to make swings without hitting the ball. By this point, you should be noticing a pattern – you don't actually have to hit golf shots in order to improve your golf swing. In fact, if you do hit balls while working on your swing, you might only be distracting yourself from the job at hand. You will naturally be inclined to watch the ball fly and you will draw conclusions about your swing from the shots that you hit. However, it is often better to work on your game by making simple practice swings so you don't become obsessed with your ball flight. Once you get comfortable with the new technique you are using, you can then go back to hitting balls in order to observe the results.
This drill, unlike the previous one, does not need to be completed with a driver. You might be most-comfortable with something around a seven iron for this drill, but any of your clubs will work just fine. With a club selected and a place to swing secured, use the steps below to complete the redundant backswing drill.
- Take your stance and swing up to the top of your backswing. Just as in the previous drill, you should pause your swing at the top of the backswing and hold your body and the club in position.
- From your 'frozen' position at the top, swing back down until your left arm is parallel with the ground. Think of this move as a reversal of your backswing – you are backing up to a point that you just passed while making your turn.
- Once your left arm gets down to parallel with the ground, you are going to again swing up to the top. You should repeat this action three or four times. Basically, you will be swinging back and forth between having your left arm parallel with the ground and getting the club all the way to the top of the swing. This is why the drill is called a 'redundant backswing' – you are repeating the last portion of your backswing over and over again.
- After a few repetitions of moving back and forth at the top, you can go ahead and swing the club down and through to a balanced finish.
What is this drill going to accomplish? Hopefully, it will help you feel that there is actually more room at the top of your swing than you once thought. While you are going back and forth, you will likely notice that you can swing even further back than you have been. As long as you aren't losing balance at the top, you should work hard to reach as far back as possible while making your normal swing. This dill will help you to feel that 'maximum turn' point so that you can know what you are aiming for when hitting an actual shot. Repeat this drill as often as you would like and you should notice that your golf swing gradually gets longer and longer as you move forward with your game.
Drawing the Line
A long backswing is great, but there is such a thing as a swing that has gotten too long. If you let your swing get too long, you will reach a point of diminishing returns and you will actually be hurting your game by swinging back with a huge turn. As mentioned in the paragraph above, you should be trying to turn as far as possible without losing your balance. That qualifier is hugely important – you have to maintain your balance in the turn or the rest of the work that you do in the swing will all be for naught.
There are countless golfers who have made their swings longer and longer in pursuit of added distance, only to miss out on the fact that they were falling off balance in the process. A long swing is only useful if you can hit the center of the club face at impact time after time – and you can't do that if you are falling off balance. Therefore, the length of your backswing should be limited by how far you can turn while keeping your balance comfortably. As soon as you feel that you are starting to be pulled off balance slightly, you need to cut off the turn and start your forward swing. It will take some practice to figure out exactly where this point happens to land for you, but eventually you will get comfortable with your max turn distance.
It is important to note that the point at which you will start to fall off balance is going to be unique to your own swing. Some players are able to make incredibly long backswings without losing balance, while others will start to get off track before they even reach parallel at the top. There is no right or wrong on this point – it all comes down to what you are personally capable of doing. This is why you shouldn't be trying to copy the golf swing of anyone else as you work on your game. Make your own swing, pay attention to your limits, and make that swing work to the best of your ability.
As you work on making a long backswing to add distance to your game, remember that distance is not even close to the most important part of being a good golfer. Does it help to be able to blast long drives and hit long and high iron shots? Of course it does. But those are not the most important capabilities that a golfer needs to have in order to post good scores. Rather, a good golfer will be able to accurately control the golf ball, placing it in strategic locations around the course on command. If you can control your trajectory, and you have the ability to think clearly even under pressure, you will be able to get your ball from tee to green just as effectively as someone who can hit the ball 300 yards or more. Of course, if you have a great short game, you will be able to keep up with anybody on the course, as it is the short game that really determines the winners and losers at the end of the day.
Making a longer golf swing opens up the possibility of hitting the ball farther and more consistently than ever before. If you would like to work on lengthening your swing, try the three drills included in the content above. As long as you pay attention to maintaining your balance while working on these drills, they should help you take your ball striking to a whole new level.