The golf swing isn't over once the ball has been struck. What happens between contact and the finish offers important clues to a golfer's fundamentals.
A proper finish finds the belt buckle and chest facing the target, the weight balanced on the left foot (for right-handers), the hands and arms fully released and over the left shoulder. If you finish off-kilter or don't swing the club to at least shoulder height, it's a sign that your mechanics are off.
Practice your golf swing in this sequence from the top of the backswing to achieve a full finish:
• The left heel, which lifts slightly on the backswing, triggers the downswing by returning to the ground.
• This causes the left hip to rotate toward the target.
• Next come the torso, shoulders and arms, which fall naturally rather than being cast downward.
• The hips and torso continue rotating, the arms lagging slightly behind the chest until impact.
• The club accelerates through and past the ball, finally slowing as the golfer reaches the finish.
Balance, in-sync body rotation and acceleration of the club are the keys to solid, powerful shots and a sound finish position. In fact, the finish is a great place to start when diagnosing your golf swing ailments.
How to Swing from the Top to a Full Finish
Getting to the top of the golf swing in a good position is no easy feat. There are a lot of technical elements which need to come together nicely in order to form a proper backswing. Players who want to make a good backswing need to invest plenty of time on the practice range working on their fundamentals. Unfortunately, even when those players do manage to master the backswing move, they will still be only halfway through the swing – the downswing needs to be mastered as well before the entire swing will come together successfully.
In this article, we are going to cover the phase of the swing that moves from the top of the backswing all the way to the finish position. Basically, we are going to be discussing the downswing and the follow-through. You may be surprised to learn that this is where the swing goes wrong for many amateur players. Plenty of golfers manage to get through the backswing in good shape, only to make a major mistake prior to contacting the ball. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to avoid those mistakes.
The concept of swinging through to a full finish is one that is lost on many amateur golfers. There is a common misconception in this game that anything which happens after impact really doesn't matter. That is not true at all. Even though the ball is already on its way to the target, your follow through and finish are still important in the big picture. The way you finish your swing will tell you a lot about what happened leading up to that point, meaning your finish can help you get better over time. Also, swinging on through to a full finish is an indication that you accelerated the club properly through the hitting area.
If you have a chance to watch some professional golf on TV sometime soon, pay particular attention to the way pro golfers hold their finish after the swing is completed. Many of them will hold a balanced finish pose until the ball has landed in the fairway or on the green – much longer than most amateurs choose to hold their finish. By holding steady after the swing is complete, pro golfers are proving that they have stayed on balance perfectly throughout the action. If there was any loss of balance along the way, those players would struggle to hold that position, as they would be falling off to one side or another. During your next visit to the range, challenge yourself to hold your finish until each shot lands. This might not be easy at first, but it will force you to pay better attention to your balance. If this simple drill can help you sharpen up your ability to balance during the swing, you will quickly become a better ball striker without making any other changes.
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.
Picture Perfect at the Top
Before we can address the issue of swinging from the top of your swing through to a full finish, we have to make sure you are in a good position at the top to start with. This is easier said than done, as there are a number of things you need to get right in the backswing. A good backswing will be as simple as possible while still putting both your body and the club in a position for success on the way down. The backswing alone cannot lead to great golf shots, but it certainly is a big piece of the puzzle. Get your backswing right and the work you need to do throughout the rest of the swing will become much easier.
To make sure you are in a good position at the top of the swing, check on the points listed below. It may be necessary to record your swing on video so you can get a good look at your mechanics at the top of the swing. When watching the replay of your swing video, simply pause the recording when you reach the top and evaluate yourself on the following factors.
- Balance. You are probably not surprised to see this point at the start of our list. The importance of balance was highlighted in the introduction, and it needs to be mentioned again here as well. If you are not balanced at the top, you can forget the rest of the points on this list – you will already be in too much trouble to worry about other fundamentals. To improve on your balance, you first need to make sure you are balanced over the ball at address. Once that is the case, pay attention to your rotation in the backswing. You don't want to be sliding from side to side as you swing back. Instead, you should be simply rotating your shoulders away from the target while the rest of your body remains in place. Try spending a few minutes at the start of each of your practice sessions working on your balance. In the long run, this will be one of the best things you can do for your game.
