There are thousands of videos and articles on golf swing technique, but few cover how to actually change your golf swing in practice. In this article, we’ll cover the six steps I use and share with all the golfers I work with when it comes to making swing changes.
This article should come with a strong warning that you should only be making swing changes to improve your ball flight and lower your scores. Swing changes for the sake of swing changes are one of the best ways to get worse at golf!
1. Dry swings – Can you create the correct movement?
Dry swing refer to making practice swings without a golf ball. It is pointless beating 500 golf balls at the range if you can’t make the correct movement. Stage one is to practice the new movement (setup, backswing, impact movement) without a golf ball. This sounds counterintuitive but makes every step after this one much quicker if you start here, even if you only practice this for 2 x 10-minute blocks.
If you are working on movement that is tricky to see with your own eyes use a mirror or training aid to help you. You can also video yourself making practice swings on your phone and review them – most golfers will be shocked what their practice swings look like.
Only move on from this stage when you can make the correct movement 8/10 times.
2. Part practice – Focus on great reps of the movement
Stage two is to start hitting golf balls with a pause or practicing part of your swing at a slower speed. What you choose depends on what you are working on. Takeaway, backswing and the start of downswing changes are all great with a pause.
Impact work and aspects close to impact are best with slwoer, part swings practicing the new movement, like hitting chips and pitches with your new action.
Another counter-intuitive tip is to practice in a net. This takes away the feedback of where the golf ball goes. At this stage, we are focusing on getting the right movements, rather than hitting great golf shots. Hitting into a net can be great to get through this stage if you are struggling to make the right movement.
Move on from this stage when you can create the correct movement 8/10 times (this is very different from hitting 8/10 good golf shots)
3. Part-whole practice – Linking movements together
The next stage is to combine part and whole practice. This involves hitting 3-5 balls in part practice (or the drills you are working on), followed by 3-5 golf balls with a golf swing all in one motion.
Go back and forth between these two types of practice and follow this part-whole practice structure with a range of clubs within a session. I’d recommend at least one batch of part-whole practice with the following clubs if you have 50 golf balls at the golf range:
- Wedge (5 part practice, 5 whole practice)
- Mid-iron (5 part practice, 5 whole practice)
- Long iron or fairway wood (5 part practice, 5 whole practice)
- Driver (5 part practice, 5 whole practice)
Once you can hit 7/10 shots with what you consider good technique you can move on from this stage.
4. Whole blocked practice – Classic practice
The next stage is working more towards a normal golf swing (this is where most golfers start without this guidance). Feel free to warm up with drills or part-practice to get your feelings for the practice session. Then work on hitting full shots with different clubs in your bag. The approach above, working from wedge to driver will work well to add in some variation.
By this stage, you should have mastered your new swing changes in your practice swing and these become your secret weapon to take your new technique forward. Your practice swings can be realistic, or very exaggerated movements of what you are trying to achieve.
Great golfers use lots of practice swings to help them make the most of their practice. I wrote about this in more detail here.
5. Varied practice – Same club, different clubs.
The second to last stage is varied practice. You can do this in several ways. The most obvious is to stand on the range and change the club and target you are hitting to more frequently.
However, I tend to find the best type of varied practice for engraining swing changes is to work on hitting slightly different shots with the same club. Take your 7-iron and hit a full shot, then try to hit a more controlled shot at 70%. Next, see if you still hit a good shot when the ball is slightly forward/back in your stance. If you are more advanced, see if you can hit a controlled fade or draw with your new action.
This type of practice will often send your shot outcomes downhill quickly! But don’t worry, this also helps you transfer your skills to the golf course much quicker too.
On the golf course your lie and the conditions are changing every shot, which is just one of the reasons standard range practice doesn’t transfer as well as many golfers would hope.
6. On course practice – Where it counts
On-course technique practice is often overlooked by golfers, but it is really useful. It involves going onto the golf course with the sole purpose of making great technical golf swings and working out where the golf ball will go as a result.
After a few rounds of working on your technique on course, it is time to shift back into performance mode. This is another key step golfers forget, at some point, you have to decide to trust the work you have done and get back into trying to swing the golf club and hit the ball towards your target.
Before you head out for a round of golf you should decide if you are playing golf to see how low you can score (performance practice). Or heading out to work on your technique (technical practice).
7. Maintenance – It is never truly changed
Swing changes are never truly finished. For whatever reason our body has fixed patterns it likes to fall back into. As much as getting your swing technically perfect might seem like the holy grail, in reality, players don’t play their best golf here.
Instead, players seem to play their best when they are 75-90% towards what they are aiming for and 10-25% in their old habits. Don’t get caught up in perfect, focus on keeping movements good enough to perform. Try to fit in some maintenance work once a week, or every 2 weeks depending on how often you practice and play.
This maintenance practice is going to be a mix of practices laid out in stages 1 to 5 listed above, depending on what works best for you.
Moving between these stages
In reality, you won’t smoothly move through each stage. Instead, you’ll be split between two or more and sometimes move backwards to regain the right feelings and movements.
Don’t worry this is normal, if you can’t make the correct movements, switch your practice back to an earlier stage until you find the movements and feelings again.
Movements to feelings – Another secret to performing on the golf course
In the early stages, you should be really focused on making the correct movements, and care very little where the golf ball is going. As you move through to the later stages you should aim to turn all those mechanical points into one simple feeling.
This is something great athletes do without realising it, but a big part of practice is distilling complex, cognitive thoughts into a simple feeling you can use in practice swings and on the golf course.
if you have used your practice to create a simple feeling you can use practice swings on the golf course to refresh this feeling in your head then try to hit the golf shot with that same feeling.
Why is changing your golf swing hard?
We are walking problem-solving machines. We are trying to find movements to solve problems based our own set of constraints (strength, experience, equipment, task). The problem in golf is to i) hit the golf ball and to ii) try and hit the golf ball to our target.
When we are making many swing changes, one of these two problems becomes harder, before it becomes easier. This disconnection between the new movement and the outcome is just one of the reasons why making swing changes is often challenging.
Why are my practice swings not the same as my swings with the golf ball?
They never will be and shouldn’t be. Your intention with a practice swing is to make a great practice swing, your intention with the golf ball is to hit the golf ball. If you want to make your practice swings more realistic aim to clip a piece of grass or a leave off the ground.
This can be useful, to add the constraint of making contact with something, but you will stall have to accept your practice swing will never be the same as your real swing.
This framework isn’t perfect, and for many golfers it will be overkill (feel free to take away the points that are most useful to you.
I’ve found it to be a really helpful tool to help make swing changes quickly, that stick and transition onto the golf course. I hope it helps you on your journey to better golf.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, come join the Golf Insider UK weekly newsletter, it is free and has an email every Monday with articles like this one.
Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK
Sorry that this article was not useful for you.
Would you mind helping me improve this article?
Tell us how we can improve this post?