Debugging Your Golf Swing

We’ve all been there – you arrive at the golf club excited to play, only to find your golf game has deserted you. It can feel like you’ve never picked up a club before. In this article I’ll run through the simple steps you can take to debug your golf swing and get your game back on track.

P.s. – bookmark this page – it may be useful one day! 😉

When your golf game leaves you it is very easy to over-complicate things and get lost. Just remember poor play comes down to the following reason(s):

  1. Poor strike – you’re not striking the centre of the golf club.
  2. Poor accuracy – the club face is pointing in the wrong direction at impact.
  3. Both of the above.

There is no need to make golf performance any more complicated – strike the ball out of the centre, get the club face square and you’ll be playing great again. Below are the five steps I use during coaching to get a player back on track.

Step 1 – Check posture & balance

golf set up picture. You should feel the pressure through the mid-point of your feet and let your arms hang under your shoulders
You should feel the pressure through the mid-point of your feet and let your arms hang under your shoulders.

The first check point is your posture and balance. A great golf swing is a simple golf swing – you should start with the ball positioned in the centre of your club face and feel as though you’re balanced as you set-up (your weight running through the mid-point of your feet). As long as you stay balanced throughout your swing, the club face will return back to strike the golf ball beautifully out of the centre.

A common problem with struggling golfers is poor posture at set-up, resulting in their weight being positioned too far back towards their heel. The results is a golf swing where weight shifts forwards and back throughout their backswing and downswing as they try to stay balanced. This makes it a real challenge to consistently find the middle of the club face and leads to many shots being hit out of the toe or the heel.

The fix – check your posture and weight distribution in a mirror or by videoing your swing. Once your posture and stance look correct, try to make 10 swings in a row, holding a balanced finish until the ball lands and stops rolling.

Step 2 – Check ball position

Step two is to check your ball position. This affects players of all levels, but is the most common cause of poor form in pros and single figure golfers. It seems harmless, but if your ball is positioned too far back in your stance, your downswing mechanics collapse as your body tries to find a way of still making good contact. This can cause: a loss of distance; tops; fats; pushes; hooks and all sorts of unpleasant results.

If you want to check this issue, place two golf clubs on the ground in an ‘X’ as shown above, then correct your ball position and make 10 swings in a row, generating a positive swing through into a balanced finish.

Step 3 – Check alignment

golf setup position

In my humble opinion, poor alignment is always a consequence, never a root cause. For example, I have never seen a slicer who naturally aims right. Poor alignment is your inner athlete trying to get you around the golf course. You keep slicing it into the righthand bush, so your inner athlete will aim left and lie to you. In your head you’ll hear ‘yes that’s right we’re aiming straight down the middle of fairway, now swing’.

This is actually a positive attribute, but over a period of time alignment can go get too far off line. The result is a golfer who struggles with their strike and in some cases the shanks.

The fix – place a club on the ground along your toe-line (pictured above) and then attempt to hit 10 shots towards your target. If this new alignment feels alien to you, then this is an area to debug and fix. Your new ‘corrected alignment’ will take a few shots to get used to, but good shots will begin to follow.

Step 4 – Check sequencing/timing/tempo

check your kinematic sequence

The golf swing can feel effortless when timed well, but what does ‘great timing’ actually mean? I like to think of timing/tempo as the sequencing of your body parts – the relative position and speed that each body segment moves during the swing. The graph above shows a sequence from an elite pro where the lower body, upper body, then lead arm harmonise to produce peak speed at impact.

If you’ve passed the first three check points, the next step is to test your sequencing. Begin by hitting a little chip shot with an 8-iron, then a pitch and gradually increase your swing length to hit shots at 50, 60, 70, 80, 90% of full speed.

At what stage does your performance break down? This is generally the point where your sequencing begins to change. It could be that some additional movements creep in as you try to wind up during your backswing. Or simply, you’re trying to kill the golf ball, rather than swinging through and allowing the golf ball to get in the way.

