Want to generate more clubhead speed? Slow down your takeaway.
Actually, the real key is to make the initial stage of the backswing a low, fluid motion. (Speed is less important.) Taking the club back low to the ground widens the swing arc, helps the big muscles work in sync, and creates a smooth, balanced tempo.
Picking the club up too abruptly, on the other hand, makes the swing too steep and gets the arms ahead of the rest of the body. The result is an off-kilter swing with poor weight transfer and short, off-target shots.
Achieving a low, steady backswing is really as simple as it sounds. Concentrate on using the arms and shoulders to drag the club back, keeping the clubhead close to the ground. Dont worry about hinging or cocking your wrists; this will happen naturally as your hands approach hip-height.
The Golf Swing: All About the Takeaway
Most golfers dont put much thought into the first few inches of their backswing. They just start the club moving away from the ball and take it from there. Sure they might focus on some important swing fundamentals like the position that they reach at the top of the backswing, but the takeaway just isnt something that is on their radar.
If that sounds like you, it might be time to pay some serious attention to what is happening at the very start of your swing. Although you might not know it, much of the success of your swing is going to be determined by the very start. When things go wrong within the first few inches of your takeaway, there wont be enough time to correct those mistakes later. Even if you do manage to recover from those mistakes some of the time, you will never achieve the kind of consistency that you need on the golf course. Making a repeatable swing is one of the keys to bettering your game, and it all starts with a fundamentally sound takeaway.
Unlike many other parts of the swing, the takeaway is actually quite simple. Once you know what you should be trying to do, and have identified any mistakes that you were making, it shouldnt take long to get on track. Since the takeaway doesnt happen quickly – unlike the downswing – it is easier for your mind to process what you are trying to do. That means that the changes you make to your takeaway mechanics should become comfortable in a short amount of time and they wont require as much practice as other parts of your swing. Even still, it is important that you spend enough time working on your adjusted takeaway in order to ingrain it in your mind so it can hold up on the course under pressure.
Before we get into the specific details of the takeaway, there is one main concept that you need to keep in mind – simplicity. Above all else, your takeaway should be as simple as possible. Why? Simplicity means it will be easy to repeat, and it will hold up for a full 18 holes. If you add in a complicated or tricky move into your takeaway process, you will struggle to repeat it precisely shot after shot. Your whole golf swing should be as simple as possible, but that is especially true of the takeaway. Remove any moving parts that dont help you get the club in position and your swing will be better for it.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed golfer, please be sure to reverse the directions as needed.
Common Takeaway Mistakes
As is true with so many different parts of the swing, there are some takeaway mistakes that are more common than others. An experienced golf teacher can usually watch a player simply complete their takeaway and already have a good idea of what kind of player they are. That is because the takeaway establishes so much about the rest of the swing. If you make a pro-quality takeaway, the rest of your swing has a great chance to be at the same level.
Following are a few of the most-common takeaway mistakes made by the average golfer.
- Swaying to the right. This mistake is at the top of the list for the majority of amateur players. Swaying away from the target is a bad mistake because it causes havoc for the rest of your swing. If you allow your weight to shift slightly onto your right leg during the first foot or so of the takeaway, your balance will struggle to recover. The golf swing should be a rotational motion, starting by turning away from the target and then making a downswing by turning back to the left. Beginning your swing with a slide to the right not only gets you off balance, but it also limits the amount that you are going to be able to turn. You would have a hard time finding even one professional golfer that begins their swing this way because it is so damaging to what you should be trying to do. If there is a slide to the right present in your current takeaway, getting it fixed should be one of your first priorities.
- Active hands. Your hands should play no role in the takeaway whatsoever. They should hold onto the grip of the club quietly while allowing your bigger muscles to turn the club away from the target. They will have to get engaged into the backswing at some point, but that should not happen until you are finished with the takeaway. When you use your hands too much during the takeaway, a couple of problems can develop. First, it is easy to get the club inside the proper swing plane. This is how many amateur players end up with a slice – they move the club inside during the takeaway, and have no choice but to move it over the top during the transition. If you fight a slice, there is a good chance it is caused by an inside takeaway. The other problem caused by active hands in the takeaway is poor tempo and timing. The takeaway should be slow and gradual, but using your hands will speed up the backswing and make it hard to sequence everything properly.
