When I give a 30-minute corporate clinic, I'm usually speaking to hundreds of people of varying abilities. I just don't have time to delve deeply into my whole approach to the golf swing, plus the audience typically doesn't have a lot of time to play or practice -- so my rule is to communicate simple "basics" a player of any level can grasp. I emphasize seven basics. If you follow them, you'll be prepared for your best season ever.
1. GRIP IN THE FINGERS
One of the biggest faults in the game is that golfers grip the club too much in the palm of the left hand, so much so that they wear a hole in the heel pad of the glove. Placing the club more toward the fingers helps eliminate tension in the swing, allows the wrists to cock naturally, and ultimately helps cure innumerable swings flaws. To ensure the proper left-hand position, where the club lies diagonally across the fingers, it's a lot easier to take hold of the club when it's off the ground in front of you.
2. BUILD A FIRM BASE
Build a solid posture at address to engage and stabilize your core muscles -- the area around your belt buckle. This enables you to maintain good balance throughout and encourages you to swing the club on a repetitive track. Position a short iron with the shaft angled toward you. Then put your right hand on top of the grip and your left hand on top of your right and push the club into the ground with your forearms. You should feel solid from the ground up as your core muscles tighten.
3. AIM THE FACE FIRST
When you take your stance it's important to square the clubface to your target first, and then adjust your body lines (feet, hips, shoulders) so they are at right angles to the clubface. Many amateurs first align their bodies with their feet at the target and hope the face is square. Aim the face at something on your target line close to your ball. Practice with another ball initially to reinforce the direction your clubface is aiming and where you want the ball ultimately to go. It's against the rules to place an alignment aid when you play, so spot a blade of grass or twig on the target line just in front of you.
4. CHECK BALL POSITION
The shaft of your driver is eight to 10 inches longer than the shaft of your short irons, so you need to adjust your stance in relation to the ball, because the bottom of the swing arc varies with each club. There are three things to remember here:
(1) The longer the club, the farther forward in your stance the ball should be. Stand so the ball is just forward of center if you're using a short to middle iron. For long irons and hybrids, the ball should be an inch closer to the target. For a driver, it should be approximately off the heel of your front foot. (2) The longer the club, the farther away you should stand from the ball (inset). (3) The longer the club, the wider your stance should get.
5. COIL, UNCOIL FOR POWER
To understand how the body is supposed to powerfully rotate during the swing, get into your golf posture and put your hands on your hips. While maintaining that posture, turn your upper body as if someone behind you is calling your name. You can even look back over your right shoulder. You should feel your upper body torqued against your lower body. Then, from this coiled position, the rest of the swing is a matter of simply moving your weight into your front foot and uncoiling your upper body aggressively into a poised finish where your chest is facing the target and you are balanced, up on your right toes.
6. LET THE CLUB SWING
It's difficult for many golfers to produce the correct swing shape or orbit -- the club swinging back, around, inside and up and then repeating the same movement down and through. But when you grip the club with only the index and middle fingers and thumb of your right hand, you'll notice the weight of the club controls its path and arc. Your wrist hinges naturally, and the face opens gradually when you take it back. It closes gradually as you swing down to a square position at impact and beyond. The unstable grip prohibits you from manipulating and over-controlling the swing. Make these right-handed swings until you feel the correct motion of the club. Then retrace this movement when you hit normal shots.
7. DEVELOP YOUR PACE
Rhythm and tempo are the ingredients that make a swing consistent and repeatable. Because the swing starts from a standstill, the move away from the ball is often jerky and tense, which makes it harder to complete the backswing as you then rush the start of the downswing, causing loss of power and direction. If you watch other sports with a moving object, such as tennis, baseball or hockey, it's much easier to create the proper rhythm. To develop a flowing start to the swing, hit shots at the range incorporating this age-old drill: Hover the clubhead off the ground a couple of feet ahead of the ball. Now start the swing from here. You'll immediately notice your backswing and transition to the downswing become smoother and more flowing. Hitting the ball becomes less of an effort, and your ball striking will improve dramatically.