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golf swing
jack nicklaus
club face
shot routine
Improve Your Golf Swing - Starting With The Set-up
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Does your golf swing need some tweaking?

Are you playing as well as you would like to?

In this article I will explain how the correct set-up will help to improve your golf swing.

By set-up I mean the stuff you do before you even start your swing. Ever heard the commentators talk about the "pre-shot routine" that all players have? That's the thing I am talking about.

In the world of golf coaching we have an acronym for this which is GASP. GASP stands for:

  • Grip
  • Alignment
  • Stance
  • Posture

Each covers an array of things and each will impact on your golf swing and hence your final score. Get the GASP aspect of your swing correct and you are well on your way to playing better. Let me briefly run through each of these elements.

Grip. As the hands are the only part of the body in contact with the club it stands to reason that the grip is a very important part of the golf swing!

We more commonly concern ourselves with the 'strength' of the grip.

  • A weak grip will encourage an open club-face through impact
  • A strong grip will encourage a closed club-face through impact and
  • A neutral grip will produce a square club-face at impact.

Each has its uses but for most shots a neutral grip is preferable.

But there is more to the grip than just how the hands are placed on the club.

There is the 'where' they are placed.

Make a note of the pros and you will see that they tend to have anything from an inch to an inch and a half of the butt of the club sticking out behind their hands. Jack Nicklaus always said that he concentrated on controlling the face of the club - the closer your hands are to the club face the more control you will have.

The strength of your grip is important too. You don't want to be strangling the living daylights out of the club but you need to have enough on it so it doesn't slip out of your hands. I like the analogy of holding a little bird in your hands so that it isn't harmed but also cannot fly away! Grip the club tightly and feel the tension in your forearms, now loosen the grip a bit at a time until there is no tension in your forearms.

Alignment. This is probably the easiest thing to fix and yet is a very common mistake. I your grip is wrong and you have either an open or closed club-face through impact chances are you are also aiming in the wrong place. That's your brain at work trying to correct your grip fault!

To check your alignment take a club and lay it across the toes of your two feet. Now take a second club and lay it parallel to this along the ball to target line. Parallel is the important word here and it will soon become obvious where you are aiming using this technique.

Stance. This refers to your weight distribution and a solid platform. You don't want to be standing in such a way that the wind will blow you over - left or right or forwards or back. Your weight should be comfortably balanced on the balls of your feet. Imagine you are playing tennis and are waiting to receive service. You need to be ready to leap into action in any given direction!

Think of stance as looking at a player from front on.

Posture. Posture is the player's profile from behind the player looking down the fairway. Posture is fairly upright. There is a slight bend at the waist, just enough to have the club touching the ground and a very slight knee flex. Please don't squat.

The spine (including your head) must be straight. Shoulders back and not slouched forward.

The hands should hang freely, directly below your shoulders and about one 'hand span' in front of your crotch. Looking down at your hands they will be just in front of your toe line. You shouldn't be stretching and neither should you feel cramped.

The swing is a rotation around the spine so it is imperative that it is straight. A bent spine is impossible to rotate around and you will find that your arms do the swinging.

The head is the heaviest part of the body and plays an important part in ensuring a good swing. If it is too far forward (your chin tucked in too close to your chest) you are likely to cut across the ball and produce a slice. Lift it slightly and you should encourage an in to out swing and a draw. Make small adjustments until you are comfortable and able to swing freely.

Now, and only now, that you have the correct GASP are you ready to start your backswing. And that is a whole new ball game!

The pre-shot requirements that I have outlined above can, and should, be practiced anywhere.

Regularly practice gripping and re-gripping, checking that you are aiming correctly, setting your weight evenly over the balls of your feet and ensuring a good comfortable posture. The more you practice these basics the easier it will be to have an automated pre-shot routine (this becomes a habit) which will improve your golf swing.

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