A lot goes into a good golf swing. Everything from posture to grip pressure to rhythm to swing speed—they all matter. But one thing that's often overlooked is the path the club takes down to the ball. In other words, the direction of the swing. That's what I want to discuss.
You might be able to get away with a grip that's a little too tight or posture that's a little too hunched over, but if you want to hit solid shots and get the ball going in the right direction, the correct path really matters.
Here I'm going to work my way through the bag from driver to wedges to get you on the right path to better golf. Let this serve as incentive to participate in Golf Digest's new video instruction series: 12 DAYS TO BETTER GOLF. You can learn more about this awesome new program, which covers everything from tee balls to tap-ins, at the end of this article. Now let's get started making you a better player.
– With Ron Kaspriske
Most amateurs struggle to get the club swinging down into the ball on a path that lets them hit their drives straight or even draw them. It often stems from a lack of mobility in the shoulder and hip joints and the muscles of the mid-back, which prevents adequate rotation in the backswing. If you hit a lot of slices and pulls off the tee, there's a way to set up that can easily fix your ball flight. It's a cool hack. Address the ball with your left foot slightly flared toward the target. Now drop your right foot back six inches and flare it 45 degrees away from the ball, but make sure your shoulders stay parallel to your target line (above). This setup will allow you to create good rotation during the backswing, and swing the club more from inside the target line on the way down. In essence, you're giving yourself a head start to a better swing path. Practice or play with this setup, and you'll start seeing more powerful drives.
2.) HYBRIDS / WOODS
The mistake many make with these clubs is swinging down too sharply. A steep swing path will lead to poor contact and a low ball flight that negates the chief purpose of using a hybrid or wood, which is to hit a green from long distance. To shallow your swing path, focus on the right arm. As you swing down, the right elbow should drop below the left arm (below). When you do this, you'll notice the right side of your body contracts, and the hybrid or fairway wood approaches the ball on a flatter angle in relation to the ground. You can rehearse this move by stopping your downswing when your left arm is roughly parallel to the turf. Take a look at where your right elbow is at that point. If it's lower than the left arm, repeat that move when you swing.
It happens in the blink of an eye, but many good ball-strikers bow their left wrist slightly as they start down from the top of the swing. Note how my wrist is slightly convex (below). Try this bowing action if you want to bring an iron down powerfully into the ball and compress it. This will help correct an out-to-in (slicing) swing path and will get you hitting your iron shots from the center of the clubface.
4.) PITCHING CLUBS
The most effective way to hit 30-, 40-, even 50-yard pitch shots is to make a mini draw swing. The club should track down to the ball along the target line or from slightly inside of it. It then should move back inside the target line quickly after impact. You're not cutting across the ball like a traditional open-face wedge shot. This is a medium-trajectory pitch that makes it easier to control distance. To put the club on the correct path for this shot, focus on moving the handle of the club around your belt line on the backswing and through-swing as quickly as you can (below). Trace the path around your waist, and the clubhead will move through the impact zone and produce crisp contact.
5.) CHIPPING CLUBS
Your setup when chipping greatly influences your club's path. To ensure solid contact and get the ball on target, address the ball with your feet, hips and shoulders aligned slightly left (open) to your target and your club soled two inches in front of the ball (below). Notice how your shoulders are level and your right hand is on top of the left thumb. Now lift your club and sole it behind the ball without changing anything else about your setup. When you swing, you'll find that your wedge moves along the target line back and through, and the clubface stays square to your target. You'll be surprised how much better your accuracy gets. Chip well, and you're really on the right path to lower scores.
Jorge Parada is one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers in America.
12 DAYS TO BETTER GOLF
Spring is a great time to get your golf game organized. The good news is, we can make it easy for you. We brought together six of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers in America and created a 12-day video instruction program focused on quick improvement. Here's how it works.
Sign up, and each day you'll receive an email with a video lesson that covers the full swing and the short game. Why both? Because top teachers and players always say to work on the big shots and the little ones at an equal pace. (Hey, we're trying to get better here, right?)
The program follows a skill-building progression so you can develop your game in a logical order. Included are 12 lessons on technique and 12 practice drills, plus 12 bonus tips on need-to-know shots and strategies from legends such as Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Hank Haney and Tom Watson.
To sign up, go to golfdigest.com/go/12days. Get a jump-start this spring, and you'll have your best year ever.