Golf's 7 Essential Skills

Over the last 30 years I have had three teachers who helped me develop as a player and a coach.  Jim Suttie, Mike Bender and Charlie King are all well known in the golfing world and have been important mentors and friends to me.

Charlie King and I taught together at the Golf Academy in Orlando for several years.  He is currently the Director of Instruction at Reynolds Plantation  in Lake Oconee, Georgia and was the first to write about the seven essential skills of the full swing.  We share the same philosophy. 

Golf is a motor skill, like karate, dancing, swimming or playing a musical instrument.  It’s a process that is learned and then relearned over time, not a problem that can be solved in a few easy lessons.  I use the seven essential skills of golf to help my students build a solid game by focusing on strong fundamentals that fit their physique.

Following is a brief explanation of the seven essential skills of golf. 

1.  Pre swing fundamentals - Grip, Aim and Setup

Grip – Most golfers have never held a golf club properly.  To get your grip right, hold the club in your fingers, not in your palm. 

Aim – Most golfers don’t line up to their target so they try to correct the ball paththrough their swing.  Learn to line up right by placing two golf clubs on the ground about 18 inches apart, pointing them at your target. Keep your swing between those two clubs.

Setup – Soften your knees and focus on hinging forward from the hips with your weight on the balls of your feet to get a good athletic position.  Most people act like they are sitting in a chair, squatting down too much with their knees.  This keeps your weight on your heels not on the ball of your feet. 

2.  Club face control

Accuracy is a combination of aim and clubface control.  But even if your aim is correct, the ball will not hit the target if your clubface is pointed in the wrong direction on impact.  Focus on squaring up the clubface on impact to improve your accuracy.

3.  Strike, don’t scoop

Golfers must understand how to get the ball up in the air very early in their game, but most don’t understand what impact should look like.  Most golfers try to lift the ball up in the air.  Their hands are behind the club head at impact and they subconsciously think they have to help the ball get up in the air by scooping it. 

Great players have their hands ahead of the club head at impact, creating a striking blow.  The angle of the club is what produces loft in the ball.

4.  Swing Plane

Keeping the club on the same plane throughout the swing will help you straighten out your shot.  It’s a tough concept to write about so here’s a link to Mike Bender’s video on the subject to help you visualize this.

Mike Bender Golf Tip:  Swing Plane

5.  Pivot

On the backswing the entire pivot happens above the waist as you get your left shoulder behind the ball on your backswing.  The lower body remains quiet.  On the downswing the opposite happens as you engage your legs and hips to create a strong impact and finish position.

6.  Effortless power, not powerless effort

To create powerful club head speed, the club head must swing faster than the club end, like a pendulum, or Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire.  Many people want to yank and kill the ball, which makes the handle go faster than the club head.  Think about this one much more like a dance.

7.  Width in your golf swing

Keep the same distance between your hands and your body when you’re at the top of your swing that you have between your hands and your sternum in your set up.  Don’t collapse your arms toward your body at the top of your swing.  If you do, you’ll have to zig-zag your way back down to the ball.  That’s bad.


Finally, don’t think about all of these things at once.  It’s overwhelming.  When we work together I’ll set your priorities for you and we’ll create a practice plan that will help you see great improvement on the golf course.

Keep it in the short grass.