By Lou Thibeault
A common question that arises during conversation about golf is what really initiates the backswing. There are many answers depending on what works for you. Many great touring pros have discussed their own keys to start the backswing. A club head or wrist waggle is always a good way and one that used for many good players. It has also been said that a forward press with the handle of the club prior to the backswing will help the first move away from the ball, but I have discovered that more people who have a difficult time with the backswing benefit from a swing key of having relaxed shoulder sockets. This thought at address as well as during the back and down swing allows the arms and upper torso to go backward and turn to the right in one piece as well as the elimination of upper body force on the downswing. People who look good swinging are usually those players who keep everything moving in one piece. It looks easy because one or more parts of the body are not taking over and creating any type of split action. Everyone cannot swing or move the same and that makes finding your own thoughts and swing keys a difficult thing to do. Because a full golf swing happens so quickly, most players cannot feel the little transitions that interfere with a constant smooth action.
Another frequent question is how far do I swing the club up, or how long should my backswing be? There are a variety of answers due to the fact that everyone is not built the same, possess the same muscle structure or the same range of motion. Consequently, we are back to finding our own feel as to when we have reached the top of our backswing. There seems to be no measuring device to when each person reaches the top of the backswing, but if a player starts their downswing before completing the backswing, the feeling of rushing the club back to the ball or a jerky movement at the top becomes a common improper feel. The shoulder turn and arms take the club up or back only so far and then the wrist cock completes the backswing. Many players like to feel a slight pause before the downswing begins. A different thought takes me to the old adage of, why can’t I swing at the ball the same as my practice swing. I think it is an easy answer, you do not have to hit anything that has to travel any distance. The thought of hitting the ball and swinging the club are two different thoughts with two different actions.
Most people have never seen themselves swing and really do not know what they look like and most have given little thought about starting the backswing. Experimenting with new swing thoughts and developing the same backward movement every time is getting on track for consistency. Changes take time and adopting the changes you need may require many practice sessions. You cannot go to a restaurant one time and say it is a good one or bad one. It could be great the first time and poor the second. Once you try it a few times, the percentages will show it’s either good or bad. I feel that is how you determine whether a swing thought is really good or only worked for a short period of time. A player who will experiment on the practice range for three or four sessions can easily evaluate the good or bad of their new swing thoughts. As I have said before, just hang in there, keep trying and find those swing keys that fit you and practice for perfection.
Lou has been a golf professional since 1953. He has worked at many clubs around the country with his longest connections on Cape Cod and Maine. He was a teaching pro at the Island Country Club in the early 80’s and the head golf pro and Director of golf at The Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island for ten years. He is presently the teaching pro at the Links of Naples.