Is there a perfect golf swing? A golf swing that is mechanically superior based upon the skeletal structure of a human being? If you watch professional golf you will notice one particularly important thing common to the top players. They all have virtually the same swing. With few exceptions, most noticeably Lee Trevino and a handful of others, professional golfers employ virtually the same swing, which includes stance and address position. These hundreds of professional golfers have different backgrounds, different coaches, etc., but in each case they have independently evolved the same swing. Why? The answer lies in the fact that through practice and experimentation these players were trying to achieve the same thing, the perfect combination of accuracy and distance. In each case they independently discovered the perfect swing that satisfied the objective, and this perfect swing is common to all of them. Is it hard to imagine this? The answer is no. The golf swing is a mechanical movement produced by the human body. All humans have the same mechanical hinging points or joints dictated by our skeletal structure. Now although our skeletal structure may vary between individuals, the mechanical properties of the skeletal structure do not. This results in a constant. In essence then, there can be a mechanically perfect movement produced by the human body in order to strike a golf ball, and this perfect movement is applicable to all golfers. The hundreds of professional golfers who independently developed virtually the same golf swing prove this.
Bear in mind that although these many professionals have evolved their swings into this perfect swing pattern, they use differing methods as to the delivery of this swing. For instance, a golfing method that has become very popular is the “Natural Golf” or single axis swing method. Although the swing is the same “perfect” swing as was discussed, the grip used in this method changes the delivery of the golf club to the ball. The single axis grip is a ten-finger grip with the shaft of the golf club running straight along the lifeline of the palms thus aligning the shaft with the forearms. The traditional grip is basically a wrapping of the fingers around the shaft creating an angle between the forearms and the shaft. The lack of this forearm/shaft angle in the single axis swing does two things:
- Eliminates the need to correct this angle during the swing making it much easier to control the golf club.
- Allows for a greater transfer of swing force to the golf club at impact.
The single axis swing methods also advocate a larger grip than is standard. This only makes sense. The sole purpose of the grip is to provide the golfer a secure connection between his hands and the golf club. The focus being on increased control of the golf club which larger grips promote.
This being said, the perfect swing itself is still the same for any golfing method.
The importance of a perfect swing. The ramifications of the idea of one perfect swing, which as I noted before, include stance and address position, are vitally important in golf club design. To demonstrate this we need to talk about the adaptability of the human body. Our bodies are amazing mechanical contraptions capable of producing the most complicated of compound movements. Through practice our bodies can learn how to play the piano, master karate, lift tremendous weights, and perform the most delicate heart surgery. Given a required task our bodies will learn how to produce a compound movement that fulfills our objective. In addition, this will happen unconsciously. We don’t have to consciously learn how to walk or ride a bike. These skills are developed unconsciously through trial and error. The same is true when learning golf. Our objective is to hit a golf ball. Assuming that we do not have instruction, our bodies will learn through trial and error how to hit that ball. This is good, but there is a potential downside. If we learn golf while using ill-fitting golf clubs, which most of us do, our bodies will unconsciously find a way to perform this task by adapting to the poor equipment. What this produces are the unconventional and sometimes laughable swings that we see every day on the golf course. However, these swings are necessary in order to compensate for the ill-fitting equipment. Our bodies have found the best swing capable of producing desired results using poor tools, and these swings will become a part of our muscle memory over time. Later on as we become more avid golfers we will purchase a set of new clubs in order to help us improve our game, and if we are serious we will buy them from a custom club fitter or club maker. This creates a problem. The prevailing ideology of custom club fitters and club makers is to fit the golf clubs to your game, or more importantly, to your existing swing. This is wrong. If your desire is to improve, then why would you want a set of clubs designed around a faulty swing, a swing that was developed in order to hit faulty golf clubs in the first place? No, the clubs should be fitted based upon the perfect swing, the perfect mechanical movement that produces maximum accuracy and distance. Will you have immediate success with these correctly fitted clubs? No, but as before your body will unconsciously adapt to the new equipment over time and, hence, will evolve into the perfect swing. The bottom line is that to achieve the perfect swing you need properly fitted equipment.
