Lifting your golf club up to the top of your backswing, rather than swinging it there causes all sorts of problems for golfers.
A lifting action sees too much use of the arms during the backswing that results in little power being produced on the downswing and shots that do not achieve good distance. A lifting action also produces a strike that is more likely to hit the top of the golf ball. As the arms lift excessively on the backswing, they have to drop on the downswing and this produces a chopping action, where the club head drops down very vertically towards the top of the ball. As the club head strikes the top of the ball it produces a very low, topped shot.
To improve this action and to begin swinging your golf club, you need to work on a more rotational movement from your upper body. During this movement, your upper body or shoulders will rotate 90 degrees to the right of their start position (for right handed golfers) and you will swing with a feeling of your arms and hands moving lower and more behind you.
To get the correct movement, place an alignment pole into the ground to the right of the ball about five feet away from the ball. Use a practice ball basket if on a mat to fix the pole. Angle the alignment pole to 45-55 degrees. Now practice swinging the club head away from the ball, down the target line, towards the pole. A swing that lifts the club will now see the club head lifting upwards away from the pole which is incorrect. Work on rotating your shoulders to the right so that the club head follows the angle of the alignment pole just above the pole. The club should become parallel but only just above the alignment pole and then as you continue to rotate your shoulders 90 degrees to the right of their start position, your left arm should become parallel to the alignment pole.
This will create much more rotation in your upper body and get you swinging the club rather than lifting it, help you to achieve longer, straighter and more consistent golf shots.
Stop Lifting and Start Swinging Your Golf Club
There are two distinct classes of golfers that you will find on the course – there are those who try to hit the ball, and those who try to swing the club. While you might think at first that those are the same thing, they are actually two very different things. When your only goal is simply to hit the ball, you are prone to lifting the club up into the air and then pushing it right back down toward the ball. A player who is focused on hitting the ball is unlikely to make a long, fluid swing, as they will instead rush through the process in order to send the ball on its way.
On the other hand, golfers who attempt to swing the club typically have great rhythm and tempo. The players you see on the professional tours all are trying to swing the club rather than just hitting at the ball, and the results speak for themselves. Swinging the club in an easy, effortless manner is a skill that takes time and practice to develop, but the outcome of the process can be powerful. Once you understand how to swing the club back and through, you will start to believe that you can hit any shot which is called for out on the course.
Many players who are adept at swinging the club like to describe it as the ball just getting in the way of the swing. This is a great way to think about your golf technique. You should make your swing in a way that leads to a balanced finish position, and you should just let the ball get in the way at the bottom. Instead of trying to hit the ball and allowing your swing to be completed at that point, you shouldn't consider your swing finished until you are balanced on your left leg (for a right handed golfer), watching the ball sail toward the target. If you can make beautiful swings that contain all of the necessary fundamentals, hitting the ball into the fairway or onto the green will happen as a result of your great swinging motion.
The main reason that you are able to focus only on the swing when playing golf is that the ball is not moving while you are trying to hit it. This kind of approach would not work in baseball, for example, because baseball players have to adjust extremely quickly to the location of the pitch. If a baseball player only focused on executing a pretty swing, they would swing the bat right through the middle of the strike zone every time. While they might run into the ball once in a while, most of those swings would be misses. In golf, you have the advantage of knowing exactly where the ball is going to be when you swing through the hitting area. As long as you execute your technique, and you keep your eyes on the ball, great contact is easily attainable.
All of the instruction 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.
Lifting the Club is a Problem
Before we get into the details of how to swing your club properly back and through, it is important to first understand what is wrong with lifting the club. Those who lift the club are the same golfers who are focused only on hitting the ball, and they are also players who likely are not satisfied with their current results on the course. Lifting the club is not going to allow your body or the club to get into a good position at the top of the swing – meaning you will have to make significant adjustments if you wish to hit a good shot.
So how do you know if you are guilty of lifting the club? Watch for any of the following three signs appearing in your game.
- Deep divots. Taking deep divots out of the ground with your iron shots is a sure sign that you are picking the club up instead of swinging it around your body. When you lift the club during the takeaway, your arms will get away from your body and your swing plane will become rather steep. Once you are in this steep position, there isn't much that you can do to get it corrected. From the top, you will only be able to 'drop' the club down on the ball, taking a deep divot in the process. Even if you do hit some solid shots, you will always be limited in the variety of shots that you are able to hit due to your steep angle of attack. If you tend to take big chunks of turf out of the ground when you hit iron shots, there is a good chance you are lifting the club in your backswing.
