Common Misconceptions about the Golf Swing

By Robert Preston
The myth that a club must be parallel to the ground at the top of a backswing is a common misconception among amateurs.
The myth that a club must be parallel to the ground at the top of a backswing is a common misconception among amateurs.

Like any tradition or game that has existed for generations, golf has acquired its fair share of rules of thumb that any golfer should be expected to know. Unfortunately, as is often the case, not all of these rules to live by are true, and sticking to them could be hurting your game.

The Stationary Head

One of the first things many new golfers are told by a well-meaning friend is the importance of maintaining a steady head throughout the swing, and rotating about a stationary axis from the head down through the spine. While a fairly commonly heard lesson, it is entirely wrong. During the course of a swing, a player must transfer her weight, first slightly onto her back leg, then substantially forward onto her front leg during the downswing. To do this, the player's head must be moving. The misconception stems primarily from the fact that the head should maintain a fairly consistent height throughout the swing, and should remain down until the follow through, but it should do so while sliding slightly back then forward, parallel to the ground.

Bigger Is Better

When generating power, many players think that by swinging farther back, and lengthening their swing, they provide themselves more time to generate momentum, and as such maximize their distance. Instead, a player should focus on extending his swing as far back as he comfortably can without losing his balance, as trading extra speed for a loss in accuracy will only lead to shorter drives, as power is wasted in lateral movement, which also often ends with the ball in the rough. A common rule of thumb is that the club should reach parallel at the top of the swing, however most golfers need not swing back so far to be successful.

The Straight Lead Arm

Players are often also told to maintain a straight lead arm when swinging until the follow through, when the arm finally breaks to wrap the club around the player's body. The misconception stems from a misunderstanding of the difference in a stable arm and a straight arm. While it is important for the golfer to keep their lead arm firm, and for it to be fairly straight, some degree of flexation, which remains consistent throughout the back and down swings, is to be expected.

Always Be Square

Addressing the ball squarely, meaning the club face is pointed at the target, and the shoulders, hips and feet are pointed parallel to the target line, is an essential part of hitting a ball which flies straight and true. A straight shot is not always the best shot, however. Most pros play some degree of spin on all shots, and the ability to work the ball around a difficult bend is a valuable tool to have. One of the best ways to put movement on a ball is to turn the orientation of the feet, hips and shoulders slightly in the direction opposite the desired movement, so that you are not addressing the ball square.

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