Address/swing Posture. The most important part of the golf swing is the address position. It is what sets the golfer in the position to create a powerful and controlled swing. Studying the best golfers in the world it becomes clear what constitutes the proper swing posture:
- An upright stance.As opposed to bending over and reaching for the golf ball.This means a slight relaxation of the thighs with unlocked knees – no squatting.
- A slight bending forward at the waist – no hunching over.
- A solid base.Use a shoulder width stance with all clubs and shots.This width provides the most stable and athletic base for the golf swing.
- Keeping your left heel firmly planted on the grounded.Lifting the heel during the swing relieves all the built up torque developed during the back swing.
1 Iron single-length irons are designed to place the golfer into the ideal address/swing posture through the combination of lie angle and club length (based upon the wrist-to-floor measurement of the individual golfer).
1 Iron single-length irons and woods are designed to be played with the ball in the center of a shoulder width stance.
The Golf Swing. I can give you one very important tip to master the golf swing: do not fall into the trap of over-analysis. We are constantly bombarded by golfing instruction, articles, new products, and training drills designed to improve our performance on the golf course. In fact, after learning the basics, the only true instructor is your own body. Given a task our bodies will unconsciously learn through trial and error how to perform it in the most efficient manner. If you are thinking about your swing and trying to analyze wrist position, swing plane, alignment, and so forth, you will never be able to swing a golf club. My advice is to simply let the swing happen. Trust your set-up and alignment and just swing the golf club. If left alone with no conscious interference, your body will learn to perform a perfect golf swing. There is one caveat however, and that is practice. When I was learning to play golf I would go to a field every night and hit 30 to 40 golf balls with my pitching wedge. Every time I went my swing and ball striking improved and I began developing a very comfortable, grooved swing. I did this constantly for about a month and my scores went down dramatically. If I were to have read instructional articles and consciously tried to incorporate these when I went out to hit balls I would have undermined all the progress I was making.
Developing swing force. Swing force refers to the power you develop during the backswing and apply during the downswing. Practically all of this power stems from the torque created as the torso is rotated around the hips during the backswing. When this torque is at its peak the downswing begins and unleashes this built up power to produce a powerful swing through impact. Although all golfers know this, it is very rarely applied correctly. In order to build torque between the torso and hips it is imperative that the torso actually rotate around the hips. This means that the hips and spine must remain in a stationary plane throughout the backswing. In other words, no swaying laterally to the right during the backswing or swaying laterally to the left during the downswing. It is impossible for the torso to rotate around the hips if the golfer is swaying laterally. Also, it is impossible for a golfer to bring the golf club behind him during the backswing when swaying laterally to the right. Instead of bringing the club behind, it is simply being pulled upwards and out to the right side resulting in an extreme outside to inside swing path during the downswing causing poor ball contact and a slice. It also causes the golfer to make a lunging motion towards the golf ball during the downswing that may feel powerful but is actually devoid of any effective power.
You may have heard the term “swinging in a barrel”. This is exactly what you should try to imagine during the backswing. Standing as still as possible, you should try to rotate your shoulders around a stationary spine until you cannot rotate them any further. Imagine that you have a pole stuck into the back of your skull that runs down your spine and is embed into the ground – all you are trying to do is to rotate your shoulders around this pole. Rotating around a stationary base will automatically bring the golf club behind you and not up and out to your right side. Keep your right elbow tucked in and allow it to circle your waist during the backswing, which assists greatly in bringing the club behind you. Remember – swaying to the right during the backswing is disastrous, whereas, swinging the golf club around the body results in the development of a tremendous amount of torque between the torso and hips. It is a very simple equation: the greater the torque, the greater the power. It is very important during the backswing that the left heel remain firmly planted on the ground. Lifting the left heel allows the hips to turn to the right eliminating any chance for torque to develop. Even the slightest lifting of the heel during the backswing will decrease your power dramatically.
The downswing begins by simply letting the built up torque release itself. Do not try to rush things by starting the downswing with the arms but rather just let the torso uncoil around the hips naturally. What you will find is that the downswing will begin slowly and then gain speed as the built up torque fully releases through impact.
