So we are in the back garden again, this time armed with a club, in this case a 7 iron will do nicely. In the last post I described the simple backswing core motion is when armed with simple thoughts. These were – brace your left knee to prevent too much movement to the right and prevent undue hip rotation, then rotate your left shoulder under your chin. We are now going to add the arms and club into the equation and build the full simple backswing.
Let me go a little into my concept of the simple backswing first. The only purpose of the backswing is to get us into the correct position at the top of the swing. If we are in the correct position at the top, how we got there is immaterial. Logic tells me that the best way of getting there is the easiest way. The easiest way has to be the way that keeps the greatest level of connection between the arms and the body. When there is connection we have sensory reference points to guide us. When there is connection the swing remains tight and compact with less margin for error. When there is connection and an early wrist cock its even easier.
One of the most crucial aspects for making the backswing effortless and simple is an early wrist cock. As far as I am concerned you can complete the wrist cock (to the point where the shaft is at about 90 degrees to your arms) as soon as you like. The more the wrists are cocked the easier it is to lift the club up to the top. I like to encourage the feeling that my straight left arm and hand is pushing down against the grip and the right hand which is pulling the club back against this into a cocked position. Once your wrist cock is complete the club is far more controllable and easier to lift and place where you want it. An early wrist cock also emulates in reverse what happens in the down swing where you hold the wrist cock till as late as possible.
Conventional instruction tells us to take the club away low and slow. It tells us to keep both arms straight initially and swing the club back along the line to start the back swing. It emphasizes width and extension and generally leaves the golfer baffled, confused and in the wrong position at the top. I am going to show you an easy way to get into the right position at the top. You are going to know you are in the right position because you have been watching golf on television and you are standing where you can see your reflection when you practice this.
Take up the address position with your club. Both arms should be straight and your hands should be about 3 inches in front of the ball position so that the shaft is inclined forwards from the ball. Your arms should fall naturally from your shoulders which will mean there is an angle between the club shaft and your arms.
The first movement of the simple backswing is to take the club head backwards away from the ball. Keep your arms straight for the first few inches of movement then begin to cock your wrists and start start bending your right elbow. Your right elbow will make contact with your body. From this point until near the top of your swing where your right elbow is physically pulled away from your body, your right elbow must stay in close contact with your body. This is important. Your straight left arm will pull across your chest and stay tightly in contact with your chest right up to the top of the backswing. It must also stay straight throughout the swing.
As you start taking the club away from the ball start the left shoulder turn as described in the last post. Remember to brace your left knee against too much movement to the left. The transition from your left shoulder position at address to the point at which it is under your chin should end at the point where you are at the top of your back swing, so don’t rush it. Develop the feeling that the left arm is guiding the process and your bent right arm is lifting the arms to the top.
Continue lifting the club up and back, complete your wrist cock early and keep turning the shoulders. Your straight left arm as it swings across your chest and up to the top will eventually pull your right upper arm away from your body. Allow this to happen and you are at the top. Your club shaft should now be horizontal and aligned with the target. If you open your hands and drop the club from this position it should fall onto the point of your right shoulder. If it does you are in the correct position at the top. Look at your reflection. How does it look?
Is your left arm at about 90 degrees to the shaft? Is your back facing the target? Is your left knee still braced and your weight evenly distributed between your feet. Tick these off and you should be looking good. You should be feeling coiled, balanced and powerful. Its a tough position to hold so don’t hang on too long.
Now what is vitally important in the simple backswing is that the contact between your upper arms and body together with your shoulder turn is guiding and controlling this whole procedure. Your arms are not out there waving in the breeze. They have firm definitive contact with your core and move appropriately. Your early wrist cock also ensures that your club is not out there waving in the breeze. it is close to you and easy to control.
There is much said about swing “plane” in golf instruction literature. Your swing plane can be defined as a line drawn between your club head at address and your club head at the top of the swing when viewed from the side. Ideally your club head should follow that line during its journey from the bottom to the top. This is not hugely important during the backswing. It is far more important in the down swing and we will deal with that in a later post.
Return to the address position. Without moving your arms cock your wrists so that the club is horizontal. From this position complete your backswing right up to the top. Remember to keep your arms in contact with your core and to rotate your shoulders. How easy was that? How are you looking at the top? I am not suggesting you perform your backswing from this position when actually playing golf. You could, but you need to establish the correct distance from the ball and you need the club head on the ground to do this.
So that is the simple backswing. It might seem that there are a lot of instructions in this post but most of these are something you can refer back to if you feel the need. The simple part of this are:
(2) Early wrist cock
(3) Shoulder rotation driven by the left shoulder
Practice this repeatedly without a ball, don’t worry yet about the down swing. The connectivity and early wrist cock will soon engrave themselves in your subconscious, your trigger will become your left shoulder. Get comfortable with this motion.
Above all, stay balanced. Feel poised, athletic, confident. this is very important. I will shortly add some images to these posts to make the simple backswing clearer.
One last thing. Although the horizontal shaft at the top is the “correct” top position, short of this (ie. club head higher than the hands) is fine. Past this (club head lower than the hands) is not. Don’t force yourself to get it horizontal if its not comfortable.