Either way, find the sweet-spot just before your sequencing breaks down and practice at this level. Slowly increase your backswing and through-swing length whilst trying to maintain your sequencing/timing/tempo.

To transfer this fix to the golf course select an extra club for all of your shots, this prevents you over-swinging and allows you to maintain consistent sequencing.

Step 5 – Club face control

Golf ball flights for hook

The last step in debugging your game is to work on your club face control. By this point in the checklist you should be flushing your golf shots with all clubs, but you’re left with a consistent bad shot (left or right). If this sounds like your issue, then it’s time to look at your club face control.

Around 80% of your shot direction is a result of your club face angle at impact if you’re striking the ball well. Great players are masters at controlling their club face through impact, but sometimes your body can forget how to create a square club face through impact.

If your errant ball flight resembles one of the blue or yellow lines above, you need to focus on your club face control. Firstly, check your golf grip, as this is a common cause of poor club face control. If all seems well with your grip, move on to trying out the drill below:

Hitting the opposite shape drill

  1. Try to hit the opposite shape of your poor shot. If you slice, try to get the ball hooking. If you hook, try to hit a slice. I don’t care where it finishes, focus on changing the shot shape.
  2. With your next shot repeat the process, but try to get the ball finishing closer to your target with your new shot shape. If you succeed, repeat again trying to get your shot to finish closer to your target.
  3. As soon as you hit your problematic shot, jump back to step 1.

This simple drill gives you an awareness of how your club face is affecting your ball flight. Over exaggerating your first attempt helps to re-set what the body feels is natural and helps you to return to a squarer impact position. It may also be useful to read this article on swing drills that relate to club face control.

Again, this feeling can easily be transferred onto the golf course. I’ve experienced far too many rounds where I hook my drives and iron shots. A simple fix, for me, is to try and hit a 10-yard fade with every shot. The result – a straight shot. This is a classic case of the body forgetting how the club should be orientated at impact.

Summary

So there we have it – the five simple steps I use with players, and for my own golf game, when things don’t go to plan. I know they are simple steps, but rarely is the root cause of a drop in a player’s form any more than one of the components above. I hope it helps you in a time of need.

If you’ve found this useful please share with a fellow golfer, or around the web. It really helps me keep growing this site. If you would like a free article like this one emailed to you every Monday, come join the Golf Insider weekly post.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

3 thoughts on “Debugging Your Golf Swing”

  1. Hi Will
    Many thanks for article and great timing after 9 week lockdown. Observations from first game back – played to handicap (3) – stats 5/14 fairways, 10/18 greens, up&down 5/8, sand U&D 0/5, 30 putts. Of bunker shots first two knifed over green, next just got out, last 2 to 10′. Did a spot of debugging bunker play – using old sand wedge on concrete, swung to hit mark in middle of stance – first swing of a set always 3-4″ behind mark, subsequent ones 1″ behind mark, had to really exaggerate to hit mark.

    Reply
    • Thanks Phil,

      And great work, sounds like you’re about to put a fine round together sometime soon. I actually have a bunker article in the pipeline – I love coaching short game so hopefully there are a couple of gems in there for you.

      Will

      Reply
  2. Have you done something similar for putting? I added the PuttOut target to my mat, and yes it seems impossible, but in one session I holed 35% including 7/8 in a row compared to my usual 10%. This certainly makes the hole look gigantic!

    Using a Blast Motion sensor, I was averaging an open face of 1 to 1.6 average.

    Setting up following your putting guide and moving the ball back about an inch, I moved to a closed face of .7 to 1.5 average. I didn’t notice any difference in my results. Since the face angle is the difference in the arcs back and forth, the change was the closing was catching up or passing the open back arc while the back arc was not changing. Was it really square at start?

    I have to assume the physics of putter and club heads are similar. So, the results of longer putts would better reflect these differences as being more off line?

    Do enjoy your posts, but wish I were at least 10 years younger.

    Reply

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