How to Change Your Golf Swing – The Right Way

TJ Tomasi

By TJ Tomasi, College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

The poster boy for swing change is, of course, Tiger Woods, who changed the swing that won the 1997 Masters by 12 shots, one of four swing changes over his magnificent career – so far.

But here’s an important distinction– the changes were not knee-jerk reactions to a few bad shots. Champions plan their swing changes after thoughtful, in-depth analysis of their game and their goals. So, if you’re going to change your swing like the pros do, rather than taking the knee-jerk route, follow these simple guidelines:

1) Develop a detailed blueprint for change, including a time line and how you’ll know when you’re finished.

2) Understand that you probably will get worse before you get better.

3) Via a careful search, find yourself a teaching professional that can help you. Word of mouth is good, but not sufficient. Pick up the phone and check out his or her resume carefully.

4) Be committed to the changes and stick with your instructor for at least two years.

5) Make sure there’s a personality fit between you and your coach.

6) Special note: Listen to only One voice at a time. If you can’t do this, don’t change your swing!

Of course many good players change their swings and became even better, like Jack Nicklaus did in 1979, but some change and get worse (e.g. Ian Baker Finch), so it’s tough to know which category you’re in before you attempt the change. Below is the golfer’s profile that doesn’t do well making a swing change. If you answer yes to more than 40% of the questions, or if you answer yes to questions 1, 5, 6, or 9, you probably should stick with your current swing.

If you want a more global view, have people who know you well answer the questions – make copies, hand them out, but don’t ask for signatures since anonymity promotes a more unbiased/accurate response. Pick a friend to collect them when you’re not around, then analyze the responses against yours.

1) Are you short term, quick fix orientated?

2) Is the ball your master, meaning that you make a swing adjustment after a bad shot to make the next shot a good one?

3) Do you take swing advice from various sources on a regular basis (e.g. golf channel, friends, and articles)?

4) Do you have a low tolerance for failure?

5) Is it hard to find the time to make major changes in your swing?

6) Do you have a low tolerance to chaos, i.e. not being in control?

7) Do you believe that since you work hard and put in the time, you “deserve” to play better?

8) Does you golf performance affect your mood off the golf course?

9) Is gambling (e.g. playing for money) important when you play golf?

10) Do you dislike practicing?

11) Do you quit when things aren’t going your way?

12) Do you get angry and lose your temper when you play golf?

13) Are you going to make the swing changes primarily on your own?

14) Are you a poor re-learner (can’t teach the old dog new tricks)?

15) Do you play a lot of stroke play amateur tournament golf?

You may be surprised by my inclusion of #9 as one of the biggest detriments to swing changes, but in my experience, having to hand over cash and/or costing your partner cash because you’re changing your swing creates too much social dissonance.

And while #15 would appear to be the same, it is not. If you’re a tournament player, it’s tough to make changes, but since you are playing against a large pool of players, their skills are a constant reminder to you that you have to update your skills. The gambler most often plays with the same group and over time a steady state is established, a balance that is painfully disturbed when one of the group changes performance levels.