You have probably heard before about the importance of a smooth takeaway in golf and there is a lot of truth to it.
Initiating the swing with a jerky motion certainly will tend to lead to more problems as the swing progresses. That is why it is so often suggested to start the golf swing with a one piece takeaway where the torso, shoulders, arms, and hands rotate around the spine in unison. If you do this, you will naturally swing the club back along a wide arc which is the ideal set up for a powerful downswing.
For some, the golf takeaway is made easier by keeping the left arm and club in a straight line. This is pictured here and is very similar to the position you want to see again at impact. Notice also the flat left wrist that you will want to see again at the top of the backswing and maintained until just a few moments after impact. Some players even like to set up all of their clubs in the impact position at address instead of starting the swing with the left wrist slightly cupped or concave.
A good drill to help groove the one piece takeaway and full extension follow through is to take small swings that mimic the takeaway and the follow through. I like to use a weighted club for this but you can use a standard club to get the idea.
Note the left arm and club in straight line and the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders. This triangle will be maintained throughout this drill.
Notice the straight left arm is still in line with the club and the triangle maintained.
After impact, because of the release and momentum of the swing, the left arm and club aren't aligned which is fine. But you see the triangle is still in place.
As you can tell, this impact zone is an extremely important stage in the golf swing. To start your swing off right every time, ensure you make a smooth, one piece takeaway.
Tips at address to help keep the shaft in and left arm in line for a wide take away:
- Keep a more neutral grip. A strong grip will cause you to set the club early, breaking the line between the shaft and the left arm.
- Stand slightly taller. By standing taller you will force your left arm closer to your chest at address. This will allow you to cut down on the amount of arm swing on your takeaway and give you a better chance at moving the arms and chest together.
- Stand a little bit wider. Standing too narrow while trying to swing wide may force the club too far inside on the backswing.
Tips to help keep the shaft and left arm in line for a wide takeaway:
- Keep the sternum area very still. This is the most important aspect of the wide takeaway. A wide takeaway needs to have a fixed point to swing away from and the spine area located behind the middle of the chest serves the purpose well. For visual purposes you can think of the area known as your sternum. Your head can move and your hips and legs can move, but not the sternum area.
- Move the club head, hands and shoulders and chest away simultaneously. The infamous “triangle” consisting of the club, arms and shoulders forms what many call a one piece takeaway. It will keep the shaft in line with the left arm and it will provide a wide take away, keeping the club outside the hands.
- Notice I said that the chest moves, but the sternum stays still. If you fail to move your chest along with the arms and club on the takeaway your arms will become disconnected. It's important they all move together while they all turn around the spine.
- Although it is vital for the left arm to be in line with the shaft to be wide, it is also important that the right arm be straight during the takeaway. This will ensure that the club will swing up and not around.
A Wide Takeaway Versus an Early Set
Which golfers should have a wide take away? Not all golfers should work on having a wide take away. Because the club will be swinging further away from the body it will feel heavier to the golfer. Therefore, it's imperative that you are able to support the golf club first, as it swings away from you and second, at the top of the back swing. If you are a tall person or have long arms in proportion to your body it might benefit you to swing the club back widely rather than set the club early. The idea being that the club will be a swung long way from the ball because of your natural height or arm length, and thus will benefit from gravity on the downswing. Some golfers are simply not strong enough to hold the club away from his/her body. Therefore, any benefits gained by swinging the club wide and high are offset by a lack of control by the player of the club. This sort of player needs to look for other avenues to swing the club faster such as setting the club quickly or using the flexibility of his/her body for leverage.
Drills to Assist You in Keeping the Shaft in Line with the Left Arm for a Wide Takeaway:
1. Push the board back
- Use a 2x4, or if too heavy, a yoga block.
- Place the board or block a couple of inches behind your club at address.
- Using the triangle of your club, arms and shoulders, push the board back.
- If you are moving everything together and keeping the shaft in line with left arm the board or block will move back and very slightly inside.
- If you are not moving your triangle together or if your center is not staying still on the takeaway, the club will wither not stay in contact with the board or will push the board inside.
2. Belly-button drill
- Use a short to mid-iron.
- Set up to a ball as if you were going to hit it.
- Slide the club up until the grip end is touching your belly-button and your hands are gripping the shaft.
- Stand up slightly.
- Take very short backswings, just until the club head is about even with your right foot.
- Ensure that the grip end of the club stays in contact with your belly-button.
