You’d be forgiven for thinking that the follow through in the golf swing is a bit of a peculiar thing to pay attention to, given that it pretty much all happens after the ball has been struck.
With so much information out there about instruction and many aspects of the swing to try and master, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on what happens before contact with the ball, rather than after it?
While that is logical thinking, I can confirm that it is flawed, for more than a few reasons.
Your follow through is a great indicator of many things happening earlier in the swing, including tension in the arms and hands, your ability to release the clubhead through the ball and overall balance through the swing.
When completing your follow through in the golf swing, your hips should be square to your target; you should be posted up on your lead leg, with most of your weight in your front foot; and your arms should be fully extended through impact before coming to rest high behind your head.
To ensure you are making good swings at the ball, these are the main checkpoints to keep an eye on.
Let’s take a look at each of these steps in more detail.
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Four keys to completing your follow through in golf
Below are the main elements you need to get right in order to complete the follow through in your golf swing, which can add balance, rhythm and consistency to your game.
Step one: Get your hips open
On completion of the swing and follow through, your hips should be pointing towards your target, as if your hip bones are the headlights of a car shining towards where the ball was meant to be going.
Step two: Move weight into your front foot
The weight should have shifted from your back foot to your front foot, with the back foot lifted off of the ground and up onto the toe, with your front foot firmly planted into the ground and weight towards the outside of your sole.
Step three: Extend your arms through the ball
You want to avoid the dreaded chicken wing and extend your arms fully through the shot so that they are pointing right out and away from your body before collapsing over your shoulder. This will add power to your swing and help with the opening of your hips.
Step four: Finish high
The arms should finish behind your head and neck, holding the finish to really ensure completion of the swing. Longer iron shots or shots with fairway woods and hybrids should be explosive enough that the club is completely resting across your neck and shoulders, behind your head.
How do I improve my follow through in golf?
To improve your follow through you need to ensure you do three things: move your hip forward and open; transition your weight onto your lead foot; and finish with the club over your lead shoulder. If you slide rather than open the hips, stay on the back foot, or finish with the club upright towards the sky, remedying these three things will help you improve your follow through.
Sir Nick Faldo discusses how to fix your follow through nicely in the drill below, accurately identifying one of the key problems amateur golfers have: that being, we worry too much about the backswing and not enough about what happens after contact.
His solution: try making some half back swings with a full follow through, forcing you to stop thinking about what is happening before the shot and focusing on your finishing position.
Giving attention to the pose at the end is also important, because if we think too much about the swing and not enough about the finish, we can end up with short swings that are tight and lack power or speed.
Try playing a few shots where you think solely about the club finishing by resting on the left shoulder and holding that pose, and by doing so you may find you make better strikes just by trying to get the club right through impact to the finish.
I have seen some pros out there that also encourage golfers to weightlessly waggle the club up and down when it rests on that left shoulder, specifically to train the mind to look for a feeling of looseness and relaxation by switching off the muscles in the forearms.
This can also be a great recipe for reduced tension and a smoother swing, so that you ‘collect’ the ball, rather than hit it when you play a shot.
Why am I not finishing my golf swing?
The main reasons you aren’t finishing your golf swing are likely too much tension or a tendency to steer the ball. If you have excessive tension in the forearms you’ll prevent the club rolling right through impact to be resting on your left shoulder, something that may also come about when trying to ‘steer’ the ball down the fairway instead of releasing the club naturally.
Let’s explore tension in the arms first.
We have a real obsession in golf with ‘hitting’ the ball, rather than swinging our arms freely and collecting the ball on the way through.
When we try and hit the ball with rigid arms, we tend to stop the swing before completing the follow through, perhaps because we think our job is done as soon as the ball has been struck, so we begin putting the brakes on our swing.
This can create all sorts of issues, so if you find yourself failing to complete your follow through, it could be an indicator of other problems, or the tension could explain some of your poor striking.
Steering, on the other hand, usually comes about because of a fear of hooking the ball and can be indicated by a stagnant swing that doesn’t make it right through to a full release and follow through.
People who steer the ball often have a poor concept of how to get it heading straight towards their target, thinking that a swing where the club goes straight back and straight through is the method needed (failing to realise the club should rotate around the body in an arc-like fashion).
