The Basics Part 4: Backswing Wind-up Fundamentals
By Erika Larkin on 3/20/13
Before you get into the "meat and potatoes" of your 2013 season, Erika wants you to check your fundamentals. So over the next several weeks, she's going to run a five-part series about the fundamentals. If you missed part 1, part 2, or part 3, click here, here, or here. Enjoy!

So what is supposed to move first in the backswing? Where are my arms and the clubhead supposed to go? Is this what I should look like? Where should I stop my backswing? These are questions I get a lot and here are some answers without being super technical.
  1. The takeaway: We need to get the club in motion without tension in our arms. If we start the swing with our arms and hands we will engage those muscles and therefore introduce tension. So the solution is to start your backswing by allowing your lower body to start a gentle and subtle rotation (not a sway and not a loss of posture). Imagine for a moment the club weighed 100 pounds ... to have any chance of making a backswing, you would have to get that thing in motion and use your big muscles to drag it back and then lift it up. A helpful drill to feel a smooth takeaway is this: Hold the club hovering it an inch above the ground, start stepping from one foot to the other, shifting your weight and allowing the arms to follow and swing the club back and through low to the ground. If you increase the size of this motion little by little you should get the feeling of what muscles are firing when you pull the club back in the correct sequence.

  2. Half-way back: This is an important checkpoint to see if the club is on a good path and if the clubface is square. It's a good stopping point to practice punch shots and half swing pitch shots from too. What we are looking for is that the lead arm (left arm for righties) is straight and the toe of the club is pointing up to the sky. Your thumbs should feel like they are "up" on top of the shaft. The shaft of the club should be just about parallel to the target line but over your foot line more or less.

  3. Three quarters of the way back: Take #2 and add wrists. Loading/hinging the wrists at this point will make the butt end of the club to stare down at an imaginary extension of the target line behind the ball. If you've got the club smoothly in motion with a nice swing, the weight of the clubhead in relaxed wrists should hinge automatically.

  4. Top of the swing: This position is different for everyone based on tempo, flexibility and a range of other reasons. I tell students "you want to swing/turn back as far as YOU can without breaking down the lead arm elbow, without losing your posture (lifting or swaying)". A good way to test where your perfect backswing should go is this: Take your right hand and make a fist. Put it under your left wrist. Stand in your golf posture and stretch out your left arm to a straight elbow position. Use your right fist to pull back the left arm and as you do this, let your shoulders and hips turn. This will give you a good feeling of where the top of your backswing should be.

  5. Overall movement: Keep your head where it started (centered). Don't let it sway right or left, up or down! Turn your hips (right hip over right heel) and allow your left heel to come up a little — it's okay, I promise! Some of the best practice is going to be right in front of a mirror with no golf balls being hit. Watch your steadiness, watch your body turn, watch for a nice long straight left arm.
Next column: Basics Part 5: Downswing Fundamentals

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine and she's oobgolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, email her at Enjoy!

Image via Flickr, Photo Monkey

[ comments ]
GBogey says:
Thanks Erika - love the Top of the Swing tips including helping us acknowledge that this differs for everyone.
legitimatebeef says:
Since I'm a "Hogan guy" I try to start it with the hands, trying to achieve that split-second sequence of hands-arms-shoulders-hips-legs.
[ post comment ]
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