Every golfer fantasizes about the perfect golf swing. They dream of the power of Tiger Woods in his prime, the rhythm of Freddy Couples, the short game of Phil Mickelson and the putting expertise of Brad Faxon.
But even if you combined all those players into one, they still wouldn’t produce the perfect swing – it really doesn’t exist. But hey, we can dream, right?
And we can also chase that dream. After all, both golf and life are about the journey, not so much the end. So in our pursuit of perfection, we want to make constant progress, not sabotage or step back. Here are some things to do if you want to shoot for the stars and improve your swing.
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1. Find a coach or a permanent instructor
According to the National Golf Foundation, less than 20 percent of golfers seek professional instruction. Instead, they try to educate themselves, whether that’s through an instructional video, a book, or worst of all, getting tips from friends.
A golfer can use up to 14 different clubs. While the basic swing is the same for most, there are certainly differences, especially between driver, iron game, short game and putting. Each of these different skills takes time to master – but if you suspect that no matter how much you practice, it is very difficult to improve your technique.
A coach or instructor can help you with this. Not only will they know how to teach technique, but they will also be able to observe your progress. Alison Curdt, a Masters PGA and LPGA Professional, believes players need a coach to guide them in the right direction if they really want to improve. This applies to seasoned players as well as beginners. Still, she proposes to let go of the idea of ’perfection’.
“When that word comes to students, I tell them that they will strive for perfection for the rest of their lives,” says Curdt, one of the nation’s top golf coaches and also a PhD in psychology. “It’s not feasible in the golf swing. Even the robots that test equipment can’t swing the golf club exactly the same and to perfection every time.”
2. A good swing starts with a good foundation
You need to have a solid set up before you even start swinging the club. A golf pro can help you with that too, and it’s a constant in all great swings. Ben Hogan, one of the greatest players of all time, said that good golf starts with the grip. Stance, aim and stance are also part of the foundation that must be laid before a swing begins. Posture refers to the angle of the spine, shoulder tilt, how the arms hang and knee bend.
“With grip, the hands are the only part of the body that touches the club,” says Curdt. “Your feet are the only parts of the body that touch the ground, and your stance allows you to make contact with the ball at the right angle. So if those three things are misaligned, good luck making your ‘perfect’ swing – it just won’t happen.’
Still, she stresses that a golf professional can help you choose a grip that suits your individual physical characteristics. “The grip has to be good if you want to have a great swing, and a coach can adjust that for you.”
3. Shots should be predictable
One of the most important aspects of a great swing is that it is repeatable. That means you can usually predict the outcome of your shots. For example, any player with a two-sided miss knows how frustrating it is to not be sure which way the golf ball is going.
So whether your swing produces a fade, or a draw, or a relatively straight shot, being able to do it over and over is an enviable trait. Again, an instructor can help you hone in on what’s right for you.
4. Good balance translates into better swings
Whatever method of golf swing you choose – and there are certainly several methods for swinging the golf club successfully – balance is always key. While weight transfer is important during the swing, be careful not to swing over your outside foot or reverse pivot (when a golfer falls backwards away from the target as he completes his swing). Again, that’s where a great setup will help, but if you think about balancing all the time, your chances of swinging well are greatly increased.
5. Online Instruction Can Be Valuable, But Be Careful
There is a wealth of golf instruction online these days. You might find an instructor who might tell you to swing around your body, while another might advocate a more up-and-down motion. Anyone can guess which one is right for you, but more than that, you may be trying to find a solution that really doesn’t solve your problem.
“I see learning new skills from the Internet as the equivalent of self-diagnosis of a disease from WebMD,” Curdt says. Nevertheless, she admits that online content has a lot of value when used properly. Teachers often work with a student and then prescribe video exercises that they may want to work on.
There are also paid online instructional programs where users can submit videos of their swings and then get feedback from an instructor. It’s not as good as being with a coach in person, but it’s better than going it alone and usually cheaper.
6. Make sure your clubs are suited for your best swings
While it’s not necessarily advisable for a beginner to have a set of clubs custom made (it can be expensive, for one), the right equipment is a must once you’re up and running.
A fitting will help you find clubs that are the right length and lay, the latter being how the club hits at address. Perhaps the most important feature is the flex of the shaft, which usually correlates with how fast a player can swing a club. If the shaft is too flexible or too stiff, the player will have to make adjustments in the swing to be successful. Getting your clubs to fit properly, which you can do at a golf shop or on a golf course, will make swing development much easier.
7. Don’t forget the mental side
It’s no secret that your mood can greatly influence your swing. Most of the time, especially for amateur players, it’s a game of recovery. Hit a shot off-line and figure out how to get back into position. If you’re anxious or frustrated, it will show in your swing.
“You have to look at how you deal with adversity,” Curdt asks. “Can you handle all the differences and variability the golf course gives us from shot to shot and day to day?”
Again, this is where a coach can be so helpful. And while perfection is indeed an impossible goal, it is still a worthwhile quest, made easier and more fun by great attitude, a good game plan and patience.