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Golf Swing Basics For Beginners: Master your golf swing like a pro

First Published: April 17, 2020
Last updated: August 27, 2021
Women practicing golf swing basics in golf course

Golf is a social game designed to keep people of various age groups entertained. From playing with your colleagues to spending the weekend with your friends, there are many benefits to playing golf (without even mentioning the mental and physical benefits it provides). In addition, with the ease of obtaining golf equipment today, anyone can learn and master golf skills. At first glance, the game may seem easy to play and master, but once you decide to take it up, you start to see how technical and challenging it actually is.

There are so many variables in golf that make it a real challenge for beginners and recreational golfers; it needs a lot of practice and patience to get better at golf. From different golf clubs to the countless number of golf ball types, a beginner needs to do a lot of homework so as to know what to use, when, where, and how to use it. 

The golf swing is probably the most important part of any golf game. The way you swing your club affects the whole game from the trajectory of the ball to the final outcome of the entire game. Mastering your swing is the first step toward becoming a better golfer. No wonder we need a whole article to cover the ins and outs of the golf swing!

We will be providing some proper golf swing basics and tips for beginners to make the most of their practice sessions. Moreover, we will be providing advice on what you need to work on as well as a list of common swing mistakes that most beginners make. After that, if you still feel that you need more help with your swing, several golf swing training aids and tools can help you perform better in your golf journey.

YOU SWING YOUR BEST WHEN YOU HAVE THE FEWEST THINGS TO THINK ABOUT.

~ Bobby Jones

What Is The Perfect Golf Swing?

The best way to learn how to play golf is by watching other people's swings, but you can't just watch someone else's swing without knowing what they're doing right or wrong first! Many beginners struggle with their game because of the lack of knowledge of some golf basics.

There are various golf terminologies you should learn when you start, and the golf swing is one of them. It is the mechanism that lets you build up kinetic energy and transfer it to the ball. When the golf ball stands stationary, the golfer holds the golf club with his dominant hand at the bottom. The golfer then swings his arm backward and lets the kinetic energy build up at the golf club head. The clubhead then makes an impact with the ball.

The kinetic energy then transfers to the ball and takes it in flight. This lets the ball follow a projectile path that takes it to the desired target position.

Make sure that you stand with your feet apart (width of shoulders) while keeping your back straight. The weight should be placed on the inside of the feet at this point. For a stable hold of the club, you can also bend your knees slightly. This also helps improve your posture and prevents straining your back. With this, your grip on the golf club also gets better.

There are four main parts of a golf swing that each player needs to prioritize and pay special attention to: the grip, posture, stance, and impact position, as these all affect the quality and power of the swing.

The grip simply means the positioning of the hands on the club. The posture has to do with the way you stand during the swing and the positions of different body parts. Golf stance has to do with the position of the feet and their distance in relation to the target line. Finally, the impact position is related to the position of the body parts at the moment of impact.

Do not worry if you still have trouble understanding what is being discussed here! We will be covering everything in more detail in the upcoming sections.

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Golf Swing Basics

Golf Swing Basics: Step By Step

Learning the many components lets you know which ones to target and which ones to ignore. There are some flaws in the golf swing which beginners struggle with. Correcting each swing flaw begins with working on the specifics of your technique. When you know your method, you will obtain predictability in your shots. With this, you can work on improving the success rate of getting to the hole. Altering the speed of the ball and flight pattern all becomes easy with the ability to modify your swing.

Step 1: Getting in Position

Getting in position golf swing

This is usually referred to as set up to the golf ball, and It simply means getting ready for the swing. Usually, the setup includes two main parts: the stance and posture. Please note that most of the examples and explanations provided concern right-handed golfers; it will be the opposite for lefties.

Golf posture means standing up straight while holding the club properly at waist level and tilting forward using the hips. The shoulders need to stay down and the back straight until after the ball has been hit. This will help keep the body balanced during the swing. 

In this short video (1 minute 20 seconds), Martin Hall talks about the correct golf posture.

Stance refers to how the feet are positioned vis-à-vis the target line. It also determines whether the left foot goes before the right one (closed stance) or vice versa (open stance). When the toe line is parallel to the target line, this is called 'square stance', which is more likely to leave the loft of the club unaltered. An open stance can increase the loft of any used club, making the ball fly higher, while a closed stance means lower loft than what the club was initially designed for.