- Club pointed at the target. The top of the backswing is a great time to check on your swing plane. Ideally, the club will be roughly pointed at your target when you finish your backswing and begin to transition down. Of course, your club might not be pointed directly at the target, because it would be difficult to be so precise with the club wrapped around your head. You should be close, however, so pay particular attention to this point if you notice the club pointing dramatically to the right or left. If your club is pointed to the left of the target at the top, you are in a 'laid off' position and a slice is likely to result. On the other hand, the club pointing to the right of the target indicates an 'across the line' position, and you will be at risk of hitting a hook. To get back on track with regard to this point, pay specific attention to the way your hands are working during the backswing. Too much or too little hand action will make it difficult for you to stay on plane.
- Knees flexed. This is an easy point to overlook while you are busy checking on the status of the club at your arms at the top of the swing. However, you do need to take a look down at your lower body to confirm that you have done a good job of maintaining knee flex. If you were to stand up out of your stance on the way back, you would be severely compromising your chances to make a great swing on the way down. Knee flex is important because it helps you maintain balance, and it also helps you use your lower body effectively through the hitting area. The best players use their lower bodies as a source of power in the swing, and you should be doing the same.
- Great shoulder turn. The last point you need to check on is the quality of your shoulder turn. At the top, your left shoulder should be at least under your chin, if not a little bit farther turned away from the target. To make this possible, you need to keep your chin up and away from your chest in the backswing. Many golfers push their chins down in an effort to 'keep their eye on the ball', but doing so will inhibit your backswing. Keep your chin up and your eyes down, and make a great turn going back. A big shoulder turn will go a long way toward your goal of producing maximum power in the downswing.
If you see each of the four points above when you check on your swing at the top of the backswing, you are in good shape. If not, take some time to make the necessary corrections and adjustments. Only when you are completely satisfied with your position at the top of the swing should you move on to working on your downswing and follow-through.
A Simple Downswing
The downswing happens in the blink of an eye. In just a fraction of a second, you are going to move from the top of the swing to the moment of impact. With so little time available between these two stages, it is critical to keep your swing as simple and repeatable as possible. There isn't nearly enough time to think consciously about what you are doing with the club, so you have to be able to go on 'auto-pilot' when the downswing begins. By using the right mechanics to start the downswing, you can trust that you are on the right path while letting it rip through the ball.
It is your left hip which is going to be given the task of starting the downswing. The importance of the first move you make down toward the ball cannot be overstated – get this right, and you are in great shape for a solid shot. Get it wrong, however, and there really won't be enough time available to save the swing. From your solid top of the backswing position, use your left hip to rotate your lower body open toward the target. This should not be a subtle or casual move. Rather, it should be quick and decisive, setting yourself up for an aggressive downswing. Timing this hip move up properly is going to take a bit of practice, but it will feel natural when you get it right.
Once your left hip is off and running, the rest of the downswing is really a matter of letting your body go along for the ride. Your hips are now leading the way, and the club should be following along as the last piece of the puzzle. Sadly, this is where so many amateur golfers go wrong. Rather than letting the club trail along, many players try to force the club down to hit the ball as soon as possible. That is a big mistake. You want the club to take its time, gradually picking up speed along the way. If you can avoid the temptation to force the club down into the ball, your swing will improve greatly. Many golfers refer to this as a 'delayed hit', because the club only swings through the ball after the rest of the body has turned through the shot. This concept might seem a bit weird at first, but it really is what will allow you to unlock a significant source of untapped power.
At the moment of impact, you want to have the majority of your weight stacked up on top of your left leg. However, you don't want to slide to the left to make that happen. Rather, you should be rotating aggressively to the left, which will naturally result in most of your weight finding its way onto that leg. Your eyes should be on the ball when the club arrives, and your chest should be pointing down toward the ball as well. As a point of reference, you want to have significant separation between your lower body and your upper body when impact arrives. The lower body will be rotated all the way through the shot while the upper body will be hanging back, helping to deliver the club powerfully into the back of the ball. If you can successfully find this powerful position at the bottom of your swing each time, the longest shots of your life will be sure to follow.
