Back To Basics With Butch Harmon

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One simple way to keep your swing on track is to review the fundamentals in step-by-step order. That allows you to check your technique in small pieces and identify where you might be getting out of position. In many ways, each part of the swing is only as good as the parts that come before it, so breaking down the sequence pays off when you put the whole swing together. With this video lesson from Golf Digest’s No.1-ranked teacher Butch Harmon you can do just that. Here are Butch’s six checkpoints from the setup to the finish.

Match up your hands

How you set your hands on the club has a huge effect on how well you strike the ball and control where it goes. To do it properly, grip the club with your left hand, for righties, down against your left side. Then lift the club out in front of you at hip height and add your right hand. When you set the club back down at address, the thumbs and forefingers of both hands form the shape of two Vs pointing back toward you. Those Vs should point at your trail shoulder, giving you a neutral grip. That grip will help you consistently square the clubface.

Aim the clubface, then your body

Butch always says, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” His key for good aim is to think of a railroad track with its two parallel rails. In the setup, imagine you’re setting the clubhead down on the outer rail, and you’re standing on the inner rail. Butch says the key is to aim the clubface first, then set your body alignment. So place the clubhead down on the outer rail, with the face looking at the target, then set your body so your toes are up against the inner rail. That gives you a square face and square alignment—the best start you can get.

Let your weight follow the club

The role of the backswing is to set up the downswing. You want to get into an athletic position going back so you can deliver the club powerfully through impact. One of Butch’s big keys for a proper backswing is to make sure your weight is moving back as the club is moving back. When the weight shifts to the instep of the trail foot, you’re in position to make a strong, athletic move into the ball. Going back, Butch says to let your head swivel back naturally with your shoulders so you can make a free, full turn to the top. Don’t try to hold your head still—that’ll tend to keep your weight on your front foot, which saps power from the swing.

Extend your hands going back

One aspect of the backswing that Butch says is extremely important is the width of the swing at the top. Try swinging back, pausing at the top, and checking that your hands are as far away from your head as you can get them. He says that pushing your hands away from your body will keep the club on the right path and help prevent an early release, or “throw,” during the downswing.

Swing down from the ground up

Butch says good contact relies on good sequencing. To help you achieve the proper sequence from the top, he says to start the forward swing from the ground up. Beginning with your feet and legs, your weight should move back to your front side. Your hips should slide slightly toward the target, and your hands and arms drop, staying to the inside. The final piece is for the torso to turn through. From there, you can deliver the club to the back of the ball. Butch says if you do it right, you’ll feel like your chest is over the ball at impact.

Keep up your speed to the finish

If you watch tour players swing, Butch says, you’ll notice they carry their speed all the way to the finish. Two things will help you accomplish that: letting your head naturally release to follow the ball and transferring almost all of your weight onto your front foot. To be sure that you’ve moved through the shot correctly, check that your belt buckle is facing the target and your trail shoulder is closer to the target than your lead shoulder. That’s a full-body release.

For more swing basics from Butch Harmon, check out the rest of the videos in his series “The Butch Harmon Swing Clinic” on Golf Digest Schools, our premium video-on-demand subscription program. With hundreds of video lessons from top teachers, as well as tour players like Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and many more, you’ll gain unique access to the leading experts in the game. Trust your game to the best of Golf Digest, and start getting better today.