One of the biggest differences between professional and amateur golfers is the path of their downswings.
While the vast majority of amateurs hit the ball with an outside-to-inside path, virtually every pro golfer routes the club from inside-to-outside.
To understand this concept, imagine a straight line starting a few feet behind the ball and running through it to the target (i.e. the target line). The clubhead may approach the ball from inside this line – between the golfer and the ball – or from the outside.
There are many reasons the inside-to-out golf swing path is preferable. For one, its the only way to produce a right-to-left shot (draw), a highly desirable shape off the tee because the draw rolls farther than its sibling, the fade.
An inside-out path also transfers more energy into the ball, whereas an outside-in swing typically creates an open clubface and loss of power at impact.
It takes solid fundamentals – especially a proper weight shift – to achieve an inside-out golf swing motion. Heres a simple drill to get a feel for the right path.
• On the driving range, place a headcover 6-8 inches behind the ball on the target line, where a club traveling outside-in will hit the headcover first.
• Practice hitting shots without whacking the headcover.
Understanding – and Fixing – Your Golf Swing Path
There are a ton of terms that are used when discussing the golf swing. Club face angle, swing plane, lie angle, takeaway, transition, and on and on. For the new golfer, it can all get pretty confusing. The good news is that most of these terms are actually pretty easy to understand once you get a good picture of how the swing work. When you get a chance, you should read through a glossary of golf terms and expressions so you arent so lost the next time you hear someone discussing the technical aspects of the swing out on the course.
One of the phrases that you are likely to hear over and over again is golf swing path. The swing path refers to the path of the club head as it moves through the impact area. Getting the proper golf swing path in your swing is absolutely essential if you want to hit quality, repeatable shots time after time. Many golfer struggle with an out to in golf swing path, which will create a slice more often than not. Generally you want to work toward an inside to outside golf swing, which will usually generate a nice little draw that is much easier for you to control. However, even that golf swing path can be overdone, resulting in a hook.
Part of the challenge when it comes to fixing your swing path is that the path you end up swinging along is actually a result of many other moving parts within your swing. So when you realize that a change has to be made, you might need to sort through two or three different parts of your swing as a whole before you find the actual cause of the problem. Not to worry – your swing path certainly can be fixed if it has gone wrong, it just might take a little work.
It isnt an exaggeration to say that without finding the proper swing path, you simply arent going to reach your potential as a golfer. There is room for individual style within the golf swing, and no two swings are going to ever be exactly alike. With that said, some parts of the swing are fundamental and apply to everyone – and the swing path is one of those elements. No matter what else you do in your swing, you will always have trouble with your ball flight if you are unable to get the swing path consistently correct.
Before moving on, please note that the discussion below is based on a right handed golfer. All of the directions and instructions are given with the assumption that you play right handed. If you actually play lefty, simply reverse the directions and you will get the same benefit.
Knowing How to Read the Clues
The club head moves through the hitting zone far too fast for you to be able to see your swing path as you are making contact with the ball. So, unless you use a video camera to slow down the action and watch it back for yourself, you will need to learn how to read the clues that your ball flight is giving you to understand what is going on with your swing path. In fact, even if you do use video to record your swing from time to time, you should still take the time to understand the relationship that exists between swing path and ball flight.
The first thing to know is that your swing path is largely going to be responsible for the curve of the golf ball in the air. As a general rule, you can expect that the angle of the club face at impact will dictate the starting line that the ball takes off on, and the swing path relative to that face angle will then be responsible for any curve (or lack or curve) that happens while the ball is flying toward the target. This might seem a little complicated at first, but it is actually quite simple. Lets work through a couple quick examples to help you better understand the concept.
For the first example, imagine the following scenario. You are 150 yards away from the green, which is a perfect seven iron distance for your game. You pull your seven iron out of the bag, and because the hole is located safely in the middle of the green, you decide to aim right at the flag. As the club reaches impact, the club face is aimed perfectly at the target, and the ball takes off directly at the flag. Great! However, about halfway to the hole, the ball takes a quick left turn and starts to hook away from the hole. By the time it lands, it is left of the green and in the bunker. What started out looking like a great shot turned bad before it had time to get to the target.
