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Shorten Your Backswing For More Control
By Snyper on 3/9/11
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

I play with new people all the time and I can’t help but notice that so many of them make the same mistakes. It seems like there are some swing flaws that all new players or high handicappers automatically have installed in their game. Since this month will mark the beginning of a new season for many of us, I figured this would be a good time to offer a suggestion or two.

Now, I am going to warn you ahead of time. If you do not want to get better at golf, shoot lower scores, and have a lot more fun on the links, do not read any further! Ok? All right, if you are still reading, you may want to brace yourself because your game is about to change forever. I know I shouldn't be doing this for free because it's probably the best tip you are ever going to get, but here it is anyway...SHORTEN YOUR BACKSWING!!!!! Probably not the first time you've heard this suggestion, but it is time to heed this advice.
I know I shouldn't be doing this for free because it's probably the best tip you are ever going to get, but here it is anyway...SHORTEN YOUR BACKSWING!!!!!

Golf is about shooting a low score. Shooting a low score is about how bad your "bad" shots are. No matter how high or low your handicap is, a good shot is a good shot. But, the difference between a low and a high handicap is how bad your "bad" shots are. A guy that shoots in the seventies hits a bad drive when he misses the fairway. A guy that is trying to break a hundred hits a bad drive when he hits somebody's car in their driveway instead of just hitting their house! Hitting better "bad" shots is all about consistency, and consistency cannot be achieved with a long back swing.

A technician at a local electronics store once told me a truth about electronics that is very relevant to golf, "The more things that move, the more things that can break." Well, the same thing is true for your back swing. When you take a big back swing, your left arm breaks down at your elbow and at your wrists. Strange as it sounds, you also tend to under-rotate your shoulders. Both of these things not only cause you to be wildly inconsistent, but also actually cost you distance. That's right folks, too long of a back swing makes you hit it shorter, not longer. If you maintain a straight left arm, you will rotate your shoulders farther instead of bending your elbow and wrists. Shoulder turn is where the power is. Just watch the pros and see if their left arms ever break down. Their should turn is incredible, but they rarely ever go past parallel. If they don't do it, neither should you.

Shortening your back swing does not take a major amount of ability to do, but it will feel a little strange for a while. The problem for most people is that they do not realize how far back they are taking the club. When I tell people to take the club back to about 75% of their normal back swing, they almost all still take the club back past parallel! Parallel is the absolute maximum distance that your back swing should ever go. It is the MAXIMUM, not the GOAL of a normal back swing. You should only take the club back as far as your shoulders allow you to turn without bending your left arm at all. If that means you only take it back until it is perpendicular to the ground, then so be it. The key to a good back swing is that it puts you in a position to execute a good down swing. The shorter you take it back, the easier it is to be in a good position. It is a simple concept, but it works! In fact, it works really well.
Because your back swing will be shorter than you are used to, you will need to slow it down to avoid a sloppy transition from your back swing to your down swing.

Allow me to make a suggestion to help you transition from your long back swing to a more appropriate one. Slow down the speed of your back swing. The biggest problem you will face when you make this change is maintaining the tempo of your swing. Because your back swing will be shorter than you are used to, you will need to slow it down to avoid a sloppy transition from your back swing to your down swing. This will help you maintain the tempo of your swing and you will see immediate results.

If you are looking for something to work on in your swing to help you with your consistency, start with your back swing. Take this tip, head over to the range, and take advantage of the warmer weather by working on shortening up your takeaway. I am promising you that it will dramatically change your game and possibly your life. In fact, I would not be surprised if you start to feel a little bit guilty about getting such revolutionary advice free of charge. If the guilt is too overwhelming and you feel as though you should send me a check, just shoot me an email and I'll make sure you get my mailing address!


* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.

photo source


[ comments ]
Agustin says:
Word!
3/9/11
 
ppinkert says:
Thanks! I'll put it to the test.
3/9/11
 
Banker85 says:
suck on that Hank Haney!
3/9/11
 
Banker85 says:
REVOLUTIONARY!
3/9/11
 
Swingem says:
Just get older, I guarantee your backswing will get shorter.
3/9/11
 
bkuehn1952 says:
From personal experience, ditto what @Swingem said!
3/9/11
 
mjaber says:
I figured this out on my own during my first year playing. I was sitting at home playing Tiger Woods Golf on my PC and the announcer said something that kinda stuck. I had just smoked a drive 300+ down the center of the fairway and the announcer said something about the rhythm/speed of the swing. My next trip to the driving range I took a slow, shorter than normal, deliberate backswing and sure enough, it didn't slice as much and went further than I had ever hit before.

With a couple other tweaks (grip adjustment, stance adjustment) and a new driver, I got longer and turned my banana-slice into a nice cut.
3/10/11
 
rmumph1 says:
This is the same info my golf professional told me at my last lesson. Still working on it though.
3/10/11
 
Scott Shields says:
I find that a shorter backswing (think camillo), not only helps with my dispersion, but also helps me create much more lag by keeping my left arm straight and hands 'soft'.
3/10/11
 
SD Charlie says:
Thanks for the reminder! This is exactly what I have been working on for the past few weeks. It is paying results too, because my scores are going down, my GIR is going up (slowly) and I'm getting much better contact on the ball. That is, of course, when I don't cheat back to a long, crappy backswing.

One other thing about the shorter backswing is that it allows you to really accelerate through the ball.
3/10/11
 
aaronm04 says:
A shorter backswing seems like it will prevent overswinging which I see many golfers doing.
3/10/11
 
wrhall02 says:
ditto to swingem's comment. Getting older!!!
3/10/11
 
terryhiggins says:
A long backswing is a hard habit to break. I have been trying it for years. In the back of your mind you always think the longer backswing the more distance you get. Not true
3/10/11
 
stedar says:
From what I've learned: it is the follow through that gives you the distance and control... The back swing is just to get the most from leverage, and over-leverage is just like red lining the car too long.... BOOM - go hunting for a golf ball. Controlled back swing and extended follow through - longer and straighter. Now I just have to keep reminding myself to do that...
3/12/11
 
RickB51 says:
I found that when I start to miss several fairways in a row it is due to my longer, faster backswing. I seem to lose it at the top and never get back to square at impact. The best tip I can remember is from Bob Murphy playing lessons a slower back swing and pause at the top, helped me a lot.
3/12/11
 
RickB51 says:
I found that when I start to miss several fairways in a row it is due to my longer, faster backswing. I seem to lose it at the top and never get back to square at impact. The best tip I can remember is from Bob Murphy playing lessons a slower back swing and pause at the top, helped me a lot.
3/12/11
 
Trav says:
Absolutely correct. The first fix I re-focus on when things go bad. And everyone above who says how hard it is to realize how far your backswing goes - also dead on. I regualrly try to get my wife to shorten her swing by my holding a club from behind at parallel as a "stop" and she is always surprised how often she still comes back into the "stop" even with a very methodical swing.
3/12/11
 
Banker85 says:
keep your left arm straight and never break 90* angle in your right elbow. that should keep you from going to far back. and keep the wrists locked. wroks for me atleast.
3/14/11
 
joe jones says:
Swingem...Follow though gets shorter as well. I may get more club control but lose distance as well.
3/15/12
 
dmcadow says:
"...left arm breaks down at your elbow and at your wrists...you also tend to under-rotate your shoulders." What Matt wrote was almost verbatim what an instructor told me two days ago. Fortunately for me, he recorded video of my swing and it was totally obvious...we could even see an unconscious body motion I was making to compensate. After a couple of adjustments, the results amazed me! Still need lots of practice for it to feel natural, though.
5/17/12
 
Texflix says:
Not only did I shorten my backswing, I also slowed it down. I hit straighter and farther.
6/20/14
 
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