Golf Basics

The golf swing

Putts and short chips are ideally played without much movement of the body, but most other golf shots are played using variants of the full golf swing. The full golf swing itself is used in tee and fairway shots.

A full swing is a complex rotation of the body aimed at accelerating the club head to a great speed. For a right-handed golfer, it consists of a backswing to the right, a downswing to the left (in which the ball is hit), and a follow through. At address, the player stands with the left shoulder pointing in the intended direction of ball flight, with the ball before the feet. The club is held with both hands (right below left), the clubhead resting on the ground behind the ball, hips and knees somewhat flexed, and the arms hanging from the shoulders. The backswing is a rotation to the right, consisting of a shifting of the player's body weight to the right side, a turning of the pelvis and shoulders, lifting of the arms and flexing of the elbows and wrists. At the end of the backswing the hands are above the right shoulder, with the club pointing more or less in the intended direction of ball flight. The downswing is roughly a backswing reversed. After the ball is hit, the follow-through stage consists of a continued rotation to the left. At the end of the swing, the weight has shifted almost entirely to the left foot, the body is fully turned to the left and the hands are above the left shoulder with the club hanging down over the players' back.

Relatively few golfers play left-handed (i.e., swing back to the left and forward to the right), with even players who are strongly left-handed in their daily life preferring the right-handed golf swing. In the past, this may have been due to the difficulty of finding left-handed golf clubs. Today, more manufacturers provide left-handed versions of their club lines, and the clubs are more readily purchased from mail-order and Internet catalogues. A golfer who plays right-handed, but holds the club left-hand-below-right is said to be "cack-handed". It is difficult to obtain the same consistency and power with this arrangement as is possible with conventional technique.

The full golf swing is an unnatural, highly complex motion and notoriously difficult to learn. It is not uncommon for beginners to spend several months practising the very basics before playing their first ball on a course. It is usually considered impossible to acquire a stable and successful swing without professional instruction, and even highly skilled golfers may continue to take golf lessons for many years. Much has developed around how hard the golf swing is to learn and execute, and how one must be persistent to keep at it.

Besides the physical part, the mental aspect of the golf swing is very difficult. Golfers play against the course, not each other directly, and hit a stationary object, not one put into motion by an opponent. This means that there is never anyone to blame but oneself for a bad result, and in most competitive formats there are no teammates to directly help one out. Knowledge of this creates a great deal of psychological pressure on the golfer; this pressure exists at all levels of play. Even the best professional golfers sometimes succumb to this pressure, such as getting the "yips" and being unable to make short putts, or having collapses of their full swing.



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