Golf Instruction

1. Putting

2. The swing

3. Exercise and power

 Practice Tip

Recommended Video: Rory McIlroy from the 2019 WGC-HSBC.

1. Putting 

…putting recommendations, based on the author’s experience

Keep the wrists fixed in relation to the arms, and the arms in relation to each other.  The shoulders and torso provide a hinge to create movement.

It usually helps to keep the hands forward, that is, away from the body, in the arms-club system, so the arms-club system can hang freely from the shoulders.

Try to minimize the lag of the putter in relation to the arms, and don’t allow the club to pass the hands during the forward motion.

Place the eyes, the target line, and the ball in a vertical plane.   Swing the club-arms system such that the club head stays in this vertical plane.  The shoulders will have to rock unless you bend way over, so let them rock.  Bending way over is too uncomfortable for most people, but it puts the torso turn closer to the vertical plane, which might help. 

For analysis, stop at various positions along the stroke.  Check for clubhead position over the line.  If the arms-club system moves in vertical planes, and the eyes are directly over the club head, then the club head should seem to stay over the target line.  

Use a PuttStraight device as shown on this website.

You can try letting your head turn with your torso to reduce the amount of work your brain does.  This is easy to do when the eyes follow the clubhead, as described below.  

To check your arc, watch the clubhead during the stroke. This is easier to do if your head turns with your torso.  Watching the club head during the stroke will provide cues to your nervous system and keep the stroke smooth.  It helps to reduce “looking up.”  It also shows you the path and length of your stroke, for control and correction.  Swing back and forth watching and smoothing the stroke, then close your eyes while continuing the stroke so as to memorize the feeling.  Make sure the hips and legs don’t move during the stroke. 

Practice aiming with training aids.  On a floor with perpendicular lines, place the putter head on a target line and the club face exactly behind a perpendicular line.  Follow the target line with your eyes from the club face to the end of the line and back to the club face.  Do it again with each eye separately, closing the other eye.  Notice also how the aim of the club face may appear different with each eye.  Two eyes, even if they see differently, might be better than one when you have to aim without assistance from lines.

Use the same brand of ball on a regular basis, or use different brands of balls tested for bounce height so they all bounce to the same height.  Test balls by dropping them (the reference ball and the tested ball next to each other) on the same spot on the same floor from the same height at the same time.  Keep a reference ball for this purpose.  

I have noticed that it is easier to fine control distance by adjusting the force applied during the forward stroke, rather than adjusting the backswing length.  On a repeat putt during practice, I almost always get closer to the hole when I adjust the hardness of the stroke but not always when I adjust the backswing length.  Backswing length is a gross adjustment for big changes in distance; swing force or acceleration is a fine adjustment for distance.  When you are getting ready to make a putt on the course, take a practice stroke with your best guess at the needed backswing length and forward speed.  Guess if the clubhead speed seems good.  If it seems too fast or slow, make another stroke with a correction to the forward acceleration while reusing the same backswing length.  Repeat until the practice speed seems right.  Then hit the putt.  After you get very good, you may be able to make the a good putt without the pre-swings.

For more details on putting direction, go to this page.

2. The Swing (non-putting swings)

Take-away.  Take the club back with the right (trailing arm).  Keep the left (lead arm) straight until after impact.

1. Natural Sway.  We point out something missing from swing technique.  Our little “secret:” LET your body move forward on the backswing and then backward on the downswing, then forward on the followthrough.  This is not left and right. Forward means the direction you face at address.  “Soft ankles” help with this.  Do not prevent yourself from moving forward on the backswing.  You might be tempted to push down with your toes to prevent forward movement on the backswing, but this is dangerous, causing toe strikes.  


The theory is that counter-motion is a natural reaction to swinging a club or any weight around you, and if you resist this motion you will make it hard or impossible to get your main body mass back to hitting position by impact, so that you will be forced to compensate by swinging outward and/or downward with the arms to avoid a mis-hit.  Speed of the swing makes no difference on the amount of motion. The variance in the motion results from the mass of the club and the incline of your swing plane.  Longer clubs and flatter swing planes cause more movement.  


Rory McIlroy and many others have this sway movement.  You can see it on video here; the first example is about 35 seconds in, and another at one minute 40 seconds, among others.  The head moves forward on the backswing, backward on the downswing, and forward again on the followthrough (very quickly on the downswing so it is a little hard to see).  It is more prominent with the longer clubs because they have flatter swings.


2. Don’t “move off the ball” (to the trailing side) on the backswing.  Moving to the trailing side again makes it very difficult to get back into the hitting position, requiring a lot of unnecessary leg work and timing.  If you don’t move off the ball, less physical effort and physical coordination is required, so the swing is easier to produce and thus more consistent.  To learn to stay centered, put your feet together, then pose in various positions of the swing, keeping the weight on each foot the same.  


3.  Hover (hold the clubhead in the air) a tiny bit so the start of the backswing is only on the line and not up too much.  Ideally, the backswing starts tangent to the target line.  (In general.  If you hit up on a drive, you need to impact the ball a little from the inside.  If you hit down on a shot, you need to impact a tiny bit from the outside.)  Use slow motion and short swings to assure this.  Back and forth motion is useful here as well, gradually lengthening the swing.  Don’t open the club face on the backswing.  Don’t cock the wrists upward.  Try cocking the wrists in the transition from backswing to downswing. 


4.  Pose in positions.  Very slowly move between positions. 


3. Exercise and Power.

1. Don’t do low rep exercises (one to five repetitions) at maximum weight.  Do more reps than five, unless you have a professional trainer.  You get stronger doing fewer reps but you could get too strong too quickly.  You could endanger your tendons and ligaments, as they usually do not strengthen as fast as muscles, and they could get overpowered and damaged by excessive muscle force.  You will get stronger with higher rep counts, perhaps not as quickly, and also have the advantage of increased blood flow, which is what the tendons and ligaments especially need for growth. 


2.  POWER and Clubhead speed.  To increase strength for more distance, there is one particular exercise that can strengthen all the pull down muscles at the same time.










There are various ways to do it but it is always resistance against the downswing movement of the arms.  Both arms at the same time is the best way, so as to place realistic force on the torso.  You can use a rope-pulley-weights device, or a stretch band, or even a golf club locked over something.  It’s better when the hands are oriented like they are on a club during the swing.  To use a golf club, take a short iron and hold it with the toe pointing down so you can hook it over something.  Find a location where you can hook the club head over something that won’t move, like a baluster on a stairs.  The club head should be around shoulder level.  Your body should be in a pre-impact position, with the leading arm about 30 to 45 degrees before impact.  The wrists are still cocked at about 90 degrees.  You pull the club with your arms in the direction of the shaft, and you try to uncock the wrists.   You will feel muscles throughout your body doing work, but mainly the muscles that move the arms.  Treat this exercise like other exercises, even though there is no movement.  Do each rep for a few seconds and then rest for a few seconds.   It is good to allow blood to flow between reps.  Apply force gradually for the first few reps.  Do sets if necessary.  A weight machine or stretch band work similarly but allow movement.  The advantage of a weight machine is that you know how hard you are working and how much your strength is improving.  It is interesting that strength and club head speed are not proportional to each other.  To increase your clubhead speed by 1.4 times, you will need to double your strength.  Generally, the speed is increased a little less than half of the increase in strength.


Develop release power by holding a club in various positions of the release with the clubhead blocked from movement.  Use chairs and banisters and other objects in your home to block the clubhead as you press your hands in the release direction.  The beginning of the release uses different forearm muscles than the impact position, and in between positions use both sets of muscles.