How to Practice the Golf Swing – Get the Most from Golf Lessons

by Herman Williams

Super Slow Motion Golf Training

On any given day in my role as a professional golf instructor at The Golf Academy in Raleigh, NC, I’m often asked what’s the best golf swing practice method or how to practice the golf swing. Basically people want to know how to get the most from a golf lesson and their golf swing training. Any attempt to answer these questions must take into account that there are all types of golf swings and golfers – no two alike – thus no two golf lessons are exactly alike either. Yet everybody has basically the same goal … “to get more consistent.” Oddly enough, I see plenty of consistency – the same consistent mistakes swing after swing but with inconsistent results.

Sound familiar? Well, assuming you already know what parts of the golf swing to work on and that you know what techniques are needed to fix those parts, there is a great way to apply any new learning to golf swing practice to achieve greater consistency and mastery of the correct golf swing motion. The key is super slow motion golf training.

But first, some background. It is not unusual to finish what I think is a great golf lesson only to watch in disappointment a few minutes later as my student is pulling the headcover off their driver to see how far they can hit it using their new swing with the longest, fastest club in the bag. Next, they will be dialing on their cell phone to make a tee time to go try the new lesson on the golf course.

Frankly, that’s not a very productive way to learn a brand new motor skill as complex as the golf swing. It’s really like taking the exam before bothering to study for it. Failure is inevitable. In fact most students have a hard time just executing a good practice swing correctly, much less a full speed swing with a live ball in play on the golf course with an audience watching.

Before getting caught in that trap, look at other disciplines like martial arts or boxing and how slow motion training is utilized in those sports. Martial arts practitioners are constantly training in slow motion perfecting their movements sometimes for years in preparation for the day they may need those skills in a contest or to defend themselves from an attacker. An actual fight simply speeds up all the movements that have been rehearsed in slow motion over time. Same moves, just faster execution in front of a live target, the opponent. Golf is really no different.

Former boxing champ, Sugar Ray Leonard, was one of the fastest of all time, but a little known secret of his was practicing away from the crowds utilizing super slow motion training to maintain perfect form with his punches and footwork. In the ring in front of thousands of people and a determined opponent, all he did was speed up the movement – it was already perfectly rehearsed thousands of times.

Now come back to our slow motion golf training example to practice the golf swing. Like the martial artist or boxer, we are learning a complex motor skill, trying to do it at a high rate of speed and trying to strike a specific target with precision. Can you imagine asking a new martial arts student fresh off the street to go spar full contact with a top black belt in order to learn how to fight. It would be impossible. The rookie would just be in survival mode and couldn’t possibly learn proper fighting technique while getting pummeled by the faster, better fighter. Frustration and lack of confidence would be the only accomplishment from that training method. Same thing for the golfer trying to learn a new technique at full speed in the heat of battle. It doesn’t work.

So what’s the point? Ideally as golfers we would assess the motion we want to make, preferably with professional guidance, then begin to do correct super slow motion golf training reps with no ball. Imagine taking a golf swing that lasts 30 seconds, or a minute and a half, or what about 10 minutes? There are actually golf pros out there making practice swings that take that long to complete. It’s so slow it’s like watching a sun dial. It looks more like Tai Chi with a golf club.

To practice this method at the driving range, I suggest reviewing the motion or specific changes you want to make in your mind, then executing several super slow motion golf swings. If you want to make this more realistic, go ahead and setup to a golf ball and as the club comes slowly down into the ball, just nudge the ball out of the way and continue slowly up into the followthrough. If you are not using a ball, the club should still come down slowly and brush the turf at a specific spot where the ball would normally be.  Emphasize any key trouble spots or specific moves you need to improve on. After several of these super slow motion golf swings, go ahead and take several faster versions of the golf swing without a ball.

