Simply put, the takeaway is the beginning of the golf swing. References to the takeaway generally mean the first couple of feet of the swing as the clubhead moves back from the ball.
A proper takeaway engages your arms, shoulders, hips and torso, which must work together throughout the swing. Concentrate on mastering the basics of the takeaway and the rest of your swing will become more natural and fluid.
After you've addressed the golf ball and established your stance and posture, the takeaway starts with your left shoulder (right-handed golfers) and arm simultaneously moving the club away from the ball.
Imagine the arms, wrists and hands forming a triangle, which you keep intact until the hands are even with your right thigh. This is called a “one-piece” takeaway. Focus on keeping the club close to the ground through this part of the swing.
Remember that if your swing doesn't begin smoothly then it will be very difficult for the rest of the swing to be solid.
Tips for Takeaways:
- Concentrate on making a “one-piece” takeaway where your hands, arms and shoulders work-together as one.
- Maintain the flex in your right knee without bending it farther or straightening up. This is where your energy will build for a powerful downswing.
- No quick movements! A smooth takeaway keeps your wrists from hinging too early.
How to Start the Backswing – The Takeaway
In order to have a great finish to your swing, you need to get off to a great start. That might sound simple, but it's true. The first few inches of your swing will have a lot to do with how successful you are when the club returns to strike the ball. There are plenty of moving parts within the golf swing that will affect the outcome of your shot, and the takeaway is one of the most important. Take the time to refine your technique in this crucial part of the swing and your ball striking will quickly improve.
Most amateurs get the takeaway horribly wrong. In fact, a good golf teacher can usually tell how good a golfer is simply by watching their address position and their takeaway. Much of the success or failure of your golf swing will be determined in those early stages. When you get it right, you will stand a great chance to hit a beautiful shot. Get it wrong, however, and there isn't much you can do to get back on track.
Just like everything else in your golf swing, you want to be able to repeat your takeaway over and over again in the same fashion. Consistency is key to quality ball striking, so practicing your takeaway is going to play an important role in your development as a golfer. Working on your takeaway might not be the most exciting thing you can do at the driving range, but it has the potential to pay off in a big way when you step up to the first tee.
The reason that the takeaway is so important is that it sets the course for the rest of the swing in so many ways. Not only will your takeaway determine the path of the club in the backswing, but it will also set your tempo that will be carried through the rest of the swing. For example, players that rush their takeaway will tend to rush the rest of the swing, making it difficult to strike the ball solidly on a consistent basis. In many ways, the takeaway is a microcosm of the rest of your swing. Players with a great looking takeaway tend to have excellent golf swings, while those who struggle with the takeaway will see those struggles continue through the rest of the motion. If you care about playing better golf, you should care about your takeaway.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
The Ideal Takeaway
In order to accomplish the goal of perfecting your takeaway, you need to know what that goal looks like. Creating a clear picture in your head of the ideal takeaway is the first step toward making it a reality in your game. If you don't know what you are trying to accomplish, there is no way you can succeed. A proper takeaway isn't complicated, but there are a few points that you need to pay attention to carefully.
- One piece movement. You will hear the term 'one piece takeaway' if you hang around a golf course or driving range long enough, and for good reason. A one piece takeaway is one in which the hands, arms, and shoulders all work together to slowly move the club head away from the ball. This is a point that many amateur players get wrong. The average golfer will use their hands too much during the takeaway phase of the swing, which forces the club to the inside of the ideal swing path. When you picture a perfect takeaway, visualize a movement where your hands, arms, and shoulders are all working as one.
- Slow at first. Even if you like to play with a faster tempo, the first couple inches of your takeaway should be slow and steady. If you rip the club quickly away from the ball, you won't give your body rotation a chance to keep up with the swing. You should be trying to arrive at the top of the backswing with your shoulders fully rotated away from the target, and that will be tough to do if you race through the beginning of the takeaway. Start the club slowly back from the ball, and you can then accelerate it as necessary through the rest of the swing.
- Low club head. Another common mistake is lifting the club head up into the air immediately away from the ball. While this is a useful technique for some short shots around the green, it can be a disaster on full swings. You want to see the club head moving low along the ground for the first few inches of the takeaway. As you continue to turn, the club head will naturally start to rise into the air due to the rotation of your body. Allow this lifting to happen on its own – there should be no manual effort to help the club head up into the air.
