Hans Kersting: The proper practice swing

A golfer at the end of his golf swing. iStock image

I spend a lot of time with my students teaching them to understand ball flight.

Do you find it necessary to always take a practice swing? I would assume that nearly all of you will say “yes.” It is one of those habits that is ingrained in most golfers from the moment we pick up a golf club for the first time. We see professionals taking practice swings, and so we have no reason to consider not taking one ourselves. But why is it so important to take a practice swing? Perhaps it’s not as important as you might think.

Practice swings should serve a purpose. They should be used to reinforce a positive swing thought that you may be working on. But that’s not what I always observe while watching players go through this process. Let’s face it…there is a BIG difference between a practice swing and an ACTUAL swing! I hear it all of the time, and I’m sure most of you have said it, “Why does my practice swing feel so much better than my real swing?” Most likely because you are doing it all wrong.

The proper way to approach a practice swing is to have a very focused, yet simple approach. Focus on rhythm and balance, rather than the challenge of hitting an ‘imaginary ball’ on the ground. When I see players trying to hit a certain spot on the ground with their golf club in a practice swing, I typically see two common flaws. One, the head stays down too long, which leads us directly into common flaw number two. By keeping the head down for so long, you will have a very difficult time properly finishing your golf swing.

Rather than focusing on a spot on the ground, instead make a swing focusing on the rhythm and balance you are hoping to generate.

As crazy as this may sound, it’s not a bad idea to occasionally make a practice swing with your eyes closed. You will immediately find yourself focusing on the ‘feel’ of your swing, rather than the ‘aim’ of your golf club.

I encourage many of my students to stop taking practice swings while on the practice range. Instead, I ask them to find a rhythm to hitting their shots, and become more efficient with their time. I would rather have a player hit 50 golf balls with focus and efficiency.

If you are going to take practice swings while on the golf course, start focusing on rhythm and balance only. While on the practice range, experiment with no practice swings between shots. Your golf swing will feel better on the course, and your practice sessions will become much more efficient.

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