Category Archives: golf swing

Ernie, Fred, and Vijay

Let me point you to a video that shows four key swing principles very clearly. It is of Ernie Els, Fred Couples, and Vijay Singh warming up.

You will have to watch it several times to see all of what is there.

What you will see right off is their perfect rhythm and tempo.

Then notice how their arms stay together instead of flying all over the place.

Then notice how their suspension point does not move.

Finally, and it’s hard to see, but it’s there, their hands get back to the ball before the clubhead does.

If you are hitting the ball well, keep doing it. But if you aren’t, you might consider putting these four things into your swing.

Percy Boomer’s Essentials of the Golf Swing

For years I have been reading Percy Boomer’s book, On Learning Golf. Every year I get something new out of it. In chapter III he lists what he considers to be the essentials of the swing. They never really connected with me until I read the list yesterday.

I realized that quite by coincidence they are all contained in my writings, either Six Fundamentals of the Recreational Golf Swing, released in 2014, or A Basic Golf Swing, released earlier this year. If you have read those two pieces you’re already familiar with them. Here they are.

1. It is essential to turn the body round to the right and round to the left, without moving either way. In other words this turning movement must be from a fixed pivot.

(If you keep the knob at the base of your neck from moving until after the ball is struck, you will have this. In chapter VII boomer explains this point as turning in the barrel. This book is the origin of that image.)

2. It is essential to keep the arms at full stretch throughout the swing―through the back swing, the down swing, and the follow through.

(I describe this point as getting your elbows close together at address and feeling as if they stay that close together throughout the swing.)

3. It is essential to allow the wrists to break fully back at the top of the swing.

(They break by themselves because of the momentum of the golf club’s movement. Do not do this deliberately.)

4. It is essential to delay the actual hitting of the ball until as late in the swing as possible.

(I have described this for years as the hands leading the club head into the ball.)

5. It is essential not to tighten any muscle concerned in the reactive part of the swing (movement above the waist).

(“Maintaining a state of complete relaxation in your arms from start to finish, especially though impact, contributes greatly to attaining the swing speed you are capable of.”)

6. It is essential to feel and control of the swing as a whole and not to concentrate upon any part of it.

(“Dividing the swing into parts is done only to present the differing techniques that must be applied at each of its stages. The golf swing is really just one whole movement.”)

Boomer follows point 6 by saying,

“In a sense this last point is the most vital. The swing must be considered and felt as a single unity, not as a succession of positions or even a succession of movements. The swing is one and indivisible.

There you have it. That is Boomer’s list. It does not include rhythm and tempo in his list, though he does have an entire chapter on rhythm later in the book.

Slow Swings Are Good Swings

Almost every time I play, one of the persons in my group says how much they like to watch me swing. What they like about it is that I have simplified it so much, all extraneous motion has been eliminated. It is just swing back, swing through. Very simple.

The other thing they like, though only the most perceptive notice it enough to comment on it, it that the swing is slow. Not sluggishly slow, but there-is-no-hit-in-this-swing slow.

That’s easily explained. If I swing any faster than I do, I lose control of the swing and it falls apart. It goes in directions it shouldn’t. And the ball follows suit.

This is what I get from my slow swing. The ball goes where I want it to, and I get a surprising amount of distance because I hit the ball on the center of the clubface a lot.

Every recreational golfer should try it. Slow down your swing so it feels easy. Graceful. Especially through the impact area. Especially there.

And see what happens.

Relaxing Your Arms When You Swing the Golf Club

We all know that tension leads to poor ball-striking. We try to hit the ball hard when we really should be hitting the ball fast. You get fast for no extra charge when you are relaxed, especially your arms.

But it is hard to relax your arms. They might be relaxed at the start, but they tense up as you swing.

That’s because you’re thinking of relaxing the wrong thing. To have relaxed arms, you have to have relaxed shoulders.

At address, relax your shoulders. Now when you take the club back, keep your shoulders relaxed. One sign that you are doing this right is that they do not lift up. Think that they stay down.

At first, it might feel like you are lowering them, but that is because raising them is your habit.

