Rebuilding A Golf Swing

Occasionally, you'll hear about a world-class golfer who rebuilt his swing from the ground up, then proceeded to win multiple major titles. Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods come to mind.

A word of advice on the complete swing overhaul: Do not try this at home.

If you determine that your swing needs major repair work, it's best to make changes one at a time. Why not go for the whole renovation in one shot?

  • Pros have highly paid instructors like David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon at their beck and call, plus nearly unlimited time to work on their swings. (Golf is their job, after all.) Most people aren't so lucky.
  • Making multiple changes at once can cause confusion, frustration and frequent setbacks.
  • A one-change-at-a-time approach ensures that each new move will stick, laying a solid foundation for subsequent alterations.
  • When working on a single modification, you'll see results sooner rather than later. You should be able to continue playing at or near your usual level while the change is installed.

If possible, enlist the help of a teaching pro when embarking on a swing-improvement mission.

Rebuild Your Golf Swing One Change at a Time

Rebuild Your Golf Swing One Change at a Time

The golf swing is one of the most challenging individual skills in all of sports. Rarely in any sport will you find a motion that requires such an advanced combination of balance, power, timing, and control. You can't simply overpower a golf ball to launch it down the fairway, but you can't finesse it toward the target either. Only the players who are able to beautifully combine the various necessary elements in the golf swing will be able to hit consistently excellent shots. Without a doubt, hitting a golf ball is one of the most difficult tasks in the entire sports world.

At some point in your golfing career, you may decide that your current swing just isn't going to get the job done anymore. This could happen for a couple of reasons. First, you may find that you have hit your 'ceiling' in terms of improvement with your current golf swing. For example, if you have been shooting in the low 90's for several years with little progress, it may be that a swing rebuild is your only option to break into the 80's. Every golfer likes to make progress with their game over time, and you will only be able to get so far if you have major flaws in your technique.

The other reason to make changes to your golf swing is if you are unable to maintain your level of performance over a long period of time. In this case, you might see an occasional good round where you shoot a low score, but that round will be surrounded by too many high scores for your liking. This is often the case with golfers who have swings that feature overactive hands. If your hands play a big role in the golf swing, it will be difficult to stay consistent from round to round - switching to a technique that is focused on the movement of your shoulders and legs will lead to more predictable results.

Whether you wish to take your performance to a new level, or simply to play up to your current high level more frequently, undertaking a swing rebuild is a tall order. There are an incredible number of details involved in a golf swing, and each one that you change will have an effect on another. Rebuilding your swing is a process that will take time, so you shouldn't expect immediate results. However, if you are willing to work hard and be patient with the process, you could wind up with a great golf swing that you can count on to produce good shots time after time.

All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.

Knowing What to Expect

Knowing What to Expect

Before getting started on your swing rebuild, it might be helpful to know what you should expect along the way. As mentioned above, rebuilding your swing is usually not a quick process, and there are almost always setbacks along the way for you to deal with. Many players set out to rebuild their swings at one point or another, only to get frustrated and revert back to their old swing partway through the process. If you would like to stick it out to the end, the following tips will help keep your mind in the right place.

  • Expect to get worse before you get better. With very few exceptions, rebuilding your golf swing means that you are going to get worse before you start to see improvement. It is easy to get discouraged when you see your level of play drop at the start of the process, but you have to keep the big picture in mind at all times. As a golfer, you have a long list of habits and techniques engrained into your mind - and they aren't going to disappear overnight. One of the biggest jobs you have during your swing changes is to replace your old habits and techniques with the new ones. You shouldn't expect that to happen in just one or two range sessions, either. Most likely, it will require hard work over a period of weeks or months. Better golf should be waiting for you at the end, but you will have to put up with some disappointing play in the meantime.
  • Your new swing will feel terrible at first. No matter what kind of new techniques you are trying to work into your swing, expect them to feel pretty bad initially. Again, it comes down to the techniques that have been drilled into your brain over and over again by your old swing. Even if it isn't that effective, your old swing feels 'right' because it is familiar. Your brain prefers familiar to foreign, so your naturally tendency will always be to return back to what you had been doing before. Resist that temptation and slowly your mind and body will come to recognize your new swing technique as the right one.
  • You will have to learn your ball flight patterns all over again. The shape of your ball flight is likely something that you take for granted. Over time, you get used to watch the ball curve in the same general direction over and over again, so you account for that curve as you pick your target on each shot. At some point, that process becomes second nature, and you don't really even have to think about it. However, now that you are changing your swing, your ball flight is going to change as well. It will be up to you to learn the new patterns of your ball flight and then translate that information into how you aim your shots. It doesn't do any good to hit shots that look pretty in the air if they are flying in the wrong direction. As your new swing develops, pay close attention to the ball flights that it creates so you can adjust your aim accordingly.

