A wide backswing arc -- the path traveled by the clubhead when looking at a golfer face-on -- is a common component of big hitters' golf swings.
Creating this arc starts with a low takeaway in which the wrists do not begin to cock or hinge until the hands reach waist height.
To widen your arc with a low takeaway, practice maintaining the straight line formed by the left arm and shaft as you drag the club back. Be sure your arms aren't tense; otherwise, they won't rotate properly, causing the clubface to shut and the right elbow to move up and out of position as the backswing proceeds.
To ingrain a low takeaway, place a clubhead cover a few inches behind the ball, then push it away as far as naturally possible when pulling the club back.
Align Left Arm with Shaft for a Wide Takeaway
When was the last time you thought about the width of your golf swing? If you are like most players, the answer to that question is either 'a long time ago', or 'never'. In reality, most golfers spend time thinking about other parts of their swing, including the grip, balance, stance, and more. All of those components are certainly important, but width is something that you should always remember to keep track of as you work toward a better future. A wide golf swing is usually a good golf swing, assuming you are able to keep your other fundamentals in place.
As you might suspect, despite the importance of width in the golf swing, many amateur players do not do a good job of keeping their swings wide on the way back. Instead, they allow the club to get in close to their body as they swing up, creating a steep and narrow swing that is going to lead to all kinds of problems on the way down. If you would like to hit the ball with both power and control on a regular basis, it is important that you manage to keep the swing as wide as possible throughout your backswing. Most professional golfers do an excellent job on this point, and you would be wise to follow their lead.
In this article, we are going to look at how you can improve the width of your swing by aligning your left arm with the shaft of the club at address. This simple adjustment to your setup position will help you to make a wide takeaway as your swing begins – and a wide takeaway is almost always going to lead to a wide backswing overall. Many golfers have their technique come apart right from the beginning when they take the club back, so getting through this important stage of the swing without any mistakes is critical to your success. It might seem like a small thing, but mastering the fundamentals of the takeaway can have a major impact on the quality of your swing.
Have you ever noticed how it doesn't look like professional golfers are swinging very hard, even though they are hitting the ball impressive distances? Much of that 'illusion' comes down to the width they use in their swings (along with the lag they generate in the downswing – which is a topic for another article). By using plenty of width going back, a professional golfer is able to make the swing as long as possible while still remaining on balance. In turn, the length of the golf swing leads to greater acceleration, and more power at the bottom. All of this takes place without any extreme effort on the part of the player – they simply let the swing develop naturally without getting in the way. A well-executed golf swing is surprisingly simple, yet it can be extremely powerful and consistently accurate.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Advantages of a Wide Swing
Why is it that a wide swing is so desirable? What is it about using a wide swing path that will lead to such improved results over a narrower swing? It is important to answer that question before going any further. You need to understand why you should be swinging on a wide arc before you try to do so on the range – without understanding the 'why' behind this point, you will never have the proper motivation to see this process through to the end.
The main benefits of switching to a wider swing path are highlighted below for your review.
- Greater swing speed. This point was alluded to in the introduction, and it is going to be the main motivation for most golfers to work on a wider swing. When you make your swing wide, the club head will be tracing a larger arc than it would if you used a narrow swing. In other words, the club head is going to travel a longer distance between the start of the swing and the moment of impact – and it can use that added distance to gain speed. Specifically, it is the length of the arc that you use in the downswing which will determine how much you can accelerate the club. Think about it this way – if you had two identical cars, and one could accelerate for 100 feet and one could accelerate for 200 feet, which would be going faster by the end? The one which had twice as much room to speed up, of course. It is the same for your golf swing. With more room between the top of your backswing and the ball itself, you will be able to accelerate to a higher swing speed (as long as you execute the swing properly).
- Improved control. As if the added swing speed wasn't already enough, improving on the width of your swing can actually help you to hit the ball more accurately as well. Distance in golf is useless without accuracy, so this point might very well be more important than the point above. Once you learn how to control your ball, you will quickly find that shooting lower scores is a very achievable task. The added control that you will experience through a wider swing is mostly due to the path that the club will take into impact. A wide arc enables you to take the club into impact on a relatively straight path, meaning you won't have to manipulate the face at the last moment in order to find a square position. Using a narrow swing, on the other hand, usually leads to a path that comes across the ball at impact, requiring you to use your hands actively in order to square up the face. That kind of swing is never going to be consistent, so work on your width to enjoy accuracy that you have never before experienced.
