Golf telecasts often feature super-slow-motion frames of the golf club impacting the ball. You'll notice that the clubhead continues traveling down the target line for several inches past impact, which is common among all pros.
Many amateurs, on the other hand, hit the ball with a jabbing action, the clubhead popping up abruptly after contact. This is caused by a poor release, with the right hand and forearm (for a right-hander) failing to rotate over the left properly. In addition to the right arm, the entire right side of the body must rotate around to the left on the downswing and follow-through.
To ingrain a powerful right-side rotation, try to keep the clubhead moving directly down the target line as far as possible after impact. It may help to imagine pushing the club toward the target with your right arm, with the hips and shoulders turning through as well.
Remember, the ball isn't the swing's end point. Practice swinging through the ball with your right side and you'll enjoy increased distance and accuracy.
Chase Club Down the Line to Fire the Right Side
On the most basic level, the golf swing is an athletic motion. While golfers are good at overcomplicating the process by thinking too much about specific mechanics and positions, the best players are able to push all of those thoughts to the side while they execute the swing. Just like any other sport, golf is best performed when the body is allowed to naturally react to the target. If you are able to refine your technique on the driving range and then use that technique on the course without conscious effort, you will be on the road toward playing your best golf.
Unfortunately, most golfers struggle with making the transition from the range to the course. On the range, it is okay for your mind to be filled with technical thoughts, because that is where you need to work on your mechanics. However, those thoughts need to be left behind when you reach the first tee. This is a hurdle that many golfers never manage to clear.
Among the many key parts of the golf swing that require freedom of motion is the firing of the right side through the ball. As you reach impact, the right side of your body should be moving aggressively through the shot to release the club head and maximize speed. When done correctly, the club head will 'chase' the ball down the line, which will increase your chances of hitting a straight shot. Your right side will continue on into a full finish, and you will be able to watch the ball as it soars through the air toward your target.
Of course, if you are thinking too much about your mechanics during the swing, your right side will never get a chance to release properly. Mechanical thoughts slow down your movements, and your right side will likely fail to fire in time when your head is clouded. Instead, you should be thinking only about being as athletic as possible. By the time you are on the course, it is too late to fix your swing mechanics anyway – so you might as well be as athletic as you can in an attempt to hit a quality shot.
Firing your right side through the ball is the final step in the process of hitting a golf shot that is both powerful and accurate. Everything that leads up to this point is setting the stage for an aggressive move of your right side through impact. All of your other swing mechanics will be wasted if you don't let your right side fire, so be sure to hold nothing back once the club is making its way down toward the ball.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
It All Starts with Great Balance
The golf swing is not a single movement – rather, it is a combination of movements that culminate in the club being delivered to the back of the ball. While the best players in the world make the swing look like it is all one piece, the reality is quite different. Each piece of the swing builds on the one before, and you can only hit good shots once all of the pieces are working together beautifully.
With that in mind, great balance is the first piece of the puzzle that needs to fall into place. If you are off balance during your golf swing, you will have a hard time allowing your right side to fire through the shot. Many amateur golfers start the downswing off balance, and they are never able to recover. Right from the start of the swing, balance should be one of your main objectives.
Following are three keys to keeping your balance throughout the golf swing.
- Staying within yourself. The biggest cause of poor balance in the golf swing is simply trying to swing too hard. This is an error that many amateur golfers are guilty of, and it is one that can wreck an otherwise sound motion. There is no need to swing extra-hard when hitting golf shots – the goal is accuracy, not distance. Every golfer would love to hit the ball a little bit farther, but that distance should never come at the expense of your control over the ball. Before every shot, be sure that you have plenty of club to cover the distance to your target. If you are feeling like you need to squeeze every possible yard out of your swing in order to reach the target, you are going to swing too hard and lose your balance. Just by picking the right club for each shot, you can make it much easier to stay within yourself during the swing.
- Avoiding the slide. Another common mistake is sliding to the right during the takeaway. As the club begins to move back away from the ball, you want to avoid shifting your weight onto your right foot. Instead, you should be nicely balanced while your body simply rotates around your center of gravity. In fact, throughout the entire backswing, there should be very little movement in your balance point. The backswing is all about rotation, and good rotation combined with great balance will set you up for an aggressive downswing that will enable you to fire your right side through the shot.
