You've got your golf clubs, your 18-pack of golf balls, your bag, your shoes, even one of those fancy little electronic caddies. You're as ready as Tiger Woods ever was when he stepped onto a golf course for the very first time. Maybe you're a little taller and older than he was, but you know you're just as ready. Suddenly, by the third hole, you're beginning to wonder how much you can get for all that "barely-used" equipment.
If you're having trouble with consistency and accuracy - putting the ball in the same general spot you intended, each time you hit it - then you might want to step off the course, grab a bucket of golf balls, and head for the driving range to get some practice in on your swing.
Since you're probably on your own, unless you decide to take a lesson, just learn this - the secret to improving your swing is to figure out where you might be going wrong and then practice to correct the problem. You want to make all of the major factors affecting your swing consistent, so that you can develop a repeatable swing. Once you've got that consistency, then you can fine-tune the little details. What's so nice about working to improve your swing is that you have such an easy test to see if it's working - is the ball landing in the general area you planned? If the answer is yes, it's working. Pretty simple!
Start by reviewing what you are doing now with your stance. If you could place a broom handle on the ground so that it just touched the toe of each shoe, the end heading off towards the green should point directly at the flag. Your shoulders and hips should be parallel to that line and should stay that way throughout your swing. Not keeping the whole body parallel to that imaginary line is probably the most common problem new golfers have with their stance.
Now, we're getting to the trickier parts of your golf swing - the moving parts. It's sometimes hard to tell exactly what you might be doing wrong from this point on, so it can help to slow your swing down and have a friend or golfing buddy stand in front of you to explain what they see. Compare that to what you know you should be doing, and take it from there.
The first movement you're going to look at is your back swing. Make sure you are using a smooth, even motion during your back swing - nothing jerky or aggressive. Remember, your swing won't get better just because you swing faster or harder, chances are, it will get worse! The most common mistake that novice golfers make on the back swing is to flick their wrists backward right away like they would when swinging a baseball bat. Don't! Let it be a natural motion instead. Watch any of the pros on the PGA tour - watch Woods, Mickelson, Sorenstam and Kim - most of them begin their wrist break just a little bit before the golf club reaches the horizontal position.
After looking at your back swing, take a peek at what's going on at the transition - the point at the top of your swing, just before you bring the golf club forward. Most novice golfers don't allow the club to actually stop for a fraction of a second, and it should. After that brief stop, bring the club back down in that same even, fluid motion you worked on for your back swing. Flicking your wrists forward fast and hard is, again, what we do with a baseball bat. And if you haven't noticed by now, that little white critter on the tee is a whole lot smaller than a baseball!
Now, you're at the actual point where you make contact with the ball. Don't try to power through the ball with your arm and shoulder muscles. You're probably tired of hearing me say this, but this, too, is how we are used to hitting a baseball. If you do it during your golf swing, though, it only weakens your swing and throws the club head out of alignment. Instead, using your whole torso and even your leg muscles will help correct it, as well as one other common problem novice golfers have - letting the club face close or open up. At the moment of contact, the front and back edges of the club head should perpendicular to that imaginary broom handle you laid out earlier.
Think you're done? Not yet! You still have your follow through to consider. The biggest mistake a beginning golfer makes is to slow down after they've hit the ball. To ensure a full swing, keep your club head near the ground for about six inches on the follow through. This helps you swing through the ball, not stab at it. Again, keep that smooth, even speed all the way until the club head is up behind your head - a full swing is just that; it makes a complete circle from start to finish. Remember, it doesn't matter whether you have a driver, an iron, or a wedge in your hands; the swing speed should remain the same throughout the entire swing for all of them, and a consistent swing speed will improve your accuracy noticeably!
As you can see, the most common problem most novice golfers have with their golf swing is that they try to hit the ball with the same general motion and muscles that they would use to swing a baseball bat. That's only natural, since a bat's probably the main thing most of us grew up swinging. But it's totally wrong too. Almost everything about a golf swing is different from swinging a bat, and the only way to get it right is practice, practice, practice!
Like Bob Hope once said, "If you watch a game, it's fun. If you play it, it's recreation. If you work at it, it's golf!"
Copyright 2005 Donald Saunders