- Hitting a slice. The slice is probably the most-dreaded ball flight in the game, simply because it is so hard to get your ball to the target when it takes a hard right turn in midair. Also, many golfers have a difficult time fixing the slice, meaning that it is often something that lasts for years – if not a lifetime. Lifting the club in the backswing is a common cause of the slice, as a high backswing plane can easily lead to an outside-in path through the hitting area. In fact, the slice is often associated with taking deep divots, so these first two points are closely related. Any golfer who fights the slice on a regular basis will want to check their swings for a lifting motion, as this problem is common among those who move the ball dramatically from left to right.
- Lacking distance. Lifting the club in your backswing, only to drop it back down on the ball at impact, is a weak way to swing the golf club. Therefore, it is common that players with this technique lack the power necessary to more the ball a good distance down the fairway. If you are around the same age and physical capability level as your playing partners, but you don't hit the ball nearly as far, there is a good chance you are losing club head speed due to lifting the club. Swinging the club around your body allows the club a chance to develop speed gradually, culminating in a powerful strike of the ball at the bottom. That gradual development of speed will not happen when you lift the club. Instead, the fastest point of your swing will likely occur somewhere earlier in the downswing, meaning the club will already be slowing down as it arrives at impact. If you are tired of getting outdriven by all of your playing partners, putting an end to the club lift should be near the top of your to-do list.
As always, the best way to determine definitively if you have a problem in your swing is to record your motion on video so you can see for yourself. However, even without taking that step, you can be pretty confident that you are lifting the club in the backswing if you deal with any of the three problems listed above.
Elements of a Proper Swing
A good golf swing is not as complicated as many people make it out to be. Sure, there are some techniques that you need to learn and there is plenty of practice to be done, but you shouldn't have a hard time understanding the basic idea. It is better to keep the swing simple than to get too far into complicated golf theories, as clouding up your brain with too many thoughts will never lead to great results. You don't need to know more than a few basic points to make a nice swing, but those points are critically important.
- Around your body. One of the main fundamental elements of the game of golf – one that most players seem to miss – is that golf is a rotational game. It is not a game of up and down or side to side, it is a game of 'around'. That means you should be trying to swing the club around your body, while remaining balanced between your feet. Countless players go wrong by sliding from right to left during the swing, or by picking the club straight up into the air during the backswing. Both of these methods are going to lead to disappointing results. Instead, focus on simply staying in place during the early stages of your swing as you rotate the club around you. Put this way, the swing almost seems impossibly simple – but that is exactly what it should be.
- Take your time. Those who swing the club instead of lifting it are good at taking their time in the backswing. Since the ball is sitting still, there is no rush to get back to impact. Allow your body to 'gather' at the top of the swing and make sure you pause for just a fraction of a second before transitioning into the downswing. This delay at the top will allow you body to get started on its rotation to the left, which will put everything in place for a great strike.
- Eyes on the ball. This is probably one of the very first tips you heard when you started playing golf, and it remains just as true now as it was then. Keep your eyes on the ball throughout the swing, and only look up when the ball is on its way to the target. It is easy to be tempted to look up before you strike the ball, but that mistake could lead to a long list of problems. Pick a spot on the top of the golf ball and watch it carefully until your club arrives at impact. It is amazing how something as simple as keeping your eyes down on the ball can have a powerful effect on the quality of your swing.
- Finish, finish, finish. One of the most commonly made mistakes in golf is ignoring the importance of the finish position in the golf swing. It is crucial that you swing all the way up to a balanced finish, even though the ball has been gone since you reached impact. Why does it matter that you swing all the way to the finish? Because it is a sure indication that you were totally committed to swinging the club aggressively through the hitting area. If your swing stops before you get to a full and balanced finish, there is a good chance you started to slow the club down before you ever hit the ball. Focus on the finish and the rest of your swing is likely to behave nicely.
Most likely, you have heard each of the four tips above at one point or another. However, it is important that you think of all of them together if you are going to reach your goal of making a smooth, repeatable golf swing. By learning how to hit on each of these four points in the same swing – moving the club around your body, taking your time, keeping your eyes on the ball, and finishing the swing – you can take a big step forward in your playing ability. Many golfers never reach the level of handling all four of these fundamentals within the same swing, so doing so will give you a leg up on the competition.
