To hit the ball, the club is swung at the motionless ball on the ground (or wherever it has come to rest) from a side stance. Many golf shots make the ball travel through the air (carry) and roll out for some more distance (roll).
Every shot is a compromise between length and precision, as long shots are generally less precise than short ones.
Obviously, a longer shot may result in a better score if it helps reduce the total number of strokes for a given hole, but the benefit may be more than outweighed by additional strokes or penalties if a ball is lost, out of bounds, or comes to rest on difficult ground.
Therefore, a skilled golfer must assess the quality of his or her shots in a particular situation in order to judge whether the possible benefits of aggressive play are worth the risks.
Here are some of the basic elements of the golf swing that the golfer should use as a mental checklist when taking a shot. The first thing is the alignment of the body toward the target.
Stand five to ten feet behind the ball, with the ball directly between your body and the desired target. Locate guidance targets on the ground (leaves, blades of grass, dirt, etc.) inches in front and behind the golf ball that should be on a direct line with where you are standing and the target.
Keep your eyes on those ground targets as you approach the ball.Align the clubface behind the ball, with the center of the clubface on a direct line between the two ground targets you have selected.
Grip the club with just enough tension to keep it from slipping in your hands throughout the course of the golf swing.
Align your feet on a parallel plain with your ground targets, shoulder width apart, and the knees slightly bent. The front foot should be pointed slightly outward, toward the target, to allow your hips to flow freely through the swing.
Tilt your torso slightly towards the ball while keeping your back straight. The arms should now hang freely in front of the body to grip the club. The shoulders should be parallel with the ground targets and the toes, and your head should be tilted downward with your eyes on the ball.
These motions described are known as the set-up, or addressing the ball.
You are ready to begin the golf swing. Keeping your back elbow tucked as closely to your ribs as possible, slowly take the club back on a straight line along the plain of the ground targets.
Keep your front elbow locked throughout the back swing and never take your eyes off the ball. This motion should naturally tuck your chin into your front shoulder.
Hips should remain still and slightly tilted, while the front knee will turn inward. At the apex of the back swing, allow your wrists to break slightly.
Bring the club downward toward the ball, uncoiling the wrists, and shifting your weight onto your front foot.
You should attempt to generate force and speed on your down swing, while never take the clubface off of the target line.
Upon making contact with the ball, the clubface should strike the ground as it moves through, taking a divot from the ground in the area past where the ball was lying, and through your second ground target.
Finish the golf swing with a nice, high follow through of the club. Your hips should be turned toward the target. Your weight should have shifted, and should now be firmly on your right foot. Smile and watch the ball fly toward the target.