Friday, September 20, 2013

Shortened Backswing

Short backswing
Garcia's short backswing.

One of my major problems is that my backswing gets too long; I learned this by studying video from a recent golf lesson. I can get the club to parallel, but the club ends up too close to my shoulders because my arms tend to collapse, decreasing width. This error causes many problems, including a tendency to cast from the top (as the left arm re-straightens) causing a loss of lag; this ironically slows down clubhead speed, even though the point of such a long swing to begin with was to increase speed and thus distance.

The cure? Shorten the backswing. Think short-slow back and then fast down. Maintaining connection is the best way to accomplish a short backswing; keep the upper arms pinned against the sides of the chest throughout the swing. A drill for this when the arms are at fault is to place a small rubber ball between the elbows and practice the backswing without losing the ball; another drill involves using a towel under both arm pits (or similar drills); those drills, however, don't address other ways the backswing can get long, such as too much hip turn, too much wrist hinge, grip coming apart, etc. Usually, it's an arm problem: The arms become disconnected and unsynchronized with the movement of the body.

Essentially, the arms should stop moving upward when the shoulders reach a fully turned position; there's no benefit to continue lifting the arms and club in order to get the club artificially to parallel. The right arm should not be consciously bent at the top; one should think of keeping it straight and pushing the left hand away from one's shoulder. The feeling is of using a 3/4 backswing and full downswing. In reality, the club will continue traveling backwards much further, even though the downswing has started, preserving lag. There's also a sensation that the elbows are staying oriented to the hips, keeping their downward orientation, even though the upper torso is turning away from the hips slightly on the backswing.

When pro golfers reach parallel (or even past it), photos show their hands are pushed well away from their bodies, and their left arm remains straight. Many amateurs--lacking the flexibility or ability of the pros--attempt to manufacture a parallel position by bending the arms or wrists too much, and as a result overswing and get the club off-plane. Instead of generating speed, this goofy looking position actually hinders speed. We long-swinging amateurs would do much better with a shorter backswing; speed and distance would actually increase for most of us, as would consistency.

What if too much hip turn is your problem or part of your problem? Too much hip turn has definitely been one of my problems; it may be yours too if you find your right leg straightening significantly on the backswing or if you notice you pull the ball (an excessively rotated hip turn in the backswing will lead to overly active hips coming down). Clay Ballard of RST has a great thought for limiting hip turn. Imagine your right knee has a laser pointing from it to the target line; try to leave that laser pointing at the target line as you go to the top of your backswing to feel a proper coil with minimal lower body movement. There are other similar ways, but this way definitely will get you coiling better. Another way to diagnose excessive hip movement on the backswing is to see yourself in DTL video; you will notice a gap appearing between your knees if there's too much movement.

All right, if you are still reading, you may want to brace yourself because your game is about to change forever. I know I shouldn't be doing this for free because it's probably the best tip you are ever going to get, but here it is anyway...SHORTEN YOUR BACKSWING!!!!! Probably not the first time you've heard this suggestion, but it is time to heed this advice.

A technician at a local electronics store once told me a truth about electronics that is very relevant to golf, "The more things that move, the more things that can break." Well, the same thing is true for your back swing. When you take a big back swing, your left arm breaks down at your elbow and at your wrists. Strange as it sounds, you also tend to under-rotate your shoulders. Both of these things not only cause you to be wildly inconsistent, but also actually cost you distance. That's right folks, too long of a back swing makes you hit it shorter, not longer. If you maintain a straight left arm, you will rotate your shoulders farther instead of bending your elbow and wrists.

When I tell people to take the club back to about 75% of their normal back swing, they almost all still take the club back past parallel! Parallel is the absolute maximum distance that your back swing should ever go. It is the MAXIMUM, not the GOAL of a normal back swing. You should only take the club back as far as your shoulders allow you to turn without bending your left arm at all.

Shorten Your Backswing For More Control

Most golfers have long swings because their arm swing continues to move after their shoulders have stopped turning. If this sounds like you, try to stop your arm swing once your shoulders have stopped turning. Doing this, you will be able to start your downswing with your lower body instead of starting your downswing with a "casting" motion of your arms and hands.

Local golf: Shorten your swing for better consistency

Slow down and limit the length of your backswing for more consistency.

You don't hit the ball with your backswing, you hit the ball on the downswing. A backswing that is too quick, or too long, can easily get the club out of position, and can prevent you from storing the energy needed for a powerful, consistent downswing.
Golf Swing Video: Shorten Your Backswing For More Consistency
Human nature says that the longer your backswing, the farther you'll hit the ball. But if this was true, why is it that I can hit a ball 300 yards with a three-quarters swing but I can't hit it 400 yards with a longer swing?
How a Longer Backswing Can Lead to Shorter Shots in Golf
It's really this simple: given that clubhead speed equals distance - with all else being equal - if my swing is long yet slow and yours is small but fast, you will get more distance than I will.

While a big backswing tends to promote deceleration, a short backswing does just the opposite.

