Golf Swing Deconstructed: How to Swing Like a Pro

Published on 03/14/2023 · 9 min readProper golf club swing is imperative for improving your game and avoiding injury! Golf Expert Jay Graham breaks down what the proper golf swing looks like.
Jay Graham, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Jay Graham

The correct grip is key to the golf swing. All photos by Jay Graham

The greatest game on earth, golf, has a magic to it that cannot be understood until the first time you attempt to hit that small bundle of dimples called a golf ball, with the angular face on one of these sticks known as golf clubs. Once the difficulty of actually making contact sets in, it is clear to understand where the fascination millions of fans share for this Scottish drinking game turned Olympic sport.

I personally have fallen in love with the sport and have taught it for over 30 years. I have helped countless people develop their passion for golf; and I hope to ignite the same passion in you with this quick guide on how to achieve the proper golf swing using a system I have developed from my experience over three decades.

Placing Yourself

The swing starts with where you are in relation to the ball. You have to place yourself somewhere behind the ball, yet how do you know how far that is?

Place the clubhead on the ground in front of you, next to the ball. The club's face has a set of lines. These furrowed trenches are there precisely so you can align them to be parallel to the ground. Once they are aligned, the club should assume its natural angle. Of course, each club in your bag has a different loft which is visible at this point of the setup. Your 7-iron should not feel the same as your sand wedge if you are lining up the lines.

So at this point, we have our club, which is next to the ball, and the lines are aligned. The club is pointing up at us at an angle. Next, aim to situate your right foot's pinky toe underneath the very end of the grip. Your two feet should start off together, then move your left foot over one-foot width to the left, and your right foot two-foot widths to the right. This position should make your feet sit at just around shoulder width with the ball on the inside of your left foot (it is closer to the left foot than the right).

This process is different for drivers, where you simply move your right foot three-foot widths to the right after you have positioned your right pinkie directly underneath the grip. As the driver is the longest club, it is important to have a larger distance between the ball and the right shoulder. In doing so, the ball should be located 2.5–3 ball widths inside of the left foot.

Get a Grip

From here, we can now lift up the golf club—pointing the club head all the way up to the sky. By lifting it up, we can grip it properly; when the club is facing down, this orientation will affect our grip.

The left hand is cut in half by the grip (as pictured), about a half inch from the end of the club, while the thumb points straight down to the club head. The right hand lays on top of the left, where the right pinkie is placed in the space between the middle and index of the left hand.

First step in the correct grip

Second step in the correct grip

Third step in the correct grip

At this point, you may have noticed this is uncomfortable. It is often overlooked that this sport can be quite taxing. Ease into it, and take your time to appreciate how some of these positions stress your body in new ways. Be cognizant of the effort it takes with each piece of the puzzle.

It is important that we achieve two things with the golf grip. First, we need to have a very solid connection between ourselves and our battle weapons. If the club moves too much, it can ruin the entire movement. Yet, we do not want to white knuckle it either. The saying goes “you want to pretend you are holding a bird, not hard enough to kill it, but not too soft that it flies away”, or so I have been told.

Yet, the paradox of the grip is that we are disconnecting our body from the club by holding it this way. We are aiming to lag the club head behind us as we perform the swing. Imagine a pendulum…usually, the string of the pendulum is a straight line with the weight at the end. There is no lag between either of them. But, if you were to attach a stick 90 degrees to the pendulum, there would be lag between the end of the stick and the arm. The same happens here, where there is a delay between our action and the impact, meaning we can turn completely into the golf ball.

Note to The Lefties

If you are left-handed, you will be gripping the club with your right hand underneath, and your left hand sitting on top (placing your left pinkie on top of the space between your right middle and index finger). You are still turning to the left and then to the right, so you would move your right foot one-foot width to the right, and your left two-foot widths to the left. When using the driver, it will be your left foot three widths to the left.

