Golf Swing Basics: Fundamentals to a More Consistent Swing
Consistency – everyone wants more of it from their golf game. To shoot more consistent scores, you need to master some golf swing basics.
Whether you’re shooting in the 70s or the 90s, most golfers want to stay there. No sane golfers want a huge blow up round that makes them question why they even showed up to the course.
Consistency on the course comes from mastering the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan said, “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
In this article, we’ll break down the most important aspects of the swing so you can find more consistently in your game.
Golf Swing Basics – How to Groove a Consistent Golf Swing
The key to improving your swing is to make it simple and focus on one thing at a time.
Too often, golfers try to change 2–4 movements at once, which is a surefire disaster in most cases. Instead, use this checklist to evaluate each part of your swing and make adjustments as needed.
Get a Hold of Your Grip
The first part of your swing to focus on is the grip itself. Since it’s the only connection that you have with the golf club, it plays a pivotal role in the swing.
When it comes to your grip, there are three possible hand positions: weak, strong, or neutral. A weak grip (which isn’t referring to weak grip pressure) is when your hand positions yield a cut or fade shot.
While a strong grip is the opposite and makes it easier to hit a draw and add some extra distance too. Finally, a neutral grip allows you to work the golf ball both ways as the hands are in a neutral position.
If there’s one thing you can do to set yourself up for success, it’s to strengthen your grip.
A slightly stronger grip will make it easier to shallow the club and compress the golf ball. This leads to more powerful shots with a better ball flight too.
One thing to note: If your grip is very weak now, don’t try to make it incredibly strong overnight.
Changing your grip is a lot of work so make subtle adjustments so you can still play golf as your hand positions change.
Want to improve your golf grip even more?
Make sure to read, “Improve Your Golf Grip in 7 Steps” now.
After you get your hands placed on the club properly, let’s not forget about grip pressure as well. You want to have enough pressure to not let the club twist unnecessarily on the backswing but you don’t want a death grip either.
For most shots, you want to maintain a grip pressure of about 7 on a scale of 1-10. Anything above a seven adds extra tension in your forearms and tightens other muscles too.
Once your grip is in the right position and firmly on the club, the next step is your setup position. This is one of the most critical aspects of golf that so many average golfers don’t spend nearly enough time on.
Why is the setup so important?
Because your setup affects your takeaway, which has a domino effect on the rest of your swing. If you can learn to set up square to the target more often than not, your game will be 10X better (even on your “bad” days).
One aspect of setup that is vital to grooving a consistent swing is alignment.
Yet, if you go to the driving range right now, you’ll see that most golfers don’t use any sort of alignment aid. Or, if they do, they don’t check it regularly to make sure that it hasn’t moved between shots.
Alignment is everything!
Here’s an example…
If you are aimed way left of the target but don’t realize it before you swing, it can make you incredibly confused based on the shot. Think about it, if the ball goes straight it will actually miss left and you might have thought you pulled it. If you hit it at the target, then you actually pushed it to make up for your alignment error.
Either way, you might try to adjust your swing and make matters worse.
That’s why I always suggest recording your swing on the range and using alignment aids to monitor your setup and aim. This way you don’t create new, bad habits because one simple move is incorrect at setup.
Monitor your setup every single time you’re on the range. These alignment stick drills will help a ton.
Another important golf swing basics is having the right ball position for every shot you hit.
Since some clubs – like the driver and fairway woods – are longer, they need a different position in your stance. Plus, every club has to “bottom out” at the right point to make optimal contact.
While alignment is incredibly important, you need a good stance as well.
Make sure your feet are about shoulder width apart (slightly wider for fairway woods and driver) at address. This will help you stay balanced and generate maximum power throughout the swing.
If your feet are too wide, this can lead to swaying which can cause all sorts of problems. While a stance that is too narrow can minimize your power and make it hard to stay balanced.
Your stance should change based on the club you’re hitting. But regardless of the club, try to flare your feet externally for more power and rotation. This is a subtle move that can have a big impact on your swing.
Aside from alignment and stance, don’t forget to check your weight distribution at setup as well.
It’s essential to have your weight 50/50 on each foot at address position (for most full shots). This will help get the majority of your weight to the right side on backswing and transfer it on the downswing properly.
The backswing is where you set yourself up for failure or success when the ball finally meets the club at impact.
As legendary ball striker Ben Hogan said, “If the golfer executes his backswing correctly, at the top of his backswing his legs, hips, shoulders, arms, and hands will be properly poised and interrelated to move with power and coordination into that climactic part of the golf swing – the downswing.”
Here are three things to evaluate in your backswing to make sure you’re set up for success on the downswing.
The first part of your backswing is the foundation of a consistent golf swing. The takeaway sets up the rest of your backswing, which sets up the downswing. If things go bad during takeaway (known as P2 in the golf teaching world), you’ll have to try and make up for it during the rest of your swing.
For example, most amateurs take the club far too inside on the way back. An inside takeaway leads to the club being on an incorrect plane, which leads to a steep downswing. Then it leads to a pull shot or a pull cut (or a nasty slice).
This all happens because of a takeaway that is too inside on the takeaway. Needless to say, if there’s one part of your swing to spend a lot of time on, it’s the setup and takeaway.
The more you can make this move fluid and simple, the easier it will be to hit more consistent, high-quality golf shots. If you get out of position here, it’s nearly impossible to salvage it on the downswing.
If you need a good drill to improve your takeaway, try the motion drill from Golf.com. “Start by swinging the club forward to a post impact position, with your right heel slightly off the ground.
From there, swing the club back until it is parallel to the ground and stop. This drill will get you into a lot of good positions by getting the clubhead swinging early, adding athleticism into the swing, and also makes your wrists hinge at the correct rate.”
Club at Parallel Position
Another part of the backswing to observe is the top of your swing. Golf instructors love to pause recordings at the top when giving lessons because so much can be observed from this position.
As Tiger Woods said in How I Play Golf, “The position you establish at the top serves as a preview of where you’ll be at impact. One of my goals is to achieve a square clubface at the top of the backswing.”
From this angle, you want to look at how your club is matched with your left wrist (assuming you’re right-handed) and length of backswing. If the face is open or closed too much, it’s because something happened in the backswing that you need to adjust.
Additionally, it’s important to not swing the club too long (past parallel) or too short of parallel either. This allows a proper shoulder turn and maximum power without swinging like you’re John Daly.
Finally, don’t forget there needs to be a brief moment of calm at the top of your backswing.
Before the downswing happens, there needs to be a moment at the top of the swing for everything to catch up. This is known as the transition and it clearly separates the backswing from the downswing.
The transition is where you begin to reroute the club so that it comes down on the correct plane when you strike the golf ball. Some players have a very quick transition, while others are much more deliberate.
Perhaps the best example of someone pausing at the top of their swing is Hideki Matysuama. It seems like he’ll never start his downswing sometimes with such a long pause. But clearly, it works for him and it’s a good visual representation of pausing at the top to unwind with power on the downswing.
While you don’t need to swing like Hideki, you can practice this move at the driving range. By pausing at the top you can work on your swing sequence and get the hips to initiate the downswing.
Let the Downswing Happen
The final part of the swing is the move down aka the downswing, where the club finally meets the ball.
Honestly, you don’t need to do much at this point as your backswing sets up the downswing. All you do is start turning the hips while momentum takes care of the rest.
Ben Hogan said it best in his book, “The turning of the hips inaugurates the downswing… After you have initiated the downswing with the hips, you want to think of only one thing: hitting the ball.”
But it’s also important to note that you need to get your weight to your lead leg as well. Too many golfers start their backswing by rotating their hips which leads to leaving your weight on your back leg.
While Mr. Hogan wasn’t wrong – he should have elaborated and said “Open your hips… while getting the weight to your lead leg.” This will cause you to use the ground force to generate more power and get the weight off your back leg.
Also, the downswing happens so fast that there is no time to think about anything else. This is why it’s important to spend most of your practice time on the backswing as it directly impacts the downswing. Save your one swing thought for something on the backswing, not the downswing.
Finally, don’t forget to hold the follow through too. Ideally, you want to have a balanced finish which can tell you a lot about your swing.
Don’t Forget About Tempo
Another part about the swing I can’t forget to mention is tempo. While you can do all the previous steps correctly, if your tempo is off, it can ruin a great swing.
Tempo is the secret sauce and one of the few things that all great golfers share. While not everyone will swing the same speed, nearly all have the same tempo.
Jon Novosel, founder of Tour Tempo, made this discovery in 2000.
After analyzing some of the best golf swings ever (Tiger Woods, Jack Nicakuas, Gary Player, etc), he learned they all had a 3:1 tempo. Meaning, the backswing took three times as long (in terms of length in seconds) as their downswing.
But since the golf swing only takes a second or two, it’s hard to monitor your own speed. Luckily, Jon wrote a book and started an app called Tour Tempo to better understand how tempo impacts the swing. Let me tell you from experience, this book and app is worth every penny!
Using auditory tones, the app will help you groove a perfect 3:1 tempo on the range. It’s a really useful tool that can make a tremendous difference in your ball striking.
Plus, the app has a short-game tempo timer too. The short game tempo is 2:1 (not 3:1) like a full swing and will lead to better shots around the greens.
Bonus: Keep Improving Your Short Game
While I’m confident that all the tips above will help your golf swing, never forget to keep refining your short game. Even the best players in the world suffer from days when their swing is off. This is why you need a solid short game to come in and save the day like a superhero.
While a bad ball striking day is frustrating, that doesn’t mean that a day of bad swings means a bad score… as long as your short game is there to back you up.
A great short game will not only save you during the bad days but also make the good ones better too. You can never practice your chipping, pitching, and putting enough! Click here for more short game tips.
If you want to learn even more about the golf swing, keep reading our top questions and answers below.
What are the basics of swinging a golf club?
There are so many parts to a golf swing – which is why you should break them down into different categories. The first part is the address position – this includes your grip, stance, and posture.
The second part is your takeaway, and the third part is the rest of your backswing. Then comes the transition and downswing. When you break down the golf swing into different sections it’s easier to analyze it and find out which areas needs the most attention.
How often should I practice my golf swing?
Every player is different and your practice schedule should reflect your golf goals. This might mean practicing 1-2X a month or if you’re an avid golfer, a few times per week.
Just remember that more practice doesn’t necessarily guarantee a perfect swing. Instead, it’s about going to the driving range or short game area with intention. This will help you improve in each session – even if you only have 30–60 minutes.
Plus, you can also take practice swings at home. Hank Haney, Tiger Woods previous swing coach, said that 100 swings at home can make a huge difference in your swing.
As he said in Golf Digest, “The best way to create a great base for improvement is to make 100 practice swings with an iron every day. You don’t need a ball, and you can do them in your living room in front of the TV. Your hands get toughened up, you gain awareness of where the club is during the swing, and you start building a repeatable motion—which is great, even if the motion isn’t perfect just yet.”
How do you practice the full swing?
You can practice your full golf swing in a myriad of ways. The most common way is to hit golf balls at the driving range.
But if the weather is bad and/or you don’t have a golf course near you, hit into a net. With a mat you can easily practice in your backyard, spare room (assuming it’s big enough) or garage.
If you don’t have either of those methods you can always take practice swings at home as well with or without a club. Or, you can use a training aid like the LagShot golf club to groove better mechanics with (or without) hitting a ball.
What are three tips to improve your golf swing?
There are endless golf tips to play more consistently but these three will help any skill level golfer.
First, make sure your grip pressure remains the same during your entire swing. Too many golfers grip it too hard on the backswing which can lead to timing issues on the downswing.
Second, make sure your ball position is set up for the shot you want to hit. For example, if you want to hit a low draw, play the ball more in the middle of your stance.
Third, work on your takeaway more than any other part of your swing. The takeaway sets up the rest of the backswing, which sets up your downswing.
Wrapping Up Basics of the Golf Swing
As you probably already know, the golf swing is a complicated athletic motion that has a ton of moving parts. This is one of the many reasons why golf is such a difficult sport to master and why so many golfers keep coming back – trying to craft the perfect swing.
While I know these tips will help you refine a more consistent swing, don’t think you need a perfect swing to shoot low scores. You can still shoot in the 70s even as you continue to perfect your swing.
Once you master the fundamentals, everything gets easier. Trusting your golf swing on the course from putting in the reps on the driving range.
As Dr. Bob Rotella said, “A golfer has to train his swing on the practice tee, then trust it on the course.” Wise words from one of the most popular mental coaches on the planet.
What’s the number one fundamental that you focus on in your swing?
Let us know in the comments below.