Today we begin the backswing… The shape of the full backswing is half of an elongated U. The most critical part of the backswing to create this shape is the first eighteen inches of takeaway, here your club head must go straight back along the target line practically skimming the ground.
Accomplishing this first step of a proper backswing will have the shaft of the club, your left hand and arm remaining in an unbroken unit. Your club is now on the right track and the only body parts that have moved are your hands, arms and shoulders. The lack of lower body movement may seem rigid or uncomfortable but is critical for the coiling of the hips to develop a powerful downswing.
As the club gets farther back from the ball, you must lift and extend it upward. When the hands get to waist-high, the right hand cocks the wrist in such a way that the right palm is facing straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. This is where we first take note to keep the right elbow pointing straight to the ground.
In order to achieve complete extension of the club in the backswing, you must set the rest of the body in motion. Your right hip and shoulder turn as if on a swivel. You must keep some “give” in the lower body to develop a free flowing motion. This “give” comes from allowing the left knee to flex to the right until it gets about even with the golf ball.
This brings us to one of the major flaws that strike the average golfer on their backswing… the left heel. The tendency for most players here is to allow the left heel to come up off the ground at this point to “increase” the length of the backswing, and thus they believe, their shot distance. Although this may in some cases be true, what it ultimately does is change the center of our golf swing if the left heel does not return to the exact spot from where it came. This move can be accomplished or even perfected through much practice… take Jack Nicklaus for instance, he played pretty well didn’t he? However I expect that no one reading this article will be putting in the kind of hours, days and years of practice it takes to accomplish this, so “our rule” will be keep the left heel on the ground on the backswing.
These movements should all be slow and deliberate; we should never rush to get the club to the top of our backswing. After all we are not hitting the ball with our backswing, we are getting our body in the position it must be in in order to hit a golf shot. A well timed and properly formed backswing can easily be compared to the pulling back of the hammer of a gun… it won’t fire until you do so.
Next week the downswing and impact…
Fairways and Greens!