How to Set Up Your Golf Swing

To become a golfer, you must master the building blocks of your swing. You need to set up all elements of the swing, from how you hold the club to where you place the golf ball.

The grip

Getting the right golf-club grip has three steps:

  1. Place your left thumb and left index finger on the shaft.

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    Include a gap of about 3/4 inch between your thumb and index finger. To get that gap, extend your thumb down the shaft a little. If extending your thumb proves too uncomfortable, pull your thumb in toward your hand.

  2. Make sure the grip crosses the base of your last three fingers and the middle of your index finger.

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    If you grip the club too much in the palm, you hinder your ability to hinge your wrist and use your hands effectively in the swing. More of a finger grip makes it easy to cock the wrist on the backswing, hit the ball, and then recock the wrist on the follow-through. Just be sure that the V formed between your thumb and forefinger points toward your right ear.

  3. Complete your grip by placing your right hand on the club.

    You can fit the right hand to the left in one of three ways: the overlapping (or Vardon) grip, the interlocking grip, or the ten-finger grip.

    In the Vardon grip, the right pinkie overlaps the left index finger.
    In the Vardon grip, the right pinkie overlaps the left index finger.
    An alternative is to interlock the right pinkie and left index finger.
    An alternative is to interlock the right pinkie and left index finger.
    You can place all ten fingers on the club.
    You can place all ten fingers on the club.

Aiming

When you work on your aim, think of a railroad track. On one rail is the ball and, in the distance, the target. On the other rail are your toes. Thus, your body is aligned parallel with — but left of (if you're a righty) — the target line.

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Don’t make the mistake that countless golfers make: aiming their feet at the target. If you aim your feet at the target, the clubface is aligned to the right of where you want the ball to go. This type of alignment will usually sabotage the flight of your ball.

The stance

Okay, you’re aimed at the target. But you’re not finished with your feet yet. Point your left foot to 10 o’clock (if you were standing on a really big clock) and your right foot to 1 o’clock.

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For width of stance, your heels should be shoulder-width apart. Let the shape of your body dictate what’s right for you.

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Knee flex

Think of your knee flex as a “ready” position. You’ve got to set yourself so that movement is easy. So, from an upright start, flex your knees and bend forward until your arms are hanging vertically. That’s where you want to be.

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Ball position

The ball should be opposite your left armpit with a driver, which also should be opposite your left heel. For other clubs, the ball should be steadily moved back with each club until you get to the middle of your stance with a wedge.

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You’re trying to hit up on the ball with your driver — that’s why the ball is forward in your stance (toward the target). You want to hit down with all other clubs, which is why you move the ball back in your stance (away from the target) while the loft of your clubs increases.

The eyes have it

To figure out how you should be holding your head, look down at the ball, which is in what optometrists call your gaze center. Your gaze center is about the size of a Frisbee. Everything outside your gaze center is in your peripheral vision. Now lift or drop your head slightly. While your head moves, so do your eyes, and so does the ball — into your peripheral vision. Suddenly you can’t see the ball so well. But if you hold your head steady enough to keep the ball inside that Frisbee-shaped circle, you can’t go too far wrong.

One hand away

Let your arms hang so that the butt end of the club is one hand from the inside of your left thigh. You should use this position for every club in the bag except for your putter.

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