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Attention all golf novices and those of you who would like a brief trip back to the basics:
This summer, Up & Down will be sharing a Beginner Golf Series with our readers. Each installment of the series will break down the game of golf into manageable portions so you can learn at a comfortable pace. Jumping into your first round can be overwhelming – our guide will send you off to the green with confidence.

To kick off our series, we’ll first start with the most important elements of becoming a successful golfer: your stance. In order to score well and play consistently, a good golfer is in touch with his or her balance, posture, and grip.

Good balance helps maintain control of your center of gravity and keeps your spine at the right angle throughout the entire swing. Keep a centered core – you don’t want your hips to sway back and forth with your club. A solid core allows you to produce a more accurate, consistent shot. Imagine your hips are on an axle – they can rotate around, but not move side to side.

There are several simple exercises you can practice to achieve better balance. Try these for starters:

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and spread your arms horizontally. Slowly bend forward at the hips, keeping your weight centered and head and spine straight. As you bend keep one leg still and lift the other back until your torso and elevated leg are parallel to the floor. Stay in position for 10 seconds. Return to starting position, and repeat lifting the opposite leg.
2. Tuck one leg up to your chest and hop on the other foot – 3 sets of 20 on alternating legs. This will train your body for better balance and also strengthen your core and legs.

Now it’s time to understand body positioning to achieve consistency and power behind shots. Remember, you want your stance to feel natural and unforced. Posture is an integral part of golf. Also, once your posture is right you will have a more accurate understanding of your own tendencies and where to strengthen your overall skills.

1. Make sure your head, shoulders, and hips remain in a straight line square to the ball, with feet shoulder width apart.
2. Keep your muscles free of tension – your knees are flexed only slightly, above the balls of your feet. Your weight is distributed evenly from toe to heel.
3. Maintain a straight spine, with hips bent to form a 90-degree angle with the club shaft.
4. Tilt your spine to the right slightly to keep your head in back of the ball – this puts more power behind your shot.

The proper lead (or top) hand grip yields strength, control, and consistency in your shots. During the swing, your body and the club work in tandem to impact the ball. When gripping the club, pay attention to how it feels – are you clutching the club, or do you have a relaxed grip? Are you grasping the club in your palms or with your fingers?

Ideally, the club is resting in between your fingers for optimal wrist movement, which will extend your tee shot. Feel the difference between holding the club with your palms and then with your fingers. You will feel that your wrists have much better rotation when practicing the latter.

With your top hand, place the club shaft at an angle so that the top of the shaft starts the base of your pinky finger and sits near the tip of your index finger. Once the club is angled, position the left thumb (right thumb for left-handed golfers) on the back of the shaft. Your thumb and index finger should form a small “V” in this position, facing back towards whichever shoulder is pointed away from the hole (right for right-handers, left for left-handers).

These beginning steps require getting used to, but as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. After only a little while, this positioning will feel completely natural. Make sure to implement these small technicalities every time – they will make all the difference in your overall game and how quickly your skills improve.

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