Start From Scratch
If you want to know How to learn to play Golf, start by going to a driving range, ask to hire a club or two, grab a basket of balls and just have some fun hitting the balls as far as you can, then if you think Yes I think I could enjoy this, there are plenty of driving ranges with expert teaching professionals only too willing to give Golf Lessons for beginners and take you through the basics of Learning this fantastic game.
There are also a lot of instructional videos and books that can be bought that will take you from the very beginning to intermediate to advanced techniques.
Over the last 20 years I have had the privilege of having lessons from some of the finest coaches in the world, Tim Barter, Ewen Murray, Butch Harmon, Simon Holmes, and Mark Roe to name but a few, and it cost me a penny, well nothing more than the subscription to Sky Sports.
Really I have learnt so much from the correct grip, the correct stance, the takeaway, the follow through, these guys give so much insight into analysing the game, analysing swings and showing in great detail how to play the game of golf from an instructional point of view, and of course with the way Sky is now, these tips can be recorded and played back over and over again, at full speed and also in slow motion which is like having your very own instructional video for free.
As a beginner, the number of lessons and tips on the Internet can be a bit overwhelming. So where do you start? What areas of the game should you focus on first?
If you ask any club golfer what the most frustrating thing about their golf game is they’ll tell you it’s the inability to hit the Golf Ball consistently on every shot.
Every golfer has managed to hit the worldly golf shot. They know the sensation of striking the ball pure, straight out of the middle of the club.
But very rarely are they able to hit that perfect shot for an entire 18 holes. Or, if they play a very good round of golf one day, the next time they get a club in their hand it’s back to square one.
So why is it that these fluctuations happen in your Golf game?
The answer is simple “Poor technique”.
It’s almost always down to a golf swing that is inefficient and is very difficult to repeat with any level of….. Consistency
Like anything in life that you want to become efficient at, takes commitment, a commitment to learning the true basics of the game from the beginning, by taking lessons from a PGA teaching professional.
So let’s start right from the beginning:
Set Up Position 1: Alignment.
Every amateur golfer knows the importance of lining themselves up correctly and probably have a fair idea how to go about it, so why do we hit so many wayward shots.There are 2 reasons for this:
- Altering the stance and address position to try and compensate for a fault in their golf swing ie: as a slice or a pull.
- And we just don’t check our alignment on a regular basis and bad habits then creep in.
Golf is in one of the unique sports inasmuch as the ball doesn’t move. Which means you’re able to prepare yourself perfectly for each and every shot.
The set-up position isn’t difficult, and yet most bad shots come from exactly that.
Your Alignment should be checked every time you hit a golf ball, whether you are at the driving range, on the practice area before a round or on the course hitting your next shot. If you fail to check your set up position on a regular basis it’s so easy to get into bad habits. Picking a spot in front of the ball on the line you want the ball to travel is not good enough, everything else must be online as well.
A consistent golf swing and a consistent golf game can only be built on proper alignment. Don’t try and correct faults in your game before you have this issue solved.
To check your alignment, pick a target in the distance and set up to the ball as normal. Place a club along the line of your toes, step back behind the club and see where it is pointing.
How does the club look to you, is it pointing directly at the target or a little right of the target? if so, you are generating a closed stance.
Is your club pointing to the left of the target? then you are creating an open stance.
The first thing you should do in your setup is to have your clubface pointing to the target, keep the face of the club square to target when you place it behind the ball, an easy way to get this right if you are using an iron is to be guided by the grooves, make sure the bottom groove of you iron is straight, .not slightly to the right(open) not slightly to the left(closed). Then follow your setup routine. It really is not a lot of use getting your alignment right then altering it to suit your club face.
At the perfect set up to the club should point parallel left of the target, the line of your feet and the proposed direction you want the ball to travel should be parallel, just like tram lines, if you can obtain this then you have a square stance.
But remember it isn’t only your feet and ball line that should be parallel your knees, hips, and shoulders should be in line or parallel to your feet as well, very important. Achieve this and you have the perfect Alignment set up
Try to follow these steps each time you address a ball and your alignment will come as second nature. This can then become part of your pre-shot routine on the golf course to ensure you line up to every shot correctly.