Getting in the proper position (with the correct posture and stance) is crucial. In case you stand too far away from the target line, then you'll likely miss out on hitting the center of the fairway. On the contrary, if you don't step back enough, you won't get as much power behind the shot.

When it comes to pressure and weight, most amateurs place more pressure and weight on their trail foot, specifically on the heel during setup. On the other hand, most tour players adopt a totally different (almost opposite) approach by placing more weight and pressure on the front foot between the ball of the foot and the toes.

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Step 2: Grip Your Golf Club Properly

golf swing basics

The grip refers to where your hands should be on the club when swinging it. You want to have both hands close together so that there isn't any space between them. The lead hand should be on the top of the club, with the trail (dominant) hand immediately underneath it. This allows you to get maximum power from the swing. If you don't do this properly, then you'll lose some distance off your shots.

A good way to check if you are gripping the club correctly is by looking at the back of your fingers and thumb. They should look like they're touching each other but not overlapping (this is called an overlap grip).

You also need proper grip pressure. The amount of pressure you apply to the grip depends on how hard you intend to strike the ball, resulting in three different grip types: strong, weak and neutral. Each can be useful in specific situations, and they all depend on the direction of the 'V' shape that is formed by your thumbs and hands.

Even though strong grips can cause wrist problems due to all the extra force being applied to the wrists, they can help you hit harder because you can generate more force through the impact zone. As a result, they're best used for medium-distance drives or short irons. They are achieved with the V shape facing toward the right side of your head.

A weak grip helps you control spin better and gives you greater forgiveness, but it makes it harder to control the shot's trajectory because the club head will move around more during its flight through the air. With weak grips, the 'V' shape is facing the left side of your head. Use them for long iron shots and putts.

Neutral grips give you the most control over the shot without affecting its trajectory too much. It's best to use an even amount of strength throughout your entire body to maximize your ability to drive the ball far distances. A neutral grip means the 'V' shape of the thumb and hands is somehow facing your nose.

You could also watch this short video (1 minute 45 seconds) in which Michael Breed teaches proper golf grip.

Step 3: How to Aim in Your Golf Swing?

It is always recommended to take enough time while aiming. You need to focus on where you want the golf ball to go rather than trying to aim directly at the hole. Instead, try to align yourself so that the path of the ball takes you towards the intended landing spot. Many professional golfers pick intermediate targets; that is, instead of choosing a target that could be hundreds of yards away, they can use a closer intermediate target that is on the line between the ball and the selected target. 

If your shot is going left or right, then adjust accordingly and make sure you are not hitting the ground first with a full backswing. If this happens, it will cause the club face to open up too much which could result in a variety of ugly shots such as a hook or a slicel. Also, many golfers make the mistake of aligning their feet near the ball before placing the club and squaring its face. Most professional golfers would agree that it's always better to start by squaring the club face before placing the feet. 

Chris Ryan, a PGA professional, provides useful tips to help golfers aim correctly in this video. 

Backswing

Once you start your swing and the club starts moving away from the ball, the takeaway starts and only ends when the club becomes parallel to the ground (a smooth takeaway is crucial). At that point, the backswing begins. 

Correcting your backswing is essential, as this is one of the steps that any beginner might find to be the toughest to correct. While you swing your club backward, one thing you tend to do is to move your hand far away from your body. The problem is that the proper backswing involves swinging the club backward with the strong hand (the hand below) close to your body. This ensures a perfect transfer of energy without straining your shoulder bone.

The golf backswing illustration

For a more natural swing, keep your hand close to the body and then swing the club backward. Your weight should shift to your right foot if you are a right-handed player. Once you master this technique, try it on an empty course or practice area where there will not be anyone else around. If you feel comfortable doing so, take some golf lessons at a local golf school. You can also ask your instructor about what they think would work best for you.

The key here is to make sure that your hands stay in contact with each other throughout the entire movement. Also, ensure that they remain on top of the shaft through the backswing until the club comes into contact with the ball. You also need to ensure that your left arm is straight and that your right heel remains on the ground throughout the entire backswing. Also, the right knee should be bent a little, while the left knee must be facing toward the ball. Finally, the hips and shoulders need to rotate during the backswing (without sliding); if you fail to do so, the result will be an "all-arm swing" which doesn't adequately prepare the body for impact and may cause injury.

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You could also check a video of David Leadbetter teaching backswing here. He’s one of the most popular golf instructors. Also, you can see Butch Harmon giving tips on takeaway over here!

