Who owns the best golf swing on the PGA Tour? The consensus choice among pros and teachers is Adam Scott.
At this writing, the Australian heartthrob had yet to convert his much-envied swing into a major championship victory. He appeared to have the 2012 Open Championship sewed up, then bogeyed the final four holes to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els.
Assuming he recovers from the mental blow, it seems inevitable that Scott will win at least one major before hanging up his soft spikes. With a swing that Sir Nick Faldo has called “flawless” – and vastly improved putting since switching to a long putter – Scott's got more than enough tools.
Here's a look at what makes Scott's action so breathtakingly fluid and efficient.
Scott's signature: Textbook address positions from top to bottom.
Who else does it: Aaron Baddeley, Nick Faldo, Trevor Immelman
When he's set up to the ball, all of Scott's parts are perfectly in tune. His feet are shoulder-width apart (inside of feet underneath outsides of shoulders); his knees, hips and shoulders are aligned; he's balanced on the balls of his feet; and everything is lined up parallel to the target line. Scott's spine is also nice and straight from his backside through his neck.
Scott doesn't achieve these positions by accident or instinct. He's worked hard to develop them and constantly monitors his address for imperfections. “When my setup is good,” Scott told Golf Digest, “I feel like I'm free to make a good swing.”
Why it works for Scott: A balanced, dynamic and on-plane swing starts with a comfortable, athletic setup – Scott is living proof. While his swing has changed somewhat since he switched teachers from Butch Harmon to his own brother-in-law, Brad Malone, in 2009, Scott remains the model of perfect posture.
A setup like Scott's allows the swing to flow naturally from start to finish. The arms hang comfortably from the body while the square hips and shoulders pair with the straight spine to promote easy rotation. Scott is remarkably flexible and has no trouble reaching the magic 90° mark with his shoulders at the top of the backswing. You'll find this much easier with your body aligned properly.
Likewise, Scott swings down and through the ball with no-fuss efficiency. The club shaft returns to impact on the same angle it held at address, while his shoulders are square to the target line and the hips turned to the left.
Scott nails a balanced finish, too, with his weight on the left foot, hips facing the target and shoulders rotated an incredible 180° to the target line. (Word to the wise: Do not try to match this finish position unless you are very young or a contortionist.)
How it can work for you: Setting up to the ball seems like the simplest task in golf, yet very few amateurs come close to getting it right. Fact is, there's nothing natural about it. It takes work to develop and maintain good address positions, because it's all too easy for things to get out of whack without you realizing anything is wrong.
But if you can consistently achieve a correct setup, you'll have a lot fewer swing issues to deal with. In other words, it's worth the time and effort.
Watch this short video lesson to learn the key elements of an athletic address.
Adam Scott's Flawless Golf Swing Starts at Address
When asked to choose the best golf swing in the world today, many professionals would come back with the same answer – Adam Scott. While Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth battle it out for the top spot in the rankings, it is hard to argue with the notion that Scott possesses the best-looking swing in the world. It may not be possible to have a 'perfect' golf swing, but Adam Scott is as close as anyone has been in a long, long time.
The beautiful technique that Scott demonstrates in his swing begins at address. By setting up in a balanced, athletic position over the ball, he is laying the groundwork for the powerful swing that is about to take place. Scott always seems to have control over his swing, and that control starts from the moment he takes his stance and places the club head behind the ball. His address position looks the same shot after shot, which leads to impressively consistent results.
There is a great lesson for amateur golfers to learn from the example that Adam Scott has set. Even though Scott owns one of the most-beautiful golf swings in the world, he still takes care to execute a proper address position prior to each shot. You would be wise to follow his lead. If you want your own swing to be executed the same way time after time, you will need to create a technically-sound address position that you can use to get your swing started off correctly. While your swinging motion will likely never live up to the standard set by Adam Scott, there is no reason why you can't master your address position to improve your game.
It is important for you to understand that a good address position is not something that just happens. Rather, it takes time and effort to master the address position, just like any other part of your technique. If you are serious about improving your game, you will set aside some time to learn how to address the ball properly. This might not be the most exciting time you ever spend on the driving range, but it just might be some of the most productive. A good address position can solve many of the ills of the golf swing, even without making a single change to your swinging motion.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions accordingly.
Balance is Essential
If you make a habit of reading golf instruction articles, you will see one fundamental repeated over and over again – balance. No matter what kind of swing you are making, or what kind of shot you are trying to hit, balance is always going to be essential to your success. Staying on balance makes it possible to strike the ball cleanly, which is a requirement of playing good golf. Even if you do everything else perfectly in your swing, any shot can be ruined by poor balance.
The importance of balance starts as soon as you address the ball. If you are off-balance prior to starting your swing, you will have almost no chance of getting on balance after the club starts in motion. For proof of the importance of balance at address, just take a quick look at the stance and posture of Adam Scott. Does he look off-balance in any way? Absolutely not. He appears to have his weight perfectly balanced between his feet, and he is not leaning forward or backward. This is a perfect position to copy for your own game.
