Building A Better Top of Backswing Position

With Kevin Haime, 2000 PGA of Canada Teacher of the Year

Proper arm movement leads to a better backswing

If you want to play better golf, work on a better top of backswing position. There’s no doubt that one of the secrets to consistent ball striking is a simple, athletic, top of backswing position……and very few golfers get themselves into that proper position.

Next time you’re at the driving range or out of the course, notice how many golfers are making their backswings way too complicated, and usually way too long. Knees are swiveling, hips are gyrating, arms are being wrapped around heads, and feet are dancing around like they’re walking on hot coals. It’s a terminal problem I see in at least 70% of the players I work with. For some reason, golfers feel like they need to wind up like tops to hit the ball a few yards farther. If I see ten backswing problems in a day, nine will be too long or over-stretched.

Always remember….the most important thing about your backswing is that it sets you up into an athletic position so that you can swing forward with balance and power. Golf is a forward swinging game. The secret to distance and power is swinging the club forward with more speed. The best advice I can give you is to keep your backswing simple and shorter, because that will help you start your downswing properly so you can become a better ball striker.

Let’s look at 4 keys to a better top of backswing position –

1. Your lower body: Your legs should support and stabilize you during your backswing. Their main task is actually to resist against the turn of the upper body. That resistance winds you up like a spring so that you can unwind from the ground up. It’s important that you allow your hips to turn into your backswing but it’s more important that you maintain flexed and quiet legwork. Your legs and feet should not be major movers during the backswing. Think of them as your foundation. They should stay under you and give you the critical balance you need as you swing the club back and up.

2. Your lead arm: Your lead arm (left arm for right handed player) should swing the club back in a relaxed and extended position. It does not have to stay straight because a straight arm can be tense and actually inhibit range of motion and wrist hinge. However, it’s also a big mistake to bend your lead arm into an L position. A bent lead arm weakens the integrity and the structure of the top of backswing position. Keep your lead arm extended but understand that a little flex or bow is ok.

3. Your back arm: Your back arm (right arm for a right handed player) should swing away from your body and then fold under the club into an L position at the top of the backswing. Gluing your back elbow to your side during the backswing is a big mistake that many golfers make. It actually reduces your swing arc and can trap the club behind you. Just as bad though is lifting your back elbow skyward like a chicken wing in an effort to extend the size of your backswing. One of my favourite lines when describing how the back arm should move during the backswing belongs to Byron Nelson who said “ Your back arm should float and then fold into an L at the top of the swing”.

4. Your chest windup: I’m often asked how far back golfers should swing the club. My answer is always the same – the length of your backswing is dictated by your flexibility. Your arm swing and your chest turn is governed by how far you can turn your hips while keeping the weight on the inside of your back flexed leg. The more flexibility you have the more you can turn your shoulders as long as you don’t over-rotate your hips by straightening your back leg or allowing your weight to sway to the outside of your back leg and foot. Those two extra moves are backswing killers and will prevent you from unwinding forward in the right sequence.

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