Let me explain this further. Hold your arms straight out at your sides flexing your shoulder and arm muscles as hard as you can. Now bring your arms down to your sides as fast as possible. Do the same thing again but this time relax your arms and shoulders and let your arms fall naturally by gravity. Did you notice that your arms reached your sides faster when relaxed? This should point out to you that the only purpose of the arms in the golf swing is to hold onto the golf club. The arms do not provide power in the swing; in fact, trying to provide power with the arms actually reduces swing speed and lessens control. Where does power come from? Have you ever seen the child’s toy that has a drum on a spindle with two strings hanging down on the sides of the drum with balls at the end of the strings? When you rotate the spindle back and forth between your palms the strings fly around the drum striking the drumhead with the small balls at the ends.
Where is the power generated in this toy? In the strings? No. In the drumhead? No. The power is generated in the rotation of the spindle. This toy is the perfect representation of a powerful golf swing. The power of a golf swing is generated by the rotation of the torso around the solid base of the legs and hips. The buildup of power is in the tension created by a maximum torso turn with minimum hip turn. If you wind up like a top from the feet up you will not create this tension. The legs and hips are the base for this tension and if the hips rotate with the torso there will be no tension created and thus no power. The hip rotation must be kept to a minimum. Most golfers will not be able to make a full back turn, with the golf club reaching a parallel position behind the golfer at the top of the swing, without exaggerating the hip turn. This is fine because a full back turn does not generate power. The tension created between the torso and hips creates the power. A one half or three quarters back turn with this tension will create more power than a full turn without the tension. The propeller on a wind up airplane has its maximum power when the rubber band is wound to its breaking point. The same propeller has very little power when the rubber band is only wound two or three turns.
The idea of a full back turn has led many golfers to lift their left heel off the ground during the back swing. This is the only way that they can complete the turn. What this does is to relieve the tension built up between the torso and hips thus reducing power. It also lessens the control of the golf shot because it creates more mechanical movements in the downswing. If you wish to dramatically increase power in your golf swing keep your left foot firmly planted on the ground.
The muscles that directly create the torso/hip tension are the external obliques. These are the muscles that wrap around the sides of your waist and are responsible for torso rotation and bending from side to side. Obviously the weaker these muscles are the less tension they will produce. Let us face facts, what generates more tension, a steel spring or a marshmallow? Most golfers are trying to generate tension and power with a marshmallow. How do you correct this? Easy – exercise these muscle groups.
The Perfect Golf Swing
First off let’s talk about the way you grip the club. Every golfer I have ever met thinks that they have a good grip which, in fact, is only true in about 10% of the cases. Believe me, virtually all swing flaws are the result of a poor grip. The ideal grip is actually very simple – the back of the left hand (right-handed golfer) should face the target and the palm of the right hand should face the target regardless of whether you use a Vardon grip, overlapping grip, or ten finger grip. Most golfers make the mistake of taking far too strong a grip with their right hand where the palm faces more skyward than down the target line. As far as finger pressure, I like to feel like I am holding the club with the last three fingers of my left hand and the middle two fingers of my right. The trigger finger of your right hand (right-handed golfer) should exert little to no pressure on the grip at all. I have seen many golfers ruin their swing by trying to control the club or add power by over exerting pressure with this finger. Whenever I start to experience a flaw in my swing the first thing I do is to lift my right-hand trigger finger completely off the grip and keep it off throughout my swing. Many times this one change will fix the problem.
The second thing we want to discuss is your address position. Your posture should be upright and not bent over or reaching for the ball. Your knees should be slightly bent and you should feel as if you are going to sit down on a tall stool. Weight should be evenly distributed between your feet and you should not feel as if you are leaning forward or standing on the balls of your feet, but rather, stand flat footed and balanced. Your lead foot should be flared out slightly toward the target and your rear foot should be square to the target line (this keeps you from over-swinging).
Your lead arm (left arm for a right-handed golfer) should be straight (no elbow bend). The elbow of your trailing arm should be tucked into your side so that it can circle your waist and fold inwards on your backswing.
One other very important point to mention is that you should try to have the insides of your elbows pointing skyward as much as possible. This is accomplished by trying to bring your elbows towards each other. You should be lightly squeezing the sides of your chest with your upper arms. What this accomplishes is to eliminate the opposing muscle swing flaw and will ensure that you maximize your swing speed (a full explanation of the Opposing Muscle Concept can be found by …clicking here).
