beginners golf swing

The Beginner’s Golf Swing (Learn from a Pro)

Are you ready to learn how to swing a golf club! This is an incredibly dense topic to cover and can be quite confusing when trying to put it all together. So I’m going to make this as easy as possible for you to learn! For each topic in this post, I will tell you:

  • How to complete that part of the swing
  • Common faults that occur at that particular step and how to correct them
  • What that part of the swing should “feel” like so you can generate intrinsic feedback in your swing

Stay with me as we dive into what makes a proper beginning golf swing to have you feeling more confident out on the golf course!

My Teaching Philosophy

There is no perfect golf swing!

Many golf instructors try and teach the so-called “perfect” golf swing. The problem with that is, it doesn’t exist! Some of the best golfers in the world have unconventional golf swings and still perform at a high level. So you can too! The only thing that matters in the golf swing is consistency. That’s really what this post is all about! Can you come down at the golf ball consistently enough and generate well-struck golf shots? 

My philosophy to achieve consistency with the golf swing:

  • Find the low point of your golf swing
  • Rotate the hips around the golf ball
  • Don’t use the wrists to generate clubhead speed
  • Return the club to the same angle that you started at
  • Point the center of your body at your target after contact to complete the swing

Seems simple right? In reality, it is! A golf ball is a stationary object, and all we have to do to make proper contact is to rotate around that object keeping our weight over the ball. The only thing that changes going from club to club is where the golf ball is located in our feet. Once we understand where the golf ball gets positioned, the golf swing becomes simplified and very repeatable! Enough chit-chat, it’s time to jump into each component of the swing. Ready? ????

Grip

How we hold the club is one of the most important fundamentals of the game. Why? Because it is the only contact that we have with the golf swing! The grip sets:

  • How we position the club at address
  • The direction of the backswing
  • The face angle of our downswing
  • How we release after contact

Don’t worry, we’ll talk about all of these factors down below, but it’s necessary for you to understand how important the golf grip is to the golf swing.

Grip Types

Three working grips can be used when making a full golf swing

  1. Interlocking Grip
    Interlocking grip

    The forefinger of your top hand interlocks between the pinky and ring finger of your lower hand

  2. Overlapping Grip
    overlapping grip

    Pinky of bottom hand rests over the top of your other hand

  3. 10 Finger (Baseball Grip)
    baseball grip

    Thumbs are pointing down the golf grip

Recommendations

If you have larger hands, the overlapping grip is proven to be more effective. For beginning golfers, I recommend starting with the ten finger grip as it feels the most comfortable and has the best clubface control. For intermediate to advanced golfers, I recommend the interlocking grip as it really “locks” those wrists in place and helps you have a lower body focused golf swing.

Grip Pressure and Position

Your grip pressure should be firm but not too tight. A swing that is held too tightly encourages more use of the arms during the swing, and we want our lower body to do all of the work! The golf grip should be placed in the middle of both of your hands. This will be slightly above the pads of your palms.

To know if your hands are in the correct position, look for the creases in your hands made by your thumb and forefinger. Both of these creases should be pointing towards your back shoulder. This ensures that you will release (close) the clubhead faster at impact, thus returning to the club face angle you started at to achieve a crisp, straight shot! 

grip position

Both creases made by the hands are pointing towards the back shoulder

Faults/Fixes

Did you know you can make a simple change in your golf grip to change your ball flight? There are two fixes you can make to your golf grip to make corrective swings on the course:

Slice: If you are struggling with your shot going sharply to the right (right-handed golfers) this most likely means that your clubface is open at impact. Change your golf swing to a stronger grip by turning over your top hand towards the center of the grip, so you see three knuckles. The will help lock your wrists in place and help close the club face at a faster rate.

Cure Your Slice Forever

strong grip

Hook: If you are struggling with your shot going low and to the left (right-handed golfers) this most likely means that your clubface is closed at impact. To weaken your golf grip, turn your top hand away from the center of the grip and can see 1 and a half knuckles to 2 knuckles on that top hand. This will slow down your release and help your golf ball start off more down the target line.

Cure Your Slice Forever

Stance

Next, we have to learn to stand over the golf ball. A proper golf stance is vital when wanting to achieve consistency. If you are too tall or hunched over the ball, this can cause significant variances when coming down at the golf ball. Similarly, our feet need to be in the correct alignment to the target line or else we will be able to hit repeatable golf shots. Let’s learn how!

