If you’ve been playing golf for any length of time, regularly read Golf Digest or tune in to Golf Channel, it’s no secret that finding golf advice isn’t hard. With so much information available though, how are you supposed to decipher what tips are best for you? If you try to incorporate everything you hear into your game, you’re sure to quickly become confused and frustrated.
There’s no worse feeling in the world than standing on the range with dozens of swing thoughts racing through your head. The phrase “paralysis by analysis” holds true especially true for golfers. If you’ve ever stood over a shot and not been able to pull the trigger because your brain is amuck with 22 tips, you’ve come to the right place. We asked some of the best teachers from across the country and came up with a list of the 10 Best Golf Tips for golfers of all levels.
Before We Get Started… Understanding Golf Advice
You’ve likely had the experience practicing on the range or warming up before your round where you’re surrounded by dozens of other golfers sharing ideas, tips and advice all in an effort to make each other better. While it’s hard to tune it all out, you have to realize that most advice you hear is garbage and even the stuff that’s correct may not be the right advice for you. For this reason, it’s imperative that you come to an understanding that you need to have a filter and only incorporate the advice that works best for you. If you keep that thought in my mind as you read the rest of this article and throughout your entire journey to get better, you’ll be far better off.
#1. Make Sure Your Grip is Sound
One of the most overlooked fundamentals in setting up to a golf shot is the grip. Most beginners have a tendency to grip a golf club like a baseball bat in the palm of their hands. While this feels natural, gripping the club in this manner doesn’t allow the club to work properly with your hands during the swing.
The three most common types of grips are the interlocking, overlapping and the ten finger grip. Which grip you choose is far less important than making sure your fundamentals are correct. When you grab the golf club you should do so with the handle of the club running through the life line of your fingers, not in your palm. When you wrap your fingers around the club and set it down in the address position you should notice a “V” that is formed between your thumb and index finger. For right-handed golfers, each “V” should point somewhere between your chin and right shoulder. The opposite is true for left-handed golfers.
If you’re able to hold the club in this manner and swing at full speed while maintaining control you know your grip is sound.
#2. Set Up Consistently
Even if you have the most perfect golf swing in the world, it’s not going to do you any good if you don’t set up to the golf ball the same way every time.
Jack Nicklaus mastered setting up consistently decades ago and his routine has become what instructors teach almost universally.
When you’re getting ready to hit a shot, start by standing behind your ball on line with your target. From here, draw a line from the target back to the golf ball with your eyes.
Next, pick a spot just a couple of feet in front of the golf ball on that line. This is your intermediate target and it is much easier to align yourself with than something 300 yards down the fairway.
Keeping your eyes on that spot you can now begin walking into the shot. Once you’ve arrived at your ball, place the club head behind the ball so that it is aimed at your intermediate target. By placing the club down before you build your stance, you give yourself a fixed point around which you can complete the rest of the setup process and ensure that your properly aimed at the target.
Now all you have to do is get comfortable in an athletic position that has a slight bend in your knees and solid posture and you’re ready to fire.
Even though this process takes a while to learn, if you practice it until it becomes second nature you’ll eliminate dozens of variables that lead to inconsistent shots.
#3. Tension and Tempo
You’ve probably heard the advice that if you want to consistently hit shots far and solid you need to swing smooth. This is great advice but the tendency for the majority of golfers is to grip the driver hard and swing as fast as they can.
The key to having consistent tempo starts at address. When you set up to your shot, pay close attention to the tension in your hands, wrists and forearms. Do you see the whites of your knuckles? If so, you’re gripping the club way too tight. If you have too much tension at address, it’s impossible to start and complete your swing smoothly.
Still having trouble getting rid of tension? Try focusing on your breath. There’s a reason all the best players in the world take a deep breath right before they hit a shot. Doing so releases tension and allows your body to relax.
If you can eliminate tension at address, you’ll be primed to swing in tempo and hit solid shots more consistently.
#4. Finish In-Balance
While the advice of swinging smoothly is great, you also have to be aggressive. So then just how hard should you swing? The answer is simple: As hard as you can while still maintaining your balance. The tendency for most amateur golfers is to make smooth practice swings where they are able to finish in balance and hold their finish. When it comes time to hit the actual shot however, they make a swing that is violent and sees them falling over on the finish.
If you consciously work on holding your finish and keeping your balance, your contact will become more consistent and you’ll be shooting lower scores before you know it.
#5. When it’s Breezy Swing it Easy
Playing golf in the wind is something you’re going to have to deal with at some point. On especially windy days the natural thought is that you have to hit the ball harder to get it to the target. Quite the opposite is true actually. Basic physics dictate that the hard you swing the more spin you put on the ball. The more spin a shot has the more the wind can affect it and blow it offline.
Just because you hit your pitching wedge 125 yards doesn’t mean it’s going to go that far into a 20 mph wind. As counterintuitive as it might seem, swinging easier with maybe an 8-iron that normally goes 150 yards is likely a better option. When you take more club (less loft) and swing a little easier you reduce spin, the ball flies lower and you lessen the ability of the wind to affect a shot adversely.
