Full swing fundamentals


Tad Kivett

Two aspects of the full swing are the pre-swing and the in-swing. The pre-swing is the set up at address and includes the fundamentals for everything a player should do prior to starting the back swing.  The in-swing includes the fundamentals for everything a player should do once the back swing is initiated. The full swing is one in which a player desires maximum distance from woods and irons. Note: (for left handed players all statements that refer to “left” will be obviously be reversed to right.)

Pre-swing: It is important to have proper posture when addressing the golf ball. In golf, the definition of “address” is “placing the club on the ground behind the ball and taking a stance.” Every player needs to be in the proper setup position in order to execute an effective golf swing.

Stand straight with your feet about shoulder width apart. Slightly flex your knees, then tilt your upper body forward toward  the golf ball, bending from where the hip joint meets the leg joint. Do not bend from the waist, bend from the hip joint. (Fig.1). Bend until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the lower body allowing the arms to hang straight down and tension free. (Fig.2).

Bending from the hip joint will move your buttocks slightly outward allowing for better balance. Keep your chin up and eyes down. This position will straighten your spine and allow the shoulders to move freely underneath the chin and will help keep your head still throughout the swing.

The frequently asked question is, “How far should I stand from the golf ball?” This question easily is answered in that wherever your arms hang straight down in a “dangling” tension free position is the position you should grip the club when addressing the ball. (Fig.3).

Ball position: For iron shots, position the ball in the center of the stance directly even with your chin, as the club will tend to reach its fullest extension and hit the ground wherever the chin is positioned. For the driver and fairway woods, position the ball slightly left of center. Be careful not to position the ball too far left in the stance, as the club head should still be moving down the target line after impact allowing for a straighter ball flight. If the ball is positioned too far to the left in the stance, the club will move left at impact imparting left to right ball spin resulting in a slice or some other off line shot. To view correct ball position, refer to (fig. 5a, b, c). Weight distribution is key to maintaining balance throughout the swing. Keep the weight on the inside of both feet. What most refer to as the “ball” of your foot behind the big toe. In this position you should be able to lift your heels off the ground and still feel balanced. (Fig.4). This position is an “athletic” position. Much like a tennis player waiting to return a serve or a football quarterback waiting for the “hike”. In all cases the player must be able to move in any direction at any given time. Keeping your weight balanced as mentioned above, will allow you to have resistance from all four sides of the body. A good drill is to keep the heels lifted off the ground while swinging the club. This drill will improve balance and help eliminate wasted motion in the lower body. For iron shots, I encourage my students to distribute the weight of the body 60% left and 40% right. Anchoring the weight to the left side of the body encourages a descending motion on the downswing allowing the club to move down and through the impact zone. In order to get the effective loft of the clubface and proper ball trajectory with the irons, the club must be moving downward at impact. For a ball that is teed up, such as the driver, keep the weight distributed evenly: 50% left – 50% right. Being that a ball that is on a tee, you do not need to swing downward, but rather level to the ground, more of a sweeping motion. Not taking a divot but rather brushing the grass. The path of the club is similar to an airplane landing and taking off. An airplane must land level to the runway just as a driver should approach the impact zone more level to the ground. For iron shots, position the hands slightly ahead of the golf ball more towards the target forming more of a straight line from the shoulder down the arm and through the shaft. The more lofted the club, such as the nine iron, the more forward the hands are towards the target. When swinging a driver with the ball teed up, position the hands more evenly in line with the golf ball. (Fig. 5a, b, c).

The Grip: The two most popular grip forms are the Vardon grip (also called the overlapping grip) and the interlocking grip. The Vardon grip (named after Harry Vardon) is one where the entire left hand is on the grip with a slight separation between the forefinger and middle finger of the left hand.. The little finger of the right hand is placed in the gap between the forefinger and middle finger of the left hand. (Fig.6) To form the interlocking grip, place the left hand on the grip and raise the forefinger of the left hand off of the grip. Slip the little finger of the right hand between the fore finger and annex finger of the right hand to the point that the tip of the little finger of the right hand is between the first two knuckles of the left hand then close the fingers and wrap them around the grip. (fig.7a, 7b).

Experiment with both grip styles. Regardless of which grip you choose, the following principles and preferences have proven most successful throughout my playing and teaching career:

Grip the club more in the fingers of the left hand. (fig.8). Choke down slightly so that the end of the grip handle protrudes about one half inch past the little finger of the left hand. Choking down slightly will make sure the entire left hand is on the grip and will give you more control of the club. Rotate the left hand on the grip towards your right shoulder. The line created by the thumb and forefinger should point towards the right shoulder. When you look down in the address position you should see at least the first two knuckles of the left hand. (fig.9). This position is known as a “strong” grip and will allow the clubface to square up more easily to the target line at impact. Place the right hand on the grip making sure the left thumb fits securely in the palm of the right hand. The palm of the right hand should be more on the top of the grip and not behind the grip. Make sure the thumb of the left hand is completely covered by the palm of the right hand. (Fig. 10). In addition, the thumb of the left hand should be placed slightly right of center on top of the grip handle and the right thumb placed slightly left of center on top of the grip handle.  This position is what I refer to as a balanced grip allowing both hands to work as one unit. (Fig. 9 & 10).  A very important aspect of the grip is the grip pressure.  Grip pressure refers to how tight or loose the player holds the golf club. Grip the club only as tight as it takes for it not to fly out of your hands while swinging the club. Apply slightly more pressure with the last three fingers of the left hand, which will help you pull down and through the golf ball. The golf swing is a pulling motion. It is much like the feel of a tennis player hitting a backhand stroke. The left side should control the golf swing. The pulling motion is what increases club head speed on the downswing.

