The Natural Swing: The Starting Form

This is the second in a series of articles on the Natural Swing. The first article provided golf tips on the fundamental principles of the swing. In this article we look at the starting form for the swing, providing a brief golf lesson on the set up.

Golf instruction sessions say that a flawless starting form offers the best opportunity of swinging properly. It sets the swing’s tone, promotes feelings of simplicity, freedom, and balance, and ensures a positive result-if we get it right. If we don’t get it right, we’ll feel cramped and inhibited, and we’ll probably hit a less than perfect shot, like a slice, a pull hook, or something worse. The set up in any golf swing is totally under our control-one of the few things in the game that is.

The goal of the starting form of the natural swing is the same as any other golf swing. The starting form should set you up to make an aggressive move while remaining in balance. Ideally, it should be an athletic, graceful move, with purpose and direction. In the natural swing, the starting form focuses on things like target awareness, grip, stance, alignment, and ball location relative to the body.

Target Awareness: Target awareness is critical to the natural swing. Golf with the natural swing is not a reaction game, in which we respond to a thrown ball. It’s a location game, in which we react to a target. The idea is to plant the image of that target firmly in mind. Having a clear image of the target, spurs you on. It gives you purpose, direction, and intent. In addition, it takes your mind off the ball and puts it where it should be-on the target. Target awareness fixes in your mind key factors like distance, trajectory, curvature, and direction. The more vividly we see the target, the more intensely we’ll react to it. And the more successful we’ll be at hitting it.

Grip: The natural grip is no different than we’d use to do many tasks, one that sets us up correctly toward our target, if we’ve kept our focus on the target. We form the natural grip so that the palms are opposed, as in prayer, palm to palm. This grip allows us to make a simple, natural motion, without compensatory moves or extra gestures, and without contorting our hands.

The natural grip is not much different from your normal grip, except for the left hand. In the natural grip the club runs diagonally across the palms of your left hand (right-hand for left-handers). Position the last three fingers of the left hand around the club’s butt end with your forefinger pushing against the thumb. This position generates a sensation of control and power in the left hand. The right hand fits over the left. The little finger fits in and over the index and forefinger of the left hand. The right-hand grip is mostly in the fingers. The correct grip pressure happens naturally when you assume the correct form. The relationship between the hands should not change during the swing.

The Stance: The key to the natural stance is aligning ourselves as if we were making a straight shot. Since we’re planning on hitting the ball straight, there’s no reason to align ourselves other than left (right for left-handers) to the line of flight. The left foot is in a slightly different position to the target, however. It is set at least 25 degrees open to the target, if not more. The degree of openness varies depending on the golfer’s flexibility. The key here is balance.

In addition, you place the left foot slightly outside the left shoulder, so that you will be able to finish with your weight on your left foot. Balance is again the key. Most golfers roll toward the outside of the left foot when finishing the swing, which fosters a slight imbalance in the finish. But with the natural swing you move forward, so you want to finish flat on the left foot, with your weight evenly distributed across the whole foot.

Alignment: Ideally, we want to square up to the target. But everybody is different. And we’re not ideally built. So everyone’s perfect alignment for hitting the ball straight is slightly different- an important factor in the natural swing. Thus, we must find our own correct alignment position, one that needs to be square for the swing. For the most part, though, being square means being slightly left of the target. This is the only natural square position, even if it is not mathematically precise. Use the practice range to find your perfect square position and have a friend provide feedback in your efforts.

Ball position: Ball position in the natural swing flows logically from the way we set up in the starting position. We place the ball just ahead of the middle of stance for a standard five-iron shot. The ball should then be just back of the inside of the left heel. The width of the stance will vary depending on the length of the club. The longer the club, the wider the stance. Move the right foot only as we set up, closer or further away from the left foot depending on the club we have in our hands. Thus, the position of the left foot relative to the ball is always the same, ensuring a constant ball position.

The difference between the starting form of the normal swing and that of the natural swing are subtle, but significant. In essence there are three key adjustments:
(1) the placement of the left foot open, for balance and direction;
(2) alignment to the target, which will be slightly different for everyone while remaining square to the target;
(3) the constant position of the ball relative to the left foot.

What’s more, you need to evaluate your starting form each time you step up to the ball. The key to setting up properly with any swing, as I advocate in my golf lessons and golf tips, is to do it using the same routine time and time again. Do that and you’ll be well on your way to lowering your golf handicap.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse