Golf Swing Mechanics – Understanding the Basics

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Golf Swing Mechanics

When performed correctly, your golf swing should look like one smooth, continuous motion that culminates with you holding a nicely balanced finished as the ball sails through the air.  Within that motion, however, is a series of techniques that each must be executed properly in order to strike a good shot.

This is one of the main challenges of learning to play golf – you must blend a combination of unique movements into one composed process that you can repeat time and time again.

When you think about it that way, it’s no wonder the game is so hard!

Golf Swing Mechanics

Golf swing mechanics can be broken down into five general sections:

  • The Takeaway
  • The Backswing
  • The Transition
  • The Downswing and Impact
  • The Follow Through.

The following is a quick review of each of these key fundamentals to help you better understand proper golf swing mechanics.

The Takeaway

The way you start your swing has a lot to do with how successful the swing will be in the end.  A bad takeaway will set you off on the wrong foot for your swing – and you may never recover.

So what makes a good takeaway?  Quiet hands.

Simply put, you want your takeaway to be as boring as possible.  There shouldn’t be much at all happening in your takeaway, and if there is, something has gone wrong.  The idea is to turn your shoulders away from the target while your hands remain quiet and your lower body is stable.  That’s it.

Many amateur golfers want to do more in the takeaway, but additional motion is only going to cause trouble.  Keep it simple and your swing will be off to a great start.

If you do use your hands too actively in the takeaway, you are laying the groundwork for the dreaded slice.

It goes like this – you use too much hand action in the takeaway, so the club is too far inside early in the backswing.  As you reach the top of the swing, your arms are cramped in against your body, and have to lift up simply to make room.  This puts your arms too high at the top of the swing, and coming down from outside-in is the only possible outcome.  That outside-in path puts slice spin on the ball, and you are left with a poor shot.  Even if the rest of your swing is just fine, you can hit a slice simply due to a poor takeaway.

Here is an excellent video example of Adam Scott’s simple, and smooth takeaway:

The Backswing

While the takeaway is technically part of the backswing, this section is referring to the portion of the swing between the takeaway and the transition at the top.  This is when the club gets lifted up into position, and when you finish your shoulder turn.

The key to this part of your swing is actually your lower body, because this is when many golfers begin to slide away from the target.

As your backswing completes, make sure you are remaining on balance.  Focus on keeping your weight stacked on top of your legs, and resist any temptation to turn so far that you slide your weight out of position.

A golf swing that slides away from the target during the backswing is one that will lack power at impact.  Speed in the golf swing is created through rotation, and you can’t rotate aggressively if you are off balance at the top.

If you wish to hit the ball as hard as possible – and who doesn’t – you will be best served to focus on balance, even if it means cutting your backswing just a bit short.

Golf Swing Mechanics

Example of a “slide”or “sway” on the left versus a proper backswing weight shift on the right. Photo credit:

The Transition

If you want to hit a quality shot, you have to have a clean transition in your swing – it is just that simple.  The club has to change directions from backswing to downswing, and that moment in time is known as the transition in the golf world.

Your main focus in the transition should be the motion of your lower body.  As the club arrives at the top of the swing, it is the job of the lower body to start rotating toward the target.

This is where so many amateur players go so wrong.  Most golfers lead with their hands instead of their lower body, and the result is weak, inconsistent contact.

To be a solid ball striker, you have to learn how to use your lower body correctly.  When your lower body leads the way, it puts everything in a great position to strike down through the ball cleanly.

Practice starting the transition with a rotation of your lower body toward the target, and the quality of your ball striking will quickly improve.

Here are the guys from Me and My Golf TV with a great dill and demonstration of how you can start to feel a proper golf transition:

The Downswing and Impact

Impact is often called “the moment of truth,” because it is the only point in the golf swing where the club actually meets the ball.  All of the work you have done in the previous three sections will be wasted if you are unable to arrive at a good impact position.

The key fundamental for you to consider in this section is getting your hands past the ball before impact.  All of the best players in the world are able to do this consistently, and you should follow their lead.  This is something that many training aids like the DST Compressor and the SKLZ Smash Bag are designed to get you to feel.

One way to improve your ability to get your hands past the ball is to relax your grip pressure at address.  Squeezing the club too tightly will make it difficult for the club head to “lag” behind your hands correctly.

Relax your grip before you start your swing so that the club can flow freely from the transition all the way down through impact.  You should be holding on tight enough to maintain control of the club, but no tighter.

Golf Swing Mechanics

The proper position at impact.  Photo credit:

The Follow Through

While the ball has already left the club in the follow through, you still need to pay attention to your technique at this point.  There is just one big key to focus on in the follow through – balance.

As your swing finishes, you should be nicely balanced on your left leg (or right leg for a left handed golfer).  If you are having trouble holding a balanced finish, you will know something has gone wrong earlier in the swing.

Make it a goal for each shot you hit to hold your balanced finish until the ball has landed on the ground.

Here’s legendary golf coach Hank Haney explaining why the follow through is so important to the golf swing:

If you can combine good balance with proper execution in each of the four stages of the swing listed above, you’ll be on your way to some of the best ball striking of your life.

Recommended Further Reading

We highly recommend the following resources for anyone looking to explore proper golf swing mechanics even further:

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Cover Photo by Torrey Wiley on Flickr

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