To learn how to take a balanced stance, try using the following drill.
- For this drill, you will need a friend to help you. If your friend is also a golfer, you can take turns doing the drill so that you can both benefit from the process. You won't be hitting any shots during this drill, and you don't even need a golf club. The drill can be completed at the driving range, or even at home.
- To start, take your address position as if you were preparing to hit a tee shot with your driver. You won't be holding a club, but you should still go through your full pre-shot routine and make your stance as realistic as possible. Focus on balance and having good flex in your knees when you complete your stance.
- Once in your stance, ask your friend to gently push on your right shoulder. They shouldn't push you so hard that is hurts, obviously, but hard enough to test your balance. If you have taken a good stance, you should be able to easily withstand the push and remain comfortable in your address position.
- Next, have them push on your left shoulder and work on retaining your balance. Hopefully, you will be just as solid on the left side as you were on the right.
The idea behind this drill is simple – to test the quality of your balance at address. If a gentle push in either shoulder is enough to knock you off balance, you will know that there is a problem in your stance. Most likely, it will come down to insufficient flex in your knees. Without proper knee flex, you will always be at risk of leaning to one side or the other and losing your balance. Engage your legs at address by flexing your knees and your balance will quickly improve.
Stability in your stance is important, and this drill will help you evaluate your performance in this area. However, it is crucial to remember that you don't want to lock up all of your muscles at address. While you need to have a stable and athletic stance, you don't want to tighten up so much that you are unable to make a smooth, flowing swing. Use your legs to create a solid stance, but make sure that your body as a whole remains relaxed and ready to swing the golf club freely.
Let Your Arms Hang Freely
The rotation of your body should control most of the golf swing, but your arms still need to be able to swing freely in both the backswing and downswing. The position of your arms at address is going to largely dictate the path that they take away from the ball. If you crowd the ball and keep your arms close in to your body at address, they will likely move up and away from you during the takeaway, creating the potential for a slice. On the other hand, standing too far away from the ball will lead to having your arms reaching out at address, and an inside takeaway that promotes a hook.
An ideal arm position at address, which Adam Scott models perfectly, is when both arms are hanging down comfortably from your shoulders. As viewed from behind, your arms should appear to be hanging straight down toward the ground. If you get the rest of your body into a good position, you should feel very little tension in your arms at address – they should simply be hanging down to a point where your hands can grab onto the grip of the club. When you notice that you have extra tension in your shoulders at address, you will know that your arm position needs to be corrected.
This is another case where it is helpful to have a drill to help you find the right position at address. Work through the steps below to form a stance that places your arms in the perfect spot to start your golf swing.
- For this drill, you won't need a golf club, and you don't need to be at the driving range. Unlike the first drill, this one can be completed without the help of a friend.
- To start, stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Stand straight up, with your arms hanging comfortably by your side.
- Next, flex your knees slightly while continuing to keep your back in a vertical position – you shouldn't be bent over from the waist at this point. To help maintain your posture, keep your eyes focused on a point off in the distance (don't look down at the ground). Continue to bend your knees until you reach a point that would be comfortable for your golf address position.
- With your knees flexed, now you should begin to bend forward from your waist. It is crucial that you don't hunch over in your back as you are bending forward. Keep your back straight and bend only from the waist. While you are bending forward, keep your arms relaxed and let them naturally hang down from your shoulders.
- Continue bending forward until you reach a point that would be comfortable for a golf swing. At this point, you should be bent over from the waist with your arms hanging down comfortably toward the ground. To make sure your arms are in a good position, relax your hands so that all of your fingers are dangling free. If your fingers are pointing down toward the ground, you have done well to allow your arms to hang free from your shoulders.
- For the last step, bring your two hands together and pretend to take your golf grip. You won't have a club in your hands, but you can still bring the hands together and take an imaginary grip. In bringing your hands together, make sure you haven't moved your arms closer to your body (or farther away). If you were to disconnect your hands, they should quickly swing back to their original position hanging below each shoulder.
You don't want to have to repeat this routine prior to hitting every shot during a round, but it is a great drill to learn proper arm position at address. Nearly every successful golfer will address the ball with their arms in this kind of position, and you should follow their lead. Once your arms are hanging comfortably at address, you should be able to make a backswing that is powered by a simple turn of the shoulders. You won't have to worry about your takeaway getting off track because your excellent address position will be naturally sending the club back on a great path.
Keeping Your Head Down is a Mistake
It's a piece of golf advice that every player has received at least once – 'Keep your head down!' Despite being a classic golf tip that has survived for generations, keeping your head down is actually a bad idea. Keeping your head down can lead to a long list of swing problems, and it can actually be hard on your body as well. If you would like to make progress with your swing and your game as a whole, you should start by forgetting all about this time-honored tip.
