Swinging Through the Ball
“My practice swing is so different than my actual swing.”
-Every golfer ever
The golf ball is in the way of the swing. Swing through the ball, not at it. You’re not finishing. Swing to the target. These are common refrains heard on ranges and courses all over the world. It’s pretty rare that we see someone who can’t make a pretty smooth and repeatable swing without a ball in the way. Swings made with the club hovering above the ground make everyone feel like they should be on tour.
So why is it that our swings become tense lashes when a ball is presented? The first issue is the clubface. We don’t need to worry about hitting the ball straight, so we don’t manipulate our hands and body to try and square everything up. Second, there is no performance anxiety, as in, we don’t really care what it looks like and there’s no result to worry about. Third, and probably most importantly, there’s not a lot of tension. I haven’t seen anyone tense up so much they didn’t finish in decent balance on a practice swing.
Let’s take a look at how we can get away from being “ball-conscious” and find that elusive “swing through the ball” feel we all need to get better.
Start with the end in mind:
We’ve all done it and seen it: the steering swing that stops wayyyy short of a good finish. The arms and hands are extremely tense, the clubface is probably wide open and the ball is slicing or shanking straight off to the right (or left for a lefty). The easiest drill to combat this is to make sure to finish with your back shoulder (right shoulder for righty, left for lefty) facing the target, the club above your lead (vice versa) shoulder and your back heel off the ground. This is your one and only goal for the swing. If you’re not used to it, it will take some reps.
The second part of this drill is to hold your finish until the ball lands. Not only does this help your balance, but your body will intuitively learn that it must continue through the ball in order to hit a good shot. This is one of the best tricks in learning how to swing through and not at a ball.
There are multiple ways to do this. Some of my favorites:
Swing with a chip between your teeth and try not to break it
Concentrate on keeping a constant (somewhat light) grip pressure through the entire swing
Hum (hmmmmm) through your whole swing and try not to let the pitch differ…as in, try to keep a constant hum all the way into the follow through
Swing with your mouth open and relax your jaw
Listen very carefully for impact
Sing your favorite song in your head
Try the Tour Tempo app (I’d recommend the book so you know what you’re doing)
These are meant to take your mind off mechanics and the ball. Try to focus on one at a time rather than all at once. You’ll probably find that some work better than others.
The best drill:
The best drill I’ve found for this common issue is to hit balls with your eyes closed. If you’re getting off track, try to hit two out of every three shots blind. This takes away the visual component that causes us all kinds of swing problems, and will teach you to intuitively swing through the ball. You’ll become much more in tune with where the club actually is through the motion. Henrik Stenson hit thousands upon thousands of shots with his eyes closed when he struggled early in his career. It’s challenging at first, but stick with it. You’ll learn a lot about balance and how your swing operates.
Hopefully this gives you a good starting point. Of course, we all get the tendency to tense up, and these drills will get you back on track. Remember, we’re not trying to swing extremely slowly or anything (we need clubhead speed to move the ball out there), but we are trying to let the ball get in the way of the swing. Swing fast, not hard. Good luck!