The golf swing can be split into two parts; the backswing where the power is built, and the forward swing where the ball is struck. Here is a tip to gain more control and maximize distance by understanding the length of the backswing.
The backswing is all about load - the creation of power. The only reason for turning backwards away from the ball in the golf swing is to build tension in the muscles by winding the upper body against the lower body. This tension stretches the muscles across the mid-section and upper body creating a spring like effect which means that the golfer can turn much quicker through the ball in the forward swing as the body unwinds. The question is: How long should the backswing be?
To perform a controlled backswing, the bigger muscles of the shoulders and hips should be used to power the motion rather than the smaller muscles of the arms and hands. This allows the mid-section of the body to turn against the legs creating more tension and a bigger wind up. This also gives more consistency and control as there are less movements made when the bigger muscles are used than when the smaller muscles are in use.
To control the smaller muscles, the shoulders, hands and arms should all stay in connection together throughout the backswing. At a good set up, the hands are positioned directly opposite the sternum, or centre of the chest. When turning back in the swing, the goal is to swing so that the shoulders are turned as far as possible around the spine so that the back is facing the target. At this point for maximum consistency, the hands should still be opposite the centre of the chest with the front arm nice and straight pointing to the side, directly away from the target. This ensures that the bigger muscles are powering the swing and that the swing becomes simple and repeatable without losing power. Many golfers believe that the club should get to 'parallel' or point to the target at the top of the golf swing. This really isn't the case as the only way that this position can be achieved is through incredible strength and flexibility or to lose the connection between the arms and the body at some point during the swing.
Flexibility, strength and age all affect how far the body will be able to coil and turn in the backswing. It is not about turning the club to a certain point, it is about finding your own personal limit. Once your own personal limit is found then you can explore whether you want to, or can, expand on that limit with strength and flexibility exercises.
To find out how far it is possible to turn in the backswing, take a golf club and assume set up position. Hold the golf club across the chest so that it is in line with the shoulders. Whilst keeping the feet flat on the floor turn backwards into the backswing as far as possible. Hold this position and note where the club is pointing. For example is it 4, 5, 6, or 7 o'clock? Set up again as normal to hit a proper golf shot and turn back to the same position. This time make sure that the hands are opposite the centre of the chest. You may need to push them wider away from the body to achieve this and this may feel very tight as you are finding your limit. Practice this a number of times to feel your limit and then try it with a ball.
This swing may feel too short at first but with practice your timing will change and the shots will become more consistent and powerful.
Backswing Length How Far – Senior Golf Tip
The backswing is the action that sets the stage for the actual hitting of the golf ball. While you can't hit a great shot with a backswing alone, you certainly can put yourself in a great position to strike the ball accurately when you come down into impact. If you make a good backswing, most of the hard work will be done - you will simply have to commit to an aggressive downswing in order to achieve a clean strike. Take the time necessary to master a consistent and fundamentally-sound backswing and you will be a big step closer to quality ball striking.
One of the main variables in the backswing is the length of the motion itself. How far should you take the club back before changing directions and moving forward? Should you simply swing back as far as possible, or only as far as necessary to create some speed for the downswing? These questions don't necessarily have simple answers, but you will need to sort through them in order to have a clear picture as to what you are trying to do with the club.
If you fall into the category of being a senior golfer, you might be dealing with another backswing issue - flexibility. Making a big turn away from the ball requires a tremendous amount of flexibility, which is something that is harder to come by as we age. No one is immune to the effects of time, and even a physically-fit senior golfer will likely not enjoy as much flexibility as they did in their younger years. A reduction in flexibility will require you to make some intelligent adjustments so that you can still create speed and hit good shots even without the big turn you might have made in your younger years.
There is no reason a senior golfer can't shoot great scores - a fact that is proven by the players on the Champions Tour on a weekly basis. Even though the former PGA Tour players who now do their work on the Champions Tour may not hit the ball as far as they once did, the quality of golf that they play is still first class. Most of the skill parts of golf - putting, chipping, shaping shots, course management, etc. - have nothing to do with power. Sure, power is one part of the game, but there are many other factors that have to come together in order to create a good golfer.
Don't let the fact that your backswing is getting a little shorter frustrate you when it comes to the state of your game. By tweaking your swing technique, and altering your approach to the game as a whole, you should still be able to work toward great scores while having plenty of fun on the course. One of the reasons golf is such a popular game is because it is something that can be enjoyed in the senior years - but you don't have to be resigned to just knocking the ball around the course. If you wish to take your game seriously, there are plenty of exciting accomplishments waiting to be achieved.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Perfect Backswing Length
There is actual a rather simple definition for the perfect backswing length in the game of golf. You should swing the club back as far as you can without losing your balance. That's it. If you can follow that rule, you will have your backswing length down just right. Of course, it will be a little harder to execute that sentence than it is to write it, but the objective is very clear. Turn to your right as long as you can without losing your balance, and stop before your weight moves out of position to one side or the other.
