It all starts with the backswing – but the backswing starts with the takeaway. Jack Nicklaus referred to the takeaway as the most important 18 inches of the swing. Nicklaus realized that beginning the swing correctly makes it much easier to set the club properly at the top of the backswing. On the other hand, starting the swing incorrectly forces many compensations and extra movements throughout the rest of the swing. Extra movements and compensations often lead to poor contact. Check out our three keys to make sure you start every swing great.
1. Low and Slow
“Low and slow” is one of the most famous expressions used to describe the golf swing. It refers to using big muscles to start the swing, initiated by the left shoulder. Many players begin their swing by snatching the club back or picking it up. Mistakes occur when the hands or wrists initiate the first movement. Start to bring the club back using your torso and shoulders, not your wrists and forearms.
The swing continues with the clubhead traveling back as low as possible, for as long as possible. The hands should also stay low while the club starts the backswing. A smooth and slow tempo sets up the proper sequence of movements to follow. The lower body should remain still as the club starts moving back.
2. Club Face Position
The hands will have a direct impact on the position of the club face throughout the swing. Therefore, gripping the club correctly is extremely important. A weak grip will tend to leave the club face open while a strong grip will likely result in a closed club face. As the club head begins back, make sure the face is square. Once the left arm is extended back, the left thumb and the toe of the club face should point toward the sky. When the club is parallel with the ground, you should see approximately 2 knuckles on the left hand. Additionally, the back of the left hand should face to the front rather than up toward the sky or down toward the ground.
Practice the following drill to understand the proper sequence of movements. Without a club, take a set-up position with the feet shoulder width apart, with a slight knee flex and forward bend at the waist. Allow your left arm to hang down. Now take your left hand and reach to the left as if you’re going to shake someone’s hand. The left arm should extend back while the thumb points up and the outside of your hand faces in front of you. Again, very little movement is created other than in the left arm and shoulder.
3. Swing Path
Swing the clubhead straight back from the ball to start the swing. This motion is created by pushing the left arm back to start the takeaway. Swing faults occur when the clubhead begins to swing back inside or outside the target line.
Practice the correct takeaway by placing a tee in the ground approximately 20 inches behind the ball. Swing the club back and allow the clubhead to hit the tee in the ground. This drill will help keep the clubhead low during the takeaway. In addition, it will help direct the proper path away from the ball. If you swing the clubhead inside or outside the target line, you will miss the tee.