What happened? Most likely, your inside swing path is to blame. Assuming the club face was square at impact (which it likely was, given the accurate start to the shot), you made an inside to outside golf swing which imparted the hook spin on the golf ball. If you were standing behind and watching this shot be hit, you would notice the club head moving from left to right across the ball. Often, the divot taken from this kind of a shot will fly out to the right of the target, providing a good clue that an inside to outside golf swing has taken place.
Moving on to the next example, imagine the exact same scenario as the first one. You set up to hit your seven iron, and again the ball starts right at the target. This time, though, it starts to turn right in the air and the ball floats away from the green until it ends up in the rough off to the right. As you might have guessed by now, this is the result of the opposite swing path – and out to in golf swing. In this swing, the golfer cuts across the ball from right to left, imparting a slice spin that causes the ball to quickly veer of course. Between the two, the out to in golf swing is by far the more common error for amateur players to make.
Hopefully by thinking about those two examples you have a better understanding of what swing path is, and how it affects the ball flights you produce on the course. In fact, just by reading those few paragraphs, you probably already have a pretty good idea of which mistake you make most often. To get yourself on the proper golf swing path more often than not, you will need to work through your mistakes and figure out what the root cause is that has your swing getting off track.
The First Six Inches are Crucial
Despite what you might think, or have heard, the most important part of your whole golf swing is the first few inches that you move the club away from the ball. If you can get the golf swing takeaway path just right, you will be set up for a great swing that has a high chance of being successful. On the other hand, if your golf swing takeaway path goes wrong, there is almost nothing you can do during the rest of your swing to fix what has already been done. Certainly there are a few golfers who are able to be successful with a unique takeaway, but most players will need to stick close to standard if they are going to hit good shots.
The good news is that a proper takeaway is actually very simple. All you need to do is move the club directly down the target line away from the ball, until the rotation of your body starts to naturally move the club to the inside and up into your backswing. When looking down from the address position, picture an imaginary line on the ground running from the target, through your golf ball, and a few feet beyond. As you start your swing, make sure the club head follows this line as closely as possible for the first few inches of the swing. Thats it. If you can manage to do that correctly, so much of the rest of the swing will start to fall into place perfectly.
Of course, you might have a little more trouble with that task than you would expect. There is a simple drill that you can do on the practice range to help engrain the correct golf swing takeaway path. To get started, place a golf ball down on the range, and pick out a target to aim at. Standing behind your golf ball, take an extra club and lay it down on the ground in a position that is pointing directly at the target from behind the ball. The end of the grip of the club should be touching the back of the golf ball. This is now your intended takeaway path. In this drill, you are NOT actually hitting the ball, or even making a full swing. This is only intended to help you practice your takeaway.
With the setup complete, take your stance and address the ball as usual. You wont be able to set your club head on the ground, because your alignment club is in the way – just rest the club head on top of the grip that is laying on the ground behind the ball. Now, make your takeaway while trying to keep the club head on line with the alignment club that is lying on the ground. The goal is to keep your takeaway on the target line until you reach the end of the grip on your alignment club. Once you have successfully traced the alignment club to the end of its grip with your takeaway, you can continue on into the rest of your backswing. Repeat this process over and over until you feel comfortable with the proper takeaway position for your swing. When finished, remove the alignment club and hit a few shots. You should immediately notice that your swing feels different and your ball flight is straighter.
It might not seem like the first few inches of your swing could be that important – but they are. Take the time to work on your takeaway technique and you should be quickly rewarded with an improved ball flight. You will need to be patient when working on this swing change, as altering your takeaway can be quite uncomfortable at first. Spend some time hitting balls on the practice range until you are happy with the way your adjusted swing feels, and performs.
Correcting the Inside Swing Path
While it is true that your takeaway will dictate most of what goes on with your swing path, there are a few ways that things can go wrong later in the swing. Mistakes that are made within your swing itself that get your swing path off track can be difficult to solve, but it is worth your effort to get it figured out. If you are fighting an inside swing path – one that moves from inside to out and creates a hook – there are a couple of possibilities that you need to investigate.
