Before You Change Your Golf Swing…

Do You Really Need a Swing Change?

When I was teaching full time, I could count on one lesson a day that went like this.

Golfer: “I need to change my swing.”

Me: “Why?”

Golfer: “Because I’m hitting it terribly.”

Me: “Show me.”

Golfer: (Hits a perfect shot)

Now, of course I’m not suggesting that hitting one good shot means you have an ideal swing, but I am going to suggest most golfers are too quick to start changing things.  In this lesson, I’ll suggest two things to do before you start tearing your swing down to the studs.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You’re thinking about changing your swing

You make a lot of “swing changes”

You’re struggling with your swing

Check the Basics

I can’t tell you how many golfers I’ve “fixed” by asking them to focus on the basics.  Here’s my personal checklist.

Ball Position

Regular readers know that I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all prescriptions.  If you’re hitting a 7I, I don’t care if the ball is in the middle of your stance, a little back, or a little forward [more on that HERE].  What I do care about is if it’s in the same place every time.  How can you expect a consistent result if the ball is never in the same place twice?  Get out the alignment sticks and make sure your ball position is consistent.

Target & Alignment

Before you decide that your swing isn’t accurate, pick a target and set down some alignment sticks.  If you’re still spraying the ball all over the range, there might be a problem.  More than likely, however, you’ll find that your shots are consistently on target, right, or left.  If you’re not on target, a small alignment tweak will get you there with much less pain than a swing overhaul.


If you’re not using a consistent pre-shot routine, you’re not giving yourself the best chance to hit a good shot.  There’s a reason that every player on the PGA Tour has a routine: they work.  It doesn’t need to be long or complex.  Stand behind the ball, see your target, step in, take a breath, swing.  Having – and using – a routine is a much easier road to consistency than a new swing.


Is your golf swing the problem or is it the fact that you’re thinking about 999 other things?  Modern life is busy, and we all have a lot on our mind.  Don’t get discouraged with your swing if you’re not fully dialed in to what you’re doing.

Get a Reality Check

If all of your fundamentals are in order, take a little data on what’s happening with your swing.  Are you actually “hitting every shot fat”?  Is every drive really “slicing off the planet”?  Or are you just frustrated with the few times when those things do happen?

Golf is hard.  The best players in the world miss 4 out of 10 fairways.  They miss more than 6 greens per round.  They miss over half their putts from 10 to 15 feet.

No swing change will ever eliminate bad results completely, so think carefully about what you want to achieve before you start changing yours.

Matt Saternus
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  1. Dave chandler

    Great article and advice.

  2. I really love your site. What great and simple advice. When I’m set up “correctly” I always hit a great shot. Finding that set-up on course for each shot, to me, is the real challenge.
    There is an intuitive feel to when I’m set up just right, other times finding that spot is a struggle, but shots still come out OK. Occasionally, there is no feel at all, and that’s when one needs to be cool and self-correct.
    This is especially true on shots into the green!

  3. Great “reminder” article Matt. I often think about what I am doing “wrong” yet the truth of the matter it is as you said, the “squeaky wheel” syndrome and we feel we “have” to fix everything when in reality it may have been a bad day or simple misalignment. You note “What I do care about is if it’s in the same place every time” and that is the key. Likewise you later remind us, “…every player on the PGA Tour has a routine: they work. It doesn’t need to be long or complex. Stand behind the ball, see your target, step in, take a breath, swing.” I am reminded of playing my drum kit over the years – “if” I don’t move anything in the kit, i.e. all cymbals, all toms are in the same place every time, I can play the kit with my eyes closed and know “precisely” what I am hitting – even where on a cymbal to either get an edge sound, bell sound or straight out ride tone. The same with the toms! When we “settle” down to and just work on having a repeatable swing, not necessarily perfect (that will never happen as our bodies change over time), we will find it becomes more automatic and less 5million swing thoughts. Of late, that has been my focus – see where I want to be, envision the flight, the landing zone and then let my body take over to make the shot happen. If I miss a yard or two left, is that such an issue and that I now need to “fix” me. No it only means I missed a yard or two left….or right…or long….or short. Enjoy the moment, let muscle memory work (yes, work on developing the good memory by doing what I did with my drum kit – make small tweaks here and there until it works and then trust your muscles to do the rest when it comes to deliver the shot!

  4. Alan Goudie

    Hi Matt,
    Another very sensible, helpful piece of advice which definitely applies to me.
    I appreciate your regular emails which help my game.
    I posted a question to you & your co presenter asking about whether the Callaway B 21 driver or the Ping G 410 SFT
    driver would be better for me. I would really appreciate your genuine, honest opinion before I go to a fitter who might
    recommend one that gives him more profit.
    When I had been playing 2 years the SALESMAN/golf pro sold me a very small headed lob wedge which only a golf
    pro could expect to hit correctly.
    Many thanks, Alan.

  5. Great article, thanks, Matt. In my world, unrealistic expectations are directly responsible for a lot less fun on the course. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Joseph Brunetto

    Solid, sensible and really what us 15+ handicappers need to hear. Thank you Matt. Can you provide a link to how to utilize alignment rods correctly?

    • Matt Saternus


      Thank you.

      I don’t have a good resource on alignment rods, but I will make one. Keep your eyes on the site and I’ll have one up before the year is out.


  7. Good article. I am guilty of this more often than not. Always thinking I need to change something.

  8. Waddle Dee

    Great article and very appropriate for those of use who always want something more out of our swings when we are already shooting well most of the time. My coach says it really comes down to chipping and putting at that point anyway.

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