Back in 1950, when the game was not understood anywhere near as well as it is today, my father Jack Grout formulated an approach to the golf swing that rested on a mere handful of fundamentals. He concluded that “knowledge of all the fundamentals,” e.g., A Proper Grip, Set Up Correctly, Steady Head, Proper Footwork, Full Extension, and Quiet Hands, was the most important asset for any golfer, male or female, professional or beginner. Whether it was Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd or Harry Hacker who made appointments to borrow the high court of Dad’s fairway knowledge, they were all taught the same brand of instruction. Though few in number, they cover all vital areas of the golf swing.
While dad gave tireless attention to each one of these basic tenets, he felt strongly that the absolute first thing you have to master is to Set Up Correctly. He wanted you to understand that nothing has more to do with the success or failure of your shots than the way you position your club and yourself before you swing. With a good setup, everything else will fall into place much more quickly and easily.
Fundamental #2: A Proper Grip on the golf club. As a youth and new to the game, I remember him driving home this point by laying this pearl of wisdom on me, “Dickie, you can stand on the first tee of any golf course in the country and you won’t see a good player with a poor grip, nor will you see a poor player with a good grip.” It was his strongly-held opinion that at least 90 percent of the world’s golfers have bad grips that cost them both distance and accuracy.
Fundamental #3: A Steady Head is the balance center of the swing. Ideally, you should position your head slightly behind the ball as you set up to your shot. Put your left cheek about even with the back of the ball. Next, just before you start your backswing, turn your chin an inch or two toward your right shoulder. Finally, hold that head position until after you have hit the ball, when the momentum of your swing will force your chin to rotate to your left and into the finish position.
Fundamental #4: Proper Footwork is the key to balance. As my father points out, keeping a steady head while swinging does help you to maintain balance. However, it is proper footwork that primarily promotes both balance and full swinging. The feet are the key. Everything else follows. Good foot action is based on rolling the ankles. To put it simply, the left ankle rolls in laterally, toward the right foot, on the backswing; the right ankle braces against this motion. On the downswing, as the left ankle rolls back to the left and into a firm bracing position, the right ankle rolls in toward the left.
Fundamental #5: Full Extension is simply a matter of using all of your physical self as you swing – of fully stretching and coiling all the muscles of your body that need stretching and coiling. To achieve full extension you must (1) make as full a hip turn as you can without straightening your right leg or shifting weight onto the outside of that foot, (2) the best shoulder turn is the fullest shoulder turn, (3) swing your hands as wide and as high as you can without shifting your head or loosening your grip. Dad’s reasoning went like this: There is no getting away from the fact that the man who can hit the ball farthest has an advantage. Accordingly, a player should develop a power swing when he is young and his muscles are limber. That will stay with him. Control can come later.
Fundamental #6: Quiet Hands at the start of the downswing help preserve clubhead speed and keep the club moving on a proper path. Too much wristiness during the swing’s change of direction can ruin an otherwise superior golf swing, in that “flashing” or flipping the club down with the hands will either: (a) throw the clubhead off path, or (b) misalign the clubface, or (c) waste clubhead speed prior to impact, or (d) cause any combination of the above.
The proper first move of the downswing involves the fundamental of footwork already mentioned – a lateral shifting of weight from the inside of the right foot to the inside of the left. So long as your feet work correctly and lead your downswing, on all of your full shots you should try to accelerate your arms – and thus the club – through impact as fast as you possibly can without losing your balance.
My father said, “I must tell you in all honesty, however, that learning to apply these, or any other, golf fundamentals properly and consistently always requires effort.” He felt that it takes a person about five years of regular practice and play to implant all of these fundamentals to the point where they are second nature.