The Golf Project: How to make the perfect backswing

May 18, 2018- by Steven E. Greer, MD

When I started The Golf Project two-years ago, my main problem was a short and fast backswing. When the club got to the horizontal position, I would panic because my arms were running into my own torso. My brain knew there was no chance of completing a swing unless I rushed it.

I learned from the start, in July of 2016, after sending a YouTube to Steve Dahlby in Scottsdale, that I was activating the wrists too early, rolling the clubhead to inside the plane. It set me up for disaster.

When I got my first in-person lessons during the Winter of 2017, nobody really knew how to tell me to make the right swing moves. My teachers had learned to golf when they were young and took it all for granted, so they really did not know how to convey it to me. They swung perfectly by instinct.

So, it was “Doctor heal thyself”, once again. I experimented with controlling different body parts and then watched the film. I tried using the hands to start the swing. I tried using just the torso muscles to turn. Nothing felt right.

I began to understand what I call a “fake backswing” that most people perform. Rather than turning the shoulders, they move the club back and up with their arms. The shoulders then follow, to a certain degree.

I was learning from Tiger Woods’ new swing in early 2018. I knew that the left arm had to stay close to the chest and not create a gap. I knew the clubface had to point to the ground when the club is horizontal, or waist high.

Finally, I cracked the code. This is how to make the perfect backswing:

  1. Visualize the arms and chest forming a triangle, with rigid wrists and shaft pointing out at the end.
  2. Swing that triangle as a unit back, with the clubhead making a circular arc back. The left knee has to buckle and allow the hips to turn. But the focus is on turning the shoulders, not the hands or the hips.
  3. Turn that triangular unit as far back as you can go without breaking the wrists. It will feel odd, as if you are going way behind the plane.
  4. For the last 45-degrees of the swing to the top, hyper-extend the right wrist to pull the club back even more. This is crucial, because setting the wrists properly is essential for the proper downswing where the club shaft has a flat plane (Jason Carbone and Brian Unk tipped me off to this, and will be discussed more later).
  5. The clubface should be closed, or facing the sky, at this point. The left wrist should make a straight line with the forearm or be flexed. If the opposite is true and the clubface is open with the left wrist extended, it will be impossible to swing the shaft downward properly.
  6. Think about pausing at the top as you really set those wrists well. Some might find it easier to think about hyper-flexing the left wrists, like Dustin Johnson.
  7. The amount of steepness to your left arm, at the top of the swing, depends on your body proportions. But the arms should be on a fairly flat plane, almost parallel to the shoulders, with the chin touching the left shoulder. Plenty of great golfers, such as Freddie Couples and John Daly, have a vertical left arm at the top, but