- Getting stuck. This last mistake actually doesnt relate to the takeaway itself, but rather what happens before it starts. When you take your stance over the ball, there shouldnt be a long period of time before you start the takeaway and get into your swing. The longer you stand there, the more difficult it will become to make a good swing with a smooth tempo. Ideally you will develop a rhythm to your process so you can take your stance, take one last look at the target, and then start the swing. Getting in a consistent habit of taking the same amount of time over the ball prior to each swing will greatly improve your consistency.
If you were to stand on your local driving range and watch some of the other golfers practice, you would surely see plenty of examples of the three mistakes above. Think about your own swing and evaluate whether or not you are suffering from any of these problems as well. If you are, dont worry – it shouldnt take long to correct the issue and get your takeaway back on track.
Doing It Right
So what does the perfect takeaway look like? Well, not surprisingly, it is mostly the opposite of the mistakes that were laid out above. If you arent making those mistakes, then it stands to reason that you should be doing things mostly correct during the takeaway phase of your swing. When done right, the takeaway almost happens without being noticed because it is so simple and straightforward.
The first part of a good takeaway is getting to a great address position to start with. When you put your body in the right position relative to the club and the target that you are trying to hit, everything that follows stands a much better chance to succeed. Before getting too far into working on your takeaway, make sure your address position is consistent and fundamentally sound.
Once you are in a good stance, the next thing to work on is the timing of getting your swing started. This was mentioned briefly above, but it deserves a more-thorough discussion. Getting your swing started should become part of your pre-shot routine that remains constant from shot to shot throughout the round. A good pre-shot routine leads to better rhythm in your swing, and better performance under pressure when the nerves start to become a factor.
The best way to build timing into the start of your takeaway is to have a trigger that tells you when it is time to go. The following example is one that you might want to copy, unless you have a system of your own that you are more comfortable with. When the first part of your pre-shot routine is complete and you have walked up to the ball, settle into your stance. Once the club is behind the ball and you are comfortable in your posture, take a look up at the target by rotating your head. As soon as you turn your head back to look down at the ball, start your takeaway. There should be no delay, either – once your eyes find the ball, start moving the club away. If you wait any longer than this, you will start to get stuck in your stance and too many thoughts will move through your head.
Okay – so now the club is in motion. What should be happening? Well, not much, really. You should be turning away from the target by rotating your shoulders while your hands and arms remain quiet. They will jump into action later on in the backswing, but make sure they stay passive during the takeaway. Focus your mind on simply rotating your shoulders and it will be hard to go wrong.
Another mistake that needs to be avoided at this point in the swing is the lifting up of your upper body as the club starts to move away from the ball. Many amateur players start to come out of their stance almost immediately after the club starts to move – which wastes all of the good work that was done building the stance in the first place. Pay particular attention to the level of your head in the takeaway. You should not feel like you are getting taller as the club swings back – rather, you should be keeping your head still while your shoulders make the turn that moves the club into position.
Once the club head reaches about knee high, you can consider the takeaway to be complete. If you have managed to get the club to this point simply by turning your shoulders while maintaining your stance, the takeaway should be considered a success. From there, you will need to engage the rest of your backswing fundamentals in order to get the club into a solid position at the top of the swing. The takeaway is indeed only one piece of a bigger puzzle, but it is an important one to be sure.
Simple Golf Takeaway Drills
Using drills is one of the best ways to teach yourself a new technique in any part of the golf swing. The takeaway might be one of the more-simple elements in the swing, but it still can benefit from taking the time to work through a few drills during your practice sessions. Below are three easy takeaway drills that will only take a few minutes of your time but could pay big dividends in your game.