The most common cause of this swing error is too much lateral movement in your lower body during the downswing. When you reach the top of your backswing, make sure your lower body isnt sliding toward the target and moving out from under your upper body. When this happens, the club will drop under the correct swing plane and you are sure to attack the ball too far from the inside. Instead of sliding away during the transition, your lower body should be rotating mostly in place. You definitely want your lower body engaged at this point in the swing, but it should be more of a rotation than a slide.
So how do you know if you are making this mistake? One sign is hitting a few shots fat throughout the round. When you slide your lower body toward the target, you lower the overall level of your swing and increase your chances of hitting the turf before the ball. Also, if you fight a pushed ball flight on occasion, that is another sign that a slide is taking place. Focus on your balance and making a rotation with your lower body during the downswing to correct this problem.
The other possible cause of your inside to outside golf swing is a backswing that is simply too long. If you let your backswing continue on past a comfortable amount of rotation, you will again put the club under the right plane. Often, a long backswing and a lower body slide go hand in hand – so if you fight one, you probably have signs of the other as well. Try to tighten up your backswing and see if your swing path improves as a result. One good way to practice a shorter backswing is to choke down on the club slightly at address so you dont have quite as long of a club to help pull you farther into the backswing. Once you hit a few shots choking down on the club, go back to the end of the grip and check your progress.
Correcting the Out to In Golf Swing
We have saved the biggest problem for last. Among the major issues that most amateur golfers deal with in their swings, the out to in golf swing is by far the winner. If you have dealt with a slice at some point during your golf career, and chances are you have, it is an out to in swing path that was to blame. Hopefully, you have conquered your slice already. If not, the tips below should help you do just that.
It probably wont surprise you that the causes of an out to in swing are mostly the opposite of those that cause an in to out swing. Specifically, it is the lack of lower body movement that leads most golfers to swing from outside to in. Instead of rotating the lower body in the downswing, or even sliding toward the target, a golfer with an out to in swing simply will stand flat footed and swing the club with upper body only. Needless to say, the results from this kind of swing leave plenty to be desired. Not only does a lack of lower body movement lead to a bad swing path and a slice, but it also causes a major loss of distance. Not a good combination.
To correct this fault, it is important that you get the sequencing right in your swing. Once the club arrives at the top of the backswing and is ready to start down toward the ball, it should be your lower body that gets everything started. The downswing starts from the ground up, so your lower body should initiate the action which will trigger the rest of your body to start uncoiling toward the target. The club should be the last thing that moves through the impact zone and strikes the ball after the rest of your body has already turned toward the target. Simply getting the sequencing right in your swing can have powerful results.
While a lazy lower body causes most slices on the golf course, there is one other cause worth investigating. A short backswing will frequently put the club over top of the proper swing plane, leading to an out to in path and a slice. Most of the time, a short backswing is caused by the golfer being in a hurry to get done with the swing and hit the ball. Having good tempo, and some patience, goes a long way toward making a quality golf swing.
If you are a golfer who struggles with a short backswing from time to time, working on your rhythm is the best way to improve. To start with, try counting during your swing to establish some kind of tempo. Count to three as you swing, where one is the start of your swing, two is the top of your backswing, and three is impact. Just by counting these numbers out loud during your swing, you should quickly be able to tell where you might be rushing through your tempo. Work on this simple drill until you have evened out your rhythm and your backswing starts to get a little longer.
For as many golfers struggle with a slice in their game, the fix is actually fairly simple. For most golfers, either making a longer backswing or engaging the lower body more actively will solve the problem. Often, a golfer who hits a slice will have both of those problems present in their swing. Take the time on the practice range to address these issues and you should see that ball flight start to straighten up as soon as your next round.
The swing path that you use in your golf swing has a lot to do with the ball flights that you end up achieving, and the kind of scores you are able to shoot on the golf course. While golf swing path might seem like something of a complex topic when you first start thinking about it, the reality is that it is fairly simple as straightforward. Next time you head to the practice range, watch your ball flights carefully to determine what they are trying to tell you about your swing path. Once you put together the pieces and figure out what problems might exist in your swing path, you can get to work on fixing it as soon as possible. The right takeaway position, along with a couple other important checkpoints during your swing, will be able to get you on the right path in no time at all. The little details can make all the difference in golf, and swing path is a detail you dont want to ignore.