Posture

When standing over the golf ball, we need to have a “flat back.” A flat back stance allows you to properly rotate your hips around the golf ball which is necessary when looking for consistent shots. Remember that’s the goal! 

Try this drill to feel a flat back posture: Take a club and put it behind your body. Put one end so it rests on your tailbone and the other right behind your head going up your spine. Now slightly bow forward using the angle that you just made with the club shaft. This is called the flat back position and is the preferred golf posture to achieve consistent contact.

Proper golf stance

Flat back position with the knees slightly bent

Alignment

Now that we have our posture, we now have to make sure that our body is correctly aligned.

Visualize this: Imagine that there is an imaginary line going from your golf ball towards your target. This is your target line. Next, in your golf stance, imagine a line going across the top of your feet towards your target. This is your feet line. Your feet line should be going parallel to your target line. Think railroad tracks! This is the necessary feet alignment you need for your golf swing.

Cure Your Slice Forever

Target Line

Shoulder Line: Just like the visualization drill above, also imagine there is a line going across your chest towards the hole. This is your shoulder line. Your chest line needs to be the same as feet line! Many golfers often forget about their shoulder line and wonder why their shots start off in different directions. Your shoulder line has a considerable influence on your swing path so always remember to double check your alignment!

golf alignment

The shoulder line is going down the same line as your feet

What You Should Feel

In your golf stance, you should feel like you are about to take a seat in an imaginary chair behind you. (There’s a lot of imagination in golf! ????) Your weight will be slightly on leaning back on your heels so that you can maintain balance throughout the swing and not fall forward. The knees should be slightly bent so that you can activate the lower body during your swing. Don’t overdo it though! Bending too much will cause you to stand up at the golf ball when making contact causing you to hit the top of the golf ball.

Setup

When addressing the golf ball, we need to take into consideration several factors that influence the golf swing. Our golf set up literally, “sets up” the whole golf swing, so we need to get it right!

Ball Position

Where should the ball be in your feet? I have a full article you should check out here on where the golf ball should be as you move up and down the clubs in your bag.

Quick Tip: Longer clubs are played off of your front foot (Driver, Fairway Woods, Hybrids Long Irons). Shorter clubs are played off of your back foot. (9 iron, Pitching Wedge, Sand Wedge, Gap Wedge) Every other club will be played towards the middle of your feet.

Weight

Your weight when setting up to the golf ball should be slightly on your front hip. This is to make sure that your weight stays over top of the golf ball! I added an exclamation point to illuminate how important this is! Our weight rests over the golf ball throughout the entire swing, so we don’t change the low point of our swing arc. Remember, our goal is to rotate the hips around the golf ball, so we can return the clubface during the downswing back to where we started.

weight in set up

My weight is more on the front leg to utilize the club loft

Forward Press (Irons Only)

Many beginning golfers think that to get the golf ball up in the air; you need to help it with your wrists. This can’t be further from the truth! To correctly get the golf ball in the air when hitting iron shots, we need to come “down” at the golf ball. To do this, slightly press your hands forward so that they are past the golf ball. Doing this tells your brain that the low point of your golf swing is past the ball, not before! Now when you make your golf swing, you will rotate down at the golf ball instead of coming up which will get the golf ball up into the air!

forward press

My hands have pressed ahead of the golf ball so I can come down at a steeper angle

Distance from Body to Ball

I get asked this question quite often when I’m giving golf lessons. “How close should I be to the golf ball?” The easiest way to answer this question is to get into a proper golf stance (as mentioned above) and drop the hands. This is the position that the club needs to be in when in your set up. As you can see in my picture, there is a small gap between my body and my hands and my arms are hanging comfortably. The top of the golf club will be pointing towards your belt buckle if you are in the correct position

Distance from golf ball

Backswing

The backswing sets the tone for the rest of your golf swing. We need to make sure that we understand what causes a “good” backswing and what causes a “poor” backswing.

Goals

There are two things that I want you to understand when it comes to having the proper golf backswing.

  1. Use the shoulders to move the arms and don’t break the wrists
  2. Keep your weight over the golf ball

These two tips can be hard at first because many golfers move their body back with the arms. If you do this, your weight is going to shift behind the golf ball, and it is going to be more difficult to make contact with the golf ball.

Clubface Tip: To effectively release the clubface at impact, we need to set the club correctly in the backswing. Pretend that there is a flashlight shining off the face of your club and it is shining down at the golf ball when you start your backswing. Use this visualization technique to keep the same angle of the clubface that you started within the setup. This will make the rest of the golf swing much more manageable and help increase your accuracy!

clubface drill

Clubface looking down at the golf ball

Weight

When starting the backswing, your weight stays centered over the golf ball as the shoulders extend the arms.

