The Science Behind Golf Swings – How to Improve Your Shots

If you wish to start planning for a fun golf vacation but feel like you first need to improve your game you’ve come to the right place. The game of golf has always been part sport, part art, and part science for both professional and amateur golfers, but many tend to prioritize or discuss only the first two aspects. 

This is somewhat understandable as physics isn't the most titillating subject to cover while playing; however, both pros and weekend players benefit from a rudimentary understanding of how it can improve their skill set. 

Proper Balance and Stable Posture

The foundation of a good golf drive is positioning – legs spread shoulder-width apart with the feet directed straight forward, providing base support that enables fluent swings. Knees need to be slightly bent to allow the body's center of mass to be centered closer to base support, thus activating core muscles that improve stability. 

These fundamentals allow players to produce more velocity in the upper body, resulting in more force and longer drives. 

Double Pendulum and Acceleration

Experienced golfers tend to model a double pendulum, represented by the shoulders and arms as the upper pendulum and the wrists and club as the lower pendulum. 

When both pendulums work in tandem with a properly balanced center of weight, the swing's torque increases the clubhead velocity, thus imparting a positive spin on the ball that determines a straighter flight line.   

golf swing golf swing science

Centrifugal Force and Angular Momentum

During the swing, the lower pendulum is directed by the centrifugal force of the circular motion and slowed down by the angular momentum of the upper pendulum; this results in a downswing where the generated energy goes directly into the clubhead. 

Maintaining a straight arm in this process, with the force traveling from the shoulder to the wrist and club, will allow a more significant energy transfer from the clubhead to the ball; this is the optimum position for a strong swing.

Angle of Launch

Due to the extensive use of modern large-headed drivers, the launch angle is a particularly significant aspect of the swing. The launch angle can be directed downward, leveled, or directed upward when teeing off. Accounting for the natural loft of the ball, most players benefit from hitting the ball on the upswing. 

However, depending on the velocity that the clubhead generates, the launch angle will be improved at a different loft level. Players that generate more than 105 mph of clubhead velocity should aim for a launch angle no higher than 18 degrees and no lower than 14 degrees. 

Alternatively, players that swing with speeds lower than 100 mph should consider a higher launch angle than 18 degrees.

Square Clubface Impact

Regardless of the size, quality, or type of club one uses, valuable power gets wasted if the player cannot bring the clubface square into the ball towards the target line. The strength of the swing doesn't only influence distance; precision is likewise crucial. 

When the impact is square, the mass and velocity of the clubhead are directed towards the back of the ball and the center of the club, determining a straighter path. 

If the clubface is not square and the impact is off-kilter, this determines a loss of force that is dissipated through the club's heel and toe, resulting in a less powerful and precise path towards the target.


Being aware of these aspects isn't necessary to enjoy the game, as even professional players who incorporate such considerations in their strategy instinctively feel what works for them and what doesn't. 

However, they provide a basis to start and progress towards a more fluid and precise game. The attentive application of these principles through practice and repetition sets the pros apart from the weekend players.  


About the author: Sean Petersen is an avid golfer, founder of Golf Trip Junkie, a company that organizes customized golf vacations for all kinds of groups. He has been offering people the opportunity to play golf in some of the best golf destinations since 2004.


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