- If the club is not staying in place then you are not moving the triangle and your chest together on the takeaway.
3. Towel Drill
- lace a towel so that it runs across your chest and under both arms
- Take small swings concentrating on moving the chest, shoulders, arms and club together back and through.
- Don't be afraid to hit a few balls this way. Remember to take small swings (1/4) and concentrate on the takeaway, not the distance the ball goes.
4. Pull left arm back with right hand
- Set up to a ball as if you were going to hit it.
- Take your right hand off of the club and slide it underneath your left hand so that the back of your left hand is touching the back of your right hand.
- Using the leverage of your left hand and wrist, pull the left arm. Make sure the shaft stays in line with the left arm. Practice your takeaways, moving the chest, left arm and shaft back together.
Alternative way to the wide takeaway?
Most people are taught a low and slow wide take away. More of a garden variety one-piece version that you hear about from golfers in their 80's to players in their teens. There is an alternative to that type of takeaway that will still allow you to gain width, will keep your left arm in line with the shaft, but will at the same time let you set the club sooner. It's called a diagonal set.
If you are not flexible, if you have short arms or if you have a large chest, then a diagonal set may be the best alternative for you. Also consider this type of takeaway if you are not strong enough for the traditional one-piece takeaway but feel like you need more power. Here's how it works;
- You need a little bit stronger left hand grip and a slightly weaker right hand grip. Essentially this puts both hands more on top, rather than below the grip of the club.
- Let your hands hang down as much as possible at address.
- As you take the club away, feel as though your hands are pressing down on the grip.
- Simultaneously feel your left arm stretch across your chest.
- Visualize this; If you stood at address and only pressed down on the grip then the club would come straight up towards your head. Or, if you stood at address and only stretched your left arm across your chest the club would go in the direction opposite of the ball. However, if you do both of those things at the same time you get both the lift and the width in one motion.
When to consider using a diagonal set for width on the takeaway:
- If you have a large chest.
- If you have short arms.
- If you are inflexible.
Keep the Shaft and Left Arm In Line for Wide Takeaway
The length of your golf swing has a lot to do with the speed that you will be able to create through impact. If you have a long swing, you will have more time from the transition down to impact in order to accelerate the club head properly. If, however, you have a short swing with a narrow arc, you will lack the necessary time to build speed. One of the reasons that taller players are often able to hit the ball long distances is the simple length advantage that they have in the swing. With longer arms, tall players can make wide swings which give them plenty of time to build speed all the way to a powerful impact at the bottom.
No matter what height you happen to be, making a wide swing will help you to get the best possible performance from your motion. Even if you are on the shorter side, you can still max-out your power by making a wide takeaway and a big backswing. As long as you are able to stay on balance, making a big backswing is going to allow you to become a much more powerful player overall.
As with everything else in golf, it all starts with the takeaway. Making a wide takeaway requires you to keep your left arm in line with the club shaft (for a right handed golfer) for as long as possible in the takeaway. Many players 'break' this line early in the swing, and they pay the price when their narrow backswing turns into a weak shot. If you can learn how to maintain your width deeper into the backswing, you will be rewarded with a quick gain in distance that may show itself as soon as your very next round.
It is usually the basic details in golf that are the most important, and that is certainly the case on this topic when it comes to the takeaway. Most golfers who are trying to add distance will do so by swinging as hard as they can, and they will likely fall off balance and make poor contact in the process. Instead of swinging harder, you can actually pick up your distance performance simply by improving on the fundamentals that you use in your takeaway. It is hard for some golfers to believe that something basic like the takeaway could actually help them hit longer shots, but its true. Trust in this process and you will be rewarded in the end.
The story is the same in golf for any kind of swing change that you are going to make – you need to start out on the driving range to learn how to make the new move properly. While making an adjustment to your takeaway isn't as difficult to learn as making a new move later in the swing, you will still have to invest some practice time to get this right. Give yourself a chance to learn on the range first and you should face less frustrations when on the course.
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.
It's All About Simplicity
Above all else, the takeaway in your golf swing should be simple. Actions that are easy to repeat are more likely to hold up under pressure, and you want a golf swing that is going to perform for you even when the heat is on. So, by working toward a simple takeaway that you can repeat time after time no matter the conditions, you will be setting yourself up to have a pressure-proof golf swing. In addition to helping you perform under pressure, a simple takeaway is also just a great way to strike solid shots because there is less that can go wrong.