In-Swing: The golf swing is an evenly paced, uninterrupted, free flowing motion from start to finish. However, in order for one to understand what happens throughout the swing, it is necessary to break the swing down into segments.


In the correct posture, take the club back with the shoulders, upper torso, arms and hands moving together simultaneously also called a “one piece takeaway”.  The wrist hinge will occur naturally once the hands have reached approximately waist high. Never intentionally break the wrists. Let the weight of the golf club cause the wrist hinge to occur naturally. (fig.13) It is important to note that during the back swing, the upper body controls the lower body, Thusly, the lower body should not move until the turn of the upper body causes the lower body to move. (fig.12) From this point, the upper body continues to turn until the shoulders have turned 90 degrees forming a straight line from the right shoulder thought the left shoulder towards the golf ball. Be sure to keep the left arm fully extended throughout the back swing. The shoulder turn should remain level throughout the swing.  Do not let the shoulders move up and down also referred to as the “see saw” effect. On the back swing,  do not lift the right shoulder, rather keep it level. During the backswing the knees should remain the same distance apart while the hips have moved approximately 45 degrees upon completion of the back swing. The angle of the right leg as well as the knee flex should remain unchanged throughout the back swing. The left leg the will move outward towards the golf ball and not swaying towards the right shoulder. (Fig.13) We are always trying to eliminate wasted motion in the lower body. The lower body motion on the back swing as described above allows the body to create a “power coil”.  This coil is the correct tension created between the upper and lower body that when released on the downswing, allows the club to create speed at impact as the club accelerates through the ball. Keeping the lower body more stationary on the back swing also keeps the upper body from moving to the right or what is called moving “off the ball’ allowing for more solid golf shots. While swinging the club on the back swing, keep the hands and club shaft more out in front of the body so the arms and elbows have clearance and move freely on the down swing. (fig.19) If you swing the club too far behind the body, the right elbow will be trapped against the right side of the upper body and you will have to loop the club on the down swing or what is called “swinging over the top” in order for the club to get back to the golf ball. Or you will have to flip the wrists, which will shut down or close the clubface causing the ball to go left. (fig.20) Keep the angle of the club shaft on the same plane throughout the swing. What dictates the angle of the swing plane is the angle of the shaft at address. The angle of the shaft at address should be maintained throughout the back swing.


The upper and lower body move together, simultaneously initiating the down swing. The left hip should move slightly forward towards the target as the arms start softly at the beginning of the down swing.  The lateral movement of the left hip towards the target before the hips rotate is necessary in order to allow the arms to catch up with the lower body. Remember, once the back swing is complete, the shoulders have turned 90 degrees and the hips have turned ½ that distance at 45 degrees. If the hips begin rotating too early on the down swing, the hip turn will have been completed before the arms have a chance to catch up causing the upper and lower body not to be able to square up at impact. The arms should begin the down swing easy and softly. Starting softly with the arms on the down swing allows the club to accelerate and create the greatest speed in the impact zone. If you move the arms too quickly at the start of the down swing you will have expended the energy at that point causing the club to decelerate at impact. Here is a good drill to understand this fact and also to train the arms to move at the correct speed on the down swing: Take a long club such as the driver, and turn it upside down. Holding the hosel, swing the club with the grip side down. Listen to the sound of the whipping of the shaft. If you start too hard from the top, the sound will be heard at the shoulder level. If you start softly and accelerate through impact, the sound will be heard at the impact area. Wherever you hear the sound is where the fastest club head speed will be. Obviously, we want to hear the sound at the impact zone. Once the hips begin to rotate on the down swing, the right knee will move towards the target closing the gap between the knees. (Fig.15) The angle of the left leg however, should remain unchanged throughout impact and throughout the follow through. (Fig.17) The left knee will move inward and begin to straighten but should not move laterally. Once the swing is complete, the left leg will be fully extended and all of the body weight should be “stacked” on the left side. Ideally, after the swing is completed, you should be able to lift the right foot off the ground and still keep your balance. The left arm remains fully extended throughout the back swing and down swing until it reaches shoulder height on the follow through. At this time both elbows will fold allowing the club shaft to wrap around the body behind the neck. (fig.18) The head should remain still throughout the swing until the right shoulder touches the chin causing the head to lift on the follow through also at about shoulder height.  (Fig.17).  Once the follow through is complete, both the upper and lower body should be facing the target.

For information pertaining to individual and group lessons, contact Tad Kivett @ 225-223-8776.

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