In an effort to make a long backswing, many golfers - senior players and younger players alike - will force the club to move too far back, and they will lose their balance as a result. Nothing that you can do in your swing is worth losing your balance. Maintaining balance is the number one key fundamental in the game of golf, and it should always take precedence over everything else. If you can stay on balance, you will stand a good chance at hitting the ball solidly, so don't sacrifice your balance under any circumstances. If you can make a long backswing while also keeping your balance, that's great - but don't even consider giving up the balance for an extra few inches of turn.
What does it feel like to lose your balance is the backswing? For most people, losing balance on the way back means sliding to the right and getting too much weight on the right foot. You want to keep your weight evenly distributed between your two feet during the backswing - there shouldn't be much lateral motion involved in your swinging motion at all. If you can get to the top of the swing with your weight balanced between your two feet, you will be well-prepared for an aggressive and powerful downswing. A backswing that is too long will start to pull you onto that back foot, and nothing good is going to happen from there. During your practice sessions, be particularly aware of the danger of getting stuck on your back foot at the top of the backswing.
One of the things that many golfers don't understand is that the backswing should be pretty much the same length regardless of which club you have in your hands. Most players think that they need to make a longer swing with the driver, but that simply isn't the case. The shape and size of your swing should remain constant, although your backswing will look longer when you are swinging a club such as the driver simply because the club itself is longer. However, the body rotation that you make should be largely the same, as should your aggression through the ball. You don't want to intentionally swing harder with a long club - apply the same rhythm and tempo to your swing with every club if you wish to receive consistent results.
The only way to get comfortable with using the right backswing length is simply to practice it over and over again. Hit a bucket of balls at your local driving range while focused on nothing but backswing length to improve your ability in this area. The nice thing about practicing backswing length is that it can be so incredibly simple - just focus your attention on your balance, and make sure your swing is stopping prior to your balance getting out of control. Rarely will you get the chance to work on something so simple in your golf swing. As a habit, try working on backswing length for at least a few swings during each practice session so that you quickly become comfortable with the perfect amount of turn for your game.
Finding Extra Rotation
As a senior golfer, you are likely looking for extra distance anywhere you can find it. Even a few extra yards would go a long way toward helping you reach par fours and par fives in regulation. Beyond just being able to reach the greens in regulation, longer drives mean shorter approach shots, which should help you create more birdie and par chances. Any way you look at it, more distance on your shots is a good thing - as long as you stay balanced enough to control that distance effectively.
Backswing length directly correlates to power in your swing because a longer backswing means a longer downswing, and a longer downswing will provide you with more time to accumulate speed. Therefore, adding just a few inches of turn away from the ball to your backswing could lead to additional club head speed when you arrive at impact. Unfortunately, as you get older, that extra turn is going to be hard to come by. You are going to have to work hard just to maintain the turn that you do have, and even that will likely be eroded as the years go by.
So what are you to do? Following are three basic tips that can help you lengthen your backswing without having to change anything about your physical capabilities.
- Let the left heel come up. One of the most-popular ways for senior golfers to lengthen their backswings is to allow the left heel to come up off the ground slightly at the top of the swing. This is a move that is used by players of all ages, but it is particularly effective for those who lack the flexibility to otherwise make a big turn. As the club moves up toward the top of the swing, let the motion of your swing pull your left heel up off the ground and you should be able to keep turning farther than you could have if the heel stayed down. There are two points that you need to keep in mind when using this technique. First, you should be letting the heel come up naturally rather than forcing it off the ground. It should be 'pulled' up by the momentum that you create in the backswing, not because you stand up onto your toe intentionally. Also, balance remains critically important even if you are using this move. Don't lose your balance at the top of the swing for any reason, even if you are trying to make a longer turn. If you can't keep your balance while letting your heel come up, you will need to find a different method to lengthen your swing.
- Open the right foot. Another way to make some more room in your backswing is to open up your right foot at address. As you turn away from the ball, your right leg will provide 'resistance' that serves to shorten the overall length of your swing. You have to turn against your knee in order to complete the backswing, and that move can get harder as you get older. Opening your right foot even a few degrees when you take your stance will make it easier to turn away from the ball without putting undue stress on your leg or your lower back. Unfortunately, this adjustment comes with a downside that you will need to monitor. With your right foot open, it is easy to drift onto the right leg in the backswing, which is exactly what you should be working to avoid. Even though you are making it easier to turn right, you still don't want to slide right and fall off balance. It will take some practice to find the right combination of making it easier to rotate while still holding your balance at the same time.
