One of the biggest problems with amateur's golf swings is the tendency to want to swing hard from the top of the backswing.
Sure, to hit the ball far takes effort but swinging hard at the wrong time will be counterproductive. To get maximum distance, you want the fastest point in your swing to be right at impact. Swinging fast from the top of the backswing might initially make sense but by doing this, you are disrupting a key concept: acceleration.
It can help to think of breaking the downswing into steps where each segment builds on the previous: the hips start the downswing, followed by the torso, followed by the arms and hands, and finally the club head. Swinging hard from the start of the downswing will require more and more effort to continue accelerating the club so leave your ego at home and let the club head gradually build up speed as the downswing progresses. Swinging hard from the top of the backswing can also lead to an “over-the-top” downswing which then often leads to the dreaded slice.
To get an idea of this swing concept, grip a club on the club head end so the club will feel very light. Take some swings and note where you hear the “woosh” of the club moving through the air. Ideally, you want to hear this sound right at impact or just after. If you hear it early in your downswing then you know that you're swinging too hard, too soon. To fix this problem, work on your downswing sequence. From the top of your backswing, your first move on the downswing should be your hips clearing out of the way to be followed by your torso, then hands and arms, and finally the club. This whip like motion is your key to distance.
Remember that a well struck shot will go farther than you might think so always swing within yourself and never try to force anything.
Why You Need to Accelerate at the Bottom of Your Golf Swing
The bottom of your golf swing is when all of your hard work comes together and you hopefully launch a long and accurate shot into the sky. The bottom of the swing is obviously the point when the club head actually comes into contact with the ball, so this is the part that you need to get right more than any other. Even if there are technical flaws in the rest of your swing, those mistakes will easily be forgiven if you manage to find your way into a quality position at impact. When the bottom of your swing is in order, you can be sure that plenty of good shots are soon going to follow.
One of the key elements that needs to be present at the bottom of your swing is plenty of club head acceleration. Most golfers only think about swinging fast – but they don't think about when they need to swing fast. Does it do you any good to swing the club quickly in the backswing? No, not really. You aren't hitting the ball during the backswing, so what does it matter if you are swinging fast at that time? There is only one moment of impact in each golf swing, and that is the moment when you need to have the club head moving at its fastest possible speed.
Unfortunately, many amateur golfers actually do the opposite of what they should be doing through the hitting area. Instead of accelerating the club through the ball, they allow it to slow down, leading to a loss of both power and accuracy. When the club is slowing down through impact, the club head will be more likely to twist off line when you strike the ball and the ground. By accelerating the club head aggressively through the strike, you will stand a much better chance of keeping the face on line for an accurate result.
The accelerating that you are looking for at the bottom of the swing isn't simply a matter of pulling your hands through the hitting area as fast as possible. Instead, it is a product of all of the hard work that went into building the rest of your swing. The entire swinging motion – from the takeaway all the way through the finish – should be designed with the goal of maximizing club head speed at the bottom. The way you use your body in the backswing and downswing, the way you position your hands, and the way you maintain your posture – all of these have an effect on the speed that you are able to generate. In order to max out your power potential on the golf course you need to make sure that each part of your body is playing its role successfully.
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.
Power is About More than Distance
When most golfers think of the word 'power', they think of distance. The two are basically one in the same in the golf world. When you say you hit a powerful shot off the tee, you really mean to say that you hit a long shot off the tee. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with having distance on your side when you head to the first tee, but power in golf is actual about much more than just being able to hit the ball farther than your friends.
Accelerating at the bottom of the golf swing leads to power, and that power can lead you to not only distance, but also a number of other positive outcomes. Following are three additional reasons why it is a great thing to have power present in your golf swing.
- Dealing with bad lies. This is perhaps the most important aspect of having a powerful golf swing, other than the distance that it can provide. When you find your ball in a bad lie – either in the rough or in the fairway – you will need power in order to get your club head down to the ball properly. Players who lack power often have to chip out of the long rough, for example, because they don't possess the swing speed necessary to cut through the grass and hit a good shot. It is inevitable that you will run into a bad lie from time to time on the golf course, so a big part of your score is going to be determined by how you deal with these lies. If you are able to accelerate the club head at the bottom of your swing, you will be able to overpower many of your bad lies, leading to strokes saved on the scorecard.
