What does it mean if your golf club is “across the line” at the top of the backswing?

It means the club is pointing in front of your body, or to the right of the target line for a right-handed golfer. Ideally, the shaft should be parallel to the target line at this point in the swing.

To find out if you suffer from this affliction, check your backswing in a full-length mirror or, better yet, have a friend take pictures of your position at the top. (The photos should be snapped from behind the ball, looking toward the target.)

Let’s examine what causes an across-the-line position and how you can fix it.

One common cause is a takeaway that’s too far inside the target line, putting the clubhead on a path to the right of target. Some golfers take the club up too steeply, while others fail to rotate the arms properly on the backswing. Typical results of an across-the-line position include pushed shots and hooks.

Rather than trying to manipulate the club into proper position all the way up the backswing, use this practice tip:

  • Place a club about 18 inches behind your ball, directly along the target line.
  • On the takeaway, stop when your hands reach hip height.
  • Look at the club you’re swinging; the shaft should be parallel to the club on the ground. (In other words, forming a track pointing down the target line.) Ideally, the shaft is also parallel to the ground with the toe pointing upward.

If the shaft is pointed behind you, you’ve taken it back too far inside and are headed for an across-the-line position at the top.

Experiment with your takeaway to achieve the correct parallel positions, which require a proper takeaway path and rotation of the arms.