- Stand slightly farther from the ball. When flexibility is a concern, you will likely find it easier to make a round swing as compared to an upright one. If you stand farther away from the ball, you will be able to swing the club around your back as opposed to up over your shoulder. This is an easier way to swing the club when you are trying to make a long backswing while staying on balance. Only highly flexible people will be able to make a big turn and an upright swing at the same time, so rounding out your motion is a great idea as you get older. Move yourself just a couple inches back from the ball at address and your swing will automatically need to become flatter in order to strike the ball cleanly.
You can use any of the three tips above, or a combination of them, in order to lengthen your swing as a senior golfer. As you are working on these points, always keep in mind the overriding theme of balance. If you are able to successfully work these tips into your swing, but you lose your balance along the way, your game will not be improved. Like anything else in golf, practice time is going to be the key when it comes to integrating these points into your game. Nothing in golf comes easy, so be prepared to work hard on the range in order to make the proper adjustments to your technique.
Take a Break
What do you do with the golf club when you reach the top of your backswing? If you are like most golfers, you change directions and immediately start moving the club down toward impact. Unfortunately, that is a mistake. When you get to the top of the swing, the club should take a little bit of time to just 'pause' before it starts down. Why? So that your body has time to get out in front of the club in the downswing rotation. Your body should always be leading the way in the downswing, but it won't be able to do that successfully if you rush the club from the top.
The easiest way to give the club a break at the top of the swing is to focus your attention on the movement of your lower body. As you are finishing your backswing, you should be thinking about how you can engage your lower body to turn toward the target aggressively. Your left hip should get started by opening up toward the target, which will set of a series of events which will culminate with the club ripping through the hitting area. At no point should this process be rushed - you want to take your time at each step along the way. Remember, the only time the club needs to be moving quickly is the moment when it hits the ball, so allow everything to develop gradually until impact arrives.
When you start to do a better job of using your lower body to move the club through the hitting area, you will realize just how important it is to make a full backswing. The physical distance between the ball and your club at the top of the swing is the only distance you have to work with when trying to build speed. If that distance is short, you will never be able to maximize your power with any of your clubs. You don't have to make the longest backswing in golf history, but you should be working to make your best possible turn in order to give yourself space to accelerate into impact.
If you take some time on the driving range to work on pausing the club slightly at the top of the backswing, you will notice one major hurdle right away - your body wants to resist this change because it feels like you won't be able to hit the ball very hard. The sensation that you get in your hands and arms is counterintuitive, as you will think that you need to rush your hands toward impact to develop speed. It is up to you to fight this feeling and trust the fact that you can build great speed just by using your lower body to pull the club down from the top. The most powerful swings are the ones that are focused on body rotation, rather than hand and arm action.
There should be no rush in the golf swing. Once you have worked out how far you need to move the club back in your backswing, the only other job you have to do is to take your time between the top of the swing and impact. You want to take your time, building speed gradually, until you unleash everything that you have into the ball.
Continue to Practice
If you are a senior golfer, there is a good chance you have been playing the game for twenty or thirty years, or even longer. If that is the case, you might be tempted to give up on practicing and just accept that you aren't going to get any better. After all, if you haven't gotten any better after this much time, you aren't going to improve now, right? Not necessarily. There is always more to learn in the game of golf, and you never know when it is all going to 'click'. Part of the fun of golf is the quest for continual improvement, and there is no reason to give up on that goal just because you have been playing the game for a long time.
Of course, you will want to make smart decisions when it comes to practice in order to keep yourself on the course for as long as possible into the future. Your body won't respond to long practice sessions the way it once did, so hitting hundreds of balls at a time likely isn't a good idea. Instead of going for sheer volume, focus instead of the quality of the shots that you hit on the range. Take your time between each swing to make sure you are executing your swing technique properly. Pick specific targets, change frequently between clubs, and get the most out of every single shot that you hit. Your practice sessions might not be as long as they once were, but they can be productive just the same.
Finding the right backswing length is important for all players, but it is specifically important if you are in the 'senior' category. Some aspects of the game get harder with age, but the experience that you have accumulated on the course will help to offset those new challenges. By knowing exactly how far back you are going to take the club, and by using a few little tricks to squeak out an extra bit of turn, you can maintain the quality of your game for years into the future. Golf is supposed to be the game of a lifetime, so don't give up on your goals of shooting great scores simply because you have passed the retirement age. Keep working on your game, keep having fun, and your best golf just may lie ahead of you.