Shifting weight to the right foot on the backswing is one of golf's bedrock fundamentals – but where should that weight be centered once it gets there?
Answer: in the middle of your right foot. If your balance shifts to the outside of the foot, you'll have trouble transferring it back to the left on the downswing. You'll also allow the right hip to keep turning, reducing the power-producing coil buildup between the upper and lower bodies.
To check this critical factor, make a full backswing and look down at your right leg and foot. If your instep is off the ground, your ankle rolled outward and/or your knee buckling to the right, your weight has passed the tipping point.
Turning against a stable right leg, called “loading,” is fairly simple to master. For starters, make sure your right foot is perpendicular to the target line at address, not flared out to the side. Maintain your knee flex throughout the backswing, and feel as if your weight is pressing into the ground from the top of the right leg down through the foot.
You can also use a simple drill to instill this sensation:
- Place a small object such as a thin board (an inch or less in thickness) under the outside of your right foot and address the ball.
- As you swing, the object will prevent your weight from sliding too far right, fostering a strong coiling action between the hips and shoulders.
This drill can also help groove a downward swing path on your iron shots.
Load Up Backswing to Increase Driving Distance
If you are a golfer, you likely want to increase your driving distance – after all, who doesn't? Hitting longer drives is not only fun, but it can help you tremendously in the effort to lower your scores. Even if you only were to add five yards to your average drive, those five extra yards could make a big difference when trying to hit accurate approach shots to set up birdie putts. In an effort to add more yards from the tee, many amateur golfers simply swing as hard as possible. Unfortunately, that is a strategy that is unlikely to pay off. Distance is more about technical execution than it is about raw power, so focusing on the mechanics of your swing is the right path to take.
One of the areas of your swing that needs to be fine tuned in order to maximize distance from the tee is the backswing. Think of your backswing as being the foundation of the power that you are going to create. You obviously aren't going to hit the ball during the backswing, but it remains important for what is to come. Without a quality backswing it will be nearly impossible to strike your drives with authority and accuracy. Spend some time working on the technical aspects of your backswing and you should be able to pick up yardage relatively quickly.
The concept of 'loading' up your swing during the backswing is something that every golfer should understand. The ultimate goal of the backswing is simple – to position both the club and your body at the top of the swing for a great move toward the target. It is crucial that both of those elements come together nicely, as one without the other is useless. You need to put the club in the right spot at the top, and you also need to make sure your body is in a place that will allow it turn aggressively toward the target without losing balance. There are a lot of misconceptions around the game as to what should happen during the backswing, so make sure you have a clear picture of the important fundamentals before you start working on making improvements.
Remember, as you are working to add distance to your swing, that distance gains should never come at the expense of your accuracy. You will not be a better golfer if the only way to gain ten yards is to sacrifice some of the control that you have over the ball. It would be ideal to have both control and power, but control always needs to be the top priority. Feel free to work on improving the way you load up the backswing in an effort to hit the ball harder, but never forget that accuracy always trumps power when it comes to shooting the best possible score.
All of the content 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.
Before we get into the important fundamentals that you will want to include in your backswing, it will be helpful to highlight some of the mistakes that you need to avoid. These are points that some people will claim are helpful toward your goal of hitting the ball farther, but they are actually counterproductive to that pursuit. If you can avoid making any of the three mistakes listed below, you will be a big step closer to making a great backswing.
- Loading up the right side. There is a portion of the golfing population that believes you need to 'load up' the right side of your body in order to set the stage for a powerful downswing. By that, they mean that you need to get your weight stacked up over your right foot at the top of the swing so you can move it back to the left as you start toward the target. This is simply wrong. You do not want to move laterally to your left during the backswing – you want to stay as well-balanced as possible from the start of the swing all the way up to the top. Ideally, you will wind up reaching the top of your swing with your center of gravity in roughly the same position it held at address. The golf swing is a rotational motion rather than a lateral one, and you want to use all of the energy you can find to turn your body back and through the shot.
