Golf instruction usually is loaded with tips on what you need to do to optimize your downswing and impact position. And while that’s obviously important, I believe it’s just as important to know how to make a proper backswing. After all, the backswing is where you build speed and width—two essential ingredients to a strong, consistent golf swing.
Check out these two photos. The left one is the bad backswing, the other is the good backswing. Looking at the bad one, you can see that my wrists aren’t hinged fully and my left arm is bent. This creates a narrow swing arc with a lack of power and control. Second, my left shoulder and head aren’t behind the golf ball, so I’m poised to make a steep, over-the-top swing with a reverse-pivot. This combination of swing flaws leads to high, weak slices and off-center hits.
Look at the good backswing, starting with the hands. A lot of my students think that a good backswing means the hands and club are high above the body at the top. That’s a myth. A good position for the hands is one with the arms extended, the wrists fully hinged and the clubface parallel to the left forearm. This will create a lot of width and leverage. Second, the body must rotate instead of lifting up and down. The proper rotation of the shoulders puts the left shoulder and head behind the ball and increases the weight distribution on my right side. I have a lot more torque in this position than I do in the faulty backswing, where I’ve done no more than lift my arms and “fake” a strong backswing.
So check your swing position at the top and see if you’re “faking it.” If so, concentrate more on hinging the wrists and rotating the body. If you do, your weight will shift automatically and you’ll be poised at the top of your swing to make a strong downswing into the golf ball.
Karen Nannen, PGA, is the director of instruction at Desert Highlands Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.