Four Steps To Building a Better Backswing

The golf swing is basically a chain reaction, as I’ve said before. One good move leads naturally to another. Obviously, the first few “links” in the chain are critical, since they determine the quality and the shape of the swing. If you make a proper backswing, as I often write in my golf tips, you’ll develop power, accuracy, and consistency in your swing.

Unfortunately, some golfers take their backswing lightly. Instead of taking the club back slowly and smoothly, they rush it and find themselves in a poor position to start their forwardswing. A poor backswing requires complex adjustments during the swing, which can throw it off. The end result is a slice, a hook, or an otherwise ugly shot. If you want to develop consistency and power-while improving your golf handicap-you must build a better backswing.

Make a Preflight Check
Get in the habit of making a preflight check before starting your backswing. A good set-up increases the chances of starting off right. Check for correct posture, the right weight distribution, and the proper ball position, which should be just inside the left heel when using longer clubs and toward the middle of your stance for shorter clubs. Also, check to see that the club’s shaft is an extension of the left arm (right-handers) and that you have a neutral grip.

In addition, check your tee-height. As a general rule, the top edge of the driver should be level with the ball’s equator, irrespective of the clubhead’s size and design. This rule also applies to the 3-wood when used from the tee. The design of this club hasn’t changed significantly over the years. Its clubhead is smaller than almost all drivers’ clubheads, especially the new ones. You need to tee the ball lower to achieve the right height for the 3-wood.

Shift Weight Properly
Allowing your weight to move back and forth in harmony with the swing’s direction generates power. If the upper body coil and the weight shift are both correct in the backswing, the natural movement is a lateral one onto the right foot (right-handers), preparing the golfer for a forceful forwardswing. This is followed by a weight shift to the front foot.

Annika Sorenstam, considered by many as the number one ranked woman golfer on the pro tour, presents a good example of someone whose weight shifts properly during her backswing. Watch her when she swings. If you compare her head position at the top of backswing with her head position at the start of her backswing, you’ll see that it has moved a good 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) to the right, enabling her to “get behind the ball.”

Think “All Arms”
A proper takeaway is critical to a good swing. The catalyst for the chain reaction, the takeaway starts everything in motion, as I stress in my golf lessons. It introduces width and coordination in the swing, and determines the quality and shape of the shot. The first 30 inches of the takeaway is perhaps the most crucial point in the swing. The goal is a one-piece takeaway.

To achieve a one-piece takeaway, sweep the club back low and slow as your left knee, hip, and shoulder turn to the right. Shift your weight slightly onto the right foot (for right-handers), creating the feeling as if the move was “all arms.” And hold your chin up as you take the club away to allow for a full left shoulder turn.

Turn and Set
The turn and set is the final element of the backswing. Once the takeaway is complete, the wrists hinge as the body continues to turn and the arms swing the club up on plane. A useful checkpoint in the swing occurs at the halfway point in the backswing. In a properly executed backswing, the club points toward the sky. From there on, it’s a simple movement to the top of the backswing.

Watch the takeaway of Ernie Els when opportunity permits. His upper body, hands, arms, and the club all move away from the ball in harmony. The wrists are almost completely passive. They only start to hinge as the hands reach a point just beyond the right hip, the ideal takeaway to emulate. Notice also that he lifts his left heel slightly as he takes the club back. There’s no hard and fast rule on this, as I’ve said in my golf tips. If you need to lift it slightly to complete a full body turn, then do so.

One last tip on building a better backswing: As you begin, try thinking “low and smooth.” Maintaining this swing thought as you start your swing encourages you take the club back in a deliberate manner.

Building a better backswing is a key to generating a consistent, repeatable swing-the hallmark of players with low golf handicaps. Work on your backswing in practice. You’ll see a difference in your swing on the course.

Copyright (c) 2006 Jack Moorehouse