Making a successful change to your golf swing can bring your game to new levels. But it's not without its risks or challenges. There are so many things to consider that myself and co-host Adam Young tackled this topic in our latest podcast episode.
Many golfers can be caught in a loop, wondering if the "grass is greener" with a different version of their swing. In our podcast and this accompanying article, we go through the following concepts:
- Why relevancy is crucial when making a swing change
- What the process should look like, and how much time it should take
- Why you should consider taking lessons (and have continuity)
- Having patience, establishing a framework, and functionality
I encourage you to listen to the entire episode here:
Below is a summary of some of our key thoughts.
Is the Change Relevant to Your Swing?
There is more information than ever about the golf swing. In recent years, the teaching community has made huge strides in its collective knowledge with the use of modern technology. Overall, this is a great thing. But it does have a "dark side."
You can spend hours on YouTube and social media devouring technical information about the golf swing from top instructors. However, if the information is not relevant to your golf swing, it can be detrimental.
For example, in our discussion, Adam Young mentions how a lot of teachers advocate "shallowing the shaft" in the golf swing. This can lead to great success for certain players based on their tendencies, but it can lead to complete disaster for others.
So before moving ahead with a swing change, you have to ask yourself the following question. Is the change I am making relevant to the unique matchups in my golf swing? And more importantly, will it help?
In other words, don't make a swing change just for the sake of doing it, for aesthetics, or to keep up with recent trends.
What Does the Process Look Like?
If you are moving ahead with a swing change, there is a basic process that gives you a better chance of success.
As Adam Young suggested, it's best to start your changes in a consequence-free environment. He discussed the metaphor of a dog trainer working in the house rather than at the dog park. The reason is that if you are going to change habits, it's best to start slow in a comfortable setting that won't distract you. For golfers, this could mean the following:
- In the beginning, don't go on the golf course
- Hitting balls into a net without any visual feedback can help remove pressure
- Rehearse the change you're trying to make without even hitting balls. Or you could tee the ball up to remove the variable of ground contact
In the beginning, you should be able to change the pattern successfully. For example, if you were trying to go from a negative angle of attack with your driver to start hitting up on the ball, you want to be able to physically achieve that (not all the time) rather quickly. However, it would be best if you did not worry about performance (where the golf ball is going).
Over time, through practice, you can start adding more "layers" of expectations. You can start hitting shots normally on the range and pay attention to ball flight. Next, you can bring the new swing change out on the course in a practice context. Finally, your eventual goal is to execute the swing change with some success (not perfection) during the pressure of a real round of golf.
(be sure to listen to the podcast episode for more detail on this part, it's important!)
How Long Will It Take? When Should You Do It?
We both felt that roughly three months was a reasonable amount of time to make a successful swing change.
It's been almost 10 years since I went through a major swing overall, and I started the process over the winter (be sure to check out our episode on winter practice). In retrospect, I'm glad I chose the offseason because that is a great time to start experimenting with changes and also create a consequence-free environment.
If you do choose to make a swing change in season, especially if you are playing tournaments, you might lose faith in the process because you'll be focusing too much on the outcome (your scores) rather than going through the process of training your body to move differently.
Taking Lessons Will Make the Process More Efficient
There are more ways than ever to go about a swing change on your own. And there are plenty of examples of golfers who can teach themselves to make swing changes with success.
That being said, taking lessons with a teaching professional will give you a much better chance of success. More importantly, with their guidance, you can make the changes in less time.
You have to be prepared to do the work, though. If you find a teacher you like, you can expect to be prescribed some work between lessons. If you're not willing to do the work, then don't expect a change to occur!
This leads me to my next point...
Continuity is Crucial
One of the biggest challenges of making swing changes today is the aforementioned access to information.
A couple of years ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is a swing instructor. A golfer he had been working with on a swing change came into the shop and showed him a video from Instagram, asking if he thought the swing tip was something he should pursue. It had nothing to do with what they were working on.
Don't do this!
If you choose to make a change and work with a swing coach, you have to keep the blinders on. There will be moments where you feel frustrated and tempted to listen to another voice. As you know, they are only one click away on YouTube or Instagram.
Part of the process is making sure you commit and hesitate to change course.
Have Patience and Manage Expectations
Three months is a good rule of thumb to successfully make a swing change, as I mentioned earlier. That's not exactly overnight, so you do need to be patient.
More importantly, managing expectations is another critical element that we discussed in our episode. Often, golfers fantasize about the future and the kind of golf they think they can play after they make the change. Unfortunately, these hopes and dreams are often misaligned with reality.
As such, words like "eliminate" are not helpful throughout the process.
Let's say you were looking to fix a nasty slice. Essentially you have two options - work on reducing the slice or change your swing pattern (play a draw).
In the first scenario, your goal will not be to eliminate the slice. Rather, a successful swing change would reduce the left-to-right curvature of the golf ball. You'll still hit big slices from time to time, but if you can do it less often, then you've succeeded.
Conversely, some golfers who suffer from excessive slices see better results trying to hit a draw. Technically, they might never hit a slice again, but a new problem might emerge - a hook. Similarly, your goal will be to make the big hooks occur less and less over time.
Framework and Functionality
There are two words I seemed to repeat over and over again in our episode - framework, and functionality.
One of the benefits of making a swing change (if you do it properly) is having a framework. When a golfer is "lost" with their golf swing, they often drift from one idea to the next. Usually, this doesn't lead to any improvement and furthers their frustration.
If you can learn more about your golf swing and the new changes are looking to accomplish, you now have a framework. That means you can show up to the course knowing your tendencies and what you can do to fix them if things get out of sync, which they always do in golf.
This is a huge advantage for any player, in my opinion. Successful golf is a series of micro-adjustments. You shouldn't have to make major overhauls from one month to the next to feel like you are heading in the right direction.
My last thought is about functionality. The goal of any technical change is to have a functional golf swing. It doesn't need to be perfect and certainly does not look pretty.
For example, I do several things in my swing that many would consider unorthodox. My takeaway is a bit extreme, and sometimes, I can have an excessively in-to-out club path. But what I do have is a functional relationship with the matchups in my golf swing. I know how to make adjustments in how the clubface is oriented based on how I am swinging the club because I've been working so long with this framework, and I trust it.
So if you are considering making a swing change, many of the concepts we discussed in our podcast episode and this article will come in handy. Ensure the change is relevant, be prepared to do the work, seek help, commit, and strive for functionality!