A short backswing promotes acceleration. Your proverbial win-win. Mentally, it is almost like you don't believe the short backswing will do the trick, so you accelerate to make up for it.

Shorten Your Swing For More Power
Most golfers will gain distance almost immediately by shortening their backswing. A more compact swing not only give you more distance but it also give you more control over your swing and therefor better accuracy as well. The extra effort required to get the club past parallel , which is working against gravity, increases the chance of getting the club in a bad position.
Shorter Backswing
The solution is very simple: shorten up your backswing. Intuitively, golfers feel that this new position will cause them to lose power. But as a recent commenter posted"What I thought would result in a shortening of my shots actually gives me more distance."
The #1 Golf Swing Fault Golfers Over 50 Make
Now that you understand that you don't have to have a long backswing to generate power, how far should you go back? I tell my students that once their shoulder rotation stops, so should the club. You want the shoulder rotation to determine your backswing length instead of your club still going back long after the shoulders have stopped. At first, this shorter backswing will feel like you don't have a lot of power so it will be more difficult to do, but as you get used to it, you will soon see your shots fly just as far, if not farther, with half the backswing.
The Pro's make the golf swing look so easy!

Focus on your left arm. When you are making your backswing, feel like your left arm is going to stop parallel to the ground. In reality it will be further than that, but this is a good starting point.

Along with your left arm is your hands. Think of your hands only going slightly higher than your hip height. Again in reality it will be further.

How to Shorten Your Golf Swing
Jim McLean, currently one of the best teachers on the planet, has a great tip for the over swingers. As his teaching assistant, I saw first hand how effective this simple tip can be. Here it is: When the shoulders stop turning the arms stop swinging. This concept matches the body with the arms on the backswing. It also shortens your backswing for consistency. Most high handicappers allow their arms to continue even after their shoulders stop turning. This leads to a disconnect between the body and arms, and an extra long backswing. All potential for serious inconsistency.
A Shorter and Connected Backswing for Consistency
First and foremost, you are going to get more control by shortening your backswing. The second reason why a short backswing in golf is better has to do with an increase in overall distance. It seems counter-intuitive that a shorter backswing will produce longer golf shots, but that is precisely what happens with the average player. Shortening your backswing will enable you to avoid many back problems that are common to golfers.
Is a short backswing in golf better?
"I recommend that at some point, every golfer practice hitting balls with a three-quarter backswing," said Joe Hallett, the director of the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "Then, when everything seems to be going wrong, you can fall back on the three-quarter backswing shot. It's a nice safety net, and it will solve a lot of problems.
Shorten the Backswing to Calm Things Down

Imagine your backswing as short, wide and tight. As you swing back, make sure your hands are outside your right shoulder halfway back (when your hands are waist high on the backswing). Also, in this position the wrists should be fully cocked.

Easy, Tiger! Shorten your backswing for more accuracy

I have sat on the range watching people hit on a launch monitor and seen this 1000 times if I have seen it once.

A long sloppy arm controlled backswing that produces 80 mph of club speed and 110 mph of ball speed.

Followed by a short compact shoulder controlled back swing, that allows the hips to clear and produces 95 mph of club speed and 140 mph of balls speed.

Then the proverbial, “That shorter back swing feels so powerless, I don’t think I can do that.”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s launch monitor numbers, or just eyeballing a drive that goes 10-20 yards farther, it’s all the same.

Almost every golfer has a backswing that is too long

To get an idea of what I mean by keeping your elbows in front of you, grab a club and take your setup. At this point your elbows are basically right in front of your stomach. From here they will go UP a bit so that they are out in front of your chest, but it's preferable that they don't go anywhere else relative to your upper body.

The Gateway To Better Golf: Elbows in front

Any attempt by the golfer to independently move the arms “around” the chest or “behind you”during the backswing will disrupt this proper V shaped up and down in front of the chest motion, and cause the golfer to “get stuck” with the arms too far behind the chest, i.e. too far to the right side. You will then “come over the Top” during Transition, trying desperately to get “unstuck”, and then of course the severe out to in clubhead path and early wrist cock release occurs, the signature start of the downswing move of the high handicap golfer.

Gotham Golf Blog: Mastering the Craft of Ballstriking By Jim Waldron

The best way to understand where your arms should connect to your body is to stand up straight in your natural posture, letting your arms hang down; if your posture is ok, you will find that you arms hang on the side of your chest. Try and feel where the connection point is because this is the same point when you take your golf address. Connection between arms and body at address should happen more on the side of the chest rather than on top of the chest, with the shoulders remaining back in the natural body’s posture.


There is a trend on the professional tours these days to shorten the backswing with all clubs. Surprisingly, there has been little or no loss of power in doing that. To shorten the backswing, have your arms stop going back when your left shoulder stops turning (for right-handers).

It is risky to keep the arms moving up and back after that shoulder has reached its flexible limit. And don’t consciously cock your wrists. They take care of that by themselves.

Golf Tip of the Week: Shortened backswing helps with accurate distances


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