Now you are ready for live ball hitting. Get 4 golf balls ready and execute 4 shots in a row at regular game speed. Stop after the 4 shots,  perform a couple of the super slow motion golf practice swings again with perfect form, then hit 4 more regular speed shots and so on. Repeat this pattern until you have hit at least 20 balls. (5 sets of 4 shots with both slow and fast practice swings in between sets)

It works best to start the 20-ball routine with a lofted club, and after 20 shots, change clubs or change swing thoughts. This method allows you to change clubs through the set while learning one key idea with different clubs, or you can stick with the same club but change swing thoughts after each group of 20 shots. The live shots are really a test while the true learning is taking place with the practice swings between sets.

The beauty of the super slow motion technique is it allows for perfect motion at a speed that is controllable. It can be self-diagnosed and it allows the brain enough time to begin imprinting the new pattern without the stress caused by speed and the expectation of the ball flight. These super-slow swings can be performed anywhere – at home, hotel room, office, golf course and practice range. All you need is a club and maybe a mirror and some free time. As you try new things in your swing, prove to yourself that you can make a perfect slow-motion swing before you try a fast one with a ball. You may find that slowing down actually gets you where you want to be faster.

Herman Williams, PGA
Raleigh, NC

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuck

Hey Herman – you do a fantastic job of conveying a concept and putting it into practice. I teach skiing and play the guitar in addition to practicing the golf swing. We teach movement patterns similarly in skiing – go slow learning the mechanics of a movement pattern first then dial it up a notch once the movement patterns have been ingrained by either increasing the difficulty of the terrain or speed. In guitar your they teach us to learn a scale by playing the notes slowly at first then progressively increasing the speed once each note has been accurately learned by the fingers to move through each note. It never occurred to me to apply the same principles in the golf swing thanks for the refresher and keep up the great work!

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Herman Williams

Thanks, Chuck. It’s funny isn’t it … when we look at how we naturally expect to train like this in other endeavors, but we fail to do it in our golf.

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john ward

I am 78 benn watching your videos the trouble is being old I don’t have the strength after taking a divitfit to follow through and by taking a divit you loose your distance

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Marty

I had a swing analysis done and I’ve spent much time reading in the last week about my golf swing. I learned quickly today that you can’t take a bunch of new swing thoughts and swing changes directly to the range or golf course. I shot the worst round of my life today. My ball contact(when I hit the ball before I hit the ground) was, for the most part, terrible. I am all over this slow motion training. I remember doing something like it in my younger years when I stood in front of the glass patio doors practicing my baseball swing. It was very effective

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Ken

Hi Herman,

When doing super slow motion swings when does the right foot start to come off the ground, From what i know the right foot should be very much off the ground at impact.
Thanks
Ken

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Herman Williams

Different golfers will see different amounts of overall movement as well as timing of the movement. Roughly half way into downswing as arms approach waist height, you will start seeing heel lift. Foot should initially roll inward onto right instep (sort of the inside of right big toe) and then gradually peel off the ground as you go.

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Sean

Hi, I had just started the slow motion practice when I stumbled across your website. Fantastic info for all. I would just like to know if there is an optimum slow speed to practice at. Say from start of swing to top of swing , eg 2sec. Does the brain benefit from super slow and correct? Thanks for all your help with the golf swing

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Herman Williams

absolutely … there are Tour players out there making slow practice swings that take over 5 minutes to complete. When you think of the average swing taking less than 1 second from start to impact, this means you are getting the muscles exposed to swing positions for the equivalent of nearly 300 shots in 5 minutes.

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Jesse Nichols

Having worked with golfers in neuro-imaging their swing using deep attention and awareness, doing the movement slowly is the not key to improvement. It’s an important tool but the ability to produce movement patterns, such as a golf swing, with more and more ease is the real goal. Within the duration of a movement event , maintaining ease allows the brain to “learn” the pattern and make it repeatable. I’m curious to know if PGA players can maintain that sense of ease, using deep attention and awareness, during a 5 min swing. Just the amount of time, 5 min, seems to me prone to effort.