Realistically, you will probably encounter more than just those three challenges on your journey to a new golf swing. The important message here is to be prepared for a somewhat long and bumpy ride. Many golfers set out on a mission to rebuild their swing, but they don't have an appreciation for how challenging it can be - so they end up quitting when things get tough. There is no doubt that this is a difficult process, and you should understand that going in. Simply knowing what may lie ahead of you on the path to a new swing will make it far more likely that you complete the journey.

Where to Start

Where to Start

There are an incredible number of different ways in which you could attempt to change your golf swing - far too many to list in one article. You will have to spend time thinking about the kind of swing that you have currently, along with the kind of swing that you would like to have, in order to develop a plan. It would be a mistake to directly copy someone else's plan for rebuilding their golf swing, as their swing doesn't have anything to do with you. Work on your own plan, and then put that plan in action.

With all of that said, there are still some general tips that apply to anyone who is working on changing their swing. Mostly these tips have to do with the order of operations that you use during the process. By working on specific parts of the swing first, you will stand a much better chance of success in the end.

Following are three general tips for getting your swing change process off to a great start -

  • Start with the stance. If you are making any changes to your address position, deal with those adjustments first before moving on to the rest of the swing. You don't want to have to go back and adjust your stance after you have made swing changes, as a tweak to your stance at that point could undo any of the progress that you had made. Take the time right upfront to establish exactly the kind of stance you want to use and the rest of your swing adjustments should become a little bit easier.
  • Get your grip in place. Just like the stance, the grip is something that should be dealt with at the beginning of the process. Grip changes are notoriously difficult and time consuming, so you want to get started with using your new grip as quickly as possible. You probably won't get totally comfortable with the new grip until the end of your swing rebuild, but that's okay - just make sure you are using it all along the way.
  • Take two weeks off. This might be the most important tip of all when you decide to rebuild your swing. Prior to getting started, find a good time in your schedule to take two weeks off of golf. That means not only staying off the course, but also staying away from the driving range and even the putting green. You just want to totally leave golf alone for this two week period. While you won't completely forget your technique during a two week span, that break can help take you out of some of your ongoing habits. During this time, you can plan out a practice schedule that will be used once you do get started. After the two week break has elapsed, you will likely be full of energy and ready to hit the ground running.

Getting off to a good start on your swing rebuild is crucial to your long term success. If the process should start poorly, you may be tempted to give up on it and try something else. To avoid that fate, use the tips above to position yourself for a successful transition from your old swing to a new one.

The Swing Change Progression

The Swing Change Progression

You don't want to start in on any actual swing changes until the steps above are completed. You need to have your stance and grip squared away, and you should have taken some time off in advance of this process. Once you have checked of those points, it will be time to actually alter the way you swing the golf club. To make those changes successfully, it is best to take a step by step approach.

As you already know, hitting good golf shots is difficult, even under the best of circumstances. Even with your mind in the right place and your technique under control, it is still difficult to hit quality shots at your targets. If you add in the complication of trying to change your swing, the game becomes downright impossible. With three or four different swing thoughts floating around in your mind, you will be hard pressed to hit anything that resembles a good ball flight.

To make progress toward your goals when rebuilding your swing, it is essential that you prioritize the swing changes and attack them one by one. You should not move on to the next swing change until you are confident that you have 'mastered' the first move. The sequential progression of your swing rebuild is important because it will allow your mind to remain focused on one item at a time. Confusion can reign if you attempt to undertake too many changes all at the same time - keep your head clear and make steady progress by only adding one new piece to your swing before moving to the next.

