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So what is a "swing change"?
For many golfers, every day presents a new golf swing and new problems to deal with.
I'm not talking about that.
I'm talking about making a conscious effort to improve your golf swing through repetitious practice at the driving range or indoors on a golf simulator.
The offseason (winter) is a great time to do this because we aren't focused on shooting a score and playing golf.
Most golfers I talk to fall into one of three camps:
- Golfers who don't know how to change their swing, but would like to
- Golfers who don't want to change their swing, but just want to play better
- Golfers who are constantly changing their swing and forgetting to play golf
Personally, I fell into camp #3, hence where The DIY Golfer was born.
Regardless of where you stand, I think this is a subject that is often overlooked in online golf instruction. So let's talk about it.
In the world of golf, we hear so much about “swing changes.” Thanks to Tiger Woods, the golf world has an extremely biased understanding of what a swing change entails.
Most famously, Tiger recalls a period from the 1998-1999 season when he was dissatisfied with his golf swing and underwent a "major overhaul" of his swing with Butch Harmon. He still managed some incredible victories during those years, but nothing compared to the outcomes he achieved from 2000-2005 after the changes.
In golf, there are two types of swing changes:
- Major ("overhauls")
- Minor ("tweaks")
Both require different approaches.
A minor swing change is nothing more than adjusting your fundamentals (grip, stance, alignment, posture, ball position) or making a "tweak" to various parts of your swing. For example, you might work on a drill to get your takeaway more on-plane or work on eliminating that "sway" you have in the backswing.
These types of swing changes should happen often and are generally harmless to a golf game.
For example, I recommend working on your posture and alignments during every practice session. You can never get good enough at these!
When Tiger talks about his swing work during the 1998-1999 seasons, he is talking about a "major" swing change. For him, "major" was what some golfers would consider "minor", but consisted of the following:
- Made his left-hand grip weaker
- Narrowed stance
- Keep the club in front of hands in the takeaway
- Flatter left wrist at the top
- Shorter follow-through
- Lots of weight-lifting to enable some of these new positions
You can see him discuss these things in the following video:
This type of swing change will involve altering your takeaway, position at the top of your swing, your transition into the downswing, impact positions, and post-impact positions. Or in Tiger's case, it may be a combination of all of these!
In most cases, these types of changes require a greater understanding of the golf swing (what I try to give you on this site), or a skilled and knowledgeable instructor to help you.
Additionally, they require a lot of repetition. Making too many of these changes at once can be detrimental to your game if not approached correctly.
For most golfers who are either beginners or developing their swing, every day feels like a "major" swing change!
That's okay. Just make sure you have a plan and know exactly what you're attempting to fix. The worst thing you can do is go in blind and fix problems as they come up with no real strategy governing the practice process.
In 9/10 cases, when a golfer attempts to make a major (or heck, even minor) swing change, they end up with the following outcomes:
- Confused by conflicting golf advice
- Practicing the right things in the wrong way
Here are some things you should keep in mind while making a major swing change that will help you avoid this.
If you haven't mastered the fundamentals, any swing change you make will be temporary band-aids to a much greater problem.
You would be AMAZED at how many swing faults can be cured by simply learning how to grip the golf club or line up to your target correctly.
For most golfers, this should be the #1 priority and may take months or even years to get into a good spot.
If your fundamentals are solid, you must then ask yourself why you are changing your swing?
Did some random guy on the range tell you that your backswing plane is too upright? Did your coach tell you? How trustworthy is your coach?
Before attempting to make a swing change, you might want to assess the credibility of the information you are receiving.
The worst thing that you can do is jump from instructor to instructor, making endless amounts of major swing changes. By doing this, your game won’t get anywhere.
It is much better to be consistent than correct in golf. There are plenty of professional golfers with ugly golf swings. They got their through consistency, not trying to be "right".
While minor swing changes can be a constant work in progress, I think that major swing changes have a defined beginning and end.
If you are planning on competing, or playing lots of rounds of golf in the next few weeks, hold off on the swing change until you have a period of time that you can dedicate solely to the swing change (why the offseason is a great time to do this).
Generally, I give myself five to ten days in a row of hitting buckets of balls at the range to make a swing change. During this period of time, I don’t play at all, because I know that if I tried to play prematurely, my old habits would re-surface.
If you've been around The DIY Golfer for any amount of time, I'm preaching to the choir here.
Feel is not real.
During your 5-10 days (or 10-? days if you don’t practice often), you must video-tape your swing constantly to monitor your progress.
Often, what we “feel” in the golf swing is dramatically different from what it looks like. Having a video camera at your side will help you monitor what different “feelings” actually look like in your swing. Check out my post on how to record and analyze your own golf swing for more assistance on this topic.
The last step in making a swing change is being able to bring it to the course.
You will have the tendency to return to your old positions in the swing, but you must trust the swing change that you have made.
For the first couple of days back on the course, you might have to come up with a simple swing thought that will help you get into the correct positions.
After a week or two of playing, the swing change should feel natural, and you can get back to playing golf without constantly thinking!
Check out my post, how to get your game from the range to the course for more on this.
If you are like me, you will have the tendency to overcompensate when making a swing change.
At the beginning of the swing change, the new position you are trying to get into will feel awkward. As you practice it, the change will begin to feel natural.
When I am nearing the end of a swing change, I tend to take it too far, and this is why having your swing on video is important. If I am trying to flatten my backswing plane, the last thing that I want is to go from being too upright to being too flat!
Let’s review because this post has covered a great amount of material…
- There are two types of swing changes: minor, and major.
- Minor swing changes should be a part of every golfers practice sessions
- Minor swing changes will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before they start to feel comfortable
- Major swing changes should only be attempted given that you have solid fundamentals, have a good source of information, have a period of time where you don’t have to play, and have a way to record your progress.
- Major swing changes will take several weeks, and will take even longer to get them working on the course. If you don’t want to practice, don’t try to make a major swing change!
And with that, I'll see ya next week.
Hit 'em straight!
About the author: Zach Gollwitzer
Hey, I‘m Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer! I created this site while playing D1 collegiate golf with a simple mission—I wanted to learn the golf swing and get better at golf myself.
Fast forward a few years, and my “journal“, The DIY Golfer, has been viewed by millions of golfers worldwide looking to do the same with their games. my mission is to make golfers more consistent in just a few hours a week through advanced practice strategies and timeless, first-principle golf instruction.