If you’ve spent any time around serious golfers, you’ll have heard some discussing golf stroke mechanics. But what does this term mean, and is there a difference between golf stroke mechanics and golf swing mechanics?
For me personally, properly understanding the decisions I make on the course, from club selection, pre-shot routine, where I am aiming, up to the actual stroke, has made a world of difference to my par scores.
Golf stroke mechanics matter because it will help you become the best golfer you can be and improve your game immensely.
You can improve your golf stroke mechanics by:
- Choosing the right club for each shot
- Keeping your arms stable in the takeaway
- Stacking weight on your legs during the backswing
- Leading with your lower body during the transition
- Relaxing your grip correctly on the downswing
- Maintaining your balance on the follow-through
Understanding golf stroke mechanics will help you make better swings and get the ball where it belongs (in the hole) with fewer strokes.
Golf stroke mechanics include pre-stroke decisions as well as the stroke (swing) itself. You can think of stroke mechanics as encompassing your choice of club, stance, grip, and swing. The type of shot you’re making, and the hole’s par are also factors.
Although golf stroke mechanics covers pre-stroke and swing decisions, in this article, we’ll focus on the stroke itself.
The Science of Golf Stroke Mechanics
A golf ball’s motion is a projectile, one that is powered by a transfer of kinetic energy from the golfer to the ball via the club. Velocity, gravity, biomechanics, and energy transfer all play a part in the perfect golf swing.
As you can imagine, given the popularity of the game and the number of moving parts that comprise a well-executed shot, scientists and scholars have paid attention to golf stroke mechanics.
Steven Nesbit and Monika Serrano analyzed swing mechanics in their study, Work and Power Analysis of the Golf Swing. Using computer models and four amateur golfers, they proved that not only does force (swing speed) matter but also the swing’s range of motion.
Rod White explains it’s all about the wrists. According to White, the secret to long drives is the double pendulum motion. Uncocking your wrists near the bottom of the swing allows most of the kinetic energy in your shoulders and arms to transfer to the golf club resulting in greater force on impact.
Outside of academia, several books help golfers improve. One of my favorites is Peter Dewhurst’s The Science of the Perfect Swing. He explains stability and speed are essential in a quality golf swing. Amateur golfers make the mistake of maxing out their speed at the start of the swing. Pros, on the other hand, hit peak speed at the point of ball contact.
Perfecting Your Golf Swing
The golf swing is complex and requires attention to a number of factors. Everything matters, including how you stand, how you hold the club, and how you move with it. Here are some of the key things you need to know.
Mastering the Golf Club Grip
The following are the three most common golf grips:
Overlapping Grip (Vardon Grip)
The right hand’s pinky rests just over the gap between the left hand’s forefinger and middle finger.
Most pros use the overlapping grip. They believe it enhances wrist action resulting in a more powerful release, much like White suggested. It has been named the Vardon grip after the famous British golfer Harry Vardon.
The right hand’s pinky interlocks and crosses with the left hand’s index finger.
The interlocking grip is easier for beginners, as it requires less forearm strength. This grip is usually preferred by people with small hands or short fingers. Golf greats Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus use the interlocking grip.
Both hands press against each other without any overlap or interlock.
The baseball grip is usually used by children or those who feel pain or discomfort when executing other grips and the accompanying swing.
Your choice will depend on which grip you feel most comfortable with. It’s best to try them all out and see which fits you best.
Mastering Your Golf Swing Mechanics
To improve your golf swing, it’s helpful to understand the stages that comprise one complete shot.
After settling your club at the back of the ball, you take away the club backward until it’s parallel to the ground.
Keep your lower body stable and your shoulder away from the target. Maintain stable hands. It’s often said that a proper takeaway is a simple one.
For some, the takeaway is part of the backswing. But here we’ll consider the backswing as beginning from the top of the takeaway position to point where the golf club is above your head, the end of the backswing.
Your lower body is the star in this part of the stroke. Stack weight at the top of your legs to keep them from sliding out of place. This will also help make sure you get maximum power on your swing.
This part is crucial and makes all the difference when it comes to energy transfer from club to ball. You can think of the transition as changing from backswing to downswing, much like the name suggests.
Once you’ve settled at the end of the backswing, your lower body should lead the downswing motion. If you lead with your hands weak, inconsistent ball contact might be the result. Your aim is a smooth motion that utilizes your lower body and keeps your hands stable.
The Downswing and Impact
Now we’ve arrived at the money shot, so to speak. The critical part here is your grip pressure. Relax your grip at the start of the swing for a free downswing. This allows you to get your hands past the ball before impact, with the club’s head lagging behind a bit.
The Follow Through
Balance, balance, balance—it can’t be stressed enough in the follow-through. You want your body to be facing the ball’s trajectory after impact.
If you make it a goal to hold a balanced finish on your left leg (for right-handed golfers and vice versa), you know you’ve executed a good swing.
The aftermath, if you will, indicates a lot about the preceding swing. Keeping balance in mind early means a greater chance of getting the movements right. Ideally, your hands, arms, and body move together to get the right amount of clubhead lag.
While science and computer models can tell you how to swing and master golf club mechanics perfectly, there’s no better teacher than practice.
Improve your swing by following the tips above, and feel free to tinker with those mechanics to figure out what suits you best.