More than one in ten of us is left-handed, and most of you left-handers out there tell us that you are not getting your fair share of attention when it comes to the world of golf. I hope we can begin to rectify this here, where we will give you some left-handed golf tips, some advice on buying golf equipment specially designed for lefties and some thoughts on what advantages being a left-handed golfer can bring.
Can a left-hander be a good golfer?
There is one answer to this, and you will be pleased to hear that it is an emphatic ‘yes’. More than that, some of the best golfers in the world are left-handed. So, let’s lay the myth that left-handers can’t play golf firmly into the ground. Amongst the left-handers at the top of the game are; Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Bob Charles, Mike Weir and the late legendary Ben Hogan.
Some brave souls out there even argue that left-handers make better golfers, saying that their brain set-up makes for better hand-eye coordination. The argument goes like this: in the brain of a left-handed person, the functions of the brain are distributed between the two brain hemispheres in a different way. If we apply this to golf, it means the visual process of seeing the ball, lining up and looking down the fairway and the muscle process of actually hitting the ball are carried out by using the same side of the brain. This makes the whole process quicker, only by milliseconds, but even so, this may give better spatial skills.
Then there is the question of body strength. To be a good golfer you need excellent all-around body strength and good control of your muscles. It is likely that if you are a natural left-hander that the right-hand side of your body is stronger than the left-hand side of a natural right-hander. This is because we live in a right-handed world, so lefties are always having to compensate, so they build up their right side, and it can be strong. Some left-handers can even be ambidextrous for many tasks. In golf, this means some left-handers also play from the right and do fine.
There is a further factor for golf players which is to do with the golf swing. In golf, the power in the swing comes from the left side if you are right-handed. If you are a left-hander and you swing from the other side, then you will have more strength in that side. You are used to using your right hand for all sorts of things, from opening doors to using scissors, where lefties are not provided for. Now, all that extra strength can be put to good use as you develop your golf swing.
What does being left-handed mean anyway?
Before we go on, it is worth acknowledging that there is not a clear and absolute line between being left-handed and being right-handed. The whole left-handed or right-handed thing is a great deal more fluid than it might first appear. When it comes to golf, this means that some natural left-handers have played the game as right-handed players, the great Arnold Palmer being the most famous case. Phil Mickelson is naturally right-handed but because of the way he was taught he plays left-handed. Amongst the current players one of the most interesting is Jordan Spieth, he plays right-handed golf, but when he was playing baseball he was a left-hander, and if he shoots a basketball it is with his left hand.
Make sure you get your hand preference clear before you start. If you are left-handed and have never played golf before, I would advise you check out if you are going to be a left-hand golfer. It may surprise you to know, but many people who are left-handed in most things, do play golf as a right-hander and some people who are right-handed play left-hand golf, as we have seen from our list of professionals above.
We know the right, and the left-hand thing is much more complicated than it looks at first sight. You may find as you develop your game, that you want to change the dominant hand your play with. But to get started try this.
This simple exercise will help you find out what is best for you. Even if you use your left hand to do most things, and perhaps describe yourself as left-handed or left dominant, you may still be right-handed in the sort of movement which we use all the time in golf. The best thing to is to check out how you perform with hand-eye coordination. Try throwing a softball into a basket a few feet away with both your left and your right hand and see which feels most comfortable. The comfortable one is the dominant hand you are likely to be using as you develop your golf career.
What are the most significant problems left handed golfers face?
Equipment: getting the best golf clubs for you
The biggest obstacle faced by left-handed golfers isn’t anything to do with natural ability or technique, it is to do with equipment. It can be tough to find clubs which are suitable for left-handers, many golf shops do not stock them, and choice can be limited.
I would strongly advise that you buy a set of specialised left-handed golf clubs as soon as you take up the game. If you try to play with golf clubs designed for right-handed players you are almost guaranteed to develop some bad habits as you try to compensate. It is much better to start off with the right tools from the beginning.
The best golf club manufacturers do make golf clubs for left-handers, and at the top of the range we would recommend the Men’s Callaway Golf Men's Strata Complete Set
Coaching and instruction: what do you need?