- Starting the ball on line. This point was mentioned briefly in the introduction, but it deserves a follow-up mention. When you strike the ball with power at impact, you will be able to start the ball on your intended target line more often. Of course, power alone doesn't mean you will be an accurate player, but it is a great start. Once the power is in place in your golf swing, you can work on fine tuning the other aspects of your swing until you can properly position the club at impact time after time. Players who slow their swing down through the hitting area often think they are gaining control, but reality is just the opposite. Accelerate the club aggressively and you will quickly gain more control over your golf ball with every club in the bag.
- Feeling of confidence. The mindset you take with you on the golf course is nearly as important as your swing technique in terms of determining your level of success. Confidence is a valuable commodity on the fairways, even if it is tough to find for most players. The act of accelerating the club head at the bottom of your swing is a confident and aggressive motion, which will put you in a good frame of mind going forward through the rest of your round. If you swing tentatively, you will think tentatively as well. Doubt and hesitation are never feelings that lead to success in golf, or any other sport for that matter. Conviction is a requirement if you hope to play good golf, especially under pressure. Think of your club head acceleration as the manifestation of your confidence level – when you accelerate properly, you can be sure that your mind is in a good place to play great golf.
As you can see, a powerful swing will benefit your overall game in a number of ways. Of course it is nice to be able to blast the ball deep down the fairway off of the tee to set up short approach shots, but power is about so much more than that. Whether you are carving the ball out of some deep rough or simply hitting a sharp wedge into the green with plenty of backspin, a powerful golf swing is going to aid you all around the course – and it all starts with nice acceleration of the club head through the hitting area.
Doing Things Right
Acceleration through the hitting area is helpful for all of the reasons above and more, but it also is a great sign that you are going about your swing in the right away. Many amateur golfers have technical problems in their swings that prohibit them from accelerating the club at the bottom of the swing. Think of your club head acceleration as physical proof that you have mastered the basics of good swing mechanics. As long as the club is picking up speed as it goes through the ball, you must be doing a lot of good things in your swing.
A large part of your success or failure on the golf course is predicated on the mistakes you don't make in your swing. A good golfer doesn't necessarily have to do certain things in his swing - but he does need to avoid making certain mistakes. There are a few golf swing mistakes that have the ability to ruin just about everything about your swing. Even if you have a lot of good mechanics in place, making one of the three mistakes below can wipe everything away. If you wish to master the art of accelerating the club head through the hitting area, it is crucial that you steer clear of the following three errors.
- Hands first from the top. The fastest way to ruin your chances of accelerating the club head at the bottom of the swing is to move your hands first when you start the downswing. It is your lower body that should be starting the downswing, but moving down with the hands first is a common mistake among amateur players. If your hands go first, you will miss out on the opportunity to get your body in front of the swing, meaning that you won't be able to use body rotation to accelerate the club properly. Instead, the swing will be left entirely up to your hands and arms, which means the club head will almost certainly be slowing down by the time it reaches impact. If you think you are currently starting your downswing with your hands, work on initiating movement with your left hip instead and you will stand a far better chance of accelerating at the bottom.
- Losing balance onto the right foot. Of all the mistakes that you can make in your golf swing, this one might be the most damaging to your overall game. As you swing up into your backswing, it is possible to allow your weight to drift onto your right foot. You should work hard to avoid this outcome if at all possible. Balance is critical in the golf swing, and you need to be perfectly balanced at the top if you are going to unleash your power on the way down. Ideally you would be able to keep your weight evenly distributed between your two feet at the top of the swing, but leaning slightly left is preferable to leaning right. Leaning slightly left at the top will still allow you to rotate hard through the downswing, while leaning right will likely create a slide in the downswing and a variety of other problems.
- Long arm swing. A long backswing can be a great tool in the process of creating power, but only if you do it the right way. A full rotation of your upper body is a great thing, but a long arm swing can lead to trouble. The best way to measure your backswing is to have your arms stop as soon as your upper body is done turning. If you reach the end of your body rotation but your arms keep going, you will have difficulty timing the rest of the downswing. This is what professional golfers often refer to as 'staying connected'. By stopping your arms at the same moment you stop your upper body turn, everything will be working together and prepared for a successful downswing.
Making any of these three mistakes will essentially ruin your chances of accelerating the club all the way through the bottom of the swing. During your next driving range session, take a few moments to look for any signs of the three mistakes above. Should you find evidence that you are making one of these errors, get to work right away on correcting that problem as soon as possible. Once each of these three points is safely removed from your swing, you can go forward knowing your fundamentals are in good condition.