If you find you don’t complete your follow through and seem to be steering, it is probably due to a tendency to hook, or at least a fear of hooking.
This could be caused by face alignment, grip or path, so fixing these issues will help you develop greater confidence to fully release the club and end your follow through over the left shoulder.
How do you finish the follow through with driver?
The follow through with driver should finish with a full rotation of the body, hips and chest pointing to target and club over your left shoulder. While this occurs, your back heel will lift off the ground and weight will shift into your front foot. It should be explosive, but balanced, and you shouldn’t be at risk of falling over.
There aren’t significant differences between the follow through for irons and driver, but the main thing to emphasise is extending the arms right out in front of the body and allowing the club to cascade onto the left shoulder.
With short irons and wedge shots, the follow through won’t always see the club make it to the point of touching the left shoulder, generally because these shots are more about finesse, feel and trajectory, rather than power.
Given that the driver is a powerful club where the intention is to propel the ball as far down the fairway as possible, you should generate considerable momentum so that the club moves all the way around your body and touches your shoulder.
If your club fails to do this it could indicate other issues with the swing, such as a tendency to ‘steer’ the ball rather than swing freely.
Best follow through drills for driver
The best drill for perfecting your follow through with driver in golf involves working on having your hips facing towards the target, chest upright and your club finishing over your left shoulder. To do this, you want to work on opening your hips and moving your body forward through the shot to touch an alignment stick placed on a 45-degree angle behind your left butt cheek.
By placing an alignment stick in this position, it will help you build a habit of moving in both a forward and opening fashion with your hips to generate power and send the ball in a straight direction towards your target.
Another useful drill for the follow through is working on maintaining connection between your body and arms during your follow through as they extend out straight in front of you.
This will help you avoid losing power through bent arms or a chicken wing and stop you flipping the club at the ball, aiding with compression.
A great product to help you with this is the Swing Connecting Arm Band, a simple tool to keep your arms in a close, straight position throughout the swing.
Why do golfers hold their finish?
Golfers hold their finish to emphasise the completion of the golf swing and finishing of the follow through. Not only does this aid with balance, rhythm and fluency but it helps with repeatability, which is essential to becoming a consistent, low-handicap player.
Focusing on a full finish with a long hold can also assist in getting the ball going straighter as it’s more likely you’ll sync up all the necessary body movements correctly.
Ultimately, the three or four seconds the club spends resting on your left shoulder isn’t going to have an impact on your ball flight, but the thought of finishing the swing with a proper follow through can be programmed through this long hold of the finish.
By holding the finish, players are being strict on themselves and their completion of the golf swing, and by enforcing this habit should see benefit in the rotation and fluency of the rest of their swing.
How important is a full follow through in the golf swing?
A full follow through is really important as it can help get you into the habit of completing the swing around your body, rotating correctly and closing the clubface. People who do not complete the follow through often have too much tension or ‘steer’ the ball, both of which can cause blocks or hooks.
For a long time I have had trouble with completing a full release and follow through of my driver, struggling with this habit of steering due to a fear of duck hooking the ball.
However, by not completing my swing and follow through I started missing shots to the right.
Learning to commit to a follow through and hold can be a bit of a mental battle, but one worth persisting with as it will help to coordinate a full finish with your hips open and pointing towards the target.
Should you finish the golf swing with high hands?
The golf swing should finish with fairly high hands in order to send the ball towards its target on a straight trajectory. Low hands in the finish can indicate an out-to-in swing, leading to shots blocked to the right and slices. Try shallowing the club and finishing with high hands in order to get a slightly drawing ball flight.
There is, of course, a sweet spot though, and trying to force your hands into unnaturally high and uncomfortable positions in the follow through will just create other issues.
Aim to have your hands above shoulder height in the finish, with the club shaft pointing slightly downwards across the back of your shoulder and neck.
It is hard to convince people to give attention to parts of the swing, like the follow through, that happen after you have actually made contact with the ball.
It is, however, important to understand that things like the follow through can give us valuable information about other aspects of our swing and potential flaws to address.
Next time you are at the range, give some follow through drills a go and see if you can replicate that long, drawn out pose at the end of the swing like the pros do.