The key to a good fluid golf swing with distance, is a smooth tension free golf swing. However, a very common issue I see with my students and those who read this website (who are also students I guess!), is too much tension in the golf swing. No matter the skill level of the golfer, the duffed shots I see are almost always down to some form of tension in the swing. In the vast majority of cases this tension in the swing originates from the grip, with people of the mindset that if they put their full force into the swing they’ll inevitably get more distance. The swing just doesn’t work that way!
The Importance of a Tension Free Golf Swing
When you are addressing the ball, tension, no matter what the cause, is going to kill your golf swing. If you are not relaxed at address, you will leave yourself wide open to committing a ton of basic swing errors. No question, all the big-name coaches agree on this point. So, you can follow some very simple tips like taking a few deep breaths, stay in motion, don’t rest the clubhead on the ground, look at the target and waggle that club! Physically relax your arms and shoulders.
How Much Tension is Enough?
If you can, grab a club and grip it as tight as you can, what do you notice? If you notice your arms tensing up then you’re seeing the effect of gripping too tightly. Keep that tight grip and practice a few swings if you have enough room. You should start to notice how your arms are tensing, then your shoulders.
A tense grip can easily lead to a domino effect throughout the upper body, if one section is too tense, it can lead to the adjoining section to become tense too, especially through the backswing and downswing. This tension results in an un-natural motion in the swing, stopping a proper follow through, which ultimately robs you of clubhead speed!
The less tense your grip on the golf club is, the less tension your body will have throughout the golf swing. And guess what, the more clubhead speed you’ll be able to generate!
You really don’t have to exert yourself for a fluid tension free golf swing! Think about the grip as if you’re holding a small bird, you don’t want to grip too tightly as you’ll kill it. Grip it softly, but firm enough to keep it safe!
Golf Drills To Reduce Tension
First and foremost, you do need some tension in your swing – you won’t have much success swinging like a loose jellyfish! And you’ve heard it so many times before – Swing the club, don’t hit the ball.
1. Develop a trigger that suits you to start the swing – this should involve some movement as I described above. Jack Nicklaus used a small waggle and a small head movement at the start of his swing.
2. Try and clear you mind. Too much thinking, too many swing thoughts won’t help. However it is ok to use a couple of swing “reminders”, one during the backswing and one during the downswing.
3. Again, you are not trying to hit the cover off the ball – the ball gets in the way of your smooth swing. A golf club is not a heavy object, it is relatively light. Learn to swing the club using a firm grip.
Some Tension Free Golf Swing Tips
1. Relax, obvious but not always easy – If you have a teenage son/daughter you might be sick of hearing this, but on the course you should be repeating it to yourself constantly. Tension in the mind often relates to tension in the body. Relax your mind and you’ll swing more effortlessly as a result.
2. Drop the ego – Us men are a macho breed, we feel the need to hit at the ball, with more distance being an extra level on our ego meter. When you step on to the course/driving range, leave that ego in the car. Instead think about the feel of the swing instead. If you concentrate too much on distance, you’ll forget about the feel of the swing.
3. Build your core! – This is perhaps the most effective area of your body to exercise to play your best golf. Greg Norman once said: “Many golfers tend to think building the upper body is the way to go, but it’s not! You should do the opposite. Build up the base and your core, and let the upper body be flexible and loose.” Some great core exercises are available in Core Performance (available from Amazon). A lot of pro’s swear by the exercises in this book as core work is a part of their day to day regimes. Also, take a look at my previous article on my top strengthening exercises for golf, and also Lynda Lippin’s article on pilates for golf!
4. Repetition – It takes a few months of solid practice to change our habits. You’re going to need to hit a lot of balls before you begin to get the hang of a tension free swing. I admit it, it was hard for me changing my mentality on the course, especially on the last few holes when mental tiredness sets in and you just want to crush every ball! The only way around this though is to plough on through and persistently play tension free golf!
How do you keep your mind on your swing, do you have any tips you’d like to share? Questions and suggestions welcome in the comments!