Practice Drill: Take a club and put it in the middle of your golf stance. Next, cross your arms over your shoulders. Make an upper body rotation so that your lead shoulder goes back over the top of the club in your feet. It should feel like you are dipping your leading shoulder down at the ground with your weight centered.

Weight drill

The weight during the backswing is still right over your center

Faults/Fixes

The number one fault that I see beginning golfers make in the backswing is that they break their wrists too quickly. This results in the wrists trying to “time” the golf swing leading to inconsistent contact. To fix the use of wrists, we need to lengthen our swing off the takeaway.

  1. Drag your club for two feet when starting the swing
  2. The arms will be extended and not bent
  3. This motion will be generated using your upper body as the lower body stays quiet
flashlight drill

The arms extend away from the body while the legs stay quiet. Don’t break those wrists!

Top of Swing

The top of the swing is where most golfers overdo it. You don’t need to swing like John Daly to generate powerful golf swing! So pay close attention to the tips below so you can fully maximize distance and easily make contact on the downswing.

Goals

After learning that we use the upper body to start the backswing, it’s time to get those hips involved. The rotation of the hips is what creates clubhead speed, not the arms!

Objective 1: Keeping your front arm extended, rotate your rear hip to get to a higher top position.

Objective 2: Keep the weight over the golf ball during the rotation as not to change the low point of your swing.

top of the swing

The lead arm stays extended as you rotate the hips around the golf ball

Weight

Your weight needs to be still loaded over the golf ball even at the top of your swing. Remember the hips move the arms to reach the top of your backswing. Think, the arms are just along for the ride! Keeping the weight over the golf ball will prevent the lower body from “sliding” too far behind the ball.

Faults/Fixes

The biggest flaw I see at the top of a beginning golfer’s swing is that they start to bend their front arm too soon and stand tall over the golf ball to compensate. This leads to an over-rotation of the body and will cause inconsistencies when trying to make contact.

standing too tall

Standing too tall over the golf ball will cause the weight to fall behind the ball and cause inconsistencies with ball contact

Quick Fix: To keep the arms more connected, take a tennis ball or something similar, and put it between your forearms. Next, start to make your backswing using the hips to move the arms up to the top of the swing. The tennis ball should not fall out of your arms if you do this correctly as the arms will feel more extended and away from the body.

Downswing

All that preparation we have discussed above now gets put to the test. The downswing is the crucial part of the golf swing that dictates what the ball flight is going to be for a particular shot. I am going to help you understand why the golf ball moves a certain way. I’m also going to help you learn what can be done to correct some common faults when coming down at the ball!

Goals

The goal for the downswing is to squarely hit the golf ball in the middle of the clubface. But how do you do that consistently?

  1. Still keeping your front arm extended, rotate the front hip so the arms can drop down at the golf ball.
  2. The head must remain in a downward position so that clubface will release after impact and you won’t use those wrists to help the golf ball into the air. Don’t try and peak to see where your ball is going!
downswing

The front hip rotated to allow the hands to drop down at the golf ball

Weight

Your weight should still be over the golf ball if you have followed these steps so far. The arms will feel like they are dropping down at the ball once the front hip rotates to start the downswing.

Clubface Angle

The angle of your club dictates the direction your golf ball is going to start.

Open: An open clubface will cause the golf ball to start off to the right of your target (left for lefties)

open clubface

Closed: A closed clubface will cause the golf ball to start off to the left of your target (right for lefties)

closed clubface

Square: A square clubface will cause the golf ball to start off right down your target line
square clubface

Swing Path

The swing path is the angle in which you come down at the golf ball during the downswing. The closer your swing path is to your target line, the straighter your golf shot will be, assuming a square clubface. 

Outside Angle: Coming across the golf ball from the outside of your target line causes the golf ball to move to the right in the air  (left for left-handed golfers). This is called a fade if the clubface is square or a slice if the clubface is open. To learn more about the differences between a fade and a slice, click here. 

going across the golf ball

A swing that goes across the target line from the outside will move towards the right in the air. (right-handed golfers)

Inward Angle: A golf swing that comes from the inside of your target line causes the golf ball to move to the left in the air. (right for left-handed golfers). This is called a draw if the clubface is square face is square or a hook if the clubface is closed

inside swing

A swing that comes from inside of the target line will cause the golf ball to go to the left (right-handed golfers)

Faults/Fixes

The biggest mistake I see in beginning golfers when making the downswing is that they use too much of their arms to try and generate power. The result is a golf swing that comes at an outside angle of the target line and causes that awful slice! To fix this: Try the inside-out drill to get your swing path more down the target line and to help activate the lower body to move through the golf ball.

