What to Do When Your Golf Swing Really Sucks
Today I had the opportunity to play golf for the first time with two of my close friends. As we were walking up to the first tee box, one of my buddies turned to me and said “Foy, you’re going to have to give me some tips today to help me with my golf swing.”
Having never played golf with these two guys, I had no idea what level they’re on currently. It was quickly apparent that both had terrible golf swings which made it a struggle for them to make contact with the golf ball consistently.
I assessed them as the same level as beginners who are new to the game and haven’t spent much time in their life playing golf. Sure enough this was validated when they told me they’ve played maybe 5 to 6 rounds of golf in their lifetime.
This got me thinking, how do I help two beginners who are literally starting from the beginning and haven’t gotten down a basic golf swing they can use to consistently hit the golf ball.
They were still in that beginner phase where almost every shot was topped or chunked 10 yards or severely sliced 40 yards the rare times they did make contact with the golf ball. Our 9 hole round ended up taking much longer than it should because my friends took 10 shots to get down to the green.
But as mentioned, this opened up my mindset to new problems to solve for these guys and now I’d like to run through the basics with you in this article, that I shared with them today as well.
I hope to help those of you who are new to the game of golf and have newbie golf swings that struggle to make contact with the ball. Let’s stop the madness and help you reach the green in fewer than 10 golf shots. Are you ready?
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Step 1: Improve your contact & ball striking
The first fix I wanted to make with my two buddies today was improving their contact.
I watched swing after swing where they completely whiffed at the ball.
I watched golf swings where they chunked huge divots behind the golf ball. The ball traveled forward only 10-40 yards mainly from the sod pushing their golf ball ahead, rather than the club face.
I watched golf swings where they topped the golf ball, sending it wobbling ahead 20 yards.
I watched skulls and heeled golf shots that sent the ball sideways at a sharp angle, nearly hitting us playing partners who thought there was no way the ball could come at such an angle. We soon learned we needed to stay behind the person hitting the ball at all times because no angle was safe.
It was clear that these two friends of mine had terrible ball striking and couldn’t make consistent contact. This was my first major recommendation to them. Improve your ball striking and you’ll instantly drop several strokes from your golf score.
I told them that they need to buy a large bucket of golf balls at the driving range and spend a day focusing solely on making contact with the golf ball. I don’t care how far the ball goes each shot. I only care that you make solid contact with the ball. No topping, chunking, heeled shots, or whiffs.
Great, work on making solid contact with the golf ball. But how do you do that when it’s the golf swing that is so out of whack that it’s causing the poor contact?
My Solution for My Buddies Today:
First, try taking baby back swings. Smaller back swings are much easier to control than a full golf swing.
Notice how you make decent contact with putts and wedge shots? It’s because you aren’t lifting the club high in the air like you do in the full swing. Instead you’re taking small back strokes that are easier to keep yourself on plane during the forward stroke.
In the case with my buddy, I had him doing punch shots with a wood like as if he was chipping. We got him doing quarter back swings and half back swings, which gave enough time to generate some power for the forward swing while still keeping his swing motion in control and not giving it time to break down or get offline.
He started making better contact taking small back swings due to better control keeping his club on plane. His wood punch shots were going 90 to 100 yards with small back swings which was much better than the 10-40 yard inconsistent shots he was hitting before.
Ball Striking Action Drill:
Head to the driving range, grab your 7 iron and your driver, and start taking very small back swings like you would with a wedge on a chip shot. Try chipping the golf ball for awhile with your 7 iron so that you get comfortable making solid, consistent contact and taking healthy divots. Count how many shots you can hit in a row without topping, chunking, whiffing, etc.
Then switch to your driver after awhile and repeat the drill, acting as if you’re hitting baby punch shots with your driver until you’re making consistent contact between ball and driver club face.
Slowly increase the length of your back swing until you improve at each phase and can finally make full swings that consistently hit the golf ball. It will take lots of reps so expect to spend a few weeks hitting balls at the driving range until your contact has improved.
Step 2: Fixing the Swing Path
Once we get you making consistent contact with the golf ball, you’ll be able to hit the ball further and reach the green in fewer strokes. We’ve cut down a few wasted strokes (chunks, topped golf shots, shanks, etc.) that didn’t move the ball down the hole. Now we’re moving the golf ball down the hole towards the green. It may not be straight but at least we’ve got it moving from tee box to green in fewer strokes overall.
Are you at this point? Great.
