When young golfers get to the age where they are actively trying to improve their game, the question of a swing change will often come up. Should you try to rebuild your swing to be a better player? Or should you just make subtle improvements to what you have? These are not simple questions to answer and they will vary depending on the player. There are some simple things to do and consider before you start making major changes to your current swing.
Have a Specific Reason for a Swing Change
It might be tempting for an aspiring golfer to say I’m finally ready to get serious and I need to make a major swing change to get better. This is probably the simplest way to start down a path to disappointment and frustration. There is no perfect swing. Watch the swings of tour players carefully and you’ll see there are literally hundreds of ways to get the job done effectively on the golf course. Watch the top amateurs and you’ll realize they often have quirky swings. This should make it clear your swing does not need to look a certain way to play great golf.
Butch Harmon has always recommended letting your ball flight determine the need for a swing change. If you find yourself unable to hit a certain shot you need to compete at the highest levels, then it might be time to consider a swing change. This means you might want to consider a swing change if you can’t hit the ball high enough to hold the firm greens of major amateur tournaments. You might want to consider a swing change if you simply can’t hit a fade and you realize this is keeping you from shooting lower scores. You probably don’t need a major swing change if you just want your swing to look a certain way or you are looking for more distance.
Find a Great Instructor
With all the technology and resources available today, young golfers might think that a smartphone camera and YouTube videos will provide everything they need to make their own major swing change. The biggest problem is understanding where to start. An experienced golf professional will be able to help break down the changes into manageable segments and help you understand what is most important to achieve your goals. They should also help you clarify exactly what you are hoping to accomplish with the change.
I’ve worked with some fantastic PGA professionals throughout my time in junior, college golf, and beyond. I’ve also made a few major swing changes over the years. The largest swing change I made was after my freshman year of college. I decided that I needed to improve my ball striking to compete against the best players in college and I sought out one of the best PGA professionals in Michigan, Brad Dean. I made the drive up to Crystal Mountain and I was surprised when we barely hit any shots in my first lesson with Brad. We spent most of the first lesson discussing why I thought I needed to make big changes and what I really wanted to accomplish. When I look back, it was exactly the conversation I needed to have to understand my real motivation for the change. It was a conversation I looked back on many times when I was frustrated and didn’t feel like I was making progress fast enough. It kept me focused on what I wanted to accomplish and the things I needed to do to get there.
I had a similar experience in early 2015 when I wanted to get back into amateur golf tournaments and was looking for a solid path to improve my game with more limited time. I was lucky enough to connect with John Kostis at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ. We started with a similar chat about my goals and the amount of time I had to work on my game. He did an amazing job of breaking down some of the simplest ways for me to improve my swing without feeling like I would need to make any major changes. This valuable insight made me realize that I wasn’t as far off as I felt when I went looking for some coaching. It was also a perfect example of why that initial conversation is so important to your success with a coach.
Both John Kostis and Brad Dean are among the most knowledgeable and best instructors in the game today. I highly recommend them if you are serious about taking your game to the next level. Obviously, you will probably want to find a professional that is close enough to work with on a regular basis so it is probably best to find someone in your area. Find a time to sit down with a potential instructor and focus on the why behind any major changes. They might help you realize that you don’t need to make a major swing change to achieve your goals. If you do decide to make a major change, they should be able to break down the essential steps to getting there. Having that clear path ahead will make a huge difference in your motivation as you undertake the challenge of a major swing change. They will also be crucial to staying on the right path. It’s very easy to fall back into old habits or revert to what feels natural. You want to commit to regular lessons as you pursue a swing change. This is important for accountability and guidance as you work towards a new swing.
Be Honest with Yourself
In a recent interview during the FedEx cup Playoffs, Rory McIlroy shared some interesting insights into his own mindset around major swing changes. He told the story of how Nick Faldo said he was willing to go three years without feeling comfortable or hitting a great shot if that’s what it took to make the swing changes he needed to get better. Rory said he simply could not approach a swing change like that and had to be more realistic with himself about what kind of a downturn he was willing to accept. He shared that he had to approach swing changes with smaller goals that could help him achieve results quickly. He simply wasn’t willing or able to accept a year-plus slump to make a major change.
This is something you will need to contemplate before you undertake a major swing change. You must realize there might be no going back the moment you start down the path to changing your golf swing. Suddenly, you will be thinking about mechanics you’ve never thought about during the swing. Your stance, grip, takeaway, and downswing will all feel different. And any great teacher will tell you it should feel different if you are making changes. Nothing will feel natural and you must be willing to take some major steps backward to cement those changes. You need to be honest about how long you can accept playing worse to get better. You need to commit to that process and put in the work every day to make small steps towards ingraining those changes.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener
I’m certainly not trying to convince you not to make a swing change. If you want to get better, it might be a necessary step in your progress as a competitive golfer. However, the world of golf is littered with stories of golfers that wanted to squeeze out a few more yards or hit a higher ball flight, but they ended up much worse than before they started that journey to a “better” swing. This warning goes hand in hand with the honest conversation you need to have with yourself before undertaking a major swing change. You must be willing to accept there is a risk to changing what works for you right now. If you can accept that risk and you’re willing to put in the work, then dive into the swing change and give it everything possible to get better. If you can’t find a specific reason for the swing change or a clear path to get better, then you might want to consider starting with smaller improvements on your current swing.