Golf is a thinking man’s (and woman’s) game. But thinking too much can get you in trouble. That’s why many players with low golf handicaps try to keep the game as simple as possible. Instead of running down a litany of checkpoints before hitting, they isolate three or four items and then key on those, eliminating the paralysis from over analysis. Or, as one golf lesson student put it, “Just hit the ball.”

The “Keep It Simple, Stupid” method works in just about every area of golf, from driving to putting. But the area where it seems to work the best is on full swing shots. It’s these shots where so many things can go wrong that players tend to focus too much on the mechanics of the shot, rather than those three or four key points they need to make a great full swing.

The Driver
Start stable: Take a wide stance, about shoulder width apart. Play the ball off your front heel. Bend forward comfortably from your hips. Maintain balance.

Create Coil: Make a full shoulder turn going back, with you left shoulder turning all the way behind the ball at the top. Try to turn your hips no more than half as far as your shoulders. Or as Tiger Woods likes to phrase it, “Turn your shoulder twice as far as your hips.”

Keep Order: Begin the downswing from the ground up. Shift your weight to your front foot, rotate your hips, then your shoulders. Your arms and hands come through last, releasing the clubhead for a full extension with your hands. Looking at the back of the ball is a good way to ensure that you sweep the ball off the tee.

Again, this is just one example of a short list of key checkpoints for hitting the driver. You may have other ideas. That’s fine. The key is bringing order to an otherwise chaotic process, which in turn relaxes you and generates consistency. Let’s look at some more examples.

Fairway Woods
Here’s a sample checklist for a three-wood:

Start stable: Take a wide stance, about shoulder width apart. Play the ball off your front heel. Bend forward comfortably from your hips. Maintain balance.

Hinge Up: Start the club back so that it comes off the ground right away, a result of your wrists cocking, just as they show you in golf instruction videos. This keeps the club in front of you, not letting it move to quickly to the inside. Maintain this width all the way to the top.

Swing Easy: Shift your weight to the front side and then swing the club with a little more downward motion than with a driver. Swing the club to about 90 percent. You don’t have to kill the ball to make a good shot. You just need to make solid contact. Extend your arms full through impact. Make sure you swing all the way to a balance finish.

Long Irons
Here’s a sample checklist for a long iron:

Even Shoulders: Set up more on top of the ball than you do with your woods. Position the ball slightly ahead of center in your stance.

Swing Up The Plane: Your setup and the shorter iron shaft will create a more upright backswing plane. This is natural. Keep your arms extended as you go back.

Hold the hinge: Coming down, maintain your wrist hinge. Don’t try to help the all in the air by scooping. Turn all the way through the ball. Finish with your weight all the way to your left side.

Unless you hit the ball 275 yards with your irons, you should hit most long iron shots with a hybrid. They’re shorter and easier to hit. But if you connect solidly, the ball goes just as far.

I think you get the idea. If you are taking golf lessons, you may have already work out a short checklist with your teacher for all your clubs. If not, work out one for each club. A short checklist not only eliminates over thinking about your shot, it also generates consistency, which you’ll need to chop strokes of your golf handicap.

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