Play Your Best

How To Swing A Golf Club

Learn how to swing a golf club by taking a frame-by-frame look at the basic golf swing & the basic positions you need to know

With Peter Morrice
Nothing beats going back to basics. In fact, all of the quick tips and band-aids you hear are just clever ways of teaching these time-tested moves. My goal here is to remind you of the key positions at every point in the swing. But you don't want to get too position-conscious, so I've also included some sports images to help you feel the motion. If you're a technical thinker, focus on the positions; if you're a feel player, stick to the sports images. Either way, you'll fix your fundamentals, and that's the quickest way to improve.
2

SETUP: PUSH BACK, ANGLE DOWN

For your body to move as freely as possible, you have to start in balance. Your weight should be in the middles of your feet, both left to right and back to front. Try this three-step routine: (1) Push your hips back, (2) angle your spine toward the ball and (3) flex your knees slightly. Steps 1 and 2 set good posture; Step 3 helps stability. Also, make sure your right side is lower than your left, the ball is in line with the left side of your face (for a middle iron), and the clubface is looking at the target.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO)
The back of your shoulder, kneecap and the ball of your foot should line up vertically.

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SETUP: COPY THIS MOVE

A bowler sets up in balance -- hips back, torso forward, knees bent -- and doesn't have to re-balance to move.
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TAKEAWAY: START CLUBHEAD FIRST

The various parts of the swing should start back in this order: clubhead, hands, arms, shoulders, hips. Your right arm should stay close to your right side, so don't force a straight-back takeaway. As the hands pass the right leg, weight should start shifting to the right. When the club reaches parallel to the ground, it should also be parallel to the target line -- that shows the club is swinging on the correct arc. The clubface at that point should be toe up, making it square to the swing arc.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO) The clubhead lines up with your hands, with the shaft just outside your toe line.

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TAKEAWAY: COPY THIS MOVE

When a quarterback pitches the ball, his hands and arms pull his chest in the direction of the pitch.
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HALFWAY BACK: MOVE INTO RIGHT SIDE

As your weight continues to move to the right, the momentum of the swing and the folding of your right elbow help hinge the club to a 90-degree angle with your left arm. Your left arm should be slightly higher than your right, proving that your right arm has not dominated the swing. The shaft, parallel to the target line in the last frame, is starting to move around the body. Your shoulders are well into their rotation and are pulling your hips into the swing. Feel a loading action in your right hip.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO)

When your left arm is parallel to the ground, shaft intersects your right shoulder.

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HALFWAY BACK: COPY THIS MOVE

On a bounce pass, the basketball player rotates the arms clockwise, which moves the ball to the inside.
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AT THE TOP: STRETCH THE LEFT LAT

The wrists were fully hinged at halfway back. Now simply turn your shoulders to complete the backswing. At the top, the hips are turned only half as far as the shoulders. Your left arm should remain straight, but not rigid, and your right elbow should point to the ground. The hands should swing back to 11 o'clock, with the hands and arms under the club, supporting its weight. Your right hip and ankle and your left lat muscle should feel stretched and ready to spring toward the target.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO) The clubface is square at the top when the leading edge is parallel to your left forearm.

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AT THE TOP: COPY THIS MOVE

A tennis player turns onto the back leg, with the weight staying on the inside of the back foot.
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HALFWAY DOWN: LEAD WITH LOWER BODY

The downswing begins with a slight lateral shift, moving the left knee and hip over the left foot. This forward movement causes the arms to drop, returning the right elbow into a position in front of the right hip. Your belt buckle should point at the ball, but your shoulders should still be closed to the target. The forward shift happens with the lower body -- your head stays behind the ball. Resist the urge to throw the club from the top, maintaining your wrist hinge as you start down.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO)

The clubshaft should split the gap between your forearms, proving it’s on the right plane.

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HALFWAY DOWN: COPY THIS MOVE

Picture a karate chop, where your hand swings from the inside with your arm pulling across your chest.
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AT IMPACT: STRAIGHTEN LEFT SIDE

The hips continue to turn open so the left hip has cleared by impact. The chest is less rotated, facing the ball, which shows that the hips are pulling the shoulders. Make sure your head remains behind the ball, and your left side straightens as your right side moves forward. Your hands should be slightly ahead of the clubhead at impact, with your left wrist flat and your right wrist bent. The radius of the swing -- a line from the left shoulder to the clubhead -- is at full length just after you hit the ball.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO) The ball of your right foot should still be on the ground, and your left foot flat.

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AT IMPACT: COPY THIS MOVE

The feeling at impact on a slap shot is compressing the stick into the puck, pinching it off the ice.
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FOLLOW-THROUGH: EXTEND AND ROTATE

Both arms are fully extended, and the right shoulder is down, not turning level with the left. Although straight, your arms should be starting to swing back to the inside; they point down the line for a split second before turning inside. Your right knee should be kicking inward, closing the gap with your left knee, and your left leg should be straight, providing a firm brace to hit against. The clubhead is still below your hands, proving the wrists have not flipped to help the ball into the air.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO) Make sure your spine is still angled down, proving you haven’t pulled out of posture.

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FOLLOW-THROUGH: COPY THIS MOVE

Through the hit, the batter extends his arms, and the head of the bat, which was trailing, passes his hands.
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FINISH: KEEP RIGHT SIDE MOVING

The right side has rotated past the left so the right shoulder is the part of the body closest to the target. Momentum has carried the hands behind the head, and the arms are soft and folded. Check these key positions: Your right foot is up on its toes, your body weight has fully transferred into your left heel, and your belt buckle points at or left of the target. Your shoulders should have turned more than your hips, indicating a full upper-body release. You should be comfortably balanced, as you were at address.

CHECK THIS (INSET PHOTO) You should be able to pose the finish, holding the shaft across your neck.

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FINISH: COPY THIS MOVE

A pitcher swings his arm across the target to the finish, following -- not fighting -- the rotation of the body.

Todd Anderson is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional and the director of instruction at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.