In Search of the Perfect Golf Swing

By: James Sherard

Another hectic workweek is behind you and Saturday has thankfully arrived. The scent of freshly cut grass lingers pleasantly in the air as you tee up for the first round of the day. With your practice swings completed you eagerly approach the ball, establish your stance, and strike. Your eyes follow the trajectory expectantly in hope that the long hours you've invested at the range will pay off, only to watch in disbelief as the tiny blur of white in the distance suddenly careens to the left and vanishes defiantly into the rough...

Whether you're a seasoned player, or a novice who dreams of breaking 100, developing a consistent and accurate swing is an essential element to mastering the game of golf. Although seemingly elusive by nature, it's a skill which can be honed through diligence and a firm grasp of the basics. Enclosed below are various tips that will point you in the right direction when considering the most effective means of improving your swing:

Mental Approach:

Zen your way to a better golf swing? The notion may not be as "new age" as it sounds. Many top players across the nation have begun utilizing the technique of "visualization" to improve their swing. Before approaching the fairway create a mental image of swinging effortlessly and precisely. Visualize the club hitting the ball and the type of shot you desire, creating in your mind's eye a line of projection that leads directly from the tee to the hole. Learning to let go and allowing your body to find its own natural rhythm without the constraints of the mind will guide you to a place where perfection resides, taking several strokes off your score in the process.

Grip:

The grip is considered to be the focal point of the golf swing, and if properly applied will reduce the tendency to slice. Maintain a comfortable and relaxed grip, keeping in mind it should be firm enough to keep the club head square on impact. Gripping the club too tightly will inhibit a smooth swing and follow through, and often elicits a draw or hook. Conversely a weak grip promotes a left to right flight of the ball. The most commonly used grip is referred to as the "Vardon" or "overlapping" grip, which is formed by wrapping the little finger of your right hand around the index finger of your left hand.

Stance:

Working in conjunction with a proper grip your stance will serve as a solid foundation for your swing. The key to a good stance is to be balanced and relaxed by equally distributing your weight over your right and left leg, with your feet shoulder width apart. The length of your arms when extended and the length of the club should reach the ground easily. Slightly flex the knees and provide a subtle tilt to the waist to ensure proper form. An imaginary thread extending across your feet should run parallel to the line of flight from the ball to the target. Focus on the proper stance at all times to cultivate a consistent swing.

Backswing:

The backswing is considered more of a strategic motion than one which generates power, as it's main purpose is to correctly position the club at the top of the swing to align it precisely for the downswing. When beginning the backswing bring the club back slowly, allowing your body to start the backward movement of arms and club. Coil with your shoulders first, followed by the hips. As you bring the club up the shaft should be in line with the toes at the halfway point, and the right arm should be a bit higher than the left. Upon reaching the top of the swing keep weight on the inside of the right foot. Hesitate momentarily at the apex of the backswing to establish the correct tempo, and keep arms in front of the chest.

Downswing:

The downswing is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of the swing, and if executed correctly will guarantee a powerful and accurate shot. While implementing this movement make sure your left arm stays near your chest. Allow your arms to fall by gravitational force alone, with your right elbow leading your right arm to impact. Pull rather than push the club as you move into the swing with your chest guiding your arms. Turn your left hip toward the ball as your right foot rolls inside which shifts your left knee towards the target, pulling the right shoulder and club down and around. Allow your arm to drop in front of the toe line as your right elbow lowers to your right hip. Swing your hips toward the ball and shift your right knee toward your left which is followed by your shoulders. The angle of the club shaft and left forearm should remain fixed as your club and hands move toward your toe line. The left side of your body should initiate the swing, while the right side does the hitting.

Follow Through:

The final step that completes a full golf swing is that of the follow through. Although sometimes overlooked in regard to significance, if performed correctly it insures optimum club head speed and distance. It also allows the body to complete the movements it started, thus protecting oneself from injury. After striking the ball your right shoulder should be lower than your left, with the belt buckle pointing toward the target. Your right heel will have a tendency to rise due to the momentum of your swing, and the right arm and club should extend in a straight line. The V position of your arms should remain constant, which indicates that your club struck the ball with maximum force. A follow through that is performed correctly should end with your hand over your left shoulder, with most of your weight on the left foot.

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