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Jesse Nichols

Herman;

Your use of slow training is right in line with the latest neuroscience technique called “brain mapping”. The brain makes roads through synaptic growth when a movement is learned using extremely slow movement. I teach a method that helps people use movement with deep attention and awareness in order to learn newer more productive patterns or make learned movement more smooth and flexible through variation. I work a lot with golfers, usually for injury recovery, who stay when they find than moving slowly helps their game tremendously. Thanks for spreading the word. Slow is always fast.

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Herman Williams

Hey Jesse, Thanks for stopping by … glad to hear we’re in agreement and on the right path.

Herman

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Ken

Hi Herman,
Do you have any Drills for tempo, i know so many amateurs like myself tend to rush the swing. I notice sometimes when either i pause at the top of the swing or just make a slower swing i hit more solid and further. But do you have any drills you can recommend for tempo.
Thanks
Ken

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Herman Williams

One I like came from Jim Flick called the “front loader drill.” The swing is front loaded by actually pointing the club downrange out in front of the ball. In other words you don’t start from the normal position soled behind the ball. Simply point down the fairway, start swinging back and go around or over the ball to avoid clipping the ball on the way up. This swinging start gets a smoother beginning and more natural awareness of rhythm. Transition will usually be smoother as well with a little more lag than normal since arms are soft and the change of direction begins slightly before club finishes getting all the way to the top.

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john m

Hi Herman, I’ve watched a lot of golf instruction videos on line, and I have to say your delivery is totally complete . I hope to work on some of your video lessons and send a video of the new improved me for an on line lesson. Thankyou for all your help. john m

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Rssuttle

I use a set of irons that are game improvement. I normally will not leave any divot after hitting the ball. Could I be doing it wrong. My clubs are not thin at the edge like say a blade. Is it important to have that divot and if so what would your advice be.

Thanks, your lessons and knowledge has helped alot. When I have trouble on the course I come home and immediately go to your web page and sure enough the problem I have you have an answer for and it works. Thanks again.

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Herman Williams

I would at least expect a divot from 7-iron down thru wedges. It’s a big answer as to how to start training, but you can start with my lag video and 3-part distance series. A good way to gauge how you’re doing is to get in a bunker and draw a line perpendicular to target thru the middle of your stance. You should be able to make swings and only hit the sand beyond the line where you expect your divot to be left of center.

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Stan Szwed

Herman, I’m 59 yrs old, 5′ 6″ tall, carry a 4.5 handicap index, have a great short game and play consistant accurate golf. I need to hit the ball farther, everyone who I play against, especially handicaps similar to mine are hitting shorter shots into par 4’s and 3’s and reaching par 5’s in two when I can’t. For example I hit a 6 iron from 150 and hope to hit it solid and get it there. I have read tons of books over the years but have not done a good job of correcting my faults. I tend to overswing and leave my weight on my right side thru impact which causes poor impact with releasing much sooner than I should. I sense a clear and simple tone in your preaching. I want to purchase an inexpensive camera and take an on line lesson from you. Can you suggest a camera that works well, I would appreciate it, then I wil be in contact with you. I look forward to working on fixing my faults, finding more solid contact and hitting the ball like I should. Thanks, Stanley

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Herman Williams

Stan, thanks for checking in. My favorite camera is the Casio EX-FH100. It’s about $250, so I’m not sure if that fits your idea of inexpensive. But if you set the top dial to the “S” position, the camera allows you to set the shutter speed manually to 1/2000th at 120 frames per second. This provides the utmost detail in good sunlight. If that’s beyond your budget, I’m not sure what to recommend next without some research. – Herman

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Jean Nortier

Herman, I’ve read the best pro’s get their irons around 5% of the distance played away from the flag. The outside for pro’s are around 9% lateral movement measured as a % of distance hit. Amateurs obviously have a higher distribution pattern. So, swinging at full speed one would like to reduce the distribution around the flag with a particular club, let’s say 8 iron. Your slow motion routine helps a lot in getting the swing mechanics right but the timing and rhythm required at full speed also needs practice I guess. What guidance can you provide to get more balls within an acceptable distance (left/right) of the flag on the practice tee? Thanks.

