The backswing in golf sets up your entire swing. If done incorrectly, you are doomed right from the getgo. The first part is the takeaway; then halfway back; and to the top.
Your takeaway is critical to getting your club “on-plane” and to the top in the correct position to come back down, on-plane and swing powerfully through impact.
Golf Swing Takeaway
Lets start with your hands. I have struggled and worked on this for quite some time now, and feel like I have a good understanding of the proper takeaway, so hopefully you will to after reading this.
When you get in your address position, your hands are hanging naturally below your shoulders. When you start your takeaway, your hands go straight back, if not just a little bit inside.
You NEVER want them going outside (or away from your body)!
If you look at the pic, I’ve drawn a line just outside my hands. When I take the club back, see how I stay inside that line. I have spent the better part of my golfing career, going outside this line, and creating a very poor position getting to the top.
Thoughts On Starting Your Takeaway
In my years of working with golf instructors, and studying the best swings in professional golf, there are a couple of swing thoughts for what initiates the takeaway.
I personally like to think of my left rotating away from the target right away. This gets my hands moving more inside. Other golfers use the movement of their right hip as the “trigger” to starting their takeaway. They get the right hip pocket moving back (not to the side) right away, so rotation, not a lateral slide is happening.
Your Arms In The Backswing
This is another critical element I’ve been working on for quite some time. As you take the club away, the left shoulder is rotating, and the left arm is starting to feel like it’s going across your chest. You should get this feeling in the first few feet of your takeaway.
At this point, your right elbow has NOT started bending yet. This is another issue I had, which was a premature bending of my right elbow, which picked the club up too early, and killed my rotation going back.
So at this point in your backswing, I want you to focus on your left arm going across your chest (as the left shoulder rotates), and right elbow delaying the bending.
In fact, your upper left arm (bicep) will feel close to your chest at this point. There should be no space between the inside of your upper left arm and your chest.
Halfway Back Checkpoint
When your left arm reaches parallel to the ground, this is approximately halfway back in your backswing. There are a couple of these to look for.
If you are looking at a down the line (DTL) view (see picture), you should see a clubshaft that is pointing at or slightly above the target line. You don’t want to be pointing inside it, as that would indicate a steeper backswing plane.
Secondly, from this DTL position, check your hand positions. They should be slightly to the right of your chest, which indicates a deep turn in your backswing.
Thirdly, your right elbow will have a slight bend in it at this point. I say slight, so if your elbow is bent to close to 90 degrees, you are bending it too much, too early.
From a face on view, you shoulders should have turned (rotated) fully. So basically your shoulder turn should almost be done. I’m not kidding.
Your Knees In Your Backswing
The knees play a critical role in the golf swing, but do not need to be obsessed about. The main thing to remember is when you get your address position, your knees are flexed. This allows you to have a stable base, helping you maintain balance throughout your entire swing. When you swing a 3 foot implement upwards of 100mph, you need balance and stability to deliver the club into a solid impact and follow through.
As you take the club back, you must remain most of the flex in the right knee, although, a little straightening will allow you to rotate your hips a little bit, enabling a bigger backswing, especially for the older golfer. The right knee however, CANNOT move laterally (the the right) at any point of your backswing. It MUST remain in the same position going back.
During your backswing, I want you to focus on your right hip pocket rotating back and behind you from the getgo. Again, like the right knee, the hip does NOT move laterally in the backswing. It rotates back and around. So focusing on getting your right hip pocket going immediately back, and around, not to the side is a good thought.
The left knee does not kick in too early in the takeaway. This is an area that most instructors have different opinions. What has worked for me is letting the left knee “react” to the movement of my backswing, and the knee pointing straight ahead, not in towards the ball. When the knee points in towards the ball it makes it very difficult to rotate and clear your hips properly through impact.
Top Of Backswing
This position is critical to a consistent downswing that is on-plane and approaching the ball from the inside.
Your left arm from DTL should be at the same or slightly above the shoulder plane. Should not be too much above, as that would indicate you lifted the arms to get to the top, and it shouldn’t be too much below the shoulder plane, as that would be a very flat (rounded) backswing.
Your hands from DTL should be to the right of your right shoulder. They can also be above the right shoulder slightly, but never to the left of your right shoulder as that would be crossing the line.
Your right elbow should be bent at no more than a 90 degree angle. Anymore, and you will have to aggressively straighten it to hit the ball, which is also termed “throw out” of the hands, which results in a flip at impact, hitting thin, chunked or swiped golf shots.
Your Knees – your right knee at the top of the backswing will have straightened slightly. The flex in the upper quad is still there, but all the tension is “inside” the right thigh. Never outside it. The left knee is now pointing straight ahead, NOT at the ball.