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PGA 14 Swing Principles
Key positions and movements that influence the laws of ball flight.
All of these principles are related and a swing change, tweak, or deviation in one directly impacts the ideal position and concept of the others. Any combination of swing principles that produce a desired ball-flight are good. The general idea of golf instruction is to help each person develop principles that work in harmony with one another to produce desirable shots consistently.
The grip refers to the position of your hands when holding the club. Whatever grip you choose the goal is to take precisely the same grip every time you grab the club: this includes grip pressure, placement vertically on the grip, and the orientation of your hands around the circumference of the grip. Precisely grip the club the same each time to develop the most consistent swing.
Aim is the alignment of the clubface and body toward the target. The most important thing with aim is to set-up the same relative to your target for every shot. Everytime you aim differently relative to your target and hit a straight shot, you are making a different swing to accomplish the straight hit. Precisely aim the same each time to develop the most consistent swing.
Setup refers to a golfer’s posture, ball position, stance, weight distribution, and muscular readiness. Similar to aim, if you set-up differently each time and hit the ball toward your target, you might actually be making different swings each time to compensate. Instead, we want to setup the same each time and allow ourselves to make a consistent swing. An exception is made among more advanced golfers, of course, if they wish to manipulate the ball flight or type of shot (e.g., high, low, fade, draw), as modifications to setup can help produce those results.
The swing plane is determined by the angle of the club shaft relative to the ball and the ground. The swing is on the proper plan when, during the forward swing, an extension from the butt end of the club intersects the golf ball (not pointing in front of or over the ball). There is no one correct plane, but to have a steep or flat plane means other parts of your swing will need to differ from someone who is “on” plane.
Swing width refers to the distance from the clubhead or hands to your center of mass. A wider arc usually means good extension of your arms and hands away from your body. This can be described as “long” levers. A wide arc on the way back and a more narrow arc on the forward swing is a good model to gain clubhead speed and distance.
Arc length is the distance the clubhead travels in the backswing and through the forward swing. A short shot like a putt only needs a short arc length. A good rule for arc length is that the forward arc length should be just as long if not longer than the backswing arc length for most shots.
Left Wrist Position
For a right handed player, left wrist position is the relationship of the back of the wrist and arm relative to the face of the club and swing plane. With a neutral grip, a flat wrist and arm that is parallel with the clubface at the top of the swing is square to the target. The idea is to retain this position at impact with the ball for an “on-plane” swing. A player’s ideal left wrist position will vary depending on their other pre and in-swing mechanics.
Your levers are the length of your left arm and golf club. If you swing the club back without cocking your wrists you are using one lever (left arm). Adding the second lever (club) by cocking your wrists substantially increases swing arc length and clubhead speed.
Timing is the proper sequence of body and club movement to produce the most efficient result (maximum distance plus straightness). The most efficient forward swing generally proceeds in this order:
Feet & Legs → Hips → Shoulders & Trunk → Arms → Hands
Your legs and feet on the ground are the basis for all power generation and should drive the movement of your other body parts in a kinetic chain to produce the most power and consistency.
The release refers to allowing the second lever (golf club) to catch up and eventually pass the first lever (leading arm) to create maximum clubhead speed. The player’s sequence will influence the needs and timing of the release to produce consistent shots. Muscle tension, especially in the grip, will affect the release, as the clubhead will be slowed down. Too little tension and some control of the club path may be lost. Golfers should find their optimal amount of pressure on the grip to allow for a healthy release of the club.
Dynamic balance is being able to maintain good balance and power with the appropriate weight transfer during the swing. To hit a ball with maximum power you want to stay balanced while moving your weight from behind the ball to in front of the ball, striking the ball during the forward shift.
Generally, the clubhead travels in a circle; in the middle of the circle is the swing center. The more the swing center moves laterally (and away from the ball) during the swing, the more difficult it becomes to make consistent contact with the golf ball and the sweet spot. A swing with no weight shift and a swing center that does not move (like a short putt) is the easiest swing with which to make good contact, but it also generates very little power. Our goal in the full swing should be to create power and speed through rotation around the spine, and avoid lateral shifts left-to-right, which sap distance and consistency.
Connection begins at address, and refers to parts of the body in motion, relative to one another. These are primarily the body, arms and hands, and each moves in the same direction as the club, which is in rotation around the swing center. Connection begins at address, and standing the proper distance from the ball (hands hanging straight down). From there, the player is able to maintain a triangle with their shoulders and arms, and elbows stay relatively close to one another throughout the swing. The trunk and legs are the largest producers of power, so the goal is to keep the arms connected to the trunk throughout the swing.
Impact refers to the moment the clubhead strikes the ball and the position of all other body parts at that moment. Any swing can be used in golf as long as it gets the clubhead delivered to the ball at the desired clubhead speed, angle of attack, clubface direction, and contact with the golf ball under varying conditions. The quest to connect all three of these impact factors is what shapes your swing.