I promise you if you learn have relaxed shoulders throughout the swing, you will get free clubhead speed with no extra effort. Less effort, actually.

Tips for Tall Golfers Revised

Being a tall golfer means that much of standard golf instruction needs to be modified. I’m 6’6″ tall, and while this has never seemed like a handicap, I do have to approach the golf swing differently than shorter golfers do.

Start with equipment. You should have your clubs fitted. Off the rack ain’t gonna work. They might have to be longer and get bent a few degrees upright.

During the setup, you will have a narrow stance. The traditional separation of your feet is to place you insteps as far apart as the width of your shoulders. This might be too far apart for you.

A tall golfer must stand as tall as he can.* Do not bend over and reach for the ball. By bending over too much, shown below, you create angles in your swing that make it difficult to maneuver the club effortlessly, but still full of power.

To stand taller, as shown below, you will have to stand closer to the ball. The way to stand taller is to elevate your hip at the same time you bend over from it. Bend over, but not down. When you bend your torso forward it should feel like your backside is coming up.

Make sure your upper body, especially your abdomen, does not collapse. Your back should be as straight in the address position as it is when you stand upright. Your head can fall forward, but only enough that your neck does not feel rigid.

Your swing is primarily a hands and arms swing. It should be easy for them to carry your body around to a ninety degree angle from address. The elbows should stay close together in their address relationship throughout the swing to keep the swing from becoming too loose.

Your swing is going to be more upright, feeling like it starts back and up from the ball instead of back and around.

Because your swing is longer, it takes more time. Let it. Do not rush it, especially the forward swing. A slower tempo will allow all of its parts to come together in their proper time.

There is a tendency for a tall golfer to slide the lower body through through impact rather than turn. This leads to pushing the ball because your arms are blocked from swinging the clubhead straight toward the target.

To counteract that tendency, begin the forward swing with a turn of your hips, followed by the swing of your arms, as two separate movements.

Pay extra attention to balance. It will be easier for a tall golfer to get out of balance while swinging a golf club than someone who is not altitudinally gifted.

In general, tall golfers have swings that appear graceful, flowing, and effortless. I get compliments on the appearance of my swing almost every time out. We get the same job done with much less effort. Enjoy it.

*I’m using the male pronoun given the likelihood that few of my female readers are six-and-a-half feet tall.

Take the Hit Out of Your Swing

I have to remind myself of something constantly. And it’s not to keep the lid to the toilet down. I have that one figured out.

It’s rather to stop trying to hit the ball a long way by hitting it hard.

I have written about this before. But as I said then, this advice is difficult to remember.

Today in my backyard driving range, after hitting about ten plastic balls not really that well, I decided to just make my swing feel like a walk in the park.

I hope that means something to you, because it did to me. It didn’t result in slowing down my swing that much, if at all, but it made my swing flow better. That’s the best way I can describe it.

The result, of course, was a dead center hit that made a loud crack against the clubface instead of a muffled whatever. Ball flight? I’ll take it any day.

Just too make sure that wasn’t pure luck, I did the same thing again and got the same result.

Find a way to build this idea into your game in a way that means something to you.

And then do a better job of remembering it than I do.

A Critical Angle in the Golf swing

Sometimes you read there are angles in the golf swing, and that the key to a good swing is to maintain those angles. I agree whole-heartedly.

What those angles are is the important point. There is one I have been working on for a while that is paying big dividends. It is the angle shown in the picture below, made by the clubshaft and arms as seen from a down-the-line point of view.

That angle need to be preserved throughout the swing. If it is, the hands and the club will return at impact to where they were at address. That’s a good thing.

So now I’m going to say something that contradicts what I just said: You can’t really maintain the angle throughout the golf swing. Try it. You get halfway back and you’re stuck. When you swing back, your arms have to fold, your wrists hinge, and there goes that angle.

But what shouldn’t change is the feeling of that angle. Even though it has in reality become much smaller (more acute, for those of you who stayed awake in geometry class) it feels like it is still the same. That’s the important part.

Then when you swing back down, the angle will reappear.

