The development of young golfers is fascinating to watch. At my club, Bowood in Wiltshire, we have 50 or more regular junior players, aged six and older, who simply love to get out and hit a ball.
More importantly from my point of view - and that of my assistants Simon Swales and Paul
McLean - is that they are willing to listen and learn the basic advice they need to become good players.
The following lessons will help every young golfer form the basis of a sound swing, have fun, and play better golf.
Learning to turn
If you hold a golf club across your hips and pull it in towards your body, you will find that you achieve a good spine angle and posture (flex your knees for balance and stability).
Holding that club firmly in place, you can then rehearse the basic turning - or 'pivot' - motion. As you turn your body to the right, feel your weight shift across on to your right side - and keep that right knee flexed!
Then, as you slowly and smoothly change direction, feel your weight flow back across and on to your left side as you follow-through to finish with your spine vertical. Use this as a warm-up drill before you practice.
What does 'square' mean?
For a full swing, your feet, knees, hips and shoulders should be parallel with the ball-to-target line. To achieve this, take care to aim the club face behind the ball before you build your stance. Don't make the mistake of aiming your body at the target and then placing the club head behind the ball. That will result in poor alignment.
DRIVER: Work on a full extension away from ball
Here, with a driver, 16-year-old Alistair James, a 4-handicap player from Cumberwell Park, shows all the signs of good coaching and an understanding of the fundamentals. He has a good grip, and stands up tall with his feet spread comfortably to the width of the shoulders- a solid foundation.
As you can see, the ball position is forward in the stance, and the majority of Alistair's body weight is settled behind the ball. These adjustments are designed to encourage a powerful sweeping motion through impact - exactly what you want to achieve with the driver.
Once you have a good set-up, your thoughts must be geared towards creating a nice wide swing arc, and the takeaway holds
the key. Here I am trying to get Alistair to feel as 'wide' as possible as he moves the club away from the ball. A good swing thought to have with the driver is to imagine tracing a big circle with the club head Keep your feet flat on the ground as you extend your arms to create that wide arc. As the shoulder turn progresses and the left arm crosses your chest, you should feel your torso muscles stretch as you wind into your swing.
The 'walk-through' drill
Eight-year-old Andrew Wilson has a good swing shape and strikes the ball well for a player of his size. The back swing position he displays with a driver is naturally a little flatter and more rounded than that of a taller person. That will change in time. One of the key messages for all juniors is that your body is changing rapidly. In the space of just a few months you can grow several inches, which
obviously affects your set-up and posture. As far as the development of the golf swing is concerned, the important thing is that you work on basic drills and exercises that ingrain good habits and keep your swing on track over the years to come.
Emphasizing the importance of moving your body weight in the direction of your arm swing, the 'walk-through' drill that you see Andrew demonstrating here does just that.
To encourage young players to get their weight moving correctly (i.e. in the direction of the arm-swing), I tell them to literally walk after the ball as they hit it. Give it a try. Aim to sweep the ball off the tee and let your right foot come around to walk after the ball. If you can do this without losing balance you can be sure that you are shifting your weight correctly towards the target - and probably striking the ball solidly.
SHORT IRON: Three-quarter swing is all you need
The key to a consistent swing and solid ball-striking is to get the arms and the body working together in unison - a lesson seven-year-old Max Clilverd has no trouble getting to grips with. The point that I stress to all my pupils is that they must work
on coordinating the turning motion of the body and the swinging motion of the arms; these components of the swing must be seen to work in unison, not independently. This is why
good rhythm is so important. The easier you swing the club, the better your co-ordination is likely to be. As a discipline on the practice range, make a point of beginning your sessions with
a short-iron, hitting 10 or 20 balls with an easy three-quarter length swing. Once you have a good rhythm going, hitting the ball sweetly, move on to a full swing with a longer club.
FULL SWING: Turn against flexed right knee
As you can see, 15-year-old Susannah Bojdys displays a fault that hurts many players, particularly girls. Displaying a hint of a reverse-pivot as she completes her back swing, her right leg tends to straighten, and there is too much weight on her left side.
Basically, the problem Susannah has is that her lower body is failing to resist the upper body; her hips actually turn too far and the left knee kinks in towards the ground. The result is an over-swing, the club being clearly across the line (i.e. pointing to the right of the target) at the top of the back swing
To fix this problem, Susannah needs to think in terms of flexing her right knee at address and then maintaining that flex as she makes her back swing A sense of turning against the right knee will help her to eliminate the
reverse-pivot and achieve a more powerful back swing, creating energy she can then use to drive her downswing. Allowing her head to rotate to follow the flight of the ball rewards Susannah with the classic pose.
THE GRIP: Left hand holds the key
Taking the club too much in the palm of the left hand is a common fault, and one that leads to a lack of flexibility in the left wrist and a general loss of power. The left-hand grip must be in the fingers. Imagine picking up a basket of range balls; you would take the handle in the fingers of the hand, not In the palm. So it is with the grip.
1. Apply the left hand from the side and place the club low in the fingers so that the back of your hand faces the target.
2. With the hand closed, the left thumb rests just to the right of centre. Feel the pressure in the last three fingers only.
ROLE MODEL: Perfect posture, swing on line
Steve Surry, a one-handicap player from Cumberwell Park, is one of 20 golfers in the English Golf Union's School of Excellence programme, so it should come as no surprise that he displays a near-textbook set-up and a very sound swing.
At address with a mid-iron, Steve displays a classic posture: he bends gently from the hips, the lower back straight as the arms
hang comfortably from the shoulders. From here, the back swing is made in perfect plane, with the back of the left hand and left forearm seen to correspond with the club face at the top, the clubshaft parallel with the ball-to-target line (look for these checkpoints in your own swing). The fact that we can see no daylight between his legs is evidence of a good leg action; the lower body is resisting the turning motion of the upper body, which results in a good back swing coil.
Just as important as the back swing position is the quality of the finish. The left side of the body has cleared as the right side (i.e. right knee, hip, and shoulder) fires through the ball and towards the target. At the finish the spine is straight, and the majority of Steve's weight is now supported on his left side, the right foot up on the toe to provide balance.
As a test of your finish, you should be able to hold this pose and tap your right foot up and down without losing balance.