Simple steps for taking your first golf swing
Ian Marshall is one of the professionals in our Boringdon Park Golf Academy team.
Together with Scott Macaskill and Jez Willmott, the trio boasts decades of experience in coaching golfers of all levels.
Here, Ian covers a number of different golfing subjects and suggests techniques to help you get into golf, improve your game, and reduce your handicap.
We think you’ll be surprised with the results!
1. Practice your pre-shot routine
Preparation before playing your shot is crucial when it comes to establishing a consistent set-up and swing. My tried-and-tested routine – hitting the ball and seeing it finish – takes only 30 seconds!
In golf, that’s certainly not a very long time, so it’s important that you never rush your own shots. Every top golfer has a ‘pre-shot routine’, so you should always start with a practice swing.
Afterwards, walk back and stand directly behind the ball to get your aim correct. Then walk towards the ball and go through the checklist in your mind, to set yourself up the same each time.
Only when you are comfortable and ready should you swing the club.
2. Sort your grip
In the history of golf, there’s not one top player who has a bad grip. It’s essential to make sure you have a good, sound hold on the club.
To do this, first grip the club in your left hand (this applies to right-handed golfers), placing the trigger pad of your left forefinger underneath the grip to start.
Next, wrap your other fingers around and wrap the palm of the left hand over, placing your left thumb down the right hand side of the grip.
Placing your right hand below the left, wrap the middle pads of your first three fingers of your right hand underneath the grip, resting your little finger on the forefinger of your left hand.
Then cover the left thumb with the palm of your right and place the right thumb, just down the left hand side of the grip.
3. Check your posture and distance from the ball
The way you stand to the ball dictates how you swing the club, so getting the correct posture and distance from the ball is essential. Discipline is the key.
To do this, start with the club in your hands, held out in front of you, with the butt of the club pointing into your belly button. Lock your arms and knees. Then, retaining the angle in the hands, bend from the waist until the club head touches the floor.
Now, keeping the backside out, slightly flex your knees to finish off the posture. To check your distance, take your right hand off the grip, make a fist and place it on the butt of the club.
Your hand should fit nice and snug, with one part touching the club and the other, the left leg, leaving roughly a three-inch gap. This is your natural distance from the ball with every club.
4. DON’T keep your head down
Yes, you heard right! Nearly everyone who picks up a golf club is told at some stage to ‘keep your head down’. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you bury your head on your chest, you’ll knock your head off the ball to the right and, more often than not, top it along the ground.
The key word is ‘still’ – so make an effort to keep your chin up and your head still. With the chin up, the shoulder can now swing freely under the chin, enabling you to keep your head still and stop that horrible lateral slide.
Also, you must let your head come up naturally as you hit the ball, otherwise you will decelerate, collapse the swing and top the ball again.
Relate it to a throw: Where is your head? It is up early and facing where you want to throw the ball. You turn though, follow the shot with the head, and face the target. The same applies in golf.
5. Master your swing
To enjoy any consistency with your swing, it’s essential to get the start of the swing under control. To do this, imagine a triangle is formed between your shoulders and arms, and that the club is the point of the triangle.
You need to retain this triangle all the way to waist height. The only way to do this is to start the swing from your shoulders. The club should be level with the ground at waist height, and the line of the shaft should be parallel to your feet line.
You should also see the same number of knuckles on the top of your left hand as you could see at the address (normally two). Get these checkpoints right and you’ll have a consistent start to your swing.
6. Set your wrists correctly
To create a good strike and generate fast club speed, you must set your wrists correctly.
To do this, practice breaking the swing down to a three-quarters swing by swinging back to waist-high with the shoulders, then deliberately cocking the wrists from the thumb joints, so that the club finishes pointing vertical.
From there, swing down and through, finishing with the thumbs to the sky on the follow-through. This will create a perfect controlled three-quarters swing with a good, sound wrist set.
7. Control your backswing: Part One
Controlling your backswing is essential to a consistent strike. A good, complete shoulder turn is one thing that all good players have in common.
To achieve this, as you swing back, make sure you feel your left shoulder under your chin. This will help you generate maximum power. If you don’t turn, your arms will have to take the club back, creating a long loose weak swing.
A good drill is to place a club across your shoulders and practice turning back, so the club finishes pointing towards the back of the ball.
8. Control your backswing: Part Two
Another important factor in controlling the backswing is to make sure your left arm stays straight at the top of the swing. It is essential to not let the arm collapse and lose control of the swing.
To do this, a good shoulder turn is key, otherwise the arms take over. You must also focus on locking the left arm out while feeling that the hands stay well away from the body, creating a lovely wide and powerful arc.
9. Master your downswing and follow-through: Part One
To create a powerful downswing, it is important to work on two movements in-sync. The feeling you need is that your arms swing down at the same time as the weight shifts back on to the left side.
To achieve this, feel as if you are pulling down with the arms to start the downswing, while at the same time, pushing your weight firmly down onto your left heel.
This will help the weight move back towards your left side, creating a powerful consistent swing.
10. Master your downswing and follow-through: Part Two
You very rarely see a bad player off balance. In fact, balance is one of the key common denominators between all the top players, whatever type of swing they have.
To achieve a balanced follow-through, it’s important that when you swing down and through, your left leg must straighten to support you as you turn to face the target.
As you continue to turn to face the target, you must let your head come up with the natural flow of the swing, otherwise you’ll fall forward on to your toes and off balance.
Try holding your finish and counting to three while watching and enjoying the shot, then relax!