By keeping your left arm in line with the club shaft during the takeaway, you will be making a simple motion that is extremely easy to repeat. Unfortunately, many amateur players lose this straight line almost immediately upon starting the swing. When the hands are too active in the takeaway – specifically, the right hand – that straight line is lost and the club is pulled to the inside right off the bat. This is how a narrow swing begins. Within the first few inches of the swing, everything can get off track simply by allowing your right hand to play too much of a role in moving the club.
So, if your right hand isn't supposed to be involved, what part of your body is going to be moving the club? Your shoulders. It should be your shoulder turn that gets the swing started, as the rest of your body remains relatively still. As long as you can stay balanced while turning your shoulders away from the target, you will be making a great takeaway that sets you up for a powerful and consistent swinging action. It you watch carefully when the top pros swing the club, you will see that all of them use their shoulders to get things started. This move will feel different and probably uncomfortable if you are used to starting your swing with your hands, but making this change can have a profound impact on your game. Keep your hands quiet, use your shoulders to turn, and many of your golf swing problems will quickly go away.
You shouldn't actually have to think about keeping your left arm in line with the shaft of the club – if you are using your shoulders to start the swing, this will happen naturally. There should be a nice line formed between your arm and the club at address, so that line will easily stay in place as long as you aren't doing anything with your hands during the takeaway. Yes, your hands will get involved later in the backswing, but during the takeaway they should just be going along for the ride.
A Basic Drill
Golf swing drills are a great way to teach yourself new concepts in a short period of time. Just by doing a drill that is designed to address the specific point you are working on, you can speed up the process of teaching your body the right way to move. In this case, there is a basic drill that you can do which will help you feel the right way to move the club back away from the ball. This takeaway drill will only take a few moments to complete, and you don't need any special equipment.
To get started on this drill, you will need your seven iron, a golf ball, and a place to make some swings. You won't actually be hitting any shots during this drill, so you don't need to be at the driving range. If you have room to safely make practice swings somewhere outside of your home, that can work just fine. Follow the steps below to complete a few repetitions of this valuable drill.
- Place the ball on the ground where you are going to be making your swings, and take your stance. However, instead of placing the club head on the ground behind the ball, you are going to place the club head in front of the ball (to the left from your perspective). The rest of your stance should be as usual, with your body in an athletic position and your eyes looking down at the ball. Even though you aren't hitting any shots, it is still important to work hard on all of the little details in order to make your swings successful.
- To start your swing, focus on using your shoulders to turn away from the target. As a good point of focus, think about turning your left shoulder under your chin. Just making this simple motion will ensure that your shoulders are turning nicely to the right. Of course, at the same time, make sure your hands are remaining quiet and simply holding onto the club without allowing the right hand to take control in any way.
- As you start the swing, you are going to be rolling the ball that was behind the club head back to your right. The goal of this drill is simple – to roll the ball in a straight line away from your imaginary target. As long as your hands stay quiet, you should be able to keep the club head on the ball and keep it rolling smoothly. If, however, you allow your right hand to do too much in the takeaway, the club head will be lifted off of the ground and it will go over top of the ball.
- Once the ball has been rolled away, continue on with your swing and move the club all the way through to a balanced finish position. Feel free to repeat this drill as many times as you would like until you get the feeling of keeping the club head low to the ground during the takeaway.
The big benefit of this drill is learning how to keep the club low and extended in the takeaway. As long as you are rolling the ball straight back, you can feel good about the motion that you are making away from address. Many golfers will find that, at first, they have trouble with this drill. You likely use your right hand more than you think during the takeaway, so your first few tries might see the club head climb right up over the ball. Stick with it, and focus on the movement of your left shoulder under your chin to get on the right track.
Understanding Golf Swing Power
There is a major misunderstanding in the world of golf when it comes to power. Sure, some golfers understand how power really works in the swing, but most amateur players are seriously mistaken when it comes to how they should be trying to generate speed. Unless you have a clear understanding in your mind of what it is that really matters in your quest for added distance, you will be destined to fail.
The first thing to understand is that the speed of the club head through the hitting area is the only thing that matters in the end. It is the speed of the club head that will determine how far the ball is going to travel. Of course, you want to make contact on the center of the club face in order to get the best possible return from your speed, but it is club head speed that is the main variable. Get the club up to a high rate of speed as it slams into the ball and you will be rewarded with powerful golf shots.
