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Girl Power
Helen Alfredsson

It's a mistake to think that, once learned, the fundamentals take care of themselves. You have to keep on fine-tuning golf's basics. For me, that means keeping an eye on my grip and making sure that I turn fully back and through. These thoughts may help you play better, too.

Handy Hints

When you place your hands on the club to form your grip make sure that.

  1. Your left thumb sits comfortably to the right centre of the grip.
  2. Your grip pressure is felt chiefly in the last three fingers on the left hand, and the middle fingers on the right
  3. At least two and a half knuckles are visible on the back of the left hand
  4. Your right hand mirrors the clubface
  5. Don't let your right hand creep under the shaft.

The Grip - Left hand strong, right hand neutral

I think a strong left hand grip is better for women. In fact, it's probably better for the majority of men, too. Turning the left hand a little to the right on the club helps you to hinge the left wrist correctly in the process of making the backswing, which in turn provides you with a source of power.

You have to be careful, though. When you complete your grip, make sure that the right hand doesn't follow the left, and creep too far under the shaft. As you can clearly see above, while my left hand is in a strong position (i.e. the hand is turned to the right to the extent that I can see three knuckles), my right hand is in a more neutral position. When you place your right hand on the grip, make sure the palm of your right hand similarly mirrors the clubface.

Vital signs of a good grip

A good left-hand grip position really is important if you want to create and repeat a consistent swing. You can test the quality and the workability of your own grip with these simple checkpoints.

Swing the club with just your left hand. As you do so, make sure the clubface rotates in tandem with your left hand and forearm to stay square to the line of your swing. By the time the club reaches hip-height, the clubface should point forwards, while the toe-end of the club should be seen to point up towards the sky.

At the top of the backswing, your left thumb should be under the shaft, supporting the club. When you practise, hold the club steady in this position and check the details of your left-hand grip. The clubface, the back of your left hand and the left forearm should all match up. Look for this in front of a mirror.

Alignment: get your hips and shoulders square

We talk a lot about the feet being 'square' to the line of the shot, but just as important - perhaps even more so - is that your hips and shoulders are parallel with the ball-to-target line. That way, when you combine the turning of your upper body with a good wrist action, you get the club swinging on a good line, and you will probably hit a good shot.
So take care when you are setting up to the ball. When you practise, be deliberate in your pre-shot routine. Once you have aimed the clubface, set your body squarely to it and hold a club across your hips and shoulders to check your position. Make sure their alignment matches that of your toes, running parallel left of the target.

When you make a good posture the club fits your set-up without you having to think too much about it - right through the bag. Naturally, with a wedge, the shortest and most upright of irons, you are required to stand a little nearer to the ball, and your hands are fairly close to your body. That's the way the club is designed to sit, and it produces a fairly upright swing. Move up to the driver (right), and clearly the ball is further away at address and a more noticeable gap appears between your hands and body. But your overall posture doesn't change too much. The important thing is that you let the club sit naturally on the ground and bend from the hips to create a good spine angle.

Turn, and let the arms follow...

This drill will help to give you the sensation of a good turning motion. Once you have made your posture, hold up your hands like you are about to catch a ball. Then, keeping your hands and arms in that position, turn first to the right and then to the left. At the same time your weight must be allowed to flow with the direction of your swing - i.e. it goes to the right side in the backswing, and then to the left side as you finish with your body straight, eyes facing the target.

As you do this you are strengthening the heart of your swing. When you then grip a club and swing normally, you want to feel that you repeat this body action, allowing the hands and arms to follow suit.

Need more power? Get width in your swing

Because women lack the physical strength men, achieving good distance is often a problem. But you can make up for this if you work on maximising the width of your swing, which in turn helps you to increase your speed and momentum through the ball. When you make your backswing, think about pushing your hands away from your body so that you achieve a high position at the top. Imagine you were standing in a doorway; push your hands into the top corner. Your left arm should be comfortably straight - but not rigid -and your weight should be behind the ball.

From here, maintaining that width on the way back down will then enable you to accelerate the clubhead through the ball with considerable force. You want a sensation of free-wheeling through impact and using that momentum to unwind all the way through to a full and balanced finish, with your hands behind your head, arms relaxed.

Driver: glide the clubhead away from the ball, make a full wind-up

Once you are properly set up to hit a drive, you need to think about getting your weight behind the ball with a good wind-up. The first move is important in this respect. Try to feel that your left arm pushes the club away so that you create good width in your swing. Keep the clubhead low to the ground as you glide it back from the ball.

Doing this sets you on the way to a full backswing movement, turning your shoulders through a full 90 degrees. (am supple enough to do this without lifting my left heel off the ground, but don't worry if you need to let yours come up a little to make a full turn.) Once you have coiled your backswing, give yourself time to unwind.

Don't hit at the ball from the top. Wait a moment; let your weight settle back towards the target (i.e. feel it flow back to the left side) and sense that your arms and hands drop the club on to a shallow inside path. Once you are in this hitting position, you can enjoy sweeping the ball off the tee, releasing the clubhead past your chin as you unwind.

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