- Starting on balance. It might seem obvious, but you need to start your swing on balance if you hope to maintain that balance throughout the action. Pay attention to your address position and confirm that your weight is evenly distributed prior to starting the swing. Much of the success of your golf swing will be determined by the way you stand over the ball at address, so take the time to build a quality stance that will serve your well time and time again.
If you are able to arrive at the top of your backswing with good balance, firing your right side during the downswing should be no problem at all. However, if you lose your balance somewhere during that backswing, the downswing will have very little chance of success. The best golfers in the world all pay close attention to their balance, and you should do the same.
Basic Fundamentals are Key
Once you have your balance under control, the next step is to check on the other 'fundamental' parts of your golf swing. These are keys that every golfer should pay attention to because they apply to all players regardless of their swing technique. Golf swings vary wildly from player to player, but some fundamentals apply across the board.
If you can put all three of the fundamentals below in place in your golf swing, you will have a much better chance of letting the club chase down the target line through impact.
- Eyes on the ball. This is probably the first golf tip you ever received, and it is a good one. Watching the ball is incredibly important for a number of reasons. First, it is easier to hit something when you are looking at it, so your chances of hitting the sweet spot on the club go up when you keep your eyes on the ball. Also, keeping your eyes down will help the mechanics of your swing. When the eyes come up early, the rest of your body has a tendency to lift up with them – meaning that you won't be able to keep the club moving down the target line as long as you would like. By keeping your eyes down, your head and shoulders will stay in the shot, and the club will be able to fire down the line perfectly.
- Left foot flat on the ground. As you swing down toward the ball, you might feel the urge to push your weight up onto your toes as a way to get taller and swing harder. This is a bad idea. While it is okay for your right foot to roll up onto its toes, you want to keep your left foot flat on the ground. This is a key point when it comes to allowing your right side to fire completely through the shot. If your left foot is moving up onto its toes, it will restrict and inhibit the release of your body in the downswing. Instead, leave that left foot flat on the ground and your body will be able to continue turning to the left all the way through impact.
- Swing through the shot. The goal of your golf swing shouldn't be to just hit the ball – it should be to swing on through to a full, balanced finish. That might seem like a subtle difference, but it is important. If you are able to focus your mind on swinging all the way through to the finished position, you will be more likely to keep the club moving down the target line in the hitting area. Golfers who are only thinking about swinging down to the ball have a tendency to stop the motion of the swing prematurely – meaning they don't fire their right side completely, and their shots lack power and control. Prior to every swing, picture yourself posing in a balanced finish position as you watch the ball soar through the air.
There is nothing terribly difficult about the three fundamentals above. Each of those points is relatively easy to achieve, but they can do powerful things for your golf swing. One by one, work on each of the three points on the driving range until you can bring them all together in a cohesive motion. Once these fundamentals are present in each golf swing that you make, you will be most of the way toward your goal of firing the right side successfully through the ball.
A Powerful Drill
Golf swing drills are a great way to learn new techniques. While it might be fun to simply stand on the driving range and hit shot after shot with your regular swing, you probably aren't going to get much better that way. Instead, you should use drills to teach yourself skills that can be applied when you go back to your regular full swing. When it comes to firing the right side through the shot, there is one drill specifically that can help you make great progress.
To complete this drill, follow the simple steps below.
- Head to the driving range with your clubs and a bucket of golf balls. You can do the drill with a variety of clubs, so it is best to take your whole set with you, if possible.
- Before starting, make sure to warm your body up with a few light stretches and some practice swings. You don't want to exert your body too much right off the bat, so take a few moments to get warmed up before jumping into the drill.
- When you are ready, pull out one of your short irons from the bag. It is best to start with a short iron, and then move on to longer clubs once you get the hang of the drill.
- To start, you are only going to be swinging with your right hand on the club – and you won't be hitting a ball. Take your stance as you normally would prior to a regular shot, but drop your left hand off of the grip before continuing.