You should make a slight forward press of the club at this point. The reasoning for this is not what you might think. It is simply a move to put your wrists in the proper impact position where the wrist of your left hand (right-handed golfer) bows slightly towards the target and will lead your left hand through the shot. To visualize this, make a fist with your left hand with the back of your hand and forearm in a straight line and then bend your hand slightly inward. This left wrist positioning will create the reverse affect to your right wrist. This is the position you want your wrists to maintain throughout the swing and through impact. You never want to change this positioning by breaking your wrists during your backswing or downswing.
Let’s start the backswing, and we will do it from a right-handed perspective so as not to get too confusing. From the address position discussed previously, all you need to do is to turn your torso to the right so that your back faces the target. You want to keep your arms and hands/wrists in exactly the same position that they were at address in relation to your shoulders. In other words, move your shoulders and arms together as if they were one piece (hence the term one-piece takeaway) so that the triangle formed by your shoulders and arms at address now faces to your right. Viola! You are now half-way through your backswing.
A few important points:
• Do not sway laterally to the right when making your turn but simply rotate your torso around your hips.
• Try to keep your hips stationary and facing forward. The more stable the hips, the more torque you will create between them and your torso. This torque is where the vast majority of your power comes from in a golf swing and is the reason we said to have your right foot square to the target line at address instead of flaring out to the right. This helps to prevent the hips from turning.
If you feel that you can rotate your torso further than this then check your hips and you will find that they have rotated to the right – big mistake if you are trying to generate power. When your back faces the target and you shoulders and arms face to the right it is time to stop your torso turn and let your left arm keep moving around your chest and to the back. This stretches the shoulder muscles and creates additional torque between your chest and left shoulder. Remember, keep your left arm as straight as possible (no bending of the elbow) and keep your wrists in exactly the same position as they were at address (do not break your wrists). Your right elbow will naturally fold in to your right side (like a chicken wing) allowing this additional stretching. A very important point here is to keep your right elbow in against your side with your right forearm folding backwards from the elbow. One of the biggest swing flaws (and the reason that 95% of all golfers slice the ball) is that they let the right elbow fly out to the side at this point. The two major problems with a “flying elbow” are:
1. Lack of power. If you watch a tennis player hit a side shot you will notice that his right elbow is folded in against his side and bent backwards to maximize stretching. When this forearm/upper arm position unleashes through a shot the power generated is scary.
2. A flying elbow always results in an outside-to-inside swing path which is the recipe for a slice.
Once your left arm is unable to stretch further around your torso and your right elbow is fully flexed you should have a momentary pause before starting your downswing. A few important points to keep in mind:
• Keep your left arm as straight as possible and do not break your wrists. One of the worst instructional tips in golf is to bring the club back until the shaft is behind you and parallel to the ground at the top of the backswing. Believe me, there may be only 1 out of 300 people in the world who have the suppleness to achieve this position without bending their left elbow and breaking their wrists. However, 95% of all golfers will try to attain this impossible position at the top of their swing by utilizing these two devastating swing flaws. The next time you watch a tournament on television watch where the majority of pros end up at the top of their backswing. Typically, with an iron, the shaft of the club is perpendicular to the ground or maybe a little further behind them but certainly not completely behind them and parallel to the ground. Also, you will note that their left arm is rigid and their wrists never break.
• The reason that I stress keeping the left arm as straight as possible with little or no elbow bend is one of power and control. Once you bend the elbow you eliminate the torque created between the left shoulder and arm which eliminates the built up power of this torque. As you start your downswing with a bent elbow the first thing you will do is cast the club outwards to straighten your arm which throws your balance and swing plane off and always results in a slice or push to the right with little power.
• The reason for not breaking the wrists is the same: power and control. If you let your wrists break at the top of your swing (and you will feel it happen) you will automatically cast the club outwards when starting your downswing. In fact, you will cast it so far that your knuckles will be leading the heel of your hand through impact (just the opposite of the wrist position you were in at address). The majority of the time you will either hit the ball fat or top it and you will certainly have no power.