You can boil the three keys above down to just a five word phrase – 'one piece, slow, and low'. As you are going through your practice routine, consider repeating that phrase to yourself over and over again in an effort to improve your takeaway. By meeting those three simple criteria you can be sure that your takeaway is on the right track.
Mastering the One Piece Takeaway Motion
The one piece takeaway motion is not something that comes naturally to most golfers. In fact, this is one of the parts of the swing that will likely require the most effort in order to master. It is natural to want to move the club away from the ball using mostly your hands – which is the wrong way to go about the job. Learn the one piece takeaway and you will find that your ball striking quickly improves.
To get started learning the one piece takeaway in your full swing, you need to actually head to the putting green. Why? Because the same motion that you use in your putting stroke is the one that you want to use early in your golf swing. A good putting stroke is controlled by the arms and shoulders, while the hands remain quiet and simply do their duty of holding onto the grip of the club. The first few inches of your golf swing should look identical to the first few inches of your putting stroke. Only when you get the club more than a foot or so away from the ball should you actually begin to engage your hands in the swing.
As a practice drill, head to the putting green with your putter, another one of your clubs, and a few golf balls. Find a hole that you can use which is cut near to the edge of the green. Place your golf balls down three or four feet from the hole, and set your extra club off to the side. To start, take your putter onto the green and roll in all of the balls you set down near the hole. Since you put the balls on the green within short range of the hole, it should be pretty easy to make most (or all) of the putts.
Once you have rolled all of the balls toward the hole, set your putter down and pick up your other club. Standing off to the side of the putting green, make some practice swings with a specific focus on the takeaway. Think about the putts you just hit, and try to emulate that motion within your takeaway. If you are successful in your effort to copy your putting stroke into your takeaway, you should notice a quiet, controlled motion in the early stages of your swing.
Repeat the drill by going back and forth between the putting green and making practice swings off to the side. Even without hitting any full shots, you can quickly improve your takeaway simply by copying what you are doing with your putting stroke. If you are practicing at a driving that doesn't offer a practice putting green, complete this drill by simply pulling your putter out of the bag at your hitting station. Make a few practice strokes, and then go back to your full swings. The key is to alternate back and forth between the two so you can transfer the feeling of your putting stroke successfully into your takeaway.
The great thing about this drill is that you can use it on the course from time to time if you feel like your takeaway needs to get back on track. There is nothing in the rules of golf prohibiting you from making some practice putting strokes on the tee prior to hitting your drive. If your swing gets out of line at some point during the round, quickly grab your putter to remind yourself of the feeling that you are looking for in the takeaway of your full swing.
Controlling the Tempo of Your Takeaway
Tempo is an important part of the golf swing, but it is a little more difficult to practice than some of the other, more mechanical aspects of your technique. By working on your tempo in the takeaway, you can set the stage for a smooth rhythm throughout the rest of the swing. As long as you have a good tempo early in the swing, you can be confident that you will be able to carry it all the way through to the finish position.
To work on your tempo in the takeaway, consider trying the following drill.
- For this drill, you will need to be at the driving range with a bucket of practice balls. You can use any club for the drill, but a mid-iron would be the best choice.
- Before getting started, pick out a target that makes sense for the club that you are holding. For example, if you choose your seven iron, picking a target somewhere around 150 yards would probably make sense. Every shot that you hit on the range should have a specific target, even if you are working on a drill. Golf is a target oriented game, and you should never miss out on an opportunity to improve your ability to hit the ball at a target.
- With your target in mind, place a ball down in front of you and take your stance. Prepare for this shot just as you would any other shot that you hit. Align the club face at your target, and settle in to a comfortable and athletic address position.
- As you start your swing, keep in mind the lessons that you learned when working on the one piece takeaway. It should be your arms and shoulders, not your hands, that initiate the movement of the club back away from the ball.
- Since this is a rhythm drill, focus on making a smooth takeaway that is not rushed in any way.
- When the club has moved about a foot away from the ball, stop your swing and hold that position. Look down to verify that your one piece takeaway is still intact. Your grip should look exactly as it did at address, and your hand should be nice and relaxed around the club.
- Instead of restarting your swing, you are going to instead return the club back to the address position by reversing your takeaway. Move the club back behind the ball, and set the club head back on the ground once again.