- Carrying speed from backswing to forward swing. No matter what you do in your swing, the club inevitably has to change directions in order to go from the backswing to the forward swing. That means one thing – the club has to come to a stop. An object cannot change directions without first coming to a spot, which means that any speed you created in the backswing is going to be wasted during the transition. There is no point in swinging the club quickly through the backswing because the energy is never going to be translated into the ball. The only speed that matters in the swing is the speed you can build from the top of the backswing down into impact. It is this speed that will determine how far you can hit the ball, so it is this speed that you need to find a way to maximize. This doesn't mean that you have to swing through the backswing slowly, but you don't have to go fast either – find a tempo that is comfortable to you and stick with it.
- Huge turn required. It is true that it can help to make a big shoulder turn away from the ball when you are trying to maximize your distance. However, if you prioritize your shoulder turn over your balance, you will be fighting a losing battle. You always need to stay balanced if you are going to strike consistently accurate and powerful shots, so focusing only on your turn would be a mistake. Instead, think of it this way – your backswing should include the largest shoulder turn that you can make without losing any of your balance.
Each of the three points above might seem like a good idea at first blush, but they can actually be quite damaging to your swing. If you are really going to live up to your distance potential when you get out on the course, you need to be sure that each of the three ideas above stay away from your backswing. As we move on in this article, we will get into some of the correct fundamentals that you should be spending your time on in the pursuit of greater distance.
The Right Way to Load Up
With the negative side of the equation out of the way, let's now turn our attention to the proper way to load up your backswing for a powerful drive. If you are able to get your body in the right position at the top of the swing, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish on the way down into the ball. Most of the hard work within the golf swing is actually done during the setup and the backswing – the downswing should just be about letting everything go into an aggressive and confident impact.
Not surprisingly, the three points below are going to run counter to the points that you saw in the previous section. It only stands to reason that if those points were the wrong way to go about loading up your swing, these points should be right on track.
- Stay centered. The best way you can prepare your body for a quality downswing is to keep your body centered throughout the backswing. You don't want to be leaning to the left or the right at the top of the swing – you want to feel like your weight is perfectly balanced between your two feet. Think about it this way – if you paused your swing at the top and someone walked up and gave you a gentle push in the chest, you should be able to hold your balance without a problem. If you are already off balance, even a gentle push would be enough to cause you to tip over. The solid stance that you take the time to build at address should carry over all the way up to the top of the golf swing.
- Let the club pause at the top. Instead of trying to rip the club down from the top of the swing as quickly as possible, you should actually be allowing the club to 'hang out' at the top for a brief moment before it starts down. Why is this important? Because it will allow your lower body to start moving toward the target before the club begins its move forward. This order of operations is crucial to hitting powerful drives. When your legs and hips go first, you will have the opportunity to build up some rotational speed that can later be transferred into the club. That isn't going to happen when your hands go first. If you rush the club from the top, your hip turn will play almost no role in building downswing speed, and you will lack power as a result.
- Maintain your right knee position. This point goes along with the importance of staying balanced in general, but it deserves a section of its own because it can do such good things for your swing. As you start back, pay attention to the position of your right knee and do your best to keep it mostly in place. It is bound to move a little bit as you are turning to the right, but don't allow it to completely give up its position. If you hold your right knee relatively steady, you will have plenty of power stored up in that leg that you can use to start your rotation toward the target from the top. Many golfers give up on the position of their right knee in the backswing, and they are therefore unable to produce much in the way of swing speed. Also, standing up with your right leg in the backswing is a common mistake shared by slicers, so steering clear of this issue will help you to avoid the dreaded slice.
A quality backswing is deceptively simple. When executed properly, there won't be anything 'fancy' or exciting about your backswing – it will just get the job done. By moving the club up into position while your body stays balanced, you will be setting the stage for a great downswing and a powerful strike. It is hard enough to hit long and straight drives when everything is done right in the backswing – it is nearly impossible when you make mistakes. Take the time necessary to get yourself into a great backswing position and you will find that your drives quickly improve in terms of both power and control.
A Matter of Timing
The timing of your backswing is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle when it comes to preparing yourself for a great downswing. Most players get caught up in worrying about the technical elements of the swing – such as making sure their body is in just the right position – and they forget to learn how to repeat their tempo swing after swing. If you aren't consistent through a given round with the tempo of your backswing, you will never be a great ball striker.
