Here's an easy way to remember the roles of the hands and body in the golf swing:
The hands apply power, the body supplies power.
Getting the body properly involved in the swing proves difficult for a wide range of amateurs. It's natural to try to produce extra power by swinging the arms harder, but this just causes the parts to fall out of sync. Without sufficient motion of the hips, torso and shoulders, the swing will never reach max efficiency.
Engaging the big muscles makes everything else easier and more fluid. It also greatly increases power without adding effort.
When practicing with one hand at a time, you must rotate those big muscles in order to generate club speed. Here's a great practice drill that doubles as an excellent pre-round exercise:
Once you return to a two-handed swing, you should feel better control over the club, improved body rotation and a freer, more rhythmic action.
How One-Handed Practice Can Help You Develop a Fluid Golf Swing
It is easy to spot a fluid golf swing when you see one on the driving range or out on the course. A fluid golf swing can best be described as one that looks effortless, yet can still hit the ball impressive distances. Most of the players on the professional tours exhibit this ability consistently. Despite smashing their drives well over 300 yards on a regular basis, most pros have a fluid swing that never appears to be forced or rushed. Needless to say, this is a skill that most amateur golfers would love to possess.
Obviously, creating a fluid golf swing in your own game can be a challenge. You have to have the right collection of fundamentals along with a smooth rhythm to develop a fluid golf swing that is repeatable from shot to shot. Many golfers spend years trying to master a fluid swing, only to be left with the same basic style of swing that they started with. Just as with anything else in golf, you need a plan for your practice sessions if you would like to work your way toward a fluid swing that is the envy of your golfing partners.
One of the reasons that it is so desirable to have a fluid golf swing is the improved ability to play under pressure. If your swing uses an inconsistent tempo and is rushed from start to finish, you might find that your play goes downhill quickly when you start to get nervous. On the other hand, a fluid golf swing can help to carry you through those nerves and enable you to rise to the occasion even when the pressure is on. With your mind distracted by the pressure of the moment, your smooth rhythm and tempo will still be able to deliver the club to the back of the ball successfully.
Distance control is another potential benefit from using a fluid golf swing. The ability to control how far you hit the ball with each of your clubs is crucial to good scoring, yet it can be elusive if your swing lacks a smooth tempo. When you are able to 'iron out' any hurried parts of your swing, you will quickly notice that it becomes easier to predict how far the ball is going to fly – especially with your short clubs. The wedge game is all about distance control, and making a fluid swing should directly translate to improvement in this area.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
What is a Fluid Golf Swing, Anyway?
In order to create a fluid golf swing, you first need to understand its key components. Obviously you want to be swinging the club with good rhythm, but there is more to it than that. Without the right swing fundamentals to go along with that rhythm, you will never achieve great results. Using a fluid golf swing to achieve consistent ball striking requires the perfect combination of proper swing mechanics and beautiful tempo.
The three points below are key elements to having success while using a fluid golf swing.
- Proper sequencing. If you only remember one thing about making a fluid golf swing, it should be that your swing has to be in proper sequence if you are going to hit solid shots. Good sequencing means that your lower body initiates the downswing, and the arms and club trail behind until the rest of your body has turned through the shot and towards the target. If you allow your hands and arms to get 'ahead' of your body in the downswing, you will have little hope of hitting good shots. Once you learn how to lead with your legs from the top of the swing down to impact, a fluid golf swing will be well within reach.
- Light grip pressure. There is a strong connection between your grip pressure and the tempo of your swing. Players who squeeze the grip tightly at address are far more likely to make a quick swing. If you are striving for a fluid golf swing, one of your top-priorities should be learning how to use a light grip pressure on all of your shots. With your hands controlling the club but not squeezing it, you will be free to use the rotation of your body to power the swing. As long as your grip pressure remains light, you should be able to transfer the speed that has been generated by your lower body up through your arms and into the club itself. This is how pro golfers hit the ball so hard when it looks like they are swinging easy – they beautifully transfer speed from their body rotation into the club. You can do the same, and it starts by maintaining a light grip pressure.