A Game of Spins
The golf ball is always spinning while it is in motion. There is no such thing as a golf shot without spin, unless the ball is rolling along the ground (and even then, it is 'spinning' in a manner of speaking). Controlling your spin is really the essence of controlling the golf ball, and the players who can control the spin they put on the ball are the ones who are going to succeed at the end of the day. You might not think much about controlling your spin currently, but developing your skill in that area could be the key to taking your game to the next level.
One of the important aspects of controlling spin is having the ability to create high levels of backspin on your iron shots. When the ball is spinning backwards at a high rate, it won't be carrying very much side spin – meaning the shot will fly relatively straight through the air. Also, high backspin rates will allow you to stop the ball quickly on the greens. Professional golfers are great at loading up their irons shots with tons of backspin, and you should work toward the same goal. As you might be guessing by this point, accelerating the club through the hitting area is vital if you are going to add plenty of backspin to your shots. Without acceleration, the club won't be able to pass spin onto the ball, and your shots will float through the air aimlessly.
In order to create backspin, you have to be accelerating the club, but you also have to make clean contact with the ball. A swing that leads to fat or thin contact isn't one that is going to produce a high spin rate, so it is essential that you make solid contact at impact as frequently as you can. This is where the fundamental points from the previous section become so important. Those three points – controlling the length of your backswing, staying on balance, and starting the downswing with your hands – are all keys to solid ball striking. If you can avoid breaking those rules, you should be able to strike the ball nicely from a variety of lies.
Playing good golf is all about controlling your spin. When you know what kind of spin you are going to put on the ball for a given shot, you will then know what direction it is going to travel, how far it will go, what will happen when it lands, etc. The more information you can have in the back of your head about your shots before you hit them, the better you will be at picking a target and putting the ball in the right position. Many amateur golfers struggle to create backspin on their iron shots because they don't accelerate the club head through the ball. Focus on learning how to speed up your swing at the bottom and you will suddenly find that your spin rate increases dramatically.
Accelerating on Short Game Shots
It might be even more important to accelerate your swing in the short game than it is in the long game. Whether you are chipping, pitching, or putting from on or around the green, you need to accelerate through the ball each and every time. Short game strokes that slow down through impact are doomed to fail. If you putt while allowing the club head to slow down through the hitting area, you will frequently miss your line and your putts will often come up short. If you make this same mistake while chipping, you will hit the ball fat on a regular basis. Even though you aren't looking for power on your short shots, acceleration remains absolutely critical to your success.
So if it is so important to accelerate the club on short shots, why do so many golfers fail at this seemingly simple task? Easy – they make backswings that are too long. When you take the club back too far, you can't accelerate through impact because you will then hit the shot too hard. This basic line of thinking applies to both putting and chipping. Making long backstrokes is common with the putter, which then means the player must slow down on the forward stroke to avoid ripping the ball past the hole. It is easy to make the same mistake when chipping from close to the green, as only a short backswing is required to create enough power to reach the hole.
To improve your short game, you first need to check on the length of your backswings with the putter and your wedges. Controlling the backward motion of the club will make it easier to be aggressive going forward. During your practice sessions, make an effort to tighten up your backswings and you will find that you then feel free to turn the club loose going forward. This one adjustment won't completely fix your short game, but it should give you the confidence to be more aggressive whether you are putting or chipping.
It should be noted that this concept applies just the same on fast greens as it does on slow surfaces. Many golfers get onto fast putting greens and they feel that they need to be careful in order to not putt or chip the ball too far past the hole. While caution is always a good idea on fast greens, you shouldn't change your basic technique in response to the course. No matter how fast the greens happen to be, you should simply use a backswing that will allow you to accelerate smoothly through the ball. That might mean that you don't make much of a backswing at all on a quick five-foot putt – but that's okay. As long as you maintain good tempo throughout your stroke or swing, you can be successful.
Accelerating the club through the bottom of the swing is a skill that can benefit your game immensely. For all of the reasons outlined above, and more, it would be wise for you to work on your club head acceleration through impact. Not only will turning the club loose in the hitting area enable you to hit great shots, it will also do wonders for your confidence and attitude on the course. Maximize your speed at the perfect moment in your swing and you will see the benefits begin to appear throughout your game.