Drill: Take an object such as a headcover or range ball basket and place it slightly behind your golf ball and to the side so you cannot swing over top to make contact. Make slow swings feeling the hips rotate around the ball and feel that you are coming more from the inside on the downswing. This will greatly increase your consistency and help get rid of any slice shots! You can also check out this awesome training aid that will help you understand club path direction at an accelerated rate!

Headcover drill

I used a divot repair bottle to illustrate the drill. A headcover works better for beginners so you don’t harm your golf club if you miss hit

Follow Through

Finally, its time to rotate all the way through the golf swing so you can stare down your perfect shot! Beginning golfers often neglect the follow-through because of their desire to “add” power to the motion with the arms. Recall it is the lower body that creates distance, and all of that energy needs to be transferred around the golf ball at the end of the swing.

Goals

The goal of the follow through is to accelerate through the shot using hips to rotate. This rotation causes you to naturally release (close) the clubface thus avoiding an open clubface aka slice!

Weight

Your weight during the follow through will shift all the way towards your front side. Lift up your back foot to easily feel the weight transfer as you hold the finish.

Weight passed the golf ball

The weight has now transferred through golf ball and is now passed the center

Faults/Fixes

Many beginning golfers keep the feet planted after they make contact. This tells me that they did not rotate fully and that the clubface will most likely be open. To fix this, pretend that there is a laser coming out of your chest. Point that laser right at your target after you make the swing.  This may feel strange at first as your body is not used to making such a large rotation, but you will feel your weight immediately transfer full around the golf ball. Hold that position for three seconds, and you will have the proper follow through!

follow through

Full Rotation through the golf ball

Tempo/Rhythm

All of these swing tips can be thrown out the window if we don’t have the proper rhythm throughout the movement. I see too many of my beginning students rush their golf swings and wonder why they are not receiving positive results. Slower is better when first learning the golf swing! Think about it like this: If you were learning how to play an instrument, you wouldn’t expect to play a song right away, would you? First, you’d start with slow scales and music theory to learn all of the necessary parts working up to playing a full song. The same strategy goes into improving your golf swing. Start slow and feel all of the moving parts of the swing to improve your hand-eye coordination and muscle memory. Distance will come! Just be patient  ????

Timing Drill: One of the better drills to help with your swing tempo is to say a name or phrase in your head over and over while practicing. Sound it out and swing to the rhythm of the word. This helps build consistency which will improve the speed that your muscles learn and master this new movement!

Equipment Help

Does equipment make any difference in your golf swing? The short answer is yes! Equipment can have a considerable influence on the golf swing. The first step is to find out if you are using the “right” clubs. I have a full article here you can look at it if you want to know which clubs need to be in your golf bag.

Quick Help: If you are a beginning golfer and want to get started now, click the link here to read about my recommended beginning golf sets for both men and women. These sets will give you all that you need to start playing today!

Motivation

The last key ingredient to mastering the golf swing is motivation and persistence. It’s not enough to practice these tips and expect to see results. Learning the game of golf takes a long time, but the journey is what makes the game fun! You can play golf for 30 years and still find out new methods or techniques that can make a difference in your game.

The easiest way to keep your motivation is to develop specific goals that you want to reach for each golf season. A few examples are:

  • I want to break 90 this year
  • I want to hit a 200-yard drive
  • I want to learn how to chip better around the green

Next, develop a set of objectives you can implement to reach your goals. A few examples are:

  • Practice at the driving range three days a week
  • Start taking golf lessons
  • Educate yourself watching golf videos and articles

These objectives will accelerate the rate that you will reach your golfing goals. After a few months, you will start to see progress and your motivation will increase as you hit each goal that you set! Golf is all about the “little wins” and with every step towards improving your game comes more enjoyment and confidence to keep you going!

Conclusion

You made it! I know this is an abundance of information and it can be quite intimidating to look at as a whole. I recommend, to best utilize this page, break up each step to learn independently from the others and start in order. Use some of the drills and strategies suggested to understand best and feel the changes taking place in your swing.

To continue your quest for bettering your golf game, check out these articles below to point you in the right place!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy your new golf swing!

 

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