- Great balance. Balance is crucial for any kind of golf swing that you are trying to make, and that certainly applies to a fluid golf swing as well. In order for the club to swing back and through with nice rhythm and tempo, it has to be supported by a solid base. Good balance starts at address, so be sure you are using an athletic stance to prepare for each and every swing. Even if the rest of your fundamentals throughout the swing are less than perfect, balance can make up for a lot of those mistakes and still enable you to hit a good shot.
As you might have noticed, the three points above are in fact important to any golfer making any kind of swing. However, if you wish to achieve a fluidity in your swing that will allow you to hit powerful shots on a consistent basis, each of these three points takes on even greater importance. When you get the chance to work on your golf swing at the driving range, keep these fundamentals in mind. Your swing doesn't need to be complicated in order to be effective – the best golfers are usually the players that keep the game simple.
The Benefits of One-Handed Practice
Golf is a game that is played with two hands on the club at all times – that isn't exactly breaking news. In order to control the club through the hitting area and create speed in your swing, you will want to be using both hands as effectively as possible. So why would you want to practice using only one hand? There are actually a number of benefits to be derived from this unique practice method.
The primary benefit of swinging the club with one hand during your practice sessions is to feel how your body can control the movement of the club without much help from your hands. Taking one hand off the club reduces the amount of control you have in your grip – meaning more of the power for your swing will have to come from the rotation of your body. Most amateur golfers control the swing with their hands instead of their body rotation, which leads to weak contact and off-target shots. A powerful, fluid golf swing is only possible when you use your whole body correctly, and practicing one-handed can help you reach that goal.
Another reason to consider using this practice method is the improvements that it can make in your tempo. Again, because you won't have as much control in your hands, your body will have to take over during the takeaway and backswing portions of the swing. That should lead to a better rhythm overall, especially in the early stages of the swing. It is common for amateur players to 'snatch' the club away from the ball in the takeaway, but that is difficult to do when you only have one hand on the club. If a smooth takeaway is something that you have never been able to achieve in your game, one-handed practice sessions could be just what you need.
One other reason to give one-handed practice a try is the benefits that it can have on your overall coordination. There is plenty of hand-eye coordination required to play good golf, specifically as it relates to the ability to put the club head on the back of the ball time after time. When you work on hitting some shots with only one hand, you will be making this task even more difficult than usual. After a period of one-handed practice, going back to swinging with two hands will seem easier by comparison. The challenge of hitting the ball solidly with a two-handed swing will become more manageable after you have spent some time trying to do so with only one hand.
You might get some funny looks on the driving range while practicing one-handing – but that is okay. It doesn't matter what other golfers think of your practice methods, as long as they get results. In fact, once you put two hands back on the club and begin hitting some beautiful shots down the range, some of those other golfers might come over to you and start asking questions about your one-handed drills.
A Drill for Each Hand
You can start using one-handed practice drills to improve your golf swing at any time. Unlike a major swing change where you might need to set aside a period of weeks or months to dedicate to the process, one-handed drills are something that you can incorporate into your existing practice routine. You can use them for just a few minutes each time to visit the range, or they can make up the majority of your practice time over the course of a couple sessions. Use them as you see best fit in order to improve your game and add fluidity to your swing. Following are two drills aimed at helping you create a fluid golf swing – one for your right hand, and one for your left hand.
The right hand is often the one that gets amateur golfers into trouble, so we will start with that drill first. When the right hand is too active early in the downswing, it can ruin a lot of the good work that has been done during the backswing. Ideally, the right hand will be a 'passenger' on the club throughout most of the swing, only jumping into action right before impact. If you struggle with a slice or frequently hit the ball fat with your irons, there is a good chance that you are using too much right hand in your swing.
To start this first drill, grab one of your wedges and a few practice balls that you can hit down the range. It doesn't matter which wedge you use, but the pitching wedge would be a good choice for most people. Take your stance as you would regularly to hit a wedge shot, with both hands on the club. Once you are into your address position, drop your left hand off of the club and put it behind your back. For the first swing, you are only going to turn about halfway back before starting down toward the ball. When the club becomes parallel with the ground in your backswing, it is time to change directions and turn your body toward the target. Hit about five shots while using just your right hand and only making half of your normal backswing.