Timing is a difficult thing to teach because it is so unique to each individual golfer. The kind of timing and tempo that will feel good to you might feel terrible to another player, so you need to work hard to develop your own feel for the speed of the swing. There are players who have had success with quick backswings and abrupt transitions, while others are best-served by a slow backswing and a gradual transition. There is no right answer for this part of this swing, but there is one rule that is set in stone – no matter what kind of tempo you use, it is important that you use it consistently, time and time again.
To work on your tempo, head to the driving range for a quick practice session. The idea of this session is not going to be to work on anything technical – that work will need to be done at another time. Instead, you are going to work on the rhythm of your swing by hitting some shots at less than full speed. To start, take a mid-iron from the bag and hit a few shots with about 50% of your power. For instance, if you are using a seven iron that you typically hit 150 yards, make it your goal to hit these shots only around 75 yards. After a few swings at half power, gradually work your way up to full power while maintaining the same kind of overall tempo. You will be adding more speed to the bottom of your swing, but the smooth rhythm that you used to hit the half shots should be carried on.
What are you going to learn from this drill? You should start to understand how you don't need to swing fast from start to finish in order to hit powerful shots. You can swing slowly to hit long shots, as long as you get the club moving quickly at just the right time. This is a drill that you can use with any club in your bag as well, so don't hesitate to give it a try with your driver. Just as with the mid-iron, start with swings that use about half of your power and gradually work up from there.
One of the important parts of this drill comes in the form of what you aren't doing – thinking about your technique. Golfers as a whole spend too much time on the driving range working on technical parts of the swing. Instead, they should spend more time simply hitting balls, learning how to feel the way the club works throughout the swing. Golf is a feel game at its core, and you should take every possible opportunity to develop your feel to the highest degree. Yes, you can improve your game by fine tuning the technical pieces of your swing, but you can also improve simply by learning how to feel the club. Make it a point to spend at least some of your time on the range working on the tempo of your backswing and your mind will be freed from the constant stream of mechanical thoughts that are always trying to get in the way.
Other Driving Distance Keys
The idea of this article is to help you maximize your driving distance by getting your body and the club into the perfect positions at the top of the backswing. With the help of the content above, you should be able to do just that. However, there is certainly more to consider when it comes to driving distance, and you should be able to add additional yardage through some other measures. By putting the tips below to use in your game, along with improving your backswing, the longest drives of your life may be just around the corner.
- Tee it high. One simple step that you can take toward hitting longer drives is simply to tee the ball up higher off the ground. Many amateur golfers tee the ball too low, and they are unable to catch the ball on the sweet spot as a result. Today's drivers are almost all 460cc's in size, meaning you need plenty of room under the ball in order to get the sweet spot in just the right position. Always make sure you have at least a few long tees in your bag when you head to the course, and tee the ball up so that the equator of the ball is level with the top line on the face of your driver at address.
- Let it go from the top. Once your new and improved backswing is finished, the most important thing you can do is swing down with total confidence and conviction. Don't hold anything back in your downswing, as any hesitation is only going to lead to poor contact and off-target shots. It is too late during the downswing to fix any errors that you might have made earlier on anyway, so the best thing you can do is commit to the swing and trust that you are going to hit a good shot.
- Get the right driver. By taking the time (and spending the money) to complete a professional club fitting, you can wind up with a club that is perfectly suited to your swing characteristics. Not all drivers are created equal, and not all drivers will perform equally for all players. A qualified club fitter with the right equipment can help you to find the perfect combination of club head and shaft that is needed to produce an impressive ball flight. Most golf courses and golf stores employ at least one club fitter these days, and the rates are usually pretty reasonable. In fact, the cost of the fitting session may even be refunded if you decide to purchase a driver at the end of the process.
Everyone wants to hit longer drives, but few know how to actually go about the process of making that happen. One of the most important things you can do in the pursuit of longer drives is make a balanced and controlled backswing which features great tempo. The backswing has the potential to unlock great performance in the downswing if you are willing to put in the time and effort on the range to get everything in order. Hopefully, with the help of the content above and plenty of hard work on the range, you can find yourself blasting the ball farther down the fairway than ever before in the near future.