Downswing & impact

Golf downswing illustration

Once your backswing motion is over, the next move is where the golf club head starts moving down toward the ball. This is the other major part of the swing where the slightest changes can dampen your swing style. It's important to remember that the speed of the clubhead does not change much after the initial forward momentum has been established. So once you've got your stance set up correctly, focus on maintaining a good balance between your feet. Then concentrate on keeping both knees slightly bent. As long as these two things happen, everything else falls into place. 

It is of utmost importance for your hips to move (or uncoil) before the shoulders and arms during the downswing. Also, the hips must not slide sideways while down swinging and the body weight transfers progressively to the left foot as the club comes down. What follows is impact, and there are things to remember there, too. 

The impact position is all about getting into the correct hitting zone at the moment of contact with the ball. If you don't get this part right, then you won't make solid contact with the ball through impact. For instance, a righty must have most of the body weight (about 80%) on the left side of the body and more pressure on the left foot, and the right heel must start to lift while keeping the eyes on the back of the ball and the hands forward of the ball at the moment of impact.

In the following video, Jim McLean and Martin Hall discuss and teach the techniques of a good backswing.

The Follow-Through

Once your club head impacts the ball, your swing doesn't end. You cannot abruptly stop your club once you hit the ball. Not giving enough importance to the follow-through can result in deceleration or blocking issues. If you aim for natural rhythm and getting the best shot, you should also slightly move the club forward so that you extend your arms straight and forth. Once your swing is complete, your knees become straight again. Another characteristic of the follow-through would be the shoulder falling downward with your hands extending forward.

The golf Follow-Through

 Keep your upper body upright and balanced during the follow-through by shifting your weight onto your lead leg. Your lower half should remain relatively still throughout the entire swing. This means that your torso remains straight and level, and your head stays steady. During the follow-through, your spine should remain erect and aligned with your shoulders. 

Your legs are the foundation of any great golf swing; they provide stability when swinging and allow for a quick and efficient weight shift. When executing a proper follow-through, your legs work together to propel you forward. They also serve as shock absorbers to protect against injuries caused by jarring collisions with the ground. In addition, your legs give you support and traction when making powerful swings.

Nick Faldo provides tips on the follow-through in the following video.

The combination of the ideal backswing, downswing, and follow-through comes from the proper weight distribution of your body as well. This helps improve your stability as well as the strength of your shot.

For the overall strength and efficiency of the shot, keep your head raised. Fully bending your head following the club would lead to altering the spine posture, which then affects shot accuracy.

Most Common Golf Swing Mistakes To Avoid

With all the moving parts in a golf swing, many things can go wrong, even with proper determination and focus, there are a lot of common mistakes even the average golf amateur can make:

Mistake #1: Arms Too Straight

golf swing Mistake: Arms Too Straight

When your right arm is too straight as a right-handed player, you feel hand and shoulder joint pains too soon. The key is to know which arm to flex and which one to hold straight to perfect your shot. For right-handed players, the right hand should remain slightly flexed with the left hand straight.

When your arm feels too tight and straight, it leads to less control over the club. As a result, you feel like your swing works poorly. For a free movement and natural swing direction, you need your right hand to hang free. Keep your back firm but hands loose while your right hand also stays close to the body.

Mistake #2: Too Strong Grip

Golf Swing Mistake: A Grip Too Strong or weak

Just the right grip of the club can impact the swing positively. Holding the club in such a way that your palms overlap might lead to too much tightness in the grip. With this, even when you swing right, there is not enough momentum in your swing. This leads to less speed of the ball even after a powerful strike. To prevent this, you need to work on your grip. The type of golf club grip installed has a considerable role to play in your grip and, therefore, your swing as well.

Ensure that you hold your club so that there is enough room for it to adjust itself based on the downswing and backswing position. It would be best if you also did not strain your wrist due to a wrong grip. At a fast swing rate, you might hurt your wrist if you apply too much pressure on it. Drivers and woods tend to have a tiny loft on the clubhead. With such clubs, a wrong grip can have a huge impact.

Mistake #3: Bending Your Knees Too Much Or Too Little

Golf Swing Mistake #3: Bending Your Knees Too Much Or Too Little

Keeping your legs straight or bending the knees too much both can hurt your swing style. It should not deviate too much so that your shoulders drop too low. With this, your club is automatically extended farther away, leading to an outward hit on the ball and taking it in a different path than expected. It would help if you bent your knees a little, especially during the downswing and backswing.