• Once you have stretched your torso and upper arm to the max with a straight left arm and no wrist break, you have achieved the highest level of potential power that you are capable of. Trying to artificially exceed this through the swing flaws mentioned will only destroy this power and result in a weak and off-plane swing. I have known many golfers who can only take the club half-way back due to their level of flexibility but they attain their maximum torque and stretch which allows them to generate considerable power and tremendous control shot after shot. Personally, I can only take my irons back a little over half way yet I can out drive most of my playing buddies with my #3 iron.
As mentioned, pause momentarily at the top of your swing before initiating your downswing. This is very important because it allows you to set your position. If you do not have this pause and the club is still going back when you start the downswing everything will get out of position and you be fighting to get back on plane throughout the rest of your swing. To start your downswing simply rotate your hips fully to the left. Bear in mind that I said rotate your hips to the left, not sway them to the left. Lateral swaying has absolutely no place in a golf swing. By the time you reach impact your hips should be close to facing the target. This is why at address you should flare your left foot out somewhat which clears the way for your hips to fully turn. Personally, I like to have the feeling that I am hitting the ball with my right hip. As the hips start rotating to the left they will force your torso to rotate to the left as well. Due to the torque created between your hips and torso during your backswing, your torso will rotate exponentially faster than your hips (primary power move). As your torso rotates, the stretch created between your left shoulder and left arm will cause your shoulders to literally whip your arms around at an exponentially faster rate than your torso is traveling (secondary power move). As you approach the impact zone your stretched right elbow/forearm will unleash and, again, exponentially add to your speed (third power move). At impact, due to centrifugal force, your right forearm will roll over or literally whip over your left forearm (I refer to this as the “crack the whip” effect) which produces another exponential speed factor to your swing. In summary, your hips rotate first which causes your torso to rotate which brings your arms around. It is important here to stress the last sentence – read it again. Never, and I mean never, start the downswing with your arms which is exactly what all high handicappers do. Always think about swinging with your body while the arms just go along for the ride.
Past the point of impact everything will happen naturally. You should finish your follow through with your hips facing the target and the club raised high and pointing down the target line. To clarify this, if you were to let go of the golf club in the last moments of your follow through it would fly straight towards your target.
One final point that I should clarify, we have heard over and over about the unhinging of the wrists through impact. This is a misnomer that causes the high handicapper constant trouble as it implies that the wrists should break or unhinge through impact. The fact is that the wrists should never break or unhinge throughout the swing. The unhinging referred to is the natural act of the right forearm rolling over the left at the lowest point of the swing arc. This occurs naturally due to centrifugal force and there is nothing that you can do to accentuate or delay it. We have all heard of the “late hit” and if you consciously try to do this you will certainly destroy any chance at developing the ideal swing. Remember that the downswing takes but a fraction of a second and there is certainly nothing that you are consciously going to do to affect any of it.
A few final tips:
1. As far as swing plane is concerned, you set this up at address. When you rotate your torso to the right to initiate your backswing remember that your torso is bent over slightly based upon your address position so that when you turn to the right your arms will actually be traveling in an upwards arc and continue to the top of your backswing.
2. Do not read this and try to incorporate it in your next round of golf as you will be wasting your time. The only place to initiate a swing change is on the range – never on the course. Numerous trips to the range are necessary in order to get the feel and timing down.
3. You should only consciously be thinking about your swing, position, etc. at the range and never on the golf course. Conscious thought on the first tee will destroy your whole round because it is impossible to think your way through a golf swing. The idea is to develop your swing at the range so that it becomes automatic and just bring it with you when playing a round of golf.
As a final thought I would like to touch on a point that has been brought up by a vast majority of our subscribers and 1 Iron players. That point being that if you incorporate the ideal swing instruction from above while using conventional golf clubs you will have to learn and ingrain thirteen different “ideal” swings. Conversely, if you play a set of 1 Iron single-length irons you only have to learn and ingrain one. When playing conventional golf clubs with varying lengths, weight, flex, and club head lie angles your swing plane, address posture, ball position, and timing need to change from club to club and is the reason that the average golfer finds it practically impossible to achieve consistent solid ball contact throughout their set. However, when playing a set of 1 Iron single-length irons this becomes automatic.
The combination of the perfect swing and a set of 1 Iron single-length irons will definitely help turn your game around and you will enjoy golf like never before.