This might seem like an obvious point, but there is one part of the equation that is missed by many golfers – they fail to remember that it is only the speed of the club head at impact that matters. Many players try to swing the club fact from the start of the takeaway all the way through to the finish, and there is simply no reason to do so. Your swing has plenty of time to build up naturally from the start all the way until impact, so you don't need to rush through the early stages of the swing if you hope to hit long shots. In fact, most powerful golfers at the top of the game actually start the swing slowly, focusing on balance and tempo knowing that they have plenty of time to ramp up the speed later on.
One of the keys to understanding how to build up the power in your golf swing is to understand that the club has to change directions at the top of the swing – and anything that is going to change directions has to stop first. That's right – you aren't going to be carrying any of the speed from your backswing into the downswing because the club head has to come to a stop at the top in order to transition into the downswing. When you think about it this way, it doesn't make any sense at all to rush through your backswing. After all, what good is a fast backswing if it isn't going to be carried over into the downswing at all? The only goal of your backswing should be to set yourself up to build speed once you make the turn down toward the ball.
Getting back to the topic at hand, width in your takeaway is important because a wide takeaway sets you up to have your hands in a high position at the top of the swing. With your hands pushed out away from your head, you will have a long path to take from the top of your swing down to impact. That means that you will have plenty of time during which you can accelerate up to top speed. By taking more time to accelerate, your club should be traveling faster when it reaches the ball.
This concept is illustrated nicely by thinking about a plane taking off from a runway. Every plane has a specific speed that it needs to reach in order to lift off of the ground safely and begin flight. As such, that plane will need a certain amount of distance that it can travel along the ground until it is going to reach that speed. Therefore, the runway needs to be at least a sufficient distance to allow the plane to get up to speed in time. If you were to cut the runway length in half, the plane would not have enough time to get up to speed, and it would not be able to get off the ground.
The story is much the same when it comes to your golf swing. Think about your downswing as the plane going down the runway. If you build a long 'runway' by making a big shoulder turn and pushing your hands out away from your head at the top, you will have plenty of room to accelerate the club. If, on the other hand, you build a short runway by keeping your hands in close to your head and restricting your shoulder turn, you won't have the time needed to get the club up to speed. You might be able to hit decent golf shots with this shorter 'runway', but you will never live up to your potential.
Now that you have a better understanding of how power works in the golf swing, you should be less tempted to use your hands early in the swing to speed up the club head. There is no point in swinging fast early in the swing, since that speed is going to go away during the transition anyway. Be patient, keep your left arm in line with the club shaft, and focus on keeping your balance nicely all the way to the top.
Eliminating the Slice
There is another, often-ignored benefit of keeping your left arm in line with the shaft during the takeaway – it just might eliminate your slice once and for all. Countless amateur golfers struggle with the slice, and most have no idea as to how they should go about fixing this ball flight problem. Often, the fix can be as simple as an improved takeaway, and keeping your left arm and the club shaft in line is a great start.
The root cause of the slice for many golfers is a narrow backswing. When the club starts out on a narrow path – often caused by the overactive right hand referenced earlier, it gets in close to the body and stays there throughout the rest of the backswing. Therefore, at the top, the hands are in close to the head and the left arm has usually bent. With no room to make a downswing from the inside of the ball, the golfer has no choice at this point except to push the club out away from the head and over top of the proper swing plane. The downswing comes from outside the ball, slice spin is imparted, and the ball curves quickly to the right of the target. Most average golfers understand just how frustrating this shot can be, and many would be even more frustrated to learn just how easy the fix really is.
To eliminate the slice, work on making a wide takeaway like the one that has been described in this article. That might be all you have to do. If you are able to arrive at the top of the swing with plenty of width, you will be able to swing down aggressively with plenty of room to attack from the inside. There will be no need to push the club up away from your head during the transition, so the dreaded over-the-top move that derails so many players should be safely removed from you swing just by improving your takeaway. It will, of course, take some time to break your bad habits, so plan on spending plenty of time on the range working on this takeaway if you would like to say goodbye to the annoying slice.
The takeaway is one of the most important elements of the golf swing, even though most players take it largely for granted. You need to make a solid takeaway if you want to hit consistently good golf shots, so spending time on this area of the swing is an investment that is sure to pay off over time. Focus on keeping your left arm in a straight line with the shaft of the club while turning your shoulders away from the target. This technique will keep your backswing simple, and it will also give your backswing the width it needs to develop plenty of power later on. Once this new takeaway is integrated into the rest of the swing, you can start to look forward to ball striking capabilities that you didn't even know were possible.