Do not overdo the bending part so much that you start feeling too comfortable at the balanced spot it creates for the shot. The key is to get the shot right and make the best contact with the golf ball. For this, your swing should work such that your knees are just a little bent. The right knee bends at the backswing, and the left bends a bit at the downswing. Once you are done with the impact, your left knee traverses back to the original position and gets straight.

Mistake #4: Bending Your Shoulders Too Much On The Front

Golf Swing Mistake #4: Bending Your Shoulders Too Much On The Front

For the sake of feeling a more balanced posture, many golfers tend to bend their shoulders forward. This leads to the light hump of the spine, which in turn can lead to a bad hold of the club. The problem can be with your shoulder position. This can be easy to correct, even as a beginner. Ensure that you check your posture on the range before working on any other aspect of your golf game. From the swing speed to the angle of impact, you can change everything by slightly altering the position of the shoulder itself.

Another problem here could be that it would be difficult to rotate your arms with shoulders leaning too much to the front. If you need speed and power in your swing, then you need your hands to rotate fully under your control. For this, you should stop hunching your shoulders forward.

Mistake #5: Sinking Your Head Too Low

Golf Swing Mistake: Sinking Your Head Too Low

Just like bending the shoulder, looking down such that your neck and head are bent towards your chest is another common mistake that should be avoided. You might be keenly focusing on the shot and the ball that you might miss the rotation part. To prevent this, you should keep your spine erect. Keep your chin high and away from your chest for a better posture. If you need to play like a pro and swing like a pro, make sure that your head is held straight and not bent along the direction of your ball.

Mistake #6: Picking The Wrong Club Type

Golf Swing Mistake: Picking The Wrong Club Type

Besides the direct influencers, other factors can alter your swing. When you choose the wrong kind of clubs, you end up with a poor shot, even with the right swing style. Make sure that you understand the function of each club and pick the right one.

Not all clubs are the same, and not all clubs give you the same swing style. So, even if you have perfected your swing, before any competitive match, you should make sure that you try out all your clubs before you play. Warming up a little before the round can also be useful in perfecting your swing. When your arms and shoulders are too tight, you might not experience the flexibility that is needed for the swing. For this, you should warm up a little; even a few reps of hand and shoulder rotation exercises can be of great help.

Frequently Asked Questions

After covering the basics of a golf swing in detail and the different mistakes to avoid during a golf swing, you may still be asking yourself some (legitimate) questions about things that are confusing you. In this section, we will be trying to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about golf swings in order to make sure you are ready for your golfing adventure. 

What is the golf swing plane?

For a beginner golfer, the golf swing plane is one of the more confusing elements of the game, which is why it’s so important to be able to identify it correctly. It is a reference point that helps you to understand how your body moves during the golf swing. It’s also called “the center of gravity line” or “swing path.” The golf swing plane is the imaginary line the clubhead travels on during the swing that separates the end of the swing from the start of the swing. It’s a very important concept to understand in your golf swing, especially if you’re trying to improve it.
As a beginner, the golf swing plane can help you with :
• Understanding where your weight should go at address.
• Knowing when to release the hands after impact.
• Identifying whether your shoulders are too high or low.
• Figuring out what kind of grip pressure you need.
• Getting comfortable with different types of swings.

How to practice golf swing takeaway?

The takeaway is the stage that comes right before the backswing when the clubhead starts moving away from the golf ball until it becomes parallel to the ground. This means that it's the starting point of your actual swing. To practice takeaway, a golfer must first learn how to properly take away without losing his balance. This will allow them to have better control over their body throughout the entire swing. The best way to do this is through proper alignment.
To practice takeaway, you need to perfect your posture. If the posture is good, then you are off to a good start. After that, you always need to make sure that the club shaft is parallel to your toe line at the end of the takeaway. Finally, you want the toe of your clubhead to be pointing to the sky. These three components will ensure that your takeaway and overall swing will be better.
One simple trick to check everything is correct was introduced by Ashley Mayo, the director of Golf Brand and senior editor at the 'Golf Digest' golf magazine. The drill consists of doing normal practice swings (at a driving range for example); when the club reaches the end of the takeaway, pause to check that the club is in the correct position (shaft parallel to toe line and clubhead toe pointing to the sky). Then, you proceed with the swing. All it takes is a slight pause to make sure everything is correct.

