Cross the Finish Line !

As a PGA Professional and college coach I look at golf swings just about every day. When working with a new student (or starting a series of lessons with a club golfer), I start the lesson by observing the student’s swing. I will just watch for a while. Usually during this process I note an erratic shot pattern. After each swing, I am asked, “What did I do that time?” I give an answer. He swings again. Most times the ball goes in a different direction. He asks the same question. “What I do THAT time?” I give a different answer. This routine goes on for a while. I say, “That time you did so-and-so;” then, “Well, that time you did, X.” You get the idea.

Most amateur golfers, when making a full swing, rarely are able to repeat their swing from one shot to the next. Even many of my college golfers, when they first join the team, fall into this category. They are more “hitters” than “swingers.” This inconsistency makes it impossible to predict from day to day how a golfer will play. This is a large reason why my freshman golfers have up-and-down tournaments, with scores that vary dramatically from round to round.

Getting a new golfer to make the same swing every time is Lesson One. It doesn’t matter how good a teacher is—if the student doesn’t make the same move swing after swing, the teacher can’t properly diagnose or fix what is really going on with the swing. The student will never improve.

So, here is my theory:

Every person’s golf swing begins the same way, with the club set right behind the ball—without exception, driver thru putter. If there is a definite starting point in the swing there must also be a definite finishing point in the swing. 

As seen in the photos, a vertical line extends up from the ball. That marks where your swing should begin and end. All golfers begin with the clubhead at the starting line. Unfortunately, most never get the clubhead to cross the finish line, as shown in the second photo. This a large reason shots go off line. It’s why a golfer’s ball flight is inconsistent from shot to shot, round to round, month to month, etc.

I teach every student to get the clubhead to cross the finish line and hold that position until the ball makes contact with the planet. This ensures his weight has completely transferred off the back foot and he has swung in perfect balance. He stands like a statue or “poses” until the ball falls back to earth. At first, many find it difficult to hold this position, which reveals a lot. Butch Harmon says it best: “If you can’t hold your finish it is just by accident that you hit a good shot.” If a golfer can’t hold this position it is clear that he is over-swinging. When making the transition from “hitter” to “swinger”, some golfers make the adjustment relatively quickly; for others, it will take some time. But it is always worth the effort to change. When the student can finally get to the finish line and stay there, we begin to see a clear shot pattern. Now things get exciting.

The student is now SWINGING instead of HITTING, and we begin to see sameness shot after shot. Not only that, almost always he is already hitting the ball better, without any further recommendations from me. At this point I always witness the same thing—big smiles—when he see how a golf ball should be hit, and then the realization of how good he really can be.

Crossing the finish line eliminates many of the variables in the swing. Once we’ve identified a definite shot pattern we can make educated assessments of his swing. There is no guessing or opinion. Just science. Now we can make the proper corrections in posture, grip or alignment that will have lasting and dramatic results in his game.

The lesson is easy. Cross the finish line and stay there, on EVERY full-swing. As I always say to my golfers, “If you start in the same place every time and finish in the same place every time, the middle will take care of itself.”

If you commit to make this change you’ll play better golf. Guaranteed. Not only that, on the range or on the course, even if you hit a poor shot, you’ll still look like a stud.

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29 comments

  • Great way to promote accelerating through the swing. Keep your foot down on the gas and burn through the finish line. Well done!

  • True statement. I used to think I was holding my finish but I wasn’t and wasn’t even in the proper finishing area. I’ve noticed now that I feel better posturially and psychologically. If I misshit a shot, holding the finish allows me to stay focused, allow the bad shot to happen and know why I hit it bad. It keeps my mind on the more positive and determined mindframe instead of getting frustrated.

    I’ve noticed since you pointed this out to me coach that my tempo, posture, confidence, ball striking has improved. My path of my club coming down on plane is even better! I chuckle to myself when on the range has I watch people swap at the ball or have differing finishes from shot to shot. It leads me to wonder if that’s how I looked once upon a time and then smile to know I’m never going back!

    Thanks for the tip coach! I’ve already improved.