- Repeat this process two more times. Swing the club back a foot or so away from the ball, pause, and then return the club to address.
- After three 'start and stop' repetitions, go ahead and actually hit the shot. Of course, even on the actual 'live' swing, you still want to pay attention to making a smooth, one piece takeaway.
This drill basically allows you to make four total takeaways for each shot that you hit. You will make three false takeaways where you return the club to address, and then the fourth takeaway will actually lead to a full swing. The process of moving back and forth throughout the takeaway phase is a great way to master your tempo. As you go back and forth, it will be easy to feel if you are rushing the motion. The action should feel natural and comfortable – not hurried and sudden. Continue working on the drill until you are satisfied with the tempo of your takeaway.
It is important to note that your takeaway doesn't have to be extremely slow to be effective. You will be better off with a slow tempo within the first few inches of the takeaway, but that doesn't mean you have to move at a snail's pace. The key element is that you need to maintain a smooth and even tempo throughout the swing. After you slowly start the club away from the ball, you can then speed up the swing to a pace that comes naturally to you. That ideal pace is different for everyone, so it is something that you will need to discover for yourself. Allow the first two or three inches of the swing to happen slowly, and then feel free to find your own pace.
Improve Your Takeaway with this Low Club Head Drill
In addition to making a one piece motion and maintaining a good tempo, the third fundamental in the takeaway is keeping the club head low to the ground. This is yet another skill that you can improve with the assistance of a drill. Spend some time with this last drill and you will not only learn how to keep your club head low to the ground, but you will also improve your ability to swing the club back on the proper plane.
Follow along with the steps below to complete this drill successfully.
- You can execute this drill at the driving range or at home. When you do the drill at the range, you can hit some shots as part of the drill. At home, obviously, you will be limited to 'dry' swings (practice swings without hitting a ball).
- The best club to use for this drill is your five iron, although any long or mid-iron should work just fine. In addition to your club, you will need one golf ball (this ball will not be hit).
- Set up for the drill by placing the ball down on the ground. Get into your address position as you would for any other shot, except you are going to place the club head down in front of the ball instead of behind it. Of course, you should have a target for the swing, even if you aren't going to actually hit a shot.
- As you start your swing, your goal is to roll the golf ball away from the target. Picture a line running from your target through your club head, and back to your right. The idea is to use the back of your club to roll the ball along the ground following this imaginary line as closely as possible.
- As the club starts to rise into the air, it will lose contact with the ball. Allow the ball to roll away as you continue your swing. You can finish the rest of the practice swing with your regular technique.
- If you are at the range and would like to hit balls while doing this drill, simply add another ball to your setup. Place one ball in front of your club head, and one behind. Once you have rolled the back ball away, the forward ball will still be waiting for you to hit on the downswing.
This drill actually reinforces some of the same ideas that you learned during the previous drills. In order to successfully roll the ball back away from the target, you are going to need to use a one piece takeaway. Also, to roll the ball gently back (as opposed to hitting it off the back of your club), you will need to use a smooth, even tempo. In fact, if you can successfully execute this drill, you should feel confident that your takeaway as a whole is in good condition.
It is important to work hard on your takeaway on the practice range – because this is one part of the swing that is easy to lose track of once you hit the course. As you move through a round of golf, it is easy to allow yourself to get in a hurry. When you hurry, you start to do everything faster, including making your golf swing. As your takeaway speeds up, the rest of your swing will speed up with it, and the results won't be pretty. By spending plenty of practice time on teaching yourself the proper fundamentals of the takeaway, that phase of your swing will be less likely to get out of hand on the course.
In general, full practice swings are a waste of time. Most golfers don't replicate their practice swing when they step up to the ball, so there is little point to using them. However, the same can't be said of a practice takeaway. There is great benefit in standing behind your ball and rehearsing your takeaway once or twice before you step up to hit the shot. Add a practice takeaway to your pre-shot routine to increase the chances of maintaining a good takeaway all the way through your next round.
Don't get so caught up in complicated swing thoughts that you forget about mastering the basics. The takeaway is certainly one of the more mundane parts of the swing – but it is also one of the most important. Use the drills provided above to teach yourself what the proper takeaway looks and feels like, and your golf swing will be better for the exercise.