Teaching golf to a newbie can be very rewarding and frustrating at the same time. Everyone has to start from scratch, and while the ball is stationary, it is possibly the most difficult game to master. Developing confidence in the golf swing is most important and is the start of the journey to success. Learn the basic fundamentals, practice them as often as possible, and constant improvement will be achieved. Golf is a game where the adage of “what you put in, expect to get out” is very true. It takes patience, overcoming frustration, and the ability to laugh at oneself!
This article is about learning the basics.
The Basic Fundamentals
The fastest way to become a better golfer is to learn and understand the basic fundamentals required to hit a golf ball consistently. It is not necessary to rush to a golf course or driving range to learn the basics, and they can be practiced and ingrained at home in the garage or the garden.
The No1 basic is holding the club correctly so that the hands can work in unison during the swing. Initially, the grip will feel awkward, but perseverance is required. There are two main styles of grip, and either the overlap or interlock grip should be developed. As a rule of thumb, small hands or short fingers are more suited to the interlocking style. I will go into a bit more detail on the grip towards the end of this article.
Standing with the feet, shoulders, and hips all at 90-degrees to the intended target is an ideal position. The feet should be no wider than shoulder-width and the toes of both feet can be pointed outwards.
A critical fundamental to swing a club consistently on the same plane, from the backswing, through to the completed downswing. Take up the stance, as above, now tilt the upper body forward towards the ball from the pelvis. Complicated move? No! Take a club and hold it parallel to the ground in front of you, with the shaft touching the pelvis. Now lean forward over it. The legs are flexed slightly forward at the knees. Get the feeling of sitting on a high bar stool. The weight should be towards the balls of the feet and with a 50/50 weight distribution between the left and right leg.
Watch the top players and take particular notice of the balance they maintain through the completed swing. You should be able to rock backward and forwards on the feet and shift the weight from the left leg to the right when standing at the address position to the ball. Maintaining good balance in the swing starts here.
Alignment is possibly one of the most overlooked basics in the golf swing. The best analogy I have is: If you don’t aim a rifle at the target on the shooting range, the chances are you will never hit the target! The same theory applies in golf, so ensure feet, shoulders, and hips are all aligned to the target.
Setting up to the ball varies slightly depending on whether it is for a tee shot with the driver, or hitting an iron from the fairway. The driver is played from a golf tee or peg, and the ball should be opposite the left heel at address. The ball should be hit on the upswing to launch it high and far. With an iron off the fairway, the ball is played back towards the middle of the stance, and the intention is to hit down on the ball. In golf, you have to hit down on the ball to get it up in the air! Only the driver should be hit on the upswing, hence the ball position set forward at address.
Hit Through the Ball
One simple thought that will ease the frustration and develop good habits, is to ensure you hit through the ball and not at the ball. A simple drill: Swing the golf club without a ball in front of you. Place 3 golf tees in the ground in a straight line along the intended swing path, about 6 inches apart. Now on the backswing sweep the back tee away and on the downswing make contact with the middle and front tee. This is how a ball should be struck on every shot on the course.
The weight moves to the right side on the backswing and should remain on the instep of the right foot towards the heel at the top of the swing. The hips turn at 45-degrees away from the ball, while the shoulders turn at 90-degrees away from the ball. This difference, in turn, creates a coil or spring-like effect. The transition back to the left side starts with the hips turning to the left and the weight moving back to the left foot. The shoulders and arms follow, BUT do not start the downswing!
Starting the backswing away from the ball should be a smooth, unrushed movement, with the shoulders, hips, and arms turning at the same time towards the top of the swing. The emphasis is to TURN, not SWAY away from the ball. A quick drill or feeling: Imagine you are standing inside a large barrel up to your hips at address. Now all the lower body movements must be completed within this barrel. The spine is the axis of the swing and everything turns around it.
The downswing should be a smooth transition of the weight from the loaded right side to the left side. This is the most difficult move in golf to master!! The hips turn away to the left and keep turning through to the follow-through. This clears the way for the arms to swing through the ball unrestricted. The shoulders and hips should both be facing the target when the swing is completed, with the weight at 90/10 on the left foot.
Back to the Grip
Place the club grip into the left hand across the base of the fingers, and hold the club with the last three fingers. The hand wraps around the grip with the thumb placed on the right side of the grip, with the V formed by the thumb and the first finger pointing between the head and the right shoulder. Now wrap the right hand with the overlock or interlock grip onto the club grip. The V formed by the thumb and first finger should point in the same direction as the left, for the hands to work in unison through the swing.
Interlock—Place the first finger of the left hand between the pinky and the third finger of the right hand and wrap the right hand over the grip.
Overlock—Place the pinky finger of the right hand over the first finger of the left, between the knuckles, and wrap the right hand over the grip.
The right equipment plays an important part in becoming a competent golfer, but for the beginner, buy or borrow an old 7- iron and practice the basics in front of a mirror or large glass pane to get the feeling of all the movements and set up. Go to a range and hit balls to have some fun and develop confidence. Once you can get the ball airborne consistently, then I suggest you take a few lessons from a teaching golf professional. It takes determination and practice but is very rewarding.
Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.