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Golf Swing Principles

Golf swing principles will help you understand if your swing changes will make you a better golfer, or worse. Swing principles relate to different mechanical aspects of your golf swing that affect the outcome of your golf shots. Common swing principles include your golf grip, set up, wrist angles and swing plane.

As golf coaches, we follow the following three-step process when trying to help any golfer improve:

  1. What change needs to occur in the ball flight (less curve, start direction, more distance)?
  2. What impact factors are causing the issue (club face, path, strike…)?
  3. Which swing principles will be most effective in making this change?

You’ll immediately think of your long game when considering this process, but the exact same process governs your short game and putting performance too.

The key as a golfer is to be able to understand what impact factors are causing your poor shots, and then choosing a swing principle to improve that aspect.

Below is the table we are given as PGA coaches in the swing manual book. It shows the five impact factors along the top and then the 14 swing principles that affect each one.

You’ll note some swing principles appear in more than one column, like the golf grip, which is one of the reasons a great golf grip of fundamental to better golf performance.

The 14 golf swing principles 

This shows the golf swing principles that affect each golf impact factor
This shows the swing principles that affect each impact factor. The header lists each impact factor, and within each column are the impact factors that affect that impact factor.

Definitions of each swing principle

Below is a definition of each swing principle as it appears in the PGA coaching manual.

Grip: Placement, positioning, pressure and precision of applying hands to the club.

Aim: Alignment of the club face and body in relation to the target.

Setup: Posture, ball position, stance, weight distribution and muscular readiness.

Swing Plane: Tilt and direction of the inclined plane made by the shaft.

Width of Arc: Extension of the arms and hands away from the center of rotation during the swing.

Length of Arc: Distance club head travels in backswing and forward swing.

Position (Top of the swing): Relationship of the back of the “lead” arm and wrist to the face of the club and the swing plane at the top of the backswing.

Lever System: Combination of levers formed by the left arm and club during the backswing.

Timing: proper sequence of body and club movement to produce the most efficient result.

Release: Allowing the arms, hands, body, and club to return to the correct impact position unleashing power created in the backswing.

Dynamic Balance: Appropriate transfer of weight while maintaining body control.

Swing Center: Point located near the top of the spine around which upper body rotation and swing of arms are in place.

Connection: Establishing and maintaining the various body parts in their appropriate relation to one another setup and during the swing.

Impact: The position of the body and the club at the moment the club head delivers its full energy to the ball.

1. Grip 2. Aim 3. Setup 4. Swing plane 5. Width of Arc 6. Length of Arc 7. Position (top of swing) 8. Lever system 9. Timing 10. Release 11. Dynamic balance 12. Swing center 13. Connection 14. Impact

You would be right to feel some of these are slightly vague, and recent advancements in coaching suggest this approach might need updating (for example breaking strike down into location on the golf club and low point). However, this is still a very useful framework for all golfers to understand when thinking about their own golf swings, short game and putting mechanics.

Let’s look at an example of how this could be used:

Fixing a slice

A golfer with a slice as the golf ball excessively curving to the right of their target. Most likely they have an out-to-in swing path, but the key variable causing the curvature is that the club face is open to their swing path the greater the angle between these two, the more torque and more slice spin is applied to the golf ball.

Fixing the club face

If we scroll back to our table we can see that to alter the club face angle we could alter out: aim, grip, wrist position, release, timing, plane or dynamic balance.

Which one you choose is down to you, or you and your coach.

Great coaching is all about making the simplest change in a golfer’s swing and making the maximum gain in performance. All whilst being aware of the long-term plan for that golfer’s personal progression.

Most slicers have club face that is a 4-10º open to their swing path. We could just focus on their timing and release, but a far more robust change is to make their golf grip 4-10º stronger. As much as this feels uncomfortable, once the club is gripped in this new position the club face is set in a far better position to create a good impact.

As you can see from the table, a better golf grip also has the benefits of improving the swing path and club head speed too.

Golf coaching is an art and a science and these decisions should be on a person-by-person basis.

Using this approach for your own golf game

Most golfers can create the ideal impact and ball flight, but can’t do it consistently enough. That is where swing changes and swing principles come into play.

There is no such thing as a technically perfect golf swing, but the better your swing mechanics, the less your performance will rely on timing.

Summary

Understanding swing principles and impact factors are the core of improving your golf performance across your long game, short game and putting. They might take a little while to get comfortable with, but it will be well worth your time.

If you would like more information on these and impact factors, leave a comment below with what would be useful.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider

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Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

3 thoughts on “Golf Swing Principles”

  1. Wil,
    Am compelled to get in touch with feedback after a year of following Golf Insider .
    All aspects of my game have improved significantly – perhaps most significant is how much more fun and enjoyment I get from both practicing snd playing . Handicap down from 6.4 to 2.6 and last 8 cards ( non qualifying ) average scores 2 under par a round .
    Congratulations Wil – you have created an outstanding performance improvement tool here.

    Reply
    • Awww Jamie these messages make my day.

      Delighted the site has been of use and even more delighted to hear of your fine progress.

      Scratch next!

      Keep up the great work.

      Will

      Reply
  2. Hi Will

    Very interesting article , however I have a couple of questions about approaching these impact factors and principles , 1) should you attack each impact factor in turn i.e. face angle and impact then swing path ,speed etc and work on each of the principals within each section i.e. within face angle work on Aim then grip then wrist position OR work on the principles as listing below the table so grip first then aim,setup , swing plane etc
    2. The last principal listed IMPACT does not feature in any of the impact factors which sort of makes sense i think because impact is last on the list of principles because the other 13 above all go into perfect/better impact?

    Regards Andy

    Reply

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