It's the classic pose most people envisage when picturing their favorite golfers, up on the back toe, weight forward on the front foot, belt, and chest and eyes facing the target in a fully balanced position.
This flowing follow through is indicative of an effortless swing in which every body movement works in sequence. Although the body movements after impact don't actually have an effect on the ball flight they give key indications as to what has gone before. Golfers who struggle with a restricted follow through could be suffering from a number of different swing problems.
During the down swing, players want their hips to rotate towards the target, turning through the ball and delivering power to the shot. If the hips are somehow restricted in their movement, the follow through will also be restricted.
To ensure the hips are able to turn freely, players should first ensure their feet are in the correct position at address, and in particular, the left foot. The left foot needs to be splayed outward about 45 degrees in relation to the ball to target line. This splaying of the toe ensures the left knee and hip are not restricted when rotating through the ball.
To ensure a fully flowing follow through, players should extend their arms through impact until the arms and club point down at the target line. If the arms crumple through impact and don't straighten, golfers can suffer with thinned and topped shots and a limited follow through. To ensure this doesn't happen, players should try to ensure the arms and club extend fully though impact, striking down and through the ball with an iron, taking a divot.
To swing freely through the ball, many different body parts need to work in synchronization. It's imperative, therefore, the posture is as strong and flexible as possible. One major posture fault which could cause a restricted follow through is when the hips 'tuck under' the body. When the hips tuck under and are not pushed back, it is very hard for them to turn freely through. To ensure this doesn't happen, golfers should ensure the hips are pushed outward and not tucked underneath the body.
There are a number of technical problems which could cause a restricted follow through but there are also physical limitations. To help ensure a full follow through, golfers need a certain amount of flexibility, especially in the lower back and hamstrings. There are a number different stretches and exercises people can attempt to increase their flexibility, although medical advice should be sought before attempting any.
Causes and Cures of Restricted Follow Through
If you watch professional golf on TV, you will quickly notice one thing about the best players in the world – they all have their own unique way of swinging the club. You could watch 10 different pro golfers hit tee shots and you would see 10 different ways of swinging the driver. The results of these shots would likely be quite similar – they would travel a great distance and usually land in the fairway – but the method of swinging the club will vary dramatically from player to player. This is one of the great things about golf. Rather than having to swing the club just like everyone else, you are free to find your own way to get the job done.
With all of that said, there is one area of the swing where you will find very little variety from player to player. That area is the follow through, or finish position. When they arrive at the finish, professional golfers look a lot alike. Without very few exceptions, you will see a professional golfer finish his or her swing by balancing on the left foot (for a right-handed golfer) with the bottom of the right foot completely rotated and up off the ground. The player will be able to hold this balanced position for several seconds as they watch the ball fly through the air. This is the classic golf finish position, and it is one that every amateur golfer should try to emulate.
Sadly, many amateur players underestimate the importance of the finish position. Thinking that it can't possibly make any difference since the ball is already gone, countless players give up on their swings as soon as they make contact. This is a mistake, of course, as the finish position is proof that the rest of the swing has been executed correctly. Specifically, making it up into a full finish shows that you have rotated aggressively through the hitting area. Players who make it up to a great finish are usually using all of their available power – the same cannot be said of players who cut the swing off short.
In this article, we are going to look at the issue of a restricted follow through. Players who have a restricted follow through never quite make it up to the top of the swing – instead, they stop the club's motion soon after contact is made with the ball, and the right foot doesn't manage to rotate up off the ground at all. The club doesn't wrap up around the head at the end of the swing, as it stays down in front of the chest and the hands barely get above hip high. If this sounds like the way you are swinging the club currently, it is certain that you are failing to live up to your potential on the course. In order to take a big step forward in your performance, make it a point to focus your upcoming practice sessions on the importance of a full follow through.
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.
Underlying Causes of a Poor Finish
Before you can fix a problem in golf, you have to understand where the problem is coming from in the first place. In this case, it isn't enough to realize that you are cutting your finish off before it is complete – you have to figure out why you are making that mistake. Once you settle on an underlying cause of the mistake of a restricted follow through, you can then get down to work on making the appropriate correction.
The list below includes a few of the possible reasons for your failure to finish the follow through. Think carefully about your swing to determine if any of these are the culprit.