Reaching the Finish Line
As mentioned in the introduction, many golfers give up on their swings before they have managed to make it all the way to the finish. After reading this article, however, you are not going to make that mistake. If you are willing to commit yourself to reaching a full finish each and every time, it is nearly certain that your game will improve.
So how do you make sure that you swing all the way up to a full finish time after time? The following tips should help –
- Commit to the swing. One of the basic keys to finding a full finish position at the end of each swing is simply to commit yourself to swinging through the ball with confidence. Many amateur golfers play the game with a very low level of confidence, and they swing without much intention as a result. Don't put yourself into that category. Once you have decided on the club you are going to use for a given shot, and once you have picked a target, go ahead and let it rip. Don't hold anything back, and don't think about the negative outcomes that are possible. It is always possible that your shot won't work out, as golf is a difficult game, and there are plenty of variables which are out of your control. The only thing you do control is your swing, so convince yourself to give your best effort and swing the club all the way up into a full, balanced finish.
- Left heel stays down. As you swing down toward impact, it is important to keep your left heel down on the ground as flat as possible. Some amateur players, when swinging down, fall into the habit of lifting that heel off the ground in an effort to generate a bit more power. While this move won't help you hit the ball any harder, it will cause you to stop your rotation – and it will make it difficult to get all the way onto your left side. Focus on keeping your left heel flat down on the turf while you keep turning through the downswing and into the finish. Not only will this tip help you to get to the finish position each time, but it will also help you keep your footing in the swing. Should you allow that heel to come up, you may run the risk of slipping as impact approaches – and it is nearly impossible to hit a good shot if you slip.
- Belt buckle toward the target. If you are a golfer who likes to keep simple, basic tips in mind as you swing, think about trying to point your belt buckle at the target when your swing is finished. This is an extremely simple point, but one which can help you to achieve success. As long as your belt buckle is pointed in the general direction of the target - or even a bit to the left of the target – when you are finished, it is a good bet that your swing made it all the way to the finish. Professional golfers hit this target with incredible consistency, and you should strive to do the same.
In reality, a good backswing and downswing is going to lead to a solid finish position most of the time without any other effort on your point. However, if you are player who seems to struggle with the goal of getting into a good finish position, the three tips above can help you check this point off of your to-do list.
Other Related Points
To clean up the discussion on swinging up into a full finish, we need to make mention of a few more points before we end the article. These points of a collection of somewhat random thoughts, but they should help complete your understanding of this topic.
- Maintain focus. Most rounds of golf take at least four hours to complete. When you are on the course for that much time, it is easy to get distracted. And, in fact, it is okay to be a bit distracted from time to time during a round. However, before each swing, you need to reset your focus and pay attention to the task at hand. Use your pre-shot routine as an opportunity to bring yourself back into focus properly. Focused swings tend to be good swings, and good swings tend to find balanced finish positions.
- Finish your short shots, too. While the discussion in this article has focused on the full swing, it is just as important to finish your short game shots properly. Whether chipping or putting, make sure to accelerate the club through the ball and hold your finish while you watch the shot travel toward the target. It is easy to become tentative when playing short shots on and around the green, but don't fall into that frame of mind. Stay aggressive, swing through with confidence, and hold your finish just as you do with a full swing.
- Practice your finish. You practice all of the other parts of your golf game when on the range, so why not work on your finish as well? Pay just as much attention to this part of your technique as you do the rest and your game will be sure to improve as a whole. Even if you only work on your finish specifically for a few swings during each practice session, that should be enough to keep this topic fresh in your mind.
The golf swing is a complicated motion. There are a lot of moving parts that need to come together in order to make a quality swing, but you don't have time to think about all of those points while hitting a shot on the course. Instead, you need to dial in your technique perfectly on the range so that it does off without a hitch during your rounds. Spend time working on every part of your technique from the top of the swing all the way through to the finish during upcoming practice sessions. With a confident and simple approach to the downswing and follow-through, you will be well positioned for excellent results. Good luck!