What are the best drills to improve your backswing?
9 Professionals Contributed
Backswing Secrets: Key Fundamentals
Improving the backswing is a mighty goal of many players- even top professionals work on this part of the swing! However, it’s important to realize that a good backswing is derived from a quality grip and set-up position paired with athletic body motion in the takeaway. If these fundamentals are correct, the backswing becomes more of a result of athleticism, rather than mere positions a player must consciously work on.
If you struggle with gripping the club in a way that accurately controls the club face and allows for proper wrist motion, see a local professional who can provide some direction. The grip is critical in allowing a player to load the club in a powerful manner whilst providing control of the face. If the grip is misaligned a good backswing becomes nearly impossible. The grip matters- make sure yours is functional.
Next, set-up elements of body alignment and posture factor are key. Assure an athletic stance that allows for good range of motion. Many amateurs set-up unbalanced- make sure your weight is in the middle of your feet- not out on the toes or back on the heels.
Lastly, a player’s body motion (sequencing) in the takeaway has a tremendous effect on what the club, hands, and arms will do in the backswing. I prefer to see players make a small but early shift into their trail side immediately in the takeaway. By the time the club is halfway back, you should feel like the transition has already begun.
Focusing attention on the grip, set-up, and takeaway will provide the most backswing dividends for the majority of amateur players.
3 Drills I’ve Used Before
*Here are 3 great drills below (that I have used many times before) to teach my students how to improve their backswings.*
1. The Full Length Mirror Drill:
It really helps to see the positions you’re in while you make them so that the next time you have to repeat that correct position over the ball, you can do it purely by feel with no visual. So, try to get in front of a full length mirror as much as you can to see and feel yourself in the right positions, both from a face on and down the line view.
2. The Set Drill:
There are 3 parts to the swing (in my opinion). We can talk about them more in detail if you want to contact me at a later point for a lesson. They are set, turn and swing. That’s just what I call the 3 parts of the swing and it really is that mechanically simple. The rest of it lies between your ears and in the middle of your chest! So, the set drill is a drill where you work on setting the club with your non-dominant hand in the backswing to create a 90 degree angle with the shaft and your non-dominant arm. There’s more to it than that, but that’s a good start. That first move back really sets you up for a lot of success or failure.
3. The 1 Hand Sand Wedge Drill:
If you have taken lessons with me, I encourage many of my students to do this drill, as if your backswing is off, you’re sure to fail. It’s the 1 hand sand wedge drill. If you come to understand the basics of set, turn and swing in the golf swing with me, one of the best ways to practice with your first 1/4 balls or so on the range is to hit non-dominant hand / arm (one hand / arm) sand wedges. Just try to make solid contact and get the ball anywhere in the air with some distance to start and then build up to more full swings. This is also a great drill to build trust, which is a huge part of any good swing!
Use Your Time Wisely
For most amateur’s time is a big issue, they need to have a good plan on how practice when they get the time. Most amateur’s I coach need to improve their pivot (rotate in their tilt better) and get a wider / more out hand path going to the top. I believe they can do most of their pivot work in a mirror (at home) and then do their hand path work on the range using barriers (like the up and under drill).
There are a thousand reasons a player could be hitting the ball poorly, but I think one thing that’ll help most golfers is a one-piece takeaway where everything works together. To practice this, setup in 2 steps:
1) Take your regular setup with hands dangling out over your toes
2) Leaving your right hand where it is, pull up on the club with the left hand until the butt of your club is touching your stomach, right by your belly button. You should still be in your setup posture. Remarry your left hand to your right hand so you’re gripping down on the shaft.
Once you get into this position, try starting your backswing. If you’re very armsy, the club will immediately detach from your body. Let the shoulders, core, and hips rotate with the arms to bring the club back so it stays attached to your stomach. When the club is nearly parallel to the ground, you’ll see the club still very much in front of you with lots of body and shoulder rotation. I think that’s a great feel, drill, and visual for most golfers.
Assistant Golf Professional
El Caballero Country Club, Tarzana, CA
"You don't hit the ball with your backswing sonny!"
Pretty funny story about a tour pro that was new on the Ben Hogan staff and asked Ben to watch him hit some balls. Ben watched and gave him a tip that had to do with something in the down swing. The player though, asked a question about his backswing….”You don’t hit the ball with your backswing sonny!” was Ben’s reply and then he walked away. I can only speculate that Ben didn’t have a problem with the players backswing but wanted him to focus on a simple downswing thought…and didn’t have time to explain it.
The backswing is important though because it will set in motion a swing that is correct and repetitive or it will hurt the swings chances of creating a correct and repetitive impact and ball flight. When we teach kids to make full swings, we talk in terms of “Ferris Wheels” and “Merry-Go-Rounds” or something in between. When we see a young player having a tough time getting the ball in the air because their swing is too flat or shallow…we’ll ask them for some more Ferris Wheel to give them some more up and down in their swing.
If the player is coming over the top in the downswing and too steep….we will ask for some more Merry-Go-Round in the backswing to give them some more in and out in their swing.
It really boils down to this…the swing has a shape that is both upwards and inwards on the backswing and outward and downwards on the downswing then upwards and inwards again on the follow through. When these elements create somewhat of an in to in swing shape then good shots can happen. If it has too much “in to out” or “out to in” then bad shots will happen. Ideally the swing shape will have an “in to in” shape. Your job is to find out if you need some more Ferris Wheel or more Merry-Go-Round.
You have a 50/50 chance of correcting your backswing mistake on the very next swing. If you are not hitting it well, go the range and hit a few balls with a more upright swing, then a flatter swing. Observe which helped you make solid contact and create a better ball flight.
How to find your natural backswing position
Here is a drill I use when my students can’t seem to get a feel for their backswing and are getting too technical and consequently confused. Take your stance then swing up to a three quarter follow through hold it for a couple of seconds then swing it back down so it has enough momentum to swing into a backswing. You’ll find a good swing plane and your body is going to move in a natural way.
Think Baseball, Hockey, or Tennis
Have you ever hear someone say I can’t play this game because I have too much of a baseball or hockey swing? Perhaps what they are really telling you is that they really weren’t very good a baseball or hockey, because good base ball, tennis, and hockey players learn golf very quick!
The backswing for golf is very similar to a backswing made in Tennis, Hockey or Baseball. If you think your backswing is to flat think upright baseball, to upright think of a flatter hockey swing. I really is that simple!
Keep it simple
The backswing positions the club and your plane. Low and slow is good advice for most. The shoulders will set your plane and most will depend on your stature. Better yet, I like the the drill that Justin Rose often uses. Hold your angle close to impact and all will be okay. Repeat and repeat.
"Hands touch the sky"
Backswings can be short and quick at times…Let’s all of us get our hands to touch the sky on the top of the backswing…Jack Nicklaus in his prime did this the best!