  • Representing the most amateur of weekend duffs, I couldn’t agree more. “Hold your finish,” Coach Fred told me, “and you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.” If not for this tip, it’s doubtful my interest in golf would have lasted more than a month. It certainly made practicing on the range more enjoyable. Even if I completely missed the ball, or dribbled it only a few feet off the tee, I held my pose like Michelle Wie, searching into the distance as if I’d slammed that thing a mile. No one knew the difference.

    On top of all the other benefits outlined in this article, crossing the finish line made the game more fun.

    Thank you, Coach.

  • This is probably the most effect lesson any golfer should take in to consideration. It not only helps you finish a full swing and not become a “hitter “but also have you make a controlled repetitive swing. It is a simple step to fix your game and make you look tour on the course. This lesson has helped me increase my tempo and commit fully to every shot.
    Thanks Coach

  • Well I think any golfer should know that when he is making progress to maintaining the same swing tempo, swing speed, and swinging on plane, will turn the player’s swing into a more consistent and effective golf swing. One thing he teaches us is to always go back and go all the way through. “Start to finish” throughout the swing should be the same tempo and balance. If a golfer always does that and “looks tour” the golfer almost always hits a better and more consistent shot. I know I keep stressing the word consistency, because thats what are team is all about, learning to play consistent. A big way to do this is to swing from start to finish and have the same timing throughout the swing. One of my favorite things I like to remember is that is so hard to pose on a bad shot. Always, recoiling back and of balance. Try and hold the pose even if the shot is not the greatest is one of the true challenges in this lesson!

    Keep the faith,
    Justin

  • Cross the finish line in my case means consistency. If you are able to finish your swing with all your weight transferred to your left side and you are In balance, this means you have swung with in yourself, which creates a consistent golfer….. Great post!!!!

  • This is a great technique to consistently make the same swing over and over. if you hold your pose, it also limits the damage on a mis-hit shot as you are committed to the swing. My ball striking and rhythm are solid and I’m getting myself through the ball. I also noticed that I am a lot calmer on the course. Holding my finish through a bad shot prevents me from negative body language, and forces me to learn from the shot, rather than getting frustrated or annoyed at it. Simple and effective!

  • This action might seem easy to do, but when you actually try to apply it on the course, it can get pretty difficult to keep doing it, especially when you don’t hit a great shot. However I’ve felt that if you hold your finish your chances of hitting a good shot increases a lot!
    Holding your finish really helps you build a great swing and makes you look ‘tour’. Thank you Coach!

  • Another great article! this is something I also notice in weaker players and especially aggressive players. An aggressive player will take on a shot with far less margin for error than a normal player but not make a swing that will ensure him/her a greater chance of success…crazy.

    Gary Player had a similar goal for each swing: “park the car.”
    A great lesson for player starting out in their golfing careers

  • This article says it all! There is nothing worse that standing over a shot and thinking about all of the possibilities that could happen. Maybe I’ll hit it right? Maybe left? and by the time you actually take the club back you are fifty percent less likely to make an aggressive swing and hit a solid shot. If you tell yourself to get to your finish and hold it before you make your swing the rest will fall into place. A great technique for any golfer, pro or amateur.

  • Coming to SCAD, one of the first things coach had me focus on was holding my finish. I had “recoiled” at the end of my swing my entire golfing career. Making this change was far from easy, even today I have to make a constant effort to hold my finish. The positive result of this change has been better balance and a feeling of striking through the ball, and not just swinging at it. This change has resulted in more consistent strikng, as well as a positive swing thought.

  • I can get to the finish line with no problem. My issue is the start of the downswing. I have a guy I play on Sundays with that says my hips are moving faster than my arms and are starting before them as well. Is there some drill I can do to help sync things up?

    • Rob:
      I’d have to take a look at you via video or a lesson to make an educated determination. But one of the best ways my son Gray came up with, he calls it, “Make the mean dog chase the car.” Contact me and I’ll let you know what that means. It’s awesome! That will be one of my lesson topics later.