So how do you decide which parts of your swing need to be addressed first? When it comes to the moving parts of your swing, you should always address the biggest changes right upfront. Once the major changes are taken care of, you can then add in the final small pieces to bring everything together nicely. Doing this backward and taking the small changes first will potentially cause problems because you won't be able to feel how those small changes are going to work until the big pieces are in place. Also, you don't want to have the big changes that you have to make hanging over your head throughout the process - check it off right from the top and move down the list from there. Among the kinds of changes that would be classified as 'big' changes would include the following -

  • New transition. If you decide to change how you transition the club from backswing to downswing, that is a change that will take a long time to come together. The transition happens in just a fraction of a second, so you don't really have time to consciously think about the moves you are trying to make at this point in the swing. That means that everything has to be in place and working properly leading up to your new transition, so that the move itself can happen somewhat on 'autopilot'. Should a new transition happen to be in your plans, put that change right at the top of your to-do list.
  • New backswing path. You might not know it, but the way you take the club from address to the top of the swing is something that is deeply engrained in your swing mechanics. Trying to change the path of your backswing can lead to dramatic results, but it will take some time to do successfully. To change the path of your backswing, you will need to adjust the way your arms and shoulders move early in the swing. While you might be able to make the new move correctly once or twice, it will be the consistency that is slow to come. Only time and plenty of repetitions will allow you to gain control over the new backswing.
  • New lower body action. Some players like to use their lower body actively in the downswing, while others keep their legs quiet and swing down using mostly their arms and shoulders. If you are changing from one of these styles to another, integrating either more or less lower body action is going to be a challenging process. Your downswing, much like the transition, happens quickly, so you don't have much time to think. The lower half of your body is going to be inclined to do what it is used to doing, so forcing it to do something different is going to take time.

Taking the process of rebuilding your swing one step at a time is crucial to your success, and it is important that you take things in the right order. Write down a list of all of the changes to your swing that you would like to make, and then order them from most difficult to least difficult. With your list in hand, you can get to work on each change, moving down the list one at a time until the entire project is complete.

Returning to the Course

Returning to the Course

Each step of this process is going to be difficult, but the hardest step of all might be taking your new swing from the driving range to the golf course. After a period of time spent working on your new swing at the range, you should start to gain some confidence as your ball flights continue to improve and become more consistent. At some point, you will decide that you are ready to take on the golf course - and you will probably have pretty high expectations for your performance. After all, spending countless hours on the range learning a new swing will do wonders for how you feel about your abilities. Unfortunately, heading out to the golf course for the first time with a rebuilt swing is unlikely to be an experience that you will want to remember.

For most golfers, the first few rounds back on the course are going to be disappointing, and highly frustrating. Your scores will probably be higher than they were before the change, and you will wonder if you have wasted time and energy working on this new swing. The first thing you need to do at this point is relax. It is perfectly normal to struggle during your first rounds after a swing change, so keep your expectations low. You definitely don't want to plan these rounds for any kind of competition or time when you want to be playing well - get as many relaxed, casual rounds in as possible so you can learn how to translate your new swing from the range to the course.

Trusting your new motion is going to be the biggest challenge when you start to hit shots on the golf course. It is relatively easy to trust your swing when you are on the range and there are no consequences for any poor swings that you make. However, when the golf course presents you with water hazards and out of bounds stakes, your mindset will quickly change. Even if you aren't particularly worried about the outcome of your round, you will still have trouble trusting your swing when that first round gets underway. For the first two or three rounds that you play, you should be focused on improving the level of trust that you have in your new swing because trust is the missing piece that will help you bring everything together.

Rebuilding your golf swing is hard - there is no way around it. In fact, creating a new golf swing is probably the most difficult thing you will do in the sport. You don't want to enter into this process lightly, so be sure to take your time and think everything through before you get started. Going into this process without a plan is a sure recipe for failure. Consider the preparation phase of your swing changes as important as any of your actual practice sessions. Hopefully, with the help of the advice included above, you will be able to successfully create a new motion that will lead you to the best golf of your life.