If you aren't convinced that you should give up on keeping your head down, take a look at the address position of Adam Scott. Is his head 'down'? No – it is up, in line with the rest of his back. When he takes his stance prior to hitting a shot, his back forms a beautifully straight line from his waist all the way up to his head. Golfers who are intentionally trying to keep their head down will often hunch over at the shoulders as they tuck their chin down into their chest. This creates a poor posture and also will lead to problems once the club starts in motion.
Following are three swing problems that you may experience if you have your head down at address –
- Limited shoulder turn. When your head is down, your chin gets in the way of your shoulder turn. As you start your swing, you want your left shoulder to be able to swing freely under your chin to complete the backswing. However, if you force your head to stay in a 'down' position, you will inhibit the ability of your shoulders to turn freely. By keeping your head up and your back straight, your shoulders should have no problem turning away from the target because your chin will be up and out of the way.
- Losing your posture. If your shoulder turn isn't able to finish due to the position of your head, you might find yourself compensating by simply standing up out of your posture during the backswing. Standing up taller will make it easier to finish your turn, but it will lead to a number of problems when the downswing starts. You have worked hard to create a good posture at address – don't lose it by straightening up during the backswing.
- Loss of balance. Pushing your chin down into your chest can also have the side effect of causing you to lose your balance. As you continue to keep your head down, your body will naturally begin to tilt toward the ball. This is bad news. As mentioned above, balance is absolutely critical to hitting quality shots. When you keep your head up at address and throughout your swing, you will find it far easier to remain on balance even when making an aggressive move through the ball.
There is a key difference between keeping your head down during the swing, and keeping your eyes down on the ball. You don't need to worry about keeping your head down, but you absolutely should be working to keep your eyes on the ball until it has been struck. This is where many golfers get confused, because they think of 'head down' and 'eyes down' as being the same thing. Your head should be in a position that allows your back to remain straight, but your eyes should be looking down at the ball. Accomplishing both of those goals at address is something that Adam Scott is able to do, and you should be able to as well.
When your eyes are down, you will find it easier to make solid contact with the ball at impact. After all, it is always easier to hit something that you can see. In addition, keeping your eyes on the ball will help you to avoid lifting up out of the shot early. Watch the ball until it has been hit and you will find that the quality of your ball striking quickly improves.
Be Prepared for Any Situation
Golf courses are rarely flat. Instead, most courses have a variety of hills and slopes that generally follow the natural terrain of the area. These topographical changes make golf courses beautiful, and also more challenging. A flat course would be boring and relatively easy. One of the biggest adjustments that you have to make from the driving range to the golf course is dealing with uneven lies. Most driving ranges offer only flat lies, which is good for honing your swing, but not for preparing you to hit shots on the course. It is often the player who is best able to adapt to the lies that they encounter on the course who will come out on top at the end of the day.
In order to adapt successfully to the lies that you encounter, you should be prepared to alter your address position as needed based on the shot in front of you. This is another reason why it is so important to possess a quality standard address position. By starting from a great stance, it should be easy to make a minor adjustment or two prior to hitting a shot off of an uneven lie.
Following are tips to help you to adjust to four specific lies that you may find during a round of golf.
- Ball above your feet. In this case, you want to make two adjustments – stand slightly taller, and choke down an inch or two on the grip of the club. Both of these changes are designed to help you avoid hitting the shot fat. Catching the turf before the ball is a common mistake from this kind of lie, so making these two minor adjustments to your address position can help you avoid that fate. Also, the ball will tend to draw from this lie, so you may need to aim out to the right of your target to account for the curve of the ball in the air.
- Ball below your feet. To reach a ball that is below the level of your feet, try adding knee flex to your stance. Most golfers are tempted to bend over more from the waist in order to reach the ball, but that is an adjustment that will lead to problems with the rest of your swing. Instead, sink a little further into your knee flex until you are able to reach the ball comfortably. As you might expect, the ball will tend to fade from this kind of lie, so aiming slightly left is a wise move.
- Playing from an upslope. If the ground is sloped up toward your target, the ball will tend to fly high in the air and come up short of the green. To account for this, use one more club than you normally would for the distance in front of you, and move the ball slightly back in your stance. Don't swing too hard from this kind of lie as it is easy to lose your balance and miss-hit the shot.
- Playing from a downslope. This might be the most difficult lie of all. To conquer this challenge, lean slightly to your left at address. You want to be able to swing 'down the hill' as you come through the ball, and leaning a little bit left at address will enable you to do just that. Since the shot will come out lower than normal, you may be able to use one less club than usual for the distance that you have left to the target.
It isn't by accident or good fortune that Adam Scott has one of the best golf swings in the world. He has built that swing through hard work – and much of that work has been focused on the address position that you see prior to every shot he hits. If you have any aspirations at all of playing better golf, it will be well worth your time and effort to master a balanced and athletic stance. Golf is never easy, but it gets a lot easier when you start each swing from an excellent address position.