Here is a very good video on how to set up your Alignment every time.
Nick Faldo 6 time major winner and probably one of the most consistent golfers of our time gave this analogy,
“It goes without saying that it is no good having a perfect set-up, perfect grip and perfect golf swing if the whole thing is misaligned. It sounds obvious but many players simply do not spend enough time getting themselves on target.”
Set Up Position 2: Stance
So you are lined up properly and pointing in the right direction, the next thing is to build a stable base, a proper stance.
There are several elements of a good solid golf stance, the right width of your feet, the correct amount of knee flex, the angle of the feet and overall posture.
The width: If a stance that is too narrow this will prevent you from generating a power in your golf swing, and it will also make it difficult to keep your balance – which in turn will make your ball striking less effective.
But then, of course, you can go completely the other way.
If your stance becomes too wide, you then find it difficult to shift your body weight during the swing, which will lead to more of a sway than a turn.
The correct width of your stance for a Driver and fairway woods should be measured from your shoulders, the insides of your feet should be slightly wider than the width of your shoulders.
As the clubs get shorter so too does your stance but only by an inch or two, for shots that do not require a full swing your stance will be even narrower.
Your feet also play an important part to your swing, try not to point them out too far, ideally, your back foot should be at right angles to your target line, and the front foot slightly angled out.
Knee flex is the key to balance, too much and they will get in the way of your hip turn, not enough and your body becomes rigid. To get a good knee flex bounce your upper body on your knees until you feel comfortable and your knees are slightly flexed, this should place your weight evenly spread between your heels and your toes, and likewise evenly balanced on both legs.
Set up Position 3: Distance to Ball
To get the right distance from your hands to the ball is going to change slightly with each club, because of the varying length of the shaft on each club you use, but it is also an important factor in getting a consistent strike each time.
The best way to obtain the perfect distance each time until it becomes natural to you is to take your setup position and place the head of the club behind the ball square to target, now let the butt of the shaft fall naturally onto your thigh, (left thigh if you are right-handed, right thigh if you are left-handed), and if you are the correct distance from the ball you should find that the butt end is approximately 1″ above your kneecap.
Do Not straighten your body to get the right distance, keep your set up position correct and move your feet towards or away from the ball.
Set Up Position 4: Ball Position.
As with ball distance from the hands to ball, ball positioning changes slightly with each club, to impart backspin or forward spin.We need backspin to stop the ball or forward spin to make the ball run further.
Take up your natural setup position and place the club directly in the center of your stance with the club head facing ball to the target line, here you have the perfect position for your high irons, 9 iron for example. From here depending on the club in hand the position will alter by about half an inch either way.
An 8 iron would have the ball half an inch towards your front foot, a pitching wedge would have the ball half an inch towards your back foot. It is the angle of attack that we are looking for, the further back the ball in the stance the steeper the angle of attack giving more backspin, the further forward the ball the lower the angle of attack to sweep the ball away for more distance.
When using your driver take a line just inside the heel of your front foot, this will enable a sweep rather than hitting down on the ball.
Remember your distance from the ball routine as mentioned in the previous section.
Set up Position 5: Hand Positioning
The position of the hands at setup can have a large impact on how you hit the ball, having your hands to far back will constitute a scoop. having them too far forward will result in a low trajectory and inconsistent strike.
The ideal position for your hands is to have them in the position at setup to where you want them at impact, and to achieve this once you are set up correctly, you have the ball in the perfect position, and your hands the correct distance from the ball, the butt end of your club should be pointing towards your front leg hip.
Set up Position 6: Posture
A good golf posture is essential for consistent, accurate and powerful ball striking.
No matter what your body shape or size is you can obtain a good posture to enable you to play good consistent golf.
The golf swing is a turning motion around a central axis – that central axis being your spine. The better the position and the angle of your spine at address, the better it will be throughout the swing, especially at impact.
No matter what your natural posture is with a little bit of practice you can create a very efficient stance over the golf ball.
Try these tips to produce a good posture.
Stand up straight with your shoulders pulled back and stick your chest out.
Hold a club out in front of your stomach with your arms and legs straight.
Bend forward making sure you bend at the hips only. Your back should remain straight as you bend rather than rounded. Feel like you are pushing your behind backward.
