A Fresh Look at The Backswing

with Kevin Haime, PGA of Canada Class A Professional

If you want to become a better, more consistent golfer, it’s time to take a look at the way your body moves as you swing the club around you. Better body motion will lead to better balance, more stability and the ability to generate effortless power and club head speed.

The main reason that a pro’s swing looks so simple and hits the ball so far is the proper winding and unwinding of the body in sequence. Better players use the big muscles of their core, back and legs to generate a lot of their power and speed. Think about it for a second. Your arms swing as far around you as a pro’s arms do and you might even have the same driver as they do so why does their ball fly so much farther than your ball flies? The secret is all in using all the big muscles of the body.

The unfortunate truth is that most golfers never really learn how to wind and unwind their body properly. Average Joes and Jills are all moving around a lot when they swing but very few of them are properly coiling muscles against each other to really develop torque and leverage during the swing. 

Let’s take a fresh perspective on things by looking at your golf swing from a different angle. In trying to get my students to understand the proper way to wind up their bodies I often film them from behind. This view is rarely used in teaching, but it really helps explain whether or not your body is moving the right way as your arms swing up and down.

During your backswing your upper body should actually be winding up against your lower body like a spring. This wind up, or pivot, creates all the leverage and stored up power you’ll need to unwind from the ground up to start your downswing. If you wind up properly, starting your downswing with your legs and hips like you’re supposed to is both easy and instinctive. 

Unfortunately, most golfers don’t wind up properly in their backswing. Some golfers lift or dip, other golfers shift or slide but very few wind up and create that spring load energy you need from your body.

Loading into the backswing

In the photo above, note 3 important angles for a proper and powerful top of backswing body position. My upper body has maintained the same spine tilt angle that I had at address. Notice how my upper body tilts slightly away from the target as I swing my arms up indicating that I’m behind the ball and simply turning my chest back as I swing my arms. My waist is nice and level which shows that I am winding up into my back leg to create the spring loading that I’m looking for. Lastly, my back leg has maintained the same position it had at the start of my swing. Maintaining that angle and keeping the weight on the inside of your back foot is the most essential element to winding up properly and creating the resistance you need to start your downswing from the ground up.

A poor backswing motion

By contrast, look at the photo above and you’ll see a position I see every day on my lesson tee. In this photo the vertical swing of my arms has really affected my body motion. My body has literally tilted and slid as my arms swing up. The result is a reverse spine tilt, a tilted waist and a straightened back leg. From this position it’s really difficult to swing the club down properly into the ball. In golf, if you want a better downswing and a balanced finish start paying more attention to your top of backswing position. Without a solid top of backswing body position, it’s all but impossible to swing properly into the ball.

Next time you’re practicing, capture your top of backswing position from this behind angle on your smart phone. It will clearly show you whether or not you’re wound up and ready to unwind into the back of the ball with speed and power.