  • This article is another great lesson that everyone should reciprocate in their game if they don’t already. Crossing the finishing line sounds simple, but before you have tried to achieve this, its harder than it sounds in some cases. It can really show yourself you have to improve in some areas of your golf swing, the way in which it accomplishes this is if you cross the finish line on every swing, your creating a consistent swing.
    Making sure you have a great finishing point takes pressure off yourself, because you know you are going to be committed to every shot if you cross the finish line!

  • This was huge for me last semester. Get to the finish and stay there!

  • If you can commit to “crossing the line” or “holding your finish” you will see less sporadic and more confident shots. This past semester I have made a serious effort to hold my finish and have seen an improvement in my consistency. Thanks for the tip Coach.

  • Coach, I totally agree with crossing the finish line. It makes every golfer feel confident (as well as look it) and it’s an amazing way to simply gain balance and control without making any drastic changes to your swing. It seems like this is one of the first things a beginning golfer should hear because it is a fundamental part of the game. You don’t see any PGA Tour pros wobbling all over the place…then again, Tiger is all over the place in terms of his finish..BUT, he’s always hitting from the trees anyway! Haha. Great article!

  • Coach,
    I think crossing the finish line is extremely important as well and I think its something that the pros all do well. When I went to the barclays tournament over the summer I spent some time watching the pros hit and they all cross the finish line and have perfect balance toward the end of their swing. Every single one of them because it is that essential to playing at that level. I think that sometimes I get a little off balance toward the end of my swing and don’t cross the finish line so this will definitely be something I work on this upcoming season.

    great post!

  • Coach,
    I think I hear you say “cross the finish line” or “hold the finish” everyday on the range and I still have not quite gotten to the point where I will do it out of instinct. It is definitely something I need to work on because when I do it, my scores are much better. In fact, just yesterday after the round on the simulator, you told me I wasn’t swinging my best and I really didn’t stick my finish. This is something I will work on all Spring and is a key to shooting good numbers for me. Great advice!

  • This tip not only makes you look like a better golfer, it makes you play better. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my game just by trying to cross the finish line and have a swing that is repeatable. It really is helpful to know where your ball should be going on every shot, and if there is an erratic one here and there, it becomes much easier to diagnose and fix.

  • Every good golfer I know has great balance and holds his finish over the front leg. I have been trying to hold my finish better on the course lately.

  • By holding your finish, the rest of the swing is almost guaranteed to stay in line and balanced. You look much more professional especially when the flight of the ball never leaves the center of the fairway. Great article

  • Great article. It is hard to remember an off balance swing that I have made with terrible results. Getting through the ball and onto your left side, staring it down, and holding the finish is one of the most fun things in golf.

  • My swing coach always preached “reaching your bookends” which is another way of saying the same thing. As of late I have gotten a bit lazy when it comes to holding the finish position which has hurt my game. The last few weeks of the season I finally got my act together and put up some good numbers.

  • Coach I completely agree. If a golfer doesn’t get across the finish-line and cant hold their finish until the ball hits the ground, they were either off balance or their head was not completely in the shot. My dad has thought me for years that if you hold your finish it will give your mind and body time to remember what you did right, making it easier to make that good swing over and over again.

  • Mackenzie Nelson

    Coach this is something that you have told me to work on because I used to hardly ever hold my finish. Now that I have tried to really hold my finish until the ball has landed, especially on the range, I have noticed that my ball flight has gotten more consistent and I have been swinging much more in balance. Which should only help me shoot lower scores!

  • Mitchell Campbell

    This is something I have been working on over the summer. When I visited back in February you really stressed how much you wanted your players to hold their finish and how much it will improve their games. Well I have found this point to be very true. Holding my finish allows me to know where I am trying to get to. I like having a finish line to cross because without it I become uncommitted to the shot and my chances of hitting it well decrease greatly. Plus holding your finish looks better!

  • If one does not have the flexibility to cross the finish line as indicated, what is one to do?

    • Michael, thanks for the question. Are you getting completely off your back foot? most times not. If you are, establish what is your personal finish line and hold that pose.

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