- Lack of lower body rotation in the downswing. This is likely the leading cause of a poor finish among amateur golfers. Most players fail to use their lower body properly in the downswing, as they simply throw their arms down toward the ball rather than turning through the swing aggressively. Good golfers know how to use their lower bodies to build speed, but the average amateur player has not quite mastered that skill. To get your swing on track, and to make it all the way up into a full finish, you will need to use your lower body right from the start of the downswing. Turn your left hip open toward the target as the downswing begins, and keep on turning until the ball is gone and you have reached a full finish. The power that you can generate with this kind of swing is truly incredible. There is likely power hiding within your swing that you never knew was there – and the only way to unlock it is to use your lower body correctly.
- Poor balance. You will see the word 'balance' come up often in golf instruction, and for good reason. Balanced golfers tend to hit quality shots – it's just that simple. As it relates to the finish of the swing, poor balance is going to make it impossible for you to get over onto your left side as the swing concludes. Usually, this has something to do with a reverse pivot. In a reverse pivot, your weight moves toward the target in the backswing and then away from the target as you swing down. With your weight moving right while the club goes left, you will be destined to wind up on your back foot, leaning away from the target. This is a terrible position from which to hit the ball, and your shots are sure to be weak and often to the right of the target. To get on track, work on keeping your weight perfectly in between your two feet during the backswing before moving aggressively onto your left side as you swing down.
- Seeing the ball as the finish line. Sometimes, a poor balance comes down to nothing more than a mental mistake. If you see the ball as the finish line for your swing, rather than as just a point along the way, you will quit using your body to move the club as soon as you make contact. This is a problem because quitting at impact will soon turn into quitting on your swing before you have even reached impact. The best golfers are those who swing on through impact and up into a full finish without any hesitation. Don't see the ball as the end point of your swing – instead, see it as a checkpoint that you are going to smash through on the way to a balanced finish. Make it your goal to hold a balanced finish after every single shot you hit. If you are able to do that successfully, you will be happy with the progress in your game.
Most golfers who are struggling with a poor finish will find the underlying cause of their error in one of the three points above. Take some time to think about your swing while comparing it to these three points – if necessary, record your swing on video to see if you can spot anything which may be leading to the incomplete follow through. Only when you are confident that you have diagnosed the problem accurately should you move on to the next step.
Remember the Feeling
The problem facing some golfers on this topic is the fact that they have never before experienced a full finish. How can you strive to reach a great finish position if you don't even know what such a position would feel like? It is important to give yourself something specific to strive for, and that is exactly what the drill outlined below is going to offer. If you are willing to take some time to go through this drill, you will wind up with a great understanding of the ideal finish position.
Since you aren't going to be hitting any shots while completing this drill, you don't even need to be at the driving range. As long as you have a golf club and some room to swing safely, you can perform this basic drill.
- To get started, find a safe place to swing and pick one of the club from your bag. A mid-iron is a great option for the purposes of this drill, but you can use any club you would like (other than the putter, of course). With a club in your hands, take a stance just as you would before hitting a shot on the course. Even though you aren't going to hit a ball, you still may wish to select an imaginary target in the distance to serve as a reference point for your swing.
- With your stance set, you will be ready to put the club in motion. However, instead of moving the club back away from the target as you would do with a normal swing, you are actually going to move the club forward toward the target. There will be no backswing at all – you are going directly from address on up into the finish position. This way, you don't have to worry about the mistakes of your backswing and downswing getting in the way of a full finish. Move the club up from address into a great finish position, rotating your right foot up off the ground to the point where only your toe is touching the turf. When finished, you should find that the majority of your weight is on your left foot, and you should be looking directly out at the (imaginary) target in the distance. Hold your balanced finish position for a few seconds to get comfortable with what it feels like when done correctly.
- After a few seconds have passed, 'unwind' your body and go back down to address. You aren't going to go any farther than that, as there will be no backswings or downswings in this drill. Once you are back at address, you are simply going to repeat the process. Move back and forth between address and the finish position a few times before considering the drill completed.
This is a great drill to use when you have a few free minutes and you want to work on your game without making a trip to the driving range. Teaching yourself what a great finish position feels like is not all that difficult when you strip away the other parts of the swing. Next time you do visit the driving range, you should find it a bit easier to make your way up into a solid follow through thanks to the time you have spent with this drill.
The Right Mindset
As long as you are willing to work on your finish position both at the range and by using the drill above, you should find that you are able to fix this part of your technique in relatively short order. It isn't the hardest thing in the game of golf to improve your follow through, so this task should not be as daunting as other swing changes you may have taken on in the past. After a few practice sessions have gone by, you will likely find yourself feeling quite confident about the new follow through which has been added to your game.
