When you watch Tour pros on television, you probably notice certain similarities in their respective swings. Good tempo is common, as well as good balance. Do you remember the last time you saw a professional golfer fall down after a swing or take a hack that looked awkward or rushed? Amateur golfers also tend to notice the look and feel of effortlessness Tour pros project during the swing. Of course, the prodigious distance their shots travel and the crispness of their ballstriking are impressive as well. The problem is, most amateurs simply don't do the things the pros do before, during and after the swing and, as a result, are unable to get the same results. To hit the ball like a pro, you have to understand the moves they make and learn to do them yourself. Then, you'll be solid.
A corresponding drill is included for every dynamic part of the golf swing in this article. These drills are designed to help ingrain the magic moves that you'll need to hit the ball like a pro. Once you better understand the swing, practicing the drills will be easier and more productive.
1 To get your legs properly positioned, begin by placing your feet just outside your hips, with your toes pointed outward at about 25 degrees. Then make sure your knees are relaxed and slightly bowed.
2 It's crucial to position your upper left arm on top of your chest, not on the side of it. Allow your left arm to hang naturally, and slightly bend your right arm at the elbow.
3 The right shoulder must be slightly lower than the left at address to promote a proper takeaway.
4 The clubshaft should be perpendicular to the ground and not forward-pressed.
Good posture at address is critical. Without it, a proper takeaway and weight shift are impossible, and a multitude of problems, most notably a reverse pivot, can occur. Notice (right) how my upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the ground, while my legs remain flexed and supportive. At the same time, the small of my back is flat. Good golfers maintain this position throughout the swing, particularly through impact. Losing this position by straightening up prematurely tends to produce thin, weak shots that move from left to right. Establishing an angle of about 45 degrees between the clubshaft and the ground is also important–a club that's too vertical at address will promote an overly inside takeaway and an over-the-top swing pattern.
_ÊThe Proper Takeaway
A solid takeaway is as important as any aspect of the golf swing. If you watch Tour players closely, you'll notice they've all mastered it because they know that without a proper takeaway, it's almost impossible to make a good golf swing. After you've worked on your setup, it will be much easier to learn a sound takeaway, and you'll be that much closer to swinging like a pro.
Outside & Up
Notice how the upper part of my left arm is still attached to my chest, while the clubhead is outside my hands as the club has traveled about halfway back. My left wrist is still cupped, my right arm is above the left and my right knee is still flexed. These positions, though simple, are absolutely critical.
Grip a long iron just below the handle and place the butt of the club in your stomach. Elevate the shaft so the clubhead is at about knee height, and concentrate on feeling that your torso, arms, hips, legs and club are one unit. Then, simply take the club back by turning your body. You should feel that your hands and wrists are doing nothing to manipulate the club.
Three-time major winner Nick Price has the perfect takeaway.
There aren't many golfers in the world who take the club away better than Nick Price. Because of his machine gun-like tempo, it can be tough to appreciate exactly how great Price's technique is, but here in stop-action, it's all crystal-clear. From the beginning, he keeps the club well outside his hands, and even when he brings the club up, the clubhead never gets too inside. This allows him to deliver the club on-plane and produce consistently well-struck golf shots. If you want to hit it like Nick, start practicing._Ê
At The Top
1 The hands should be well above the shoulders as the club reaches the top of the backswing, producing a wide arc.
2 The right elbow is clearly away from the body, which helps produce both leverage and power.
3 My back is facing the target as my hands reach the top of the backswing, indicating I've made a full turn._Ê
4 Maintaining the flex in the right knee is absolutely critical!_Ê Don't straighten the right leg at this point.
Though it might not seem as exciting as other aspects of the golf swing, achieving a solid at the top position is something that every Tour player and better golfer takes seriously. If you look closely at Ernie Els (below), Tiger Woods or anyone among golf's elite, you'll see a lot of similarities, including a wide right elbow, a flexed right knee and an upper body that's stacked above supporting legs. If you've ever wondered why professional golfers look so effortless and in control during the swing, one of the main reasons is their mastery of the at the top position.
Notice how the clubshaft is parallel to the target line, not pointing to one side or the other. Achieving this position at the top of the swing is extremely important for any golfer hoping to produce straight shots. A slightly cupped left wrist promotes better ballstriking.
_ÊAt The Top Drill
The best way to learn a proper at the top position is to continue the takeaway drill described earlier. After you get to what I like to call checkpoint one in the takeaway, simply raise the club up over your shoulder, without manipulating it with your hands or wrists. At this point, your shoulders, hips and knees have rotated as far as they need to go.
Two-time U.S. Open Champion Ernie Els displays a perfect at the top position.
The Big Easy, Ernie Els, is without a doubt one of the most technically sound golfers in the world, which contributes largely to why he's also one of the best golfers on the planet. Notice how his right knee maintains its flex all the way through the sequence. It's the key to his outstanding balance, perfectly controlled golf swing and effortless production of power.
1 Just as it was in the corresponding point in the takeaway, the clubhead is between my arms and the clubface is square.
2 The left arm must be almost perpendicular to the ground as the right forearm points at the ball. Keeping the upper left arm close to the chest is also a hallmark of good players.
3 My right leg has maintained its flex and has stayed back and away from the ball. Collapsing the right leg as you approach impact prevents a proper release and saps power.
