Everyone wants to play better golf, but it can be easy to slip into bad habits without noticing. Becoming aware of your bad habits, and then working to rectify them can be challenging, but making small changes to your game can lead to more consistent play and better results. To improve your game, make sure you’re not committing any of these seven deadly sins of golf play.
#1 – Not using the right clubs for you
If you’re using grandpa’s set of clubs you found lurking in the darkest corners of storage, or clubs that have seen many better days, you’re doing yourself a disservice. While no-one is suggesting that you have to have the latest and greatest golf gear, it does help to have clubs that are suited to your game. Equipment from the dark ages is not going to help you play your best game, and you’ll be missing out on many of the handy features that new technology can give you. Modern clubs are lighter, stronger and more adjustable than older models, and can generate up to 25% more distance. Older clubs may be inadequate for what you want to do, and what’s more, they may not even be suitable for you.
Everyone is different in terms of height, weight, strength, flexibility, hand size, foot size, arm length and leg length – meaning that not every set of golf clubs will be a good fit for everyone. It can be very hard to make good shots when the characteristics of your golf clubs make the swing difficult for you. In some circumstances, the wrong golf clubs can actually hinder your chances of contacting the ball well.
It’s important to have your golf clubs properly fitted to you, rather than just using whatever comes to hand. Length of the club and lie of the clubface are important in helping golfers make contact with the ball in the perfect position for impact. And having your clubs fitted is not just for professionals either. In fact, it’s probably more important for new or less accomplished golfers to have properly fitted clubs that will help them and not make the game harder. Good players with strong, repeatable swings could probably use almost any club and make adjustments to maintain good contact with the ball. Newer golfers won’t be able to do this, and thus it’s important that they use the right equipment that’s suited to them. Whether you’re a professional or amateur, you need to get the right gear that’s tailored to suit your game – otherwise you’ll be at a disadvantage before you even start.
#2 – Not having the correct grip
Grip is where your golf swing starts, and its importance cannot be underestimated. Having the wrong grip can torpedo your shot quicker than you thought possible. You’ll either lose control of the swing, lose your power or generate a lot of inconsistencies in your swing that will cause endless frustration.
Make sure you’re using the correct grip every time you swing. There are a few types of grips that might suit you, depending on the size and build of your hands, but they all have elements in common. Whether you overlap or interlock your fingers, or use the ten-finger grip, you need to make sure your hand position is consistent. Grip the club with your left hand so that you can see two knuckles, and make sure the ‘V’ shape created by your thumb and index finger is pointing towards your right shoulder. About half an inch of club should be visible at the top of your grip and your left thumb should point down the right side of the shaft. Add your right hand to the club, with your right thumb on top of your left thumb and facing down the left side of the club.
When you look from the top, you should see two knuckles on the left hand and two knuckles on the right hand. Do a visual check to make sure you’re getting it right.
Also, make sure the grip pressure of all your fingers is the same – and is firm but light. This will help you balance and strike the ball better. Be aware of gripping the club too tightly, as this will cause poor shots. The best shots usually happen when you hold the club firmly but softly. Effortless swings come from moderate and consistent grip pressure, rather than gripping the club in a choke hold. Grip is a key fundamental in getting a consistent and successful golf swing.
#3 – Aiming your club – and your feet – in the wrong direction
It’s a seemingly obvious part of your set up, but you’d probably be surprised to learn just how many people fail to aim their club and their feet where they want the ball to go. Often when players take their grip on the club, they close or open the clubface slightly without noticing, leading to a pulled shot, a slice or a shank. It’s all too easy to incorrectly align your feet too, leading to an inefficient swing that often causes stress to the spine, and an off-direction shot.
Once you’re aware of your tendency to align yourself and your club incorrectly, you can easily fix this bad habit. If you point your feet and your club in the desired direction, you’ll find the outcome will quickly improve. One handy drill to improve this habit is to find the “ball to target line”. To do this, lie your club shaft down in front of the ball, pointing towards where you intend to hit the ball. The imaginary line between the ball and the target is known as the ball to target line. Do a couple of practice swings to check that your clubface is staying square to this line. If it’s not, you’ll need to take extra care not to twist or rotate the clubface away from this line. This may take a bit of practice, but your aim will improve eventually.
To learn how to check your alignment correctly, click here.
#4 – Not setting up correctly
Poor stance and ball position can wreak havoc on your shots. If your feet are too close or far apart or the ball is not in the right position for address, your swing will not be accurate. A good setup will improve your chances of a good shot enormously.
At address, position your body parallel to the ball to target line. Imagine that your body is on one of the rails of a railroad track and the ball is on the other. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, with the back foot square and the front foot turned between 20 and 40 degrees towards the target. Balance your weight on the balls of your feet rather than your heels or toes. Knees should be slightly flexed and positioned directly over the balls of your feet. Your body should be bent at the hips, not the waist, with your back in a straight line and not slouched. In this way, your body will be primed and balanced for an effective and efficient swing.
When hitting iron shots, position the ball one to two inches inside your left heel. When hitting wood, position the ball a little closer to your heel.
To learn about some balance drills for golf, click here.
#5 – Not keeping your eye on the ball
It’s one of the simplest mistakes out there – but it’s so easy to do. All too often, golfers tend to lift their heads just before impact, in a subconscious attempt to see where the ball is going. This usually results in a topped shot, or a complete (and embarrassing) miss.
One of the most important aspects of hitting the ball is keeping your eyes on it. Fix your eyes firmly on the back of your golf ball and keep looking at that spot for a second after you hit the ball. It sounds simple, but it will have a powerful effect on your swing.
#6 – Overswinging
It’s tempting to try and hit the ball as hard as you can, especially when you’re driving off the tee – but this can often cause your tempo to go awry. To make sure you are balanced and that your clubface is square at impact, the speed of your back swing should be the same as the speed of your downswing. Trying to hit the cover off the ball will usually result in a mishit and a lot of frustration.
Try to match the movement of your weight with the movement of your club to help you generate maximum club speed at impact. Your weight should gently move back as your club swings back, then forwards as your complete your downswing, then towards your target as you follow through. Turn your shoulders and hips in your backswing and use a hip turn and a leg drive in your downswing. This will help prevent overswinging and make your swing feel easy and effortless, rather than hard work. Always try and swing “within yourself” rather than going for broke every time, and you’ll find your results will improve.
To learn more about swing tempo, click here.
#7 – Failing to warm up
The old saying, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail” is never more true in golf. A proper warm up will prepare your body and mind for the game and will give you a much greater chance of success. A good warm up doesn’t have to take too long and should include some exercise to increase your heart rate, stretching of the major muscle groups you are about to use and a few practice shots. Not only will a good warm up prevent you from getting injured, you’ll also be able to start your round feeling sharp and ready to go, rather than underprepared and stiff. Warm up is important so don’t skimp on it – just do it.
To read about the seven deadly sins of golf etiquette, see this post.