Twist and Shout

Now comes the part we have all been waiting for, the big twist and turn. Since we are standing at the right spot and holding the club like the battle weapon it is, we are now ready to launch the ball. Squat down so you are in an athletic position. You want to engage your legs as if you were about to jump up or run forward. I, personally, can feel my hamstrings tighten up when I find the right spot. The end of the grip should be pointing at our belt buckle.

Set up right before you swing

Swinging back with the hips about 45 degrees and the shoulders to 90 degrees

Prepare for blast off: turn your hips to the right, your shoulders will follow and should stop at around 90 degrees right, with your hips rotated 45 degrees (depicted as the pink lines in the picture above). Any more will be unnecessary. It is our lower body that initiates the movement, as it has the most power.

From here we can turn all the way to the left, shifting our body weight from our right foot to the left foot. The ball happens to be in the way of the club, as it hits the ball into the ground. At this point, you may have noticed how paradoxical golf is! We are actually trying to compress the golf ball into the ground (which is why there are divots when you play on a real turf), so that we drive the ball to spin backward. This spinning causes the ball to fly through the air, ideally in a straight line. Our hands finish behind our left shoulder and we have lifted our right foot up.

Now comes the difficulty of any lesson: do I inundate you with more information so that you cannot fathom what to consider with every lightning-fast swing you make, or do I let you sit in the dark where you can stew with what I have just given you. I think if you can focus on your stance, grip, and using your hips to hit the ball rather than pushing it with your upper body, you are well on your way to becoming a scratch player.

You may be interested in keeping your right arm, the trailing arm, close to your body, so that the bent elbow is connected to your center of torque, your core. The left arm should lockout, and under no part of the swing should it ever deviate from locking out.

Gymnasts use this sort of straight arm strength to perform iron crosses, planche, and a host of other incredible feats of strength, as it engages the scapula and the biceps in a way that we do not often encounter outside of these niche sport applications.

The Future Is Now

It is incredible that we now have consumer launch monitors and professionals with their own sets to teach with. This awesome technology is more accessible than ever—not just reserved for golf pros and the best players, but for any amateur golfer. And in my honest opinion, it is impossible to teach golf without a launch monitor and a set of high-speed video cameras. There, I said it. Go get yourself a golf teacher, or ask your neighbor if you can borrow their smartphone if you don’t have one yourself…it is that important.

The golf swing is one of the most explosive movements in the entire sports lexicon; it happens so fast that we need several hundred frames per second (usually, 24 photos make up a video, here, we need 480) to see what is going on. Luckily many modern mobile phones can provide a good start for analyzing a swing if you are so inclined. Over time it is definitely possible to analyze your own swing, but I would strongly recommend you get lessons if you want to cut your frustration in half and double your learning—and fun!

It makes sense why slowing everything down is important, but what about the launch monitor? Well, these marvels of science use radar technology to measure the club and the ball separately. This data is then used to calculate how your ball flies through the air, which can give us accurate insights into the angles or speed you are hitting the club face at, among other things such as the swing plane or the trajectory of your shots.

Heading to Impact

One tool a lot of my students like to use is to work back from the impact position they want to achieve. Imagine yourself on the cover of Golf Digest. The club shaft is pointing out from the ball which is being hit with lag. A straight line originates down your left arm going down from your left knee. Visualize the perfect golf swing, and reverse engineer it.

If you are practicing on the driving range, I would recommend that you go through all the clubs you have available to you, rather than fixating on only one at a time. The different lengths of the clubs will keep your brain engaged, and you will be learning how to play even faster than before. Don't focus too much on what you are doing wrong. Instead, reward yourself for what is going well. It is very hard to put all these moving parts together in such a short time as a golf swing.

Wrapping It All Up

I hope you enjoy this breakdown of the entire swing: the correct way of engaging the proper technique, where to stand, how to grip, and finishing it all with a powerful turn. I promise, as a PGA professional, that if you can get these basics right, you are going to be on your way to scratch in no time. Remember, this is a game after all, and having fun should be the priority with every minute you spend.

If you still have questions regarding your swing or any other component of your golf game, check in with a Golf Expert here on Curated and we would be happy to help! See you out on the golf course!

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