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The Stages of the Golf Swing

December 15, 2017

You know a good golf swing when you see one. It looks effortless and goes a mile. To understand how to produce such an efficient and powerful swing you first need to break down the swing into it's various stages and understand what happens during each of these stages.



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OK, so this stage doesn't actually involve "swinging" but it does play an incredibly important role in producing the shot you want to hit. Next time you watch Golf on TV, notice how much time the player and their caddie spend discussing the shot before the player hits the ball. During the preparation stage, ask 5 Questions to help determine what your options are and visualize hitting the shot. The Preparation Stage includes Planning, Visualization, and Pre-Shot Routine.




The address position sets the tone for the entire swing. The fundamentals of the swing start here in the address stage. Your Grip, Posture, and Alignment, along with Setting Yourself Up For Success greatly determine your success of the shot. Be sure to follow a proper bracing sequence and prioritize midline stability in your setup for consistent results. Failing to do so will lead to an unstable swing.




Most golfers initiate the swing using their hands, trying to get the club head to move back on plane. This, however, is dangerous, as starting the swing with your hands changes the relationship of the clubface to the target and will need to be fixed somewhere else in the swing in the form of compensation (aka the opposite of efficiency).


Anyone who has spent some time with me knows that I teach students to initiate the swing by pushing their lead shoulder under and back (left shoulder for right handed players). This allows the "entire system" to move back on plane, not just the club head thus keeping the face square and promoting efficiency.




OK, so you've initiated your takeaway and made a backswing. Now, in order to make contact with the ball, you need to change direction and start the downswing. This is a critical moment in the swing and often falls apart without proper Tempo, Balance, and Connection. Regardless of swing plane, wrist hinge, etc., it's vital that you allow the clubs momentum to change directions naturally. To achieve a consistent transition and create lag, you need to adhere to The Goldilocks Effect (Too much tension in the body or hands will prevent the club from hinging properly. Too little tension and there's no control of the club.)


This, takes discipline...




Lag is created during the transition stage when the angle between the lead arm and the club shaft goes from a wide angle to a narrow angle, thus storing the energy produced during the transition.


In order to produce effortless power you need to hold onto this energy but ultimately you need to let it go. This is called release.


The release happens when the lead hand (left hand for right handed players) reaches hip high on the downswing. At that point, the trail arm (right arm for right handed golfers) extends downward thus releasing all the stored energy.




The moment the club-face touches the ball is when all the magic happens. When starting out, beginner golfers should only be concerned with making solid contact.


In order to create solid impact, you must remember two key principles of the swing...


1) The Secret to Golf: NEVER try to HIT the ball... SWING the club and LET THE BALL GET IN THE WAY


2) It's NOT our job to make the ball go in the air... OUR JOB is to make solid contact... THE CLUB will get the ball in the air. How high the ball goes is mainly based on the loft of the club.


Only when you can repeatably make solid contact and the ball gets airborne can you start thinking about fine tuning the swing (attack angle, club path, face angle, swing direction, contentedness of contact, etc).
















Technically speaking, after the ball has been hit, nothing else matters. That being said, the follow-through is a great indication as to what happened previously in the swing.


For example, finishing off balance or falling backwards after a shot is a great indicator that something went wrong earlier in the swing. Balance and Connection are vitally important to creating consistency. 


If you feel as though you're off balance, didn't make solid contact, or can't reproduce your results, slow down, shorten the backswing, regain solidness of contact and then work your way back up. Shorter, more compact, more efficient swings will out perform long, loose, sloppy swings every time.





Understand that in Golf, if you do enough things wrong, you'll get a good result. After you hit a shot you need to reflect and learn from that shot. The beauty of this game is that every single shot is a learning experience. If you practice intentionally, you can improve faster because you're constantly learning and trying to make each swing count.


When you hit a shot, ask yourself: 


"How did that feel?"


"Am I balanced?"


"Did the ball go where I wanted?"


"Was it because I made a good swing or was it because I did enough things wrong that I got a good result?"


When you hit a good shot, reflect on it, internalize it, remember it, try to repeat it. When you hit a bad shot, was it really that bad? Was everything wrong or was one key piece wrong?


I can't tell you how many times players make a 90 percent proficient swing yet that 10 percent was enough to create a bad result and the player gets discouraged. This is dangerous. There's a great chance you did a lot of things well. Don't let that small piece ruin your mentality.




We need to practice, and we need to play. Practice and play go hand in hand and complement each other. They're two sides of the same coin.


Working on the Driving Range is a great place to practice the different stages and really work on each individual component and the course is a great place to put it all together. What's great about the range is that you can get into a flow, mess up and grab another ball, and not worry about score. What's great about the course is you can put it all together and see how your hard work has paid off.


This is a process...


It takes time...


It takes discipline...


It takes constant refinement... 


But your hard work will pay off...



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