Now we can start working to straighten out the golf shot. You’ve passed Level 1 which is making contact with the golf ball consistently from shot to shot. Level 2 is straightening out the golf shot to further add distance to each shot and get you on the green in less strokes.
To straighten out your golf shot you need to understand 2 important factors of the golf swing:
- Swing Path
- Club Face Angle at Impact
When you hit the golf ball, does it start out straight for the first several yards in the air before it starts curving left or right? If so, then you’ve got a decent swing path into the golf ball. The reason the ball starts flying like a slice or hook is because of how the face was angled when it made contact with the golf ball.
A closed face will cause the right to left counter clockwise spin on the golf ball which is what creates a draw or hook. An open face cuts across the ball sending it spinning clockwise and makes the ball move left to right in the air like a slice or fade.
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Swing Path Analysis Exercise:
So first analyze your alignment. How are you aimed at your target?
We need you to aim yourself straight at your target in order to determine your ball flight tendencies. Here is a picture of proper aim and alignment. You need your feet to be aligned parallel to the ball alignment.
Photo credit to GolfWRX.com
Once aimed straight at the fairway on the tee box, hit a golf ball and see if it starts out to the right, the left, or straight initially before it starts moving sideways as a hook or slice. This initial movement after impact will tell you your swing path.
If you’re starting it out to the right, it’s because you’re coming from the inside of the alignment rod (in the photo above) with the golf club heading from left of the pole to right of the pole after impact.
If you’re starting the ball left, it’s likely from your club swinging on an outside to in swing path, where the club comes in from the right side of the pole and heads to the left side of the pole as it hits the ball at impact.
Take a moment to look at that photo an imagine each scenario of how you’re swing path could be coming inside to outside, straight down the line, or coming outside to the inside.
Set up some alignment noodles and practice correcting your swing path. The noodles can act as barriers forcing you to keep your swing within the boundaries or else you risk hitting the noodles.
Step 3: Fixing the Club Face Angle at Impact
Now we’ve got you making consistent contact with the golf ball and we’ve also figured out your swing path and started correcting it so you’re swinging straighter when the club reaches impact. We’ve hopefully reduced swing paths that were severely outside to inside or perhaps the opposite, severely inside to outside.
Now we can work on squaring up the club face angle at impact.
The main factors that control your club face angle are your grip and how you release the club face just before impact.
When you set the club on the ground, you’ll either have a neutral grip, a strong grip (draw/hook), or a weak grip (fade/slice).
Adjusting your grip can help to open or close the club face during set up but how you release the golf club just before impact also matters greatly. During your back swing you’ll hinge your wrist, creating a cocked wrist at the top of the back swing. On the down swing, just before impact, you’ll release the cocked wrist sending the club whipping at the golf ball.
You have milliseconds to square the club face up so that it hits the golf ball as you saw in the black and white photo above that says “square.”
Therefore, club face angle is all in the hands, wrists, and grip. It’s hard to teach this online so you’ll need to spend lots of time and range balls working on “feel” which is basically feeling your hands and wrists squaring up the golf club before impact.
There will be times you can feel your hands turning the club head closed, sending the ball hooking. There will be times you feel like you didn’t get the club faced closed enough and left it open, slicing the golf ball.
“Feel” is an art in golf. Take lots of time learning how to master it and control the club face at impact.
Overall, you need to first work on contact drills that get you hitting the golf ball and eliminating chunked shots, topped shots, shanks, etc.
Once you can hit the golf ball consistently and get it moving down the golf course, you then can start focusing on straightening out the shots. Start by focusing on your swing path and how it’s starting the golf ball initially after impact.
Then work on adjusting your club face angle at impact to create the necessary spin you desire whether it be draw spin, fade spin, or straight. Most people can’t hit perfectly straight and prefer to have a slight draw or fade in their golf shot.
There’s a lot of complicated movements in the golf swing that will affect your swing path and club face angle at impact. Here is a list of some ideas but not all:
- Swing plane you take the club back on
- Weight shift
- Upper body being in sync with lower body (pulling golf shots, pushing golf shots)
- Release of wrist cock before impact
- Lead arm breaking down instead of staying pretty straight
Again, it will take lots of practice and range balls to build up your experience at feeling how the hands work to square up the club face at impact. Don’t expect a golf swing fix to come easy or happen fast. Be patient and approach a swing fix in phases. There are many factors that impact your golf swing and you may need to correct several things before you’ll begin hitting the ball straighter.
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