4 Notice how my back is still at the same angle it held at address. Maintaining this angle throughout the swing is a must.
An exercise I recommend to my students that helps them ingrain the proper downswing positions is called the Pump Drill. Assume your normal setup position and take the club up to the top of the swing. From there, slowly move the club to three-quarters down and then to a position that's parallel to the ground.
At first, move the club as slowly as you need to achieve the proper positions and continue to pump the club in sets of three. As you feel more confident that you're in the right spots, you can speed up the pumps until you're moving at the same rate as a normal swing. As you perform this drill, be certain to keep your right hip back, away from the ball, and your right knee flexed.
One of the true keys to delivering the club into the ball like a Tour pro is a left shoulder position that's slightly closed and slightly lower than the right. Keeping the shoulder closed prevents the body from spinning into the ball, which tends to cause glancing blows and slices. A left shoulder that's slightly lower than the right keeps the club on-plane and prevents a too-inside swing path.
Copy John Huston's downswing technique and learn to hit the ball like a Tour pro.
John Huston is a prime example of a golfer who delivers the club with the proper technique. Notice how far back his right hip remains as he begins to bring the club down from the top, and how well he maintains the flex in his right knee. By keeping his knee and hip in these positions, Huston is able to swing the club past his body with plenty of speed and without any restrictions. If he were to collapse his right side into the ball earlier, his hip and leg would block his path, and the club would get stuck behind him. Golfers who get stuck tend to hit hooks and pushes.
1 The left side, including the shoulder, arm, hand, clubhead and ball, are all aligned, a key for solid impact._Ê
2 A flat left wrist at impact is a must for crisp ballstriking. Cupping the left wrist tends to produce weak shots.
3 A good transfer of weight into the left foot is critical. Hanging back will only lead to poor impact.
4 The right shoulder should be a bit lower than the left to promote more solidly compressed shots.
Begin by presetting your body and club at impact (upper left). Your right shoulder should be lower than the left, and your left shoulder, hip, arm, wrist and hand should be aligned with both the clubshaft and the ball. Make sure your right hip has stayed back and that your right knee is slightly flexed. Also, your left wrist should be flat to promote solid contact with the ball, and your weight should be primarily in your left side. Once you achieve this position, take back the club slowly without swaying, then bring the club down to the ball just hard enough to hit a chip shot. After some practice, you should be able to consistently reproduce this position naturally, without having to preset your body or club._Ê
The key thing you'll notice here is the angle of the clubshaft through impact. It's very close or just a bit more upright than it was at address. A common trait of better golfers (particularly pros) is a slight deviation between the clubshaft angle at address and impact (usually just a couple of degrees or so).
Stewart Cink illustrates a dead-solid-perfect impact position.
If you're looking for a solid impact position to copy, look no further than that of Stewart Cink. Check out his body position as he comes through the ball. His right hip is still back (not collapsed toward the ball), and his right knee has maintained the flex it held at address. Only when the ball is gone does Cink allow his right hip to rotate significantly toward the target. Also, pay attention to his perfectly flat left wrist and the straight line created by his left shoulder, arm, hand and the clubshaft. These elements help him produce a consistently straight ballflight. A firm left side, anchored by a solidly planted left foot, allow him to speed the club past his body in a powerful, natural release.
1 A proper release always displays arms that are fully extended and crossed over one another. Full extension is a must for accuracy and power.
2 The fingers in the left hand should be visible, indicating the clubhead was square through impact.
3 The left hip and leg are still in-line and straight. This position is absolutely necessary if you want to strike the ball with authority. A firm left side also helps the clubhead gain speed through impact.
4 The right foot should remain on the ground until it's pulled up by the power of the club swinging past the body.
Though a large percentage of amateur golfers struggle with the release, it really isn't that difficult to learn. Begin by assuming your normal address position and then turn in your left foot (for a right-handed golfer), so the toe is pointing away from the target. Then pull your right foot well back of its normal position. Being sure to maintain this position, begin making abbreviated swings and simply concentrate on making solid contact with the ball. You should notice immediately that it's almost impossible to spin out with your shoulders or swing over the top in an out-to-in pattern. Instead, you'll be forced to keep your front shoulder closed and your right hip back, away from the ball. The club should pass by your body rather easily and the ball should travel significantly further than you expect.
Notice how upright my body looks here. There's no sagging of the knees or torso and the club is fully extended down the target line. You must have good posture if you want the club to release properly without any restriction._Ê
Two-Time U.S. Open Champion Lee Janzen can really let it go.
Lee Janzen (left) is an interesting golfer to look at because his release displays both the good and the bad. You can clearly see that his arms and hands are nearly perfect, as he's fully extended and crossed over beautifully. However, Janzen is also leaning back excessively, as he's known to do, which for most golfers will cause an inhibited release of the club and an inordinate number of hooks (which Janzen suffers from as well). To avoid this problem, concentrate on maintaining good posture.
1 A good, balanced finish should have the right shoulder positioned so that it's even or slightly ahead of the left foot.
2 A straight back not only promotes good balance, it's much easier on your body than a reverse C.
3 The right foot should be pulled up into this position by the rotation of the body in the release._Ê
4 At the finish, the knees should be even with one another, indicating that you've turned fully, with your belt buckle facing the target.
Teaching professional Brady Riggs instructs at Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys, Calif.