When it comes to the swing, my golf instruction hinges on a simple idea: The swing is a chain reaction. What occurs at the start of the swing influences what happens at the end. If you execute the takeaway and backswing properly, you’ll hit the ball with accuracy and power. If you don’t, you’ll hit the ball off-line and with little power.
A proper takeaway is critical to a good swing. Like the catalyst in a chain reaction, the takeaway starts everything in motion, as I stress in my golf tips. It introduces width and coordination in the swing, and determines the quality and shape of the shot. In fact, many experts consider the first 30 inches of the takeaway the most crucial point in the swing.
A one-piece movement starts the takeaway. To achieve this, sweep the club back low and slow as your left knee, hip, and shoulder turn to the right. Shift your weight slightly onto the right foot (for right-handers), creating the feeling as if the move was “all arms.” And hold your chin up as you take the club away to allow for a full left shoulder turn.
Here, some golf instruction differs on the position of the left heel. No hard and fast rules state that it should remain planted during takeaway. You’re free to lift it if you have to. I recommend in my golf lessons that you keep it planted as long as you can, creating resistance in the swing. However, if your heel must come up to complete the body-turn, then by all means lift it. It all depends on how flexible you are.
Also, keep your wrists passive until the club reaches the height of your right hip. Cock your writs at this point as you complete the body turn, forming a right angle between the shaft and the left forearm.
This is a good checkpoint. If your wrists form a 90-degree angle and the club is on plane, your takeaway has been sound.
Continue turning your arms and body until you’re at the top of the swing, or in the slot. Your weight is on your right foot and your club is as close to horizontal as possible. Both thumbs are under the shaft.
Next comes a key transition point, one that I really focus on in my golf lessons. It needs to be smooth and unhurried, so don’t rush it. If you do, your swing will be come too narrow.
Many tour players and players with low golf handicaps employee Harvey Penick’s “Magic Move” at this point. It’s ideal for beginning the downswing. And it’s simple.
At the start of the downswing, shift your weight gradually to the left side while, at the same time, bringing your right arm closer to your body. That’s it. It’s a subtle but highly effective move.
The Magic Move flattens out the swing plane slightly, putting it on the ideal position from which to swing the club on the optimum path and deliver the clubhead squared to the ball with power.
The rest of the downswing is basically a reaction to what has come before. Retain the 90- degree angle between the left forearm and club as long as you can. Keep the flex in your knees and the gap between them as the club comes down. And settle your weight gradually on the left side of your body. Finally, make sure you keep your body behind the ball at impact.
At this point, if you’ve executed the takeaway and downswing properly, you’ll return to the same position you assumed at the start of your swing. The rest of the swing should follow naturally.
A good exercise to practice when you can’t get to a driving range is the tire drill. It’s one I sometimes use in my golf lessons.
Take an old tire and line it up where the ball should be in your swing. Then take a club, assume your normal set-up. Execute the takeaway and downswing, hitting the tire instead of the ball. Substitute a golf bag for the tire, if you want. Practice this drill as often as you can. It helps perfect the takeaway and backswing.
Your swing, as I said at the beginning of this golf tip, is like a chain reaction. What happens at the start affects what happens at the end. Practice the sequence detailed here, including Harvey Penick’s Magic Move, and you’re well on your way to developing a consistent, error-free swing—and to a lower golf handicap.