If you have been watching many golf instructional videos, you may be sick of hearing the instructor say: “If you are left-handed just reverse this.” As any left-hander knows, especially when you are starting out, this is much easier said than done. It can be very dispiriting and frustrating, especially when you are new. For anyone who has ever been told, ‘you are standing on the wrong side of the ball,’ I feel your pain, and I even know of potential golfers who have been put off playing altogether because of this.
I do think things are changing. It is good to be able to report that there has been a change in recent years and there are more good golf videos for lefties appearing on the web these days. An honorable mention should go to the Golf Info website, which has an extensive collection of videos, especially for left-handed golfers. These cover everything from how to grip the clubs, your swing, chipping and putting and it has some special videos for left-handed lady golfers.
You can see these videos here.
At various stages of your golfing life, you may feel the need to take some lessons from a professional coach. There are two critical points when many of us turn to a coach. One is when we are just starting out, and this can be an excellent idea as it means you start off with a proper technique and do not get into bad habits which can be hard to break later. A second is when we get stuck, either our handicap is not coming down, or we have a stroke which we cannot get right however much we practice. Again, a coach can often fix this quickly and without too much pain. If you do want to see a coach, try to find one that naturally plays with their left hand. You will get more out of your golf coaching sessions as you will be able to see how a left-hander actually plays good golf, rather than have a right-hand coach either telling you to reverse the moves or trying to demonstrate using the side they do not feel naturally comfortable with.
Are some courses better for left-handed golfers?
The short answer to this is ‘yes’, but unfortunately, there is not a definitive list of the best courses for left-hand golfers. There are a couple of things it is worth looking out for. There can sometimes be a problem with tee boxes, which often slope to the right, and this can make it feel awkward for lefties when teeing off. Courses with straight tee boxes can be found. Then look out for the doglegs on a course, too many going the wrong way can put lefties at a disadvantage.
Left handed golf tips – how to solve common problems
Get your grip right
Your grip needs strength and control. Make sure the grip of the club lies comfortably in your palm. This video will show you how. Watch it now and then go through this quick checklist to keep the good work going. Practice running through these steps.
For a lefty, the essential is right hand on top. The positioning of your hands is more important than how they interlock. To hold the golf club correctly, make sure your thumb is pointing down the grip on the center of the shaft. With the forefinger of your left hand, you should form a V which leads to your left shoulder, like this.
Stopping the slice
Many left-handers have a problem with slicing the golf ball. So, if you are tired of watching the ball drift off into the trees every time you hit it try this.
If you slice the ball, the problem lies in the swing plane. The first thing to look at is to change your grip as this will affect the position of the club face at the impact of club and ball.
If you are slicing, then try a firm grip which will close the club face.
Keep a consistent tempo as you move through your swing. Count one to four, on your upswing and on your downswing. It doesn’t matter about the speed, how fast or slow you swing, go with what feels right for your game. The important thing is consistency. That way you will keep the power in your swing.
Your stance and the ball position
Make sure your position at address, before you hit the ball is correct, the ball position is crucial. We are assuming that you know which club to select for which shot here. Here is a rough guide for ball positioning for left-handed players (we are keeping this simple, it is for a swing from a flat lie. Be prepared to adjust for more difficult shots or unusual situations.)
- The sand wedge and pitching wedge, middle of stance, equidistant between your feet.
- Eight and seven irons: one inch in front of your feet, still in the center
- Six iron and five irons: two inches still in the center
- Four irons three iron and hybrid clubs: three inches still in the center
- Drive and fairway woods: level with your right heel.
(Remember that the longer your club, the wider your stance should be.)
If you are hitting the ball ‘fat’ (into the ground)
The way to solve this for left-handed golfers is to keep your angle between the wrists and the shaft of your golf club as you swing down. To do this, aim to get a ninety-degree angle between your right arm and the shaft of your club at the top of your swing. Practice this until it is correct. Then gently bring the club round and down.
Check out this video to see how to do it.
Here’s to all the lefty golfers now and in the future
We hope this little article shows all you left-handers out there that you are a valuable part of the golfing community. Take inspiration from those top PGA tour players who are lefties, make sure you get the special clubs which will make your game so much easier. Get a left-handed coach if you need someone to help and enjoy your golf.