How To Hit A Golf Ball: 4 Basic Steps
Golf is a challenging game. It involves a lot of strange movements that aren’t replicated in any other sport. Handed a golf club and ball for the first time, it’s easy to think, ‘How on earth am I meant to hit this thing?’
The key things to remember when trying to hit a golf ball are:
First, visualize the shot you are trying to hit.
Second, set up behind the ball with an athletic but relaxed stance.
Third, make sure you turn back and through the ball.
And finally, commit to the shot.
Below we’ll talk in more detail about how properly to hit the golf ball, addressing each step in turn.
STEP ONE: VISUALISATION
Golf isn’t like a lot of other sports. In tennis, football, soccer, or basketball, you’re acting instinctively and using your reactions. Aside from certain moments (free throws, penalty kicks, serves), you don’t get the chance to visualize what you’re about to do.
Golf is different. People often say that golf is a sport played on four miles of turf and the six inches between your ears. It’s a game that’s all about imagination and mental toughness, and that requires visualization.
Too often, you’ll see beginner golfers – and, to be honest, seasoned amateurs – step up to the golf ball with no real idea what they’re going to do with it. This makes it almost impossible to execute a good shot except through fluke, which isn’t repeatable.
A lot of the time, people overcomplicate golf. Your body and brain are incredible mechanisms and work together in ways you don’t realize. If you stand there and picture a golf shot, the ball is soaring up and towards the target; your body will do its best to try and make that happen.
This step is more complicated for true beginners, who might not have watched a lot of golf. The best thing to do is watch a lot of golf on TV and Youtube. Watch the length of swings the pros take and how that changes for different shots. This will seep into your subconscious and help better your golfing imagination.
So next time you’re about to take a golf shot, take a second and visualize it. Watch an imaginary ball flying through the air, on the line you have chosen, towards the target. That should be the first step before you even attempt to hit the golf ball.
STEP TWO: ALIGNMENT AND SET UP
Alignment seems like a simple part of the game but is actually one of the trickiest and most important aspects of a good round of golf. For those who don’t know, alignment means ‘where you are aiming’ – i.e., are you ALIGNED to your target?
The best way to practice this is on the driving range. Set up your golf ball and pick a target out on the range. Draw an imaginary line from your ball to the target. Then, set up another club lying parallel to that imaginary line, and set up your feet matched up to it. This should help you learn what straight alignment feels like.
A great trick on the golf course is to use an intermediate alignment aid. When you’re picturing your shot, work out your aiming point. Then trackback from that to the ball. Find something on that line from the ball to target that is only a few feet in front of you.
This could be a leaf lying on the ground, a different colored blade of grass, a broken tee, or a speck of mud. Just something that you are confident is between you and your target. Then, set up to that instead. It’s much easier to aim at something so close to you.
Once you are sure you’ve got your alignment right, it’s time to take your stance. We could spend all day talking about the minutiae of the golfing setup, but there are a few key things to remember.
Firstly: this is a sport! So set up like an athlete. Think about the positions a goalkeeper in soccer might take up or a tennis player awaiting a serve. Their knees are bent, their legs loose, their bodies coiled up, ready to spring.
It changes from club to club, but a good rule of thumb is to have your feet about shoulder-width apart. For a driver or fairway wood, you want the ball positioned just inside your left foot. For a wedge or short iron, you want it in the center of your stance.
Bend over slightly from the hips – not so much that you’re stooped, but enough to feel athletic. No exact amount of hip bend leads to a good golf shot – find whatever is comfortable for you!
Let your arms fall naturally down from your shoulders once you are in an athletic position with your knees flexed and hips bent. This should allow your hands to hang ten to fifteen inches from your belt buckle, giving you room to swing but not standing you too far away.
STEP THREE: THE GOLF SWING
Once you’re set up, it’s time to hit the golf ball with your shot visualized! Try not to take too long over this – standing there for a long time worrying about technique tenses you up and leads to bad shots. Once you’re over that golf ball, swing away as soon as possible!
The golf swing is a complicated movement with a lot of different parts. But for a beginner, there are a few things to remember that should help you make good contact.
Firstly, the turn. Turning is the most critical action of the golf swing. On the way back, you should have turned almost entirely away from your target with your shoulders and hips.
A good test is to practice your backswing (without a club!) in front of a mirror. Stand with the mirror ‘behind you’ (if you were taking a shot) and turn back. You should be able to see both of your shoulders clearly, almost perpendicular to the mirror. And your belt buckle should be pointing directly backward from the target.
The downswing follows the same action in reverse. Turn your whole body back through, and by the time you’ve finished, your belt buckle and shoulders should be pointed nicely at your target.
An excellent way to think about it is weight transfer. On your backswing, all your weight should turn onto your back leg. On the downswing, it should transition to the front leg.
Another nice visual tip to help you is the angle of your arms. On the backswing, you want your ‘lead arm’ (left arm for a right-handed golfer, right arm for a left-handed golfer) to be kept entirely straight. Your trail arm (right and left, respectively) should be bent at roughly a right angle at the top of your backswing.
At the end of your follow-through, you should have once again inverted this position. Your lead arm can have bent into a nice right angle, with your trail arm kept straight as possible for as long as possible.
The final thing to think about is where you are hitting the golf ball itself. Too many amateurs want to avoid the turf because they’re scared of hitting the ground. This is a recipe for disaster!
For your irons, you actively WANT to hit the ground. Aim for a spot of ground two centimeters after the ball. This should encourage you to hit DOWN on the ball, which pops it up in the air.
The only exception to this rule is when you have a driver or wood on a tee peg. In this case, you want to hit UP on the golf ball. So try to brush the ground an inch or two behind where your golf ball is – that is the bottom of your arc, and you’ll then swing upwards at the ball, sending it a long way down the fairway.
STEP FOUR: HAVE FUN!
Golf is possibly the most frustrating sport ever invented. The clubs are long, and the balls are tiny. The smallest margins can turn a superb shot into a disastrous one. You only have to watch professional golf to see the best players in the world hitting awful shots every week!
So learn to laugh at the bad shots, and try not to get too hung up on technique at the beginning of your journey into this fantastic game. That can all come later – for now, concentrate on swinging in a way that feels comfortable to you, and trying to hit that golf ball hard! Keep swinging!