As the club lowers to touch the ground behind the ball, flex your knees slightly. Do not over bend your knees just flex as in your set up
You now have a good well-balanced posture.
Set up Position 7: The Grip.
Gripping the golf club is a very fundamental aspect of swinging the golf club, gripping too tight and your arms get too tense resulting in loss of power and wayward shots, gripping to loose and the club will move around in your hands resulting in loss of control and again wayward shots.
There are 3 types of Golf Grip
- The Interlinking grip, used by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods
- The Overlapping or ‘Vardon’ grip, primarily used by Harry Vardon 6 times Open Championship winner
- The Baseball grip.
Remember, your grip is your only link to the golf club…
The golf ball that you about to hit – it doesn’t know what your swing looks like or how you are standing up towards it or even how long you have been playing golf…All it reacts to is how fast the club is traveling, what direction the club is traveling in and the position of the clubface at impact.
And all of these reactions are controlled by how you grip the golf club.
Changing your golf grip can prove to be uncomfortable at first and it will feel strange. But if you persist with it the change will be well worthwhile, with the small amount of effort it takes to make a proper golf grip feel second nature. You will play more consistent, solid golf for many years to come.
How to grip the golf club.
Initially, the club is held in your fingers not the palm of your hand.
Lay the club across the fingers of your leading hand from the middle of the index finger to the base of the little finger.
Leave about half an inch of the end of Grip protruding from your hand. rather than gripping it right at the end, this will help to improve your control of the club and ball striking ability, without any loss of power.
As you look down at your left hand, there should be 2½ knuckles visible. Here you will have a neutral position.
The ‘V’ made by your left thumb and forefinger should point to your right shoulder
If you can see more than 2½ knuckles, of your left hand your grip is too strong.
If you can see less than 2½ knuckles, of your left hand your grip is too weak.
Place the fleshy pad of your right thumb directly on top of your left thumb.
The ‘V’ made between your right thumb and forefinger should point to your chin.
If the ‘V’ points over your right shoulder, your right hand too strong.
If the ‘V’ points over your left shoulder, your right hand is too weak.
This video will show you the correct alignment for all 3 grips.
Grip pressure – How hard should you grip the golf club?
When I was learning the game a teaching Pro gave me a very good analogy of how tight to hold the club and its always stuck with me, he said imagine you are holding a tube of toothpaste and you squeeze the tube tight enough to release the paste, that’s how I’ve always tried to grip the club.
The glove is also a vital part of the grip, a worn glove will alter the way you grip the club if the glove is too worn you will automatically grip the club firmer to compensate any slip within the grip.
There’s a very surefire way of analyzing how you grip the club from a glove that you have been wearing for a round or two, if you took that glove to a teaching pro he would immediately be able to see faults in your grip, or none as the case may be, the way you grip the club has tell-tale signs on your glove.
Your grip must be comfortable and is a very individual feeling, whether you use any of the 3 types of grips as mentioned above doesn’t really matter as long as you are comfortable with the club in your hand, and the pressure applied is correct
This is a very good video of how to correctly grip the golf club
Repetitiveness is the keyword in playing good golf if you can repeat all the instructions given above on a consistent basis you will play golf like you never thought possible, but practice also comes into the equation, without practice, you will not obtain the muscle memory to produce your golf swing naturally time after time.
The Back Swing…
A full 90-degree shoulder turn
The Follow Through…
Pure balance and facing the target when finished
Stroke from the shoulders with no wrist movement.
All these points will increase your chances to improve your golf score
These are all fundamentals of playing golf well.
The Golf clubs that you use are also a factor in playing good golf, you may think that a club is a club, not true.
There are various makeups of a club to suit individual persons for Ladies Golf and Men’s Golf.
The size of grip-small hands thinner grip, large hands thicker grip
The length and stiffness of shaft + carbon or steel-Shorter person shorter shaft, Taller person longer shaft, the stiffness of the shaft from extra stiff, stiff, regular, senior and ladies, light carbon or heavier steel
The loft and lie of the head, cavity back or blade
Putters.. Probably the most personal club in your Golf Bag.
Most manufacturers offer a fitting service where the clubs you select are fitted to your exact specifications