- With only your right hand on the grip of the club, make a full one-handed swing that leads to a balanced finish. The focus during this practice swing should be on using your right hand to aggressively move the club through the hitting area. Since your left arm isn't even holding on to the club, you will have no choice but to fire your right side in the downswing. Also, without your left hand to pull the club off of the target line, it should be easy to chase the club head toward the target.
- Make five consecutive practice swings using just your right hand. After five swings, place a ball down in front of you and put your left hand back on the club. You are going to hit this shot with your regular swing, but remember the feeling you hand during the one-handed swings. Use your right side throughout the downswing, and chase the club head along the target line for as far as possible. Hit three total shots while focusing on these swing keys.
- After three shots with both hands on the club, go back to making right hand-only practice swings without hitting a ball. Again, you are going to take five practice swings, followed by hitting three shots with both hands.
- You can go back and forth between one-handed practice swings and two-handed shots for as long as you would like. After you get comfortable using a short club for this drill, feel free to move up to some of your longer clubs.
The key to this drill is going back and forth between the two different types of swings. The feelings that you get from the one-handed practice swings will be powerful, and they will lead you into better habits with your regular swing. However, it takes repetition to engrain these new mechanics into your swing. For that reason, work on moving back and forth between both types of swings until you can feel your right side working effectively even when you have two hands on the club.
Since this drill isn't too technical, it is a good one to use prior to a round. While warming up for your round, make a few practice swings using just your right hand to remind yourself of how you want to use your right side during the swing. You don't even need to think consciously about your technique while using this drill – just make the swings and your body will feel the right movements.
Even after putting in plenty of practice time on the range, you might find that you are still having a little trouble with using your right side effectively. If you haven't gotten much help from your right side over the years on the golf course, this will be a big change – and big changes rarely come easy in golf. Even if you are on the right track, there are almost inevitably going to be bumps along the way. It is important that you don't give up on this part of the swing just because you have some trouble at first. Stick with the goal of firing your right side through your shots, and keep searching until you find the answers to your problems.
To help locate those answers, review the troubleshooting advice below.
- Hitting the ball fat. It is common for players who are trying to use their right side more in the swing to start hitting the ball fat from the fairway. A fat shot is one where you hit the turf before the ball, and the ball will then come up short of the target. Most likely, this is happening because your lower body is not doing its job early in the downswing. As you transition from backswing to downswing, your lower body should be rotating left and pulling the rest of your body into action. If that doesn't happen properly, you won't be in a position to fire your right side through the shot. Instead, you will be stuck on your right foot, and the club will enter the turf too far behind the ball. Engage your lower body earlier in the downswing to get your body moving left and the club should quickly start to find the ball first, instead of the turf.
- Hitting thin shots. This is the opposite of hitting fat shots, as a thin shot results when you hit the ball too low on the club face. The cause in this case is usually your left shoulder lifting up and out of the shot. While firing your right side through the ball, you may be tempted to lift up with your left side to make room for the swing. This is an unnecessary move, and one that will make it hard to find solid contact. To alleviate this mistake, go back to your fundamentals and make sure you are keeping your eyes down on the ball through impact. As long as you watch the ball until it leaves the club face, you should be able to keep your left side down into the shot nicely.
- Pulling the ball left. Even if you make solid contact, you might not always send the ball flying down your target line. If you notice that you are missing too many of your shots to the left, there is a good chance that you aren't finishing the backswing completely. In an effort to get started firing your right side down toward the ball, you may be cutting off your backswing before it is finished. When that happens, your lower body won't be able to clear properly, and the club face may be closed at impact. Fixing this problem comes down to better tempo. Give the club time to complete the backswing by slowing down your takeaway and focusing on maintaining an even rhythm from start to finish.
Firing your right side through the ball is a powerful way to hit accurate golf shots, but it is a skill that can take some time to master. It is necessary for most players to spend plenty of time on the practice range working on their swing fundamentals before they will be able to chase the club down the target line properly. Once you do make these improvements to your swing, you will quickly notice how the ball is jumping off your club with more speed than ever before. The golfer who can use their right side effectively has a big advantage on the competition, so it is worth your time and effort to learn this important part of the swing.