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Herman Williams

Hey Jean, thanks for commenting. I like the slow motion routine for helping perfect the mechanics followed by 4 full speed shots in a row to test the results at game speed. This information comes from Dr. Carey Mumford who is one of the best in sports psychology for golf. Along the lines of incredible achievement, Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” gives a good explanation of some of the exceptional accomplishments of successful individuals in many different disciplines. In addition to a few interesting circumstances that provided them a slight advantage, most of these over-achievers simply dedicated themselves to 10,000 hours of practice at their particular craft often well ahead of those around them. So practice perfect, practice smart, practice often if you want to build the best hand/eye coordination and built-in timing for the accuracy you’re talking about.

If I had to give you a more specific answer, interestingly Tour Players hit all of their shots about the same height regardless of club. The shots look different standing from the tee simply because they peak at different distances downrange, but from the side you would see they all go about the same height thru any given players bag. Trackman data confirms this. Tour Players are more consistent at trajectory control which comes from consistent angle of attack with the low point of the swing past the ball. My clients are rarely good at taking consistent divots past the ball when we first start working, so they don’t hit shots solid enough. And when the heights are different, the carry distances are often different too. I know you asked about accuracy from left to right, but it is never very good unless the player is consistent at bottoming out past the ball. Players that bottom out all over the place have no consistency in timing the face either. At the end of the day it’s all about face, path or plane and then the divot. Go for consistency of those 3 and you’ll be a great ball striker. Go make some divots and good luck. – Herman

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TMK

Love this advice and I’ve been using it with good success recently. One thing I’ve been doing, that is not not mentioned here, is also hitting a number of actual shots with a very slow swing, but not one that makes the ball go only a few feet. I guess it would be about a 50% swing. It’s still slow enough to allow me time to think about the various positions as I’m swinging. Herman, do you think this is a good idea?

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Herman Williams

Absolutely … build a slow, perfect, full size swing; then speed it up. Good luck. – Herman

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Colby McDonald

Herman this method of slow motion training works amazingly. I had stayed away from the game after my freshmen year of high school to focus on baseball and football. But may I say now after using this method to improve my putting and now my swing I have noticed as a coach in any sport this method is great. What I tell my baseball players with pitching and hitting and quarterbacks is how are you going to do something right fast if you don’t even know if you can do it correctly in super slow motion. The results or amazing. As a guy who hopes to be on the senior tour at 50 and a coach in baseball and football I believe this training is significant.

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Herman Williams

Thanks for commenting on my slow motion article, I couldn’t have said it better. It always amazes me how people think they will learn to do something like a golf swing at a high speed when they can’t do it correctly at a slow speed. I joke with my students, “If it was more dangerous and the consequences were more significant, we would see more respect for figuring it out slow before moving on to fast.” Good luck with your coaching and chasing the Senior Tour. – Herman

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Rob Russell

I can attest to this method. I recently became “Hermanized” with an online Video Lesson with Herman. He prescribed exactly what I needed to do. I have a setup in my basement with a large mirror to my right side so that I can check my setup, posture, ball position, backswing, and partial downswing positions. I did hundreds of practice and slow motion swings to “groom” the new positions and feel, and then would try it out at the range. After doing this a few times, many of the moves became “internalized” so that I could rely on them without thinking too much about them. I’ve had fantastic results with my new swing as a result of this kind of approach and practice with some fairly major swing changes. It works!!!!

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Kyle

I have an Army friend that learned this quote while in the military: ” Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” I believe there is truth in applying this to almost any discipline, even golf!

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Herman Williams

You are right about that especially when the stuff is hitting the fan all around you. The more pressure you are under, the more important that statement becomes. Stay smooth out there …

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Matthew C. Kriner

Hi, just want to say thanks for the information.

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Into The Rough

Is there anything more difficult than a good golf swing? I think not

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