- Shallow angle of attack. One of the biggest problems plaguing a large percentage of amateur golfers is the tendency to attack the ball on an extremely steep plane. This is particularly an issue with the irons, but it can affect any club in the bag. A narrow swing will lead to a steep downswing, with a deep divot and poor contact the likely result. By making your swing wider, however, you can leave this problem in the past. Instead of hitting down steeply into the turf, you can hit down from a shallow angle which will lead to proper contact and a great launch angle. You still want to hit down on the ball, but only from a modest downward angle through the hitting area. It is easy to create a shallow angle of attack when your swing is wide, and you are almost certain to love the results.
Balance and tempo. Two of the biggest keys to the golf swing as a whole are balance and tempo. Of course, those also happen to be points that give the average golfer a good deal of trouble. With a narrow swing, it is hard to keep these two points on track, as you are likely to fall off balance while rushing through the swing. Just the opposite is true with a wide swing. When you follow a wide arc throughout the swing, you will likely find it easy to keep your balance – and your tempo should be ironed out as well. The best news of all is the fact that these improvements are going to happen naturally as a result of making this swing change. Find your way onto a wider arc and you can plan on better balance and tempo without making any other adjustments.
As you can see, there are plenty of advantages to enjoy when you are able to swing the club on a wide arc. Better yet, there are almost no downsides to speak of, making this one of the rare changes you can make in your game that comes without any notable drawbacks. Of course, you will need to put in plenty of time and effort to make the change successfully, but you are likely to be thrilled with the outcome once all of that work is done.
Setting Up for Takeaway Success
As mentioned earlier, it is the takeaway that is going to set you up for success (or failure) in the golf swing. With a good takeaway, you can easily complete a wide backswing and transition into the downswing on a great path. On the other hand, if you make a mess of the takeaway, there will be almost nothing you can do to save the swing. Getting through the takeaway with everything moving in the right direction isn't necessarily easy, but it is a requirement of playing great golf.
The title of this article is a giveaway for how you are going to position yourself for success during the takeaway. When you settle in to your address position over the ball, you will want to make sure that your left arm is mostly aligned with the shaft of the club. The club shaft and your left arm don't have to form a perfectly straight line, but they do need to be mostly coordinated if you are going to make a great takeaway time after time.
To get the takeaway started, you need to focus on the rotation of your shoulders. This is really the key to the takeaway, and it is a point that most amateur golfers get wrong. By using your shoulders to start the swing, you can keep the alignment in place between your left arm and the shaft of the club. That connection should stay in place until the takeaway is completed and the club starts to move up toward the top of the backswing. Eventually, the club and your left arm are going to form a 90* angle at the top, but that should only happen after they have worked together throughout the takeaway.
If you think about the takeaway you use in your current swing, there is a good chance that your hands and wrists are playing too much of a role in the action. Your hands are probably helping the club to move quickly away from the ball, which is one of the leading causes of a narrow swing. Hand action early on is going to bring the club in close to your body, and you will then have to lift it straight up in order to finish the backswing. Not only does this result is a narrow swing, it can also lead to a slice. It might feel like your hands are helping the swing to get off to a strong start, but they are actually causing damage that simply can't be reversed. Keep your hands out of the action, trust your shoulder rotation to get the club started, and watch your takeaway fall into place from there.
So how do you know when you have successfully completed a proper takeaway? One way to check on the quality of your takeaway is to pause your swing when the club reaches a point that is parallel with the ground going back. At this point, you can consider the takeaway to be over, so it is a good time to stop and check on your progress. With the club parallel to the ground, you should still have used very little hand action, and your left arm should be extended straight back away from the target. There will not be a perfectly straight line between your left arm and the club, but there shouldn't be a sharp angle between the two, either. As long as you have excellent extension at this early swing checkpoint, you can feel good about your prospects of making a wide swing throughout the rest of your motion.