What do you get from this? You get, when you combine it with the hands leading the clubhead, not only straight shots (no or minimal curvature) but accurate shots–the ball goes where you were aiming.

How hard is this technique to learn? I had the feeling figured out in about five swings. (Hint: I started out thinking I as doing it with my hands, but realized it was more the hands and arms together.) Then you will need to hit balls to get used to it in action.

I would recommend learning the feeling by making half swings with a 9-iron at a slower tempo than usual. When you start getting it, work into longer clubs and longer swings, concentrating at all times on the feeling of maintaining the angle.

When the feeling is good and uniform throughout the bag, then start hitting balls.

You’re welcome.

The Nothing Golf Swing

I’m going to remind you of something that I know has happened to you many times.

You’re in the fairway standing over the ball, your mind seems to be blank, you swing the club, and hit a tremendous shot and think to yourself, “Where did that come from?”

This happens a lot at the range, too. The first ball you hit with just a warming up swing is the best of the bucket.

The reason these things happened is that there was Nothing your mind.

I didn’t say there isn’t anything your mind. That’s different. There is something on your mind, and the name of that something is Nothing.

You’re not thinking of technique, you’re not thinking of results, not anything like that. You have cleared you mind of all that, but have not emptied it. Was you are thinking about now is Nothing.

What I mean by this is the feeling of a moving mind. that, and how to obtain it, are through described in Chapter 2 of my book, The Golfing Self.

The following golf-oriented exercise shows you a way to obtain this feeling.

I want you to take two practice swings, but without stopping between them. Start in your address position, then swing back, through, back again from there, and through a second time. Back through, back, through, two full swings in a continuous motion.

The first swing will probably be a bit clunky, like you’re trying to make a swing, but the second one will be quite relaxed, graceful, and, well, just a swing.

If you just let the second swing happen, you will have the feeling of Nothing in mind. At that point, step up to the ball and start your stroke with that feeling of Nothing still in mind. Go right away. If you delay too long, the feeling will fade away and you will be right back where you started.

Don’t hurry, just don’t dilly-dally. Step up to the ball and go while the feeling is fresh.

Practice this at home without a ball (of course). A lot. What you might have thought to be a random occurrence can become a reliable feature of your game.

How I Hit Fairway Woods

Now that we have dumped long irons for good, the new bad boys in our bag are fairway woods. I couldn’t hit those off the ground, either, so when hybrid irons came along, I switched and that made a huge difference in my long-distance game.

But still, I took fairway woods to be a challenge because they can’t be THAT hard. Turns out they are.

So I went to YouTube and looked at a lot of videos about how to hit fairway woods and tried the tricks. No luck.

The next step was to figure it out myself, which I love to do, because I usually come up with something I haven’t heard before that works.

I thought, where are the hard parts?

The first hard part is that the club is so much longer than irons are. When we swing one we don’t feel the connection between our hands and the clubhead, which makes us worry about even being able to get the clubhead on the ball.

The problem is that your hands are on the wrong part of the handle. You have to be holding the club at its balance point. Then you will feel clubhead in your hands even though is is over three feet away from them.

Second hard part: the loft of my irons gives me great confidence that I can get the clubface under the ball. It seems all we can do with the FW is bounce it off the ground behind the ball and get nothing much out of the shot.

We still have to be hitting down somewhat, to get the ball first-ground second impact. You do that by thinking of where you want the clubhead to hit the ground, not behind the ball or at the ball, but a bit in front of it.

And of course, your hands must be leading the clubhead.

There is a one last thing, though, which should go without saying.* Use your standard golf swing. Do not think you have to do something different to get the ball in the air or hit the ball a long way.

Use your standard swing with your standard tempo and your standard rhythm and let the club do what it was designed to do.

Maybe fairway woods aren’t part of your game. You prefer hybrid irons and you don’t even have a fairway wood. No matter.

You have to have a decent swing to be able to hit a decent fairway wood shot off the ground. It’s worth learning to hit this club for this reason alone. It will improve everything else.


*I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody says, “It should go without saying…” and then says it anyway.