When you take more club and swing easier, there are a couple of minor adjustments you can make in your setup to help you control yardage and make solid contact. First, try moving the ball back in your stance just a little. This will help you to hit the ball lower and keep it under the wind. Next, grip down on the club an inch or so. This gives you more control allowing you to really dial in your yardage which can be difficult in windy conditions.
#6. Finish on Your Front Foot
Chances are you’ve probably thrown a ball at some point in your life. If you ever played football or baseball throwing the ball long distances accurately was essential for success. In order to accomplish this, you needed to have all your weight and momentum moving toward the target. The same principle holds true in golf.
Nearly every instructor we talked to said one of the biggest problems amateurs have is that they can’t get off their back foot. When you finish with your weight away from the target, it’s indicative that you’ve lost all your forward momentum and are losing substantial power and distance.
Whatever it takes to get there, practice until you can finish with your weight on the outside edge of your front foot (left foot for right-handed golfers and right foot for left-handed golfers). If you’re able to do this consistently you’ll quickly find your shots going farther and your contact much more solid.
#7. Keep Turning
It makes sense that you get more power from bigger muscles than you do from smaller ones. If you watch the best players in the world, they hit the ball with much more than just their arms. By turning your back, chest and shoulders as far as you can on the way back, you to build up power and speed that you can then release hard on the downswing through impact.
If you’re not sure what making a full turn looks like, the instructors we talked to all recommended one simple drill to help you out. All you have to do is grab an iron and get into your address position. From there, place the club across your chest so that your arms are crossed. Now turn your chest and shoulders back so that the end of the club is pointing at the golf ball. Pause in this position to get a feeling for what it means to make a full turn. Then turn your chest and shoulders hard in the other direction to your finish position.
If you’re still having trouble making a full turn on the way back, there are a couple of other thoughts to keep in mind. One is to feel like you turn your left shoulder (for a right-handed player) under your chin on the backswing. The same thing said in a slightly different way is to turn your back completely away from the target.
#8. Give the Club Time at the Top
Perhaps you’re familiar with the term transition? Transition simply refers to the change of direction from the back swing to down swing. For most amateurs the excitement to get the club back to the ball and hit it hard causes them to not complete their back swing and rush the downswing.
Two of the best ball strikers of all time are unarguably Vijay Singh and Fred Couples. If you take some time watch video of their full swings, you’ll notice a significant pause at the top of their swing. There’s clearly no rush for them to get back to the golf ball and their transitions are smooth. While most amateurs jerk the club down from the top of their backswing and make poor contact as a result, good ball strikers give themselves time to keep turning and for the shaft to load before they start their downswing.
If you find yourself struggling with poor contact and inconsistent shots, try feeling a slight pause at the top of your backswing.
#9. Swing the Club from the Inside
North of 90% of golfers slice the ball. This is the result of what’s called “coming over the top,” or swinging on an outside-to-in path. When you swing the club in this manner you lose all connection between your arms and body and the result is less power and shots that miss short and to the right of the target for a right-handed player.
If you find that you’re hitting a big slice and want to hit the ball farther and more solid, you have to swing the club on an inside-to-out path. This is easier said than done for most golfers so our instructors have a couple of tips to help you get the club moving in the right direction.
The first one involves only a minor adjustment to your setup. Simply drop your back foot a little behind your front foot at address. Doing this promotes a big shoulder turn and gives you more room to swing the club from the inside.
The second drill is called the water bottle drill. Fill up a plastic bottle with a little bit of water and put it just on the outside of the target line a few inches behind the ball. Now all you have to do is make some swings and miss the water bottle. If you hit it with the clubhead it’s a sure sign you’re swinging on an outside to in path and promoting a slice. If you miss the bottle conversely, you’re swinging the club on the correct path from inside-to-out and should start hitting solid shots at the target with a little practice.
#10. Golf is a Game and Games Are Fun – Best Swing Tip of All (Attitude)
Let’s be honest, chances are you’re not going to compete with Dustin Johnson on Sunday anytime soon. Should you be pursuant in your quest to get better though? Absolutely! At the end of the day if you’re really going to improve at this nutty game, you need to have levity and realize that it’s never going to be perfect. Bottom line.
Regardless of how many articles you read or what trendy method you subscribe to or how much money you spend, the game of golf is one that can’t be mastered. If you take the time to realize that even the best Pros in the world go through the same struggles as you and it’s all relative, you’ll find yourself much happier and improving more quickly.
There’s no denying that you’re going to encounter periods in your progression where you feel like giving up. You’re bound to have those days on the range where nothing clicks and you feel lost. Guess what? We’ve all been there and thought about giving up ourselves. What makes the ultimate difference however, is being able to get through those tough times and come out stronger on the other end. You have to be working on the right things and believe in them even on tough days.
As we said at the beginning of this article, most golf advice you hear is worthless – we know from experience. The key lies in having a filter and focusing on what works best for you. The tips and tricks listed above are a general guide for how to improve your game. Take what’s relevant for you and proceed onward.