October 2009

Golf 101: Fundamentals of the Full Swing

Author: Pete Popovich

In golf, how you set up determines the motion of your swing. If you do not have a fundamentally sound set up, it is very difficult to hit the ball consistently well. A good golf swing begins with four simple fundamentals. More often than not, problems in the motion of a golf swing are the effect, with the cause being a breakdown of one of the following:

The grip is your one and only link with the golf club and is the “junction box” of the swing. The grip dictates where the hands and ultimately the club head will be throughout the swing. Without a good grip, it is extremely difficult to play good golf, because the hands, arms and club head need to work in unison.

Make sure the clubface is square by having the leading edge of the club head perpendicular with the target line.

While placing the golf club in your hand, position the grip on a slight diagonal from the middle of the index finger to the base of the pinkie finger. The club is balanced between the index finger and the pad of the hand with the left thumb right of the center of the grip. .

The palm of the right hand faces towards the intended line of flight when the hand is open. The lifeline of your right hand fits snugly on top of your left thumb with your right thumb just to the left of center on the grip. While looking down, you should see approximately 2-2 ½ knuckles on your left hand and one knuckle on your right hand. For the hands and arms to work in unison, the palms of both hands must be parallel.

Ball Position
A key aspect of the set-up and alignment is ball position. Having the ball positioned too far forward or too far back will lead to inconsistent ball flights. Too far forward leads to thin shots that slice. Too far back promotes low shots that go to the right.

As if you were talking to someone, stand balanced and centered with your arms at your sides and your feet shoulder width apart. You will notice the extension of your vertical center line, which is an extension of your spine, would touch the ground between your feet. This is also where the tangent of an arc, i.e. the swing, would touch the ground.

When you grip the club, your right hand is lower than your left hand, making your right shoulder lower than your left shoulder. Because you are “tilted” to the right, the spot where your vertical centerline contacts the ground is forward of center. This is where the club will bottom out, contacting the ground, and is the starting point of your ball position.

This starting point ball position would be for a standard shot trajectory and is consistent with all clubs. For a lower trajectory, the ball is moved slightly back in the stance. For a higher trajectory the ball is moved slightly forward in the stance.

Contrary to the opinion of some, golf is an athletic sport. With that in mind, it is important to have a good athletic posture. Beginning from the ground up, your feet should be shoulder width apart with the knees relaxed and athletically ready. Anatomical balance will lead to athletic balance. The load-bearing joints are aligned one above another (knees directly over the ankles, hips over the knees, and shoulders over the hips). The toes are flared out slightly (10-30 degrees for the front foot and 5-15 degrees for the rear foot).

Bend forward from the waist until your shoulders, knees and toes are in line with one another. Your arms should hang almost vertically over your toes. Your weight is evenly balanced and centered.

Without a sense of direction, a good swing will serve no purpose. Ideally you would like your arms, shoulders, hips, knees and feet parallel to the line you intend to start the ball. If there are certain physical limitations that do not allow you to align yourself this way, slightly open to your target line is better than closed to your target line.

Tip: Imagining railroad tracks, one track from your ball to the target and one track for your feet, will help you to improve your stance/alignment.

For more help with your game, contact Pete Popovich at the Golf Performance Academy, (843) 338-6737, or visit www.golfacademyhiltonhead.com.


Meet the Local Pro!

Where: Dolphin Head Golf Club, Hilton Head Plantation

Rita Slavetskas has been rated one of the TOP 50 LPGA INSTRUCTORS IN THE USA!

She was accepted into the Ladies Professional Golf Association Teaching and Club Professional Division in 1997 and earned her Class A status in 2002. Since joining the LPGA, Rita has been involved in instructing all levels of golfers, male and female; in private and group settings. Ms. Slavetskas is the LPGA Teaching Professional on the staff of Cacapon State Park in the spring and summer as well as the LPGA Teaching Professional on staff at Dolphin Head Golf Club on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

She has had the honor to instruct with many professional golfers including Nancy Lopez, Peggy Kirk Bell, Dottie Pepper, Sandra Haynie, Sally Little, Jane Blalock, Jane Frost, Elaine Crosby, Vicki Fergon, Emilee Klein, Laurie West, Marlene Floyd, Jim McLean, Alicia DiBos, Kathy Whitworth, Paula Creamer, Mike Shannon, Gale Peterson and Cindy Miller. Rita believes it is critical to maintain contact and a working relationship with the best in the industry so that others may benefit from their skill.

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