How do beginners learn the golf swing?

There are many ways to teach someone how to play golf. However, there are two main methods: 1) learning the basics of the swing; 2) teaching them how to execute their own swing.
Learning the basics of the swing involves understanding the basic mechanics of the golf swing. For instance, knowing about the importance of having an open stance, keeping the spine straight, maintaining eye contact with the target, etc., all contribute to making a great swing. Once these fundamentals are mastered, they can be applied to any type of shot.
On the other hand, teaching people how to execute their own golf swing requires more than just explaining the mechanics of the swing. In order to achieve success on the course, players need to know how to apply those principles to their game. This usually requires a lot of time and patience. To get results, it may require some trial-and-error. There are no shortcuts here.
It also helps to understand the physics behind the swing so that one can apply those principles on the course. The most important thing to remember is that everyone has a unique style of swinging. For instance, some players prefer to keep their arms close to their bodies, while others like to use more space between their arms and torso.

What is a birdie in golf?

There are many different scoring terms in golf, and birdie is one of them. If you start playing golf, you will most likely hear the terms birdie, bogey, eagle, double bogey, etc. The term 'birdie' means scoring a single stroke lower than the announced par of a hole. In other words, a golf player scores a birdie if he/she only consumes two strokes to finish a par-three hole or finishes a par-four hole using only three strokes. It can be achieved with any given hole as long as the player scores one stroke lower than the par. An experienced golfer would agree that birdies can be achieved with a lot of practice, work, determination, and luck! 
A bogey means one stroke over par, while a double bogey refers to two strokes over par. On the other hand, an eagle means two strokes under par; for example, finishing a par-4 with only two strokes (which is very difficult to achieve).
Historically speaking, it is widely believed (though not proven) that the term birdie was first used during the nineteenth century (and the beginning of the twentieth). During that time, the word 'bird' could be used as a synonym for 'cool'. So, the term came to be used in golf slang to refer to an excellent result.

Is the golf swing a push or a pull?

One question a beginner may ask him/herself is whether the swing is a pull or a push. In other words, does a golfer rely more on his/her trail arm to push the golf club, or does he/she need to rely more on his/her lead arm pulling the club to achieve the swing? Or is it both?
Well, this depends on what kind of swing you want to have. For pitch and chip shots, the player normally relies more on the trail arm to swing. These types of shots are pull/push mainly using the trail arm, while the lead arm is usually not needed much. Using a driver is also a pull/push, but this time the player relies on both arms (trail and lead) equally to push and pull and generate the amount of force necessary to drive the ball for a long distance. 
If you ever watch any videos of a professional golfer like Tiger Woods hitting a drive off the tee box, you will notice how he uses his trailing arm to propel the club forward but then turns around quickly to follow through with his leading arm. Tiger keeps his eyes focused on the ball until after impact. That tells us that Tiger relies mostly on his trailing arm to generate power during the backswing and then switches to his leading arm to control the direction of travel once the clubhead reaches its peak position.

Wrap-Up

proper golf swing infographic
The perfect golf swing basics. (Click To Enlarge)

Who could have guessed that the golf swing would be one of the most popular topics on the Internet? Golf requires a lot of movement, technique and thinking. Therefore, it is very challenging to master, but it also provides a very enjoyable experience at the same time. It takes a lot of practice and patience to see improvement in your game.

As an amateur golfer, regularly working on your overall posture can hugely affect the swing performance in your game. Once you do this, make sure that you do not swing too hard. Hard shots are not always the best shots. It would be best if you work on efficiency rather than the power itself.

Once you cut down the mistakes mentioned above and get your posture right along with working on your golf grip, you will surely get better at swinging the club. With this, you also get a hold of your golf shot predictability in no time. This helps you confidently march ahead in your golf career. You would also feel ready to participate in competitive games once you understand that a correct swing style is more useful than its power.

In this article, we tried to cover the topic of golf swings in detail, giving a lot of explanations and pieces of advice that will help novice golfers get better at golf (particularly swinging). We genuinely believe that a golf swing is an iceberg; All you see is the golfer getting in position and swinging their golf club. It looks like a simple move that only takes a few seconds to complete, but there is a lot of science and technique behind it. 

In the end, we believe that if you follow our tips and advice and regularly spend some serious practice time, you will be able to swing like a pro!

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