Back to basics with Ian Woosnam

Ryder Cup captain and former US Masters champion Ian Woosnam reveals his golfing basics to help you with your game.

Bob Warters's picture
Tue, 20 Sep 2005

Back to basics with Ian Woosnam

Woosie shows his left-hand grip

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam was in cracking form yesterday at a golf day hosted by his main sponsors Hippo Golf at East Sussex National.

The former US Masters champion held a highly entertaining clinic for invited guests and then played the par-3 3rd hole on the West course with each group competing in a specially-organised tournament.

Woosnam, who brought a replica of the Ryder Cup along, stressed how important the basics of the golf swing were to amateur golfers.

Grip"We all have faults in our game and it’s important to start off on the right foot with good basics. And golf pros are the same as amateurs in the fact that they have to have good basics before they can learn to draw the ball, fade it or hit it straight.

Posture and spine angle

"Most important is the grip. Some players favour interlocking the little finger of the right hand with the forefinger of the left (for right-handed golfers), others prefer fitting the little finger of the right hand between the fore-finger and second finger of the left-hand. There’s also the ten-finger, two-fisted or baseball grip.

"It doesn’t matter which you use as long as it’s comfortable and operates as a unit.

"I use the second option and when I take hold of the club with my left hand, I ensure my thumb sits not directly down the shaft but slightly to the left. The right hand sits comfortably on the handle and it’s important the fingers are not too tight.

Too much grip pressure create tension and makes the right hand take over too much in the swing. The two hands have to work together. Feel with the fingers is vital."


"From an early age I was taught about posture in helping make the correct swing. As you line up to your target with shoulders, knees and feet parallel, try to ensure your spine angle is correct. Knees should be slightly bent with your back straight but tilted forward. This helps to create a consistent swing plane."

Alignment and ball position

Turn the shoulders 90 degrees

"When I set up to the ball, I stand with feet together and line the clubface to the target. I then move the right foot slightly to the right and left foot to the left to establish my balance.

"Depending on the club you have in your hand, the ball needs to be position slightly forward for the wood and longer irons, in the centre for mid-irons and slightly back of centre for shorter irons off tee or fairway.

"Also if I need to hit the ball high I have it slightly forward in the stance, if I want to hit it low, slightly further back. A bit over simplied, perhaps but I’ve always liked to keep my game simple."

Spring effect

"In my back swing I try to maintain the correct spine angle and at the top of the backswing I have my back facing the target. This completes my turn.

"In the golf swing your body has to act like a coiled spring. As you keep you lower body parallel to the target your top half rotates from the hips to the top of the backswing, then, depending how supple you are, when you reach that point of resistance you uncoil your body and arms.

"It needs practice and co-ordination but basically power comes from how well you manage this spring effect."

Weight distribution and ball position

Weight distribution

"I’m often asked what should be the percentage of balance and weight distribution we should use when using irons compared to woods.

"With irons it should be around 50-50 for the mid-irons irons, but if you want to take a divot and create more spin it’s probably 60 per-cent on the left leg to help you drive down into the ball. For woods it’s the opposite. The idea is to sweep the ball away, so fractionally more weight (60-40) should be distributed on the right side.

Practice technique

"A good practice technique to ensure you keep your balance is to practice hitting the ball with your feet together. I often use this method to help me and feel my way back to basics."