Staying in Rhythm
Many golfers make the mistake of thinking that the golf swing is all about mechanics. They think that as long as they put their body, and the club, in the right positions, that they will hit great shots. This simply isn't the case. In addition to quality mechanics, you also need to have excellent rhythm. It is the rhythm that you use which will make the golf swing more repeatable, allowing you to hit the same kinds of shots over and over again on the course.
The need for rhythm and tempo stems from the number of moving parts that are present in your swing. In addition to the club moving back and through the shot, your lower body is also moving, your arms are moving, your hands are moving, etc. It requires great timing to bring together all of these parts at just the right moment to strike the ball cleanly. For that reason, you want to swing the same rhythm time after time so your body can learn how to deliver the club accurately. If your rhythm was always changing, there would be no way to get into a repeatable pattern of putting the club on the ball correctly shot after shot.
Rhythm is challenging for many golfers because it is a hard thing to practice. It is relatively easy to practice new positions in your swing, and you can also turn to a golf teacher to help you find the right mechanics. However, the story is a little bit different when it comes to rhythm and tempo. There is no one 'right' tempo – instead, each player has to find the rhythm that works for their swing. Some players excel with the fast tempo, while others play better when they slow it down. Don't let anyone tell you exactly what tempo you should be using, because the right answer to that question has to come from within.
While this might not be the answer that you are looking for, the best way to find your own personal rhythm is through good old fashioned trial and error. You are going to have to experiment with different speeds for your swinging motion until you land on the one that feels just right. Trust your instincts on this point – if something is telling you that you have found the perfect rhythm, go with that feeling. Never copy the swing rhythm of anyone else, even if they are a great player. A tempo that works for that player might be useless to you, so take ownership of this process and settle on your own personal rhythm.
There is one last point that needs to be made in this section – make sure that you don't associate a fast tempo with a powerful swing. These are two different things, and you shouldn't assume that using a fast rhythm is going to allow you to move the club through the ball quickly. Some powerful golfers do use a fast rhythm, but many use a slower tempo. Fred Couples was known as one of the longest hitters on Tour during his prime, yet he used a slow and methodical tempo to hit his shots. It is possible to hit long drives and powerful iron shots using a variety of rhythms, so don't let your desire for power talk you into a fast tempo.
The Freedom of Confidence
Swinging the club rather than lifting it requires a certain level of freedom within your arms, and the rest of your body. If you are feeling uptight or nervous, that freedom that is needed won't be present, and you will likely revert back to your old ways of lifting the club instead of swinging it around your body. The only way to get, and keep, the freedom you need in your body is by maintaining a high level of confidence in your game at all times.
As you already know, confidence is a hard thing to find in golf, and even a harder thing to keep. If you aren't playing well, it is hard to fake your way into being confident. You have to hit good shots to be confident, but you have to be confident to hit good shots – it's a 'chicken and the egg' type of situation. In this case, the best way out of this dilemma is to work hard on the practice range. Since there is nothing on the line on the driving range, you should be able to make your best swings without reservation. As you see more and more good shots head down the range, your confidence is bound to grow. Eventually, you will feel so good about yourself that you will be able to head out onto the course with your confidence perfectly intact. Now that you are armed with confidence that was built on the range, you should be able to swing with the freedom required to play great golf.
Of course, there are bound to be bumps along the road out on the course which can eat away at the confidence you worked so hard to build. This is where it is important to have a positive mindset on the course. You are going to hit some bad shots along the way, but you are going to hit plenty of good shots as well. If you choose to focus on the good, you can maintain your confidence and continue to play up to your ability. However, if you focus on the negative and continually think about your bad shots, that much-needed confidence will soon disappear. The best golfers in the world are great at forgetting about their mistakes quickly so they can move on to other shots, and you should follow that lead. Think about your game in a positive light and call upon the memories of great shots to give you confidence for your next swing.
Lifting the club, instead of swinging it, can lead to all kinds of negative outcomes. If you hope to lower your scores and continue to improve your game over time, you should work on getting away from the lift as much as possible. Swinging the club makes it much easier to strike solid shots, and you will be far more consistent with your performance as well. Use the content above to guide your practice and you can eliminate the lifting action from your swing.