- Roll the ball. This is a classic golf drill and one that will help you take the hands out of your takeaway motion. On the driving range, take your stance with a mid-iron in your hands. However, when taking your stance, place the club head in front of the ball instead of behind it like you normally would. With the club in front of the ball, start your takeaway like usual and try to roll the ball away from you along the target line of your swing. If you are using your shoulders to turn the club away from the target, this drill should be quite easy to complete successfully. It will be more difficult if you use your hands in the takeaway and the club head is getting off track within the first few inches of the swing. Should you find that you are struggling with this drill, focus on using your shoulders more and your hands less until you are able to roll the ball away from you time after time. Once you complete a few repetitions of this drill, go back to hitting some shots and see how your takeaway has improved.
- Triple takeaway. For this drill, you are going to put the club head down behind the ball like normal. When you start your swing, make your usual takeaway until the club head is around knee high off the ground. At that point, reverse the takeaway and bring the club back down toward the address position. Repeat this process three times, and on the third time go ahead and complete the rest of your swing. So, the completed drill should look like two practice takeaways, followed by one that you continue on through the rest of your backswing and down through impact. The benefit of this drill is not only to ingrain your takeaway technique, but also to work on your balance. If you are getting off balance at any point during the takeaway, that fact will be exposed when you repeat the takeaway a couple of times. You will feel your weight moving from side to side and know you need to make a correction. If you are staying well balanced during all of the takeaways that you do, it is a great sign that you are on the right track.
It is easy to go through these drills in just a few minutes on the driving range prior to getting into the rest of your practice session. If you make it a habit to do at least one or two of these drills each time you visit the range, your takeaway technique should be in good condition in short order.
Getting Your Mind Right
Now that you have the technical part of your takeaway under control, it is time to pay attention to how you think during this portion of the swing. Think of the takeaway as being the calm before the storm. This is the last time that the club is moving slow and you really have time to think. Once you get much farther into the backswing, the swing as a whole is going to speed up and your mind wont be able to keep up with what is happening. You have to be on auto pilot later in the swing, so during the takeaway is your last chance for your brain to send instructions to your body.
What should you be thinking about? The best method is to think about one specific swing key that helps you get into the right position and make a quality swing. This swing key is going to be different for every player. Some golfers like to think about keeping their right arm down and in close to their side. Others prefer to focus on the left foot and making sure it is flat on the ground throughout the swing. It doesnt particularly matter what your chosen swing key is, as long as it helps you focus and get your mind in a good place.
The most likely place to discover the best swing key for you is on the driving range. While practicing your swing you will probably come across one or two keys that help you hit quality shots. Take your favorite one and use that as your key on the course to focus your thinking. When you get over the ball and prepare to start your swing, put that item in your mind and then begin the takeaway. That method will make it much easier to keep your swing organized and make sure that you are hitting your key fundamental.
Another benefit to this way of thinking is the distraction that it provides. When your mind is occupied by a single, clear swing thought, it wont be able to focus on less positive things – like that water hazard that might be lurking near your target. Plenty of golfers – even the pros – are guilty of focusing on negative things from time to time. As you would imagine, thinking about hazards and other potential problems is only going to cause problems in your game. So, by using a single swing thought that you can force into your mind during the takeaway, you can turn around your thought process and give yourself a far more positive outlook.
To be honest, there isnt much exciting about the takeaway, and practicing your takeaway isnt likely to become your favorite part of playing golf. Despite that, it is important that you get your mechanics in order so you arent causing problems for the rest of your swing by making mistakes in the takeaway. Just like anything else in golf, it is important to get the small details right in the first few moments of your swing. When the takeaway is done right, it can lead to great things. When it is done wrong, it can lead to major problems. Dont be one of those golfers who neglects this important part of their technique, only to wonder why their swing hasnt become as consistent as they would like. Your swing can be consistent and reliable, even under pressure, when you build a great takeaway. When you pay attention to every last detail in your swing, you will then be able to reach your goals and live up to your potential on the course.