What should you be learning at this point? Pay attention to how the club moves during the takeaway phase of the swing. If you are using your right hand too much, your wrist will hinge immediately and the club will be lifted up off the ground. This is a mistake. Instead, you should be controlling the takeaway with the rotation of your shoulders while your right hand remains quiet and passive. When done correctly, the club head should remain close to the ground for several inches before it starts to gradually move up as you continue to turn.
Once you have hit a few half shots with your right hand only, go ahead and make some full swings. Of course, you shouldn't expect to hit the ball very far during this drill – the goal is simply to improve your takeaway and hit the ball as solid as possible on each swing. After you have hit 10 or 15 full shots with your right hand only, you should notice that your swing is becoming more fluid as your body begins to take over more and more of the responsibility for moving the club through impact.
When you are satisfied with the progress that you have made with the right hand, it will be time to switch to the left-handed drill. Unlike with the right hand, you shouldn't have much trouble making a proper takeaway with the left hand. As long as you remember what you worked on when doing the right hand drill, you should find that your takeaway is now smooth and low to the ground.
The fundamental that you need to work on with the left hand drill is the rotation of your shoulders. Many amateur players use an arms-only swing that fails to engage the rest of the body correctly. This is what leads so many players into hitting a slice – the shoulders never rotate enough in the backswing, meaning the club is too high at the top, and the dreaded out-to-in swing path is inevitable. If you are going to learn a fluid swing that is able to create straight shots, you will have to make a full shoulder turn in your backswing.
Set up for this drill just like before, by taking your normal stance with a wedge. This time, of course, you are going to drop your right hand off of the club instead of your left. Don't worry about making half swings this time, either – just go right in to making full swings with your wedge while only holding on with your left hand. Your focus should be making sure that your shoulders turn all the way back away from the target. Turn as far as you can without losing your balance, and then change directions into the downswing. As long as your upper body has rotated away from the target fully in the backswing, you should find it easy to engage your lower body to do the work in the downswing.
At first, it is going to be difficult to even make contact with the ball while doing this drill. Since your right hand is usually the one doing the 'hitting' in the golf swing, you may feel a little bit lost without it guiding the club into the ball. Don't give up on the drill after a few poor swings to start. Keep working on making left-hand only swings until you start to figure out how to make contact and get the ball into the air. You should expect this process to take longer than it did with your right hand, but the reward will be worth it in the end. Once you start to hit some solid shots using this left hand only drill, you will have taken a big step forward in improving your swing.
Go back and forth between the right hand and left hand drills as often as you would like. After using each of the drills for a few minutes, put both hands back on the club and remember the lessons you learned while doing the drills. Specifically, focus on making a smooth takeaway with quiet hands, and also making a full turn with your shoulders in the backswing. Those two elements can combine to leave you with a fluid golf swing that has the potential for great performance.
Taking Your Fluid Swing onto the Course
The pressure and excitement of playing a round of golf with your friends – or even in a tournament – can be enough to cause you to lose track of making a nice, fluid swing. While it is true that a fluid swing can hold up better under pressure than a quick one, you still need to remain focused on your fundamentals if you are going to make your best swings on the course. The fluid swing that you have been learning by using one-handed drills on the driving range can quickly go out the window if you get distracted during you round and forget your fundamentals.
Here are two quick tips which can help you keep making a fluid swing from the first tee to the last green.
- Take a deep breath. There is nothing quite like a deep breath to calm your nerves and get your mind focused on the task at hand. As you stand behind your ball to prepare for your shot, pause for a couple of seconds to take a deep breath. If you would like, you could even close your eyes during that breath to clear your mind of any distractions.
- Don't stretch your limits. You should already know what you are capable of on the golf course from a ball flight standpoint. If you try to hit shots that are outside of your comfort zone, there is a good chance that you will lose your tempo. For example, if you know you can hit your driver 250 yards, don't try to hit it at a target that requires a 260 yard carry. Play smart shots and stay within yourself at all times.
Learning a fluid swing using one-handed practice drills is a great way to improve the quality of your ball striking out on the course. A fluid swing can help you deliver more power into the ball, hit more accurate shots, and play better when the pressure is on. Almost all of the players that you see competing in professional events possess beautifully fluid swings which can create power and accuracy time and time again. Spend some time at your local driving range working on one-handed practice drills to improve the fluidity of your own swing.