That newfound confidence is a great thing, but there is only one problem to be considered – you might find that this confidence disappears when you head out onto the course. Hitting good shots on the driving range is fun, but it is significantly easier than producing those same shots on the course. Once your next round begins, you will likely go back to thinking about your swing in the same way you did prior to working on your follow through. So how do you successfully translate the work you did on the range out onto the course? The following tips should help with that process.
- Ignore the results. This won't be an easy point to handle, but for the first couple rounds you play after working on your follow through you should worry more about the process than the results of your shot. Consider your finish position to be the ultimate goal with each swing – as long as you finish the swing correctly, you should be happy regardless of where the ball ends up. This is easier said than done, of course, especially if you see your ball sailing into the trees or a water hazard. However, you have to keep the big picture in mind with this process. If you can master the art of swinging through to a full finish while on the course, the results of your shots will gradually come around. Trust the process that you have started, and commit yourself to a great follow through on every shot. Pretty soon, the finish of your swing will become natural and the results of your shots will improve as well.
- Pick conservative targets. One of the best ways to free yourself up to make a full swing with a proper follow through is to pick a safe target for your shot. Aiming at a flag which is barely on the green over a water hazard is a sure way to make yourself nervous. And, when you get nervous, you will be far more likely to cut off your follow through. So, don't put yourself in that position. Aim for safe parts of the golf course which offer plenty of margin for error. By selecting safe targets on the majority of your shots, you will be free to make great swings without worrying about hitting your ball into trouble. It takes patience to aim away from the hole while on the course, but your patience will be rewarded with better swings and improved results.
- Self-belief. Often, it is the players who do not believe in the shots they are trying to hit who will give up on their swing before it is completed. Falling into this trap is a major mistake, yet it is easy to do while on the course. To rise above this issue, you need to find as much self-belief as you can muster when you walk to the first tee. Think about all of the good shots you have hit on the range during practice, and use those thoughts to build up your confidence as you play.
It comes down to mind over matter when you are trying to take your improved finish position from the range out to the course. Yes, there are going to be some struggles along the way, but you should quickly make progress as long as you pay attention to the tips listed above. Pretty soon, you will find that you are reaching a full finish after every shot you hit on the course, and you will be able to shift your attention to other concerns.
Follow Through in the Short Game
As always, it would be a mistake to neglect your short game while talking about the follow through. It is just as important to follow through while chipping and putting as it is while making full swings. Of course, the follow through you use in the short game is going to look quite different, so we need to take a couple moments here before finishing up to touch on this topic.
When putting, your finish position is quite simple – you are going to hold yourself perfectly in place after the ball is gone. There is no weight shift or rotation to worry about, as the putting stroke is nothing more than a simple rocking of the shoulders. The goal while putting is to keep yourself as still as possible when the club is in motion. The fewer moving parts present in your putting stroke, the better. Allow the putter to move freely through the ball and on for a few more inches, depending on the length of the putt at hand. Keep your head down, your eyes focused on the ball, and your lower body perfectly still. To make sure you are staying still throughout the putt, get into the habit of holding this finish position until the ball has stopped rolling. This will be a bit exaggerated, of course, but it is a great way to ensure that no premature movement is creeping in to your putting technique.
The goal of your follow through while chipping is not going to be dramatically different from when you are putting. With a chipping finish position, you are again going to hold as still as possible after the ball is gone, although there may be a bit of movement in your lower body – which is okay, as long as that movement keeps your weight over your left foot. You don't want to stop the club immediately upon impact when chipping, but you also don't want to follow through to the point where your hands are up above your waist. Use an abbreviated follow through with an aggressive action down into the ball. Many amateur golfers get nervous and tentative during the chipping swing, which is why so many players have trouble getting up and down. Swing your wedge with confidence while chipping and move into a balanced, steady finish position where the club head is hovering just a few inches off the ground.
The follow through is an important part of the golf swing. It has become common to ignore the importance of the finish of the golf swing, since the ball is already gone when you are swinging up into the finish. This phase of the swing is extremely important, however, which explains why professional golfers all use roughly the same finish in their swings. Spend some time on this key point during your next practice session and work on progressing toward a balanced finish that would make a PGA Tour player proud. Good luck!