Finishing the Job
So, you have made it through the takeaway without having anything go wrong – congratulations! It isn't necessarily easy to make a good takeaway, and many amateur golfers never get over this tricky hurdle. However, you probably shouldn't spend too much time celebrating, as it is still possible for things to go wrong. While you have navigated one of the challenging parts of the swing, there is still work to be done before the ball is sent on the way to the target.
Specifically, there are three ways in which the rest of the swing could go wrong. If you make any of the three mistakes listed below, you are going to undo the work you have done during the takeaway.
- Swinging back too far. This is where many players get confused. We have spent this whole article talking about how it is a good thing to have a long swing arc, but now we are saying that swinging too far is a problem – so which is it? Well, both are true. You want to swing along a wide arc, but you have to avoiding swinging back so far that you lose your balance. This is a fine line, and you need to walk the line perfectly in order to maximize your power. The best way to say it is that you should be swinging back as far as you can without losing your balance. Once you reach a point where your balance has to be compromised, you have gone too far. Experiment on the driving range with different backswing lengths until you find that perfect combination of balance and rotation.
- Cutting the backswing short. This is obviously the opposite problem from the previous point, but it can be just as damaging. If you fail to finish your backswing properly, the wide swing arc won't do you any good because you won't be taking advantage of the space you built up early on. Many golfers cut their turn short because they are in a rush to get the swing 'over with' – this mindset is usually the result of nerves. Don't allow yourself to hurry through the swing, no matter the circumstances. Allow your rotation to develop naturally, finish your turn fully, and maintain great tempo on each and every shot that you hit.
- Letting the left arm collapse. It is largely the job of the left arm to maintain width in your backswing. Getting through the takeaway with your width in place is a good start, but that isn't the end of the job. You still need to get up to the top of the backswing without losing that width, which is exactly what would happen if you allowed the left arm to collapse in toward your body. There should be very little (if any) bend in your left elbow throughout the backswing. To check on this point, make some practice swings and pause the action right at the top of the backswing – how does your left arm look? If it remains relatively straight, you are doing a good job of staying wide all the way through to the top.
It would be a shame to make a great takeaway only to make mistakes later in the swing that undo your progress. Keep an eye on the points above while working on your technique to make sure you take advantage of the quality takeaway that you have worked so hard to create.
Staying Wide in the Short Game
Even though width in the full swing is something that is often associated with power, it also has a great deal to do with control – which is why it remains important when you get into the short game. Specifically, width in the short game is important because it allows you to attack the ball from an appropriate angle.
While chipping or pitching onto the green, many amateur golfers struggle to make solid contact with the ball. Usually, the mistake that is made comes in the form of a 'chunked' shot, when the golfer hits the ball fat and the ball winds up short of the target. These 'chucked' shots are usually the result of a steep downswing, which is the result of a narrow backswing. Using your hands too actively, without the proper shoulder turn, will lead to a steep downswing and the potential for a fat shot. You need to be able to consistently hit the ball the right distance in order to chip and pitch your shots close to the hole, and that is only going to happen when you keep the needed width in your action.
The first key to make sure you are staying wide enough while chipping and pitching is actually the same as it is with the full swing – to start with your left arm and the club shaft in alignment. You don't need to worry about generating power when hitting short game shots, so settle in to a comfortable stance with your lead arm and the shaft nicely aligned. From there, you can use a little bit of hand action during the takeaway, but you should again be using mostly shoulder rotation to move the club back. The blend of slight hand and wrist action with a turn of your shoulders will put the club in a perfect position to chip or pitch the ball cleanly. Use your hands on the way down to release the club into the ball, and clean contact is going to be the likely result.
Width is a great thing in the golf swing. It isn't always easy to keep your swing wide – whether you are making a full swing or hitting short shot – but this is a point you should focus on during your practice sessions. By starting out with your left arm nicely aligned with the shaft of the club, you can help yourself stay as wide as possible throughout the motion. Add this important point to your list of keys to watch while you work on your technique and your game should be headed in the right direction over the months and years ahead.