No two swings are exactly alike. The choppy thrash of Lee Trevino bare little resemblance to the smooth, coordinated motion of Ernie Els.
This being said there are common elements to both players. Here's how to include these good elements in to your own swing and eradicate the bad ones.
Body and club start in harmony
In the days of hickory shafts, the first movement looked very different to how it does today. To compensate for the shaft's large amount of torque, players dragged their hands back a couple of inches before moving the clubhead.
However, with today's more rigid and consistent steel shafts the initial move should be more of a one-piece action where the arms, body and clubhead rotate away from the ball at the same time.
As your naval moves round to the right it should remain inline with the clubhead until the point where your arms start to move upwards with the momentum of the swing.
The one-piece takeaway promotes a more consistent swing path, a wider swing arc, a fuller shoulder turn and more importantly more power and accuracy.
Maximise your arc for extra power
A common mistake amateurs make in the backswing is to reduce the movement to a raising of the hands and arms with little effort to rotate the body. This leads to an overly cramped and narrow arc which results in a loss of power.
To hit the ball as far as you can you should look to extend the clubhead as far away from the body as comfortably possible.
Note the word 'comfortably', do not put any undue strain on your back because this will cause issues later in life. The best advice to achieve this is to think of your hands reaching for the sky during your backswing without letting your head move with them
Swing within your feet for consistency
Swaying your hips and head off the ball on either the backswing or follow through is one of hte most destructive moves you can make
You should endeavour to rotate back and forth while staying within the confines of your feet. To assist you visualise this, simply imagine two lines reaching up from the ground on the outside edge of both your shoes. The only part of your body which should travel outside these two lines is your hands and forearms.
Maintain the flex in the right knee all the way to the top
Another issue that some amateurs may experience is the straightening off their back leg during the backswing. When this happens the front knee juts forward and the weight tends to move onto the right foot.
This causes your swing to become more of an up and down chop action rather than the one-piece action we covered above. One way to prevent this is to visualise someone sitting behind you holding your back knee in a flexed position
Know when you've completed the backswing and make a smooth transition
A common mis-conception of the backswing is that it should finish when the club is parallel to the ground or beyond. Ideally it should finish just before reaching this point.
The main thing to remember is that providing you have made a full shoulder turn and extended your arms fully then you have gone far enough regardless of how far the clubhead has traveled.
You should feel as though the clubhead comes to a gentle stop rather than an abrupt one when it reaches the top of the backswing. Nick Faldo once commented on the fact that he likes to feel as though he gathers himself before initiating the downswing.
The transition from backswing to downswing is a major failing point in many golfers' swings. The tenancy is to rush the downswing in order to hit the ball, the problem is that this tends to occur before the backswing is complete.
This causes the shoulders to open up to the target and consequently the club to move out in front of the body on an out-to-in trajectory, resulting in a slice.
There are however a couple of tips to help combat this issue:
- Imagine yourself swinging a large headed broom whose weight and aerodynamics make it impossible to start the downswing before the backswing is complete
- As a result of turning at the hips your back should be facing the target, by ensuring this is the case before starting your downswing
Sweep and follow through
The impulse to hit the ball hard from the top of the backswing undoes all the good work that went before it. A good feeling to have at impact is of sweeping through the ball or lett the ball 'get in the way' of the clubhead. This promotes a shallower arc at the bottom of the swing and greatly improves your chances of meeting the ball squarely on the sweetspot.
A good tip to achieve this is to imagine you are hitting the ball off a tee about five inches closer to the target than the one you are actually hitting.
Another misconception found amongst many golfers' is that once the ball has been struck that is the end of the shot. The fact is the follow through is almost as important as the backswing and downswing. We've all seen the professionals end up in that picturesque pose at the end of a stroke, well this ensures that the contact made with the ball is pure and true.
A lot of golfers end up loosing their balance during the follow through phase of their swing and this is a result of a collection of the issues described above. To finish in the correct follow through position there are two key areas you can focus on:
- your back foot, which at the end of your swing should be on tip-toes with the sole facing away from the target
- your waist should now be facing the target with your back facing away from the target