10 bad golf swing mistakes high handicappers make

Golfer laying on the green.

It is amazing how many different ways there are to swing a golf club. I often think they are like fingerprints. Often you can identify someone from far away when you see their golf swing.

But while the list of ways to swing a golf club is long, the problems that plague the swing are significantly shorter. These are 10 of the most common swing or setup mistakes I see on my lesson tee.

1. Weak grip causing slice

An open clubface slice is one of the most common mistakes that I see in my lessons, but the good news is that it can often be fixed very simply.

Many golfers that I see, incorrectly think that their lead (usually left) hand should have the thumb straight down the middle of the grip with their trail hand sitting on top of it (left picture above).

This misunderstanding puts this lead head in a position that tends to open the face throughout the swing, producing a weak slice.

If this is you, take both of your hands — but more predominately your lead hand — and rotate them away from the target.

The grip change will almost immediately keep your clubface more square throughout your swing and most likely at impact as well.

A square face at impact will help your golf ball to not only go straighter but typically farther.

2. Bad posture

Being in balance at address and throughout your golf swing has a lot to do with being in good posture to start. The better your golf posture, the more it can support speed and athletic motion.

I love watching good golfers set up to their golf ball. You can tell before they swing that they are probably pretty good as they are properly bent forward from their hips with their hands hanging below their shoulders and their weight would typically be balanced in the balls of their feet.

Practice a good balanced set up and set up routine and when you do swing faster, your golf ball will still get in the way of your swing club and you will be able to maintain balance throughout.

3. Trying to lift the ball

Trying to lift the golf ball into the air is a copping cause of a topped or bladed shot. This tends to apply more to the mid- to high- handicapped golfers who do not completely understand what makes a golf ball go into the air.

Lower handicaps understand that around the greens, hitting down on the ball sends the ball up.

One of my favorite drills to teach golfers how to hit down on the ball is to place a tee flat on the ground on the target side of the golf ball. When you swing your club, not only should you sweep the grass under the ball, but your clubhead should stay low enough to the ground after the ball to also scrape this tee as well.

This scraping of the grass after the ball is what will produce more center face contact and higher shots, all because you understand what makes the ball launch.

4. Too much tension in hands and arms

One of the greatest ways to lose distance is to hold the golf club really tightly. This tension in the hands and therefore the arms will often overpower the club’s ability to swing, which produces less speed and distance.

There is a difference between holding your club and squeezing your club. One of my favorite ways to improve this is to turn your club upside down and hold onto the shaft of the club just below the club head and begin swinging. You goal is to hear the “swoosh” of the club. Grip too tightly, and you won’t be able to hear this noise.

5. Bad balance

Good posture certainly is a big step toward being in balance.

Every golfer, regardless of their skill level, should be able to hold their finish. You don’t need to do this every time, but you should test your balance by trying to do this on occasion.

One of my favorite balance drills is practice swings or hitting balls from a low tee with your feet relatively close together. This will help improve balance over time and rid you of excessive motion that makes it difficult to stay in balance.

6. Trying to swing in a straight line

A golf swing is a curving and circular motion.

For that reason, many golfers incorrectly attempt to swing their clubhead on a straight line back and through. In either case, if you swing your club too straight back and never allow your underarms to stay close to your body, the club rotates on an arc.

You can easily correct this by allowing your underarms to stay relatively close to your chest throughout your golf swing. Not only will this help produce a consistent, circular path, but you will also be able to keep your hands and arms more relaxed to help increase speed.

7. They come over the top

We hear this all the time, but what does it really mean? So much of golf terminology isn’t very logical.

“Over the top” means to swing from out-to-in, cutting across to the inside typically producing a pull or a slice. In my experience, most golfers who come “over the top” do so because their clubface is open due to their grip position, which has the effect of aiming them to the right.

Think of it this way, if your alignment on your car was off to the right, after running into everything on the right side of the road, what would you do? You would likely start twisting your steering wheel to the left. Sometimes it might work, but it doesn’t fix the underlying problem in the car.

So, to adjust your downswing path, first check your grip, clubface, and use swing aids to promote a more neutral swing path. Even something as simple as an alignment rod on the ground just outside of your golf ball can help avoid the inclination to have your clubhead in the wrong position and can be enough to improve downswing path.

8. Bad ball position

It may sound all too simple, but incorrect ball position can cause huge issues with contact and direction. One of my favorite lessons is to show how ball position can lead to mishits, even when technique is perfect. Most often, if a golfer has the ball too far forward in their stance, they will tend to hit a fat shot. Many times you are hitting the ground where the ball should be.

If your ball position is too forward, this is often accompanied by a shoulder and forearm alignment that will cause swing path issues.

9. No setup routine to correct ball position

An improper ball position can cause issues with your setup through too much (or too little) shoulder tilt.

Start with your hands on the grip of the club and bow forward from your hips to set the club behind the ball.

Place the club in the middle of your body with your feet completely together and touching. This will help you to find the center of your body and also help your body alignments to start relatively parallel.

Next, take the smallest widening step you can with your lead foot and then a larger step with your back foot. When you do this, allow your trailing shoulder to drop lower also. This will help you find proper ball position and the correct shoulder tilt needed to maximize your driver contact and distance.

10. Closed face causing bad path

Since your clubface is such a huge influence on your golf ball, extreme versions of an open or closed face can cause huge issues in your swing.

A closed clubface will often produce a lower flight and a ball that hooks. The problem with a hook is that the ball will also struggle to launch high enough into the air to carry.

A closed face most often comes from an incorrect grip where one or both of the hands is rotated too far away from the target in a “strong” position.

This will cause the clubface to close throughout the swing and at impact, leading to a low hook shot. The natural reaction to this miss is to swing more out and away and the issue here is it typically increases the hook and makes pitching and bunker shots nearly impossible.

To correct this, take one or both of your hands and turn them toward the target so you see fewer knuckles on your lead hand and fewer fingernails on your trail hand. This more neutral position will allow your clubface to stay more square.

When you are looking to improve your golf game it’s crucially important to make fixes to your fundamental problems.

Don’t just blindly pick a fundamental to work on unless it makes sense to what your golf ball is telling you.

When choosing from the list of most common mistakes, make sure it matches your particular game.

When you’re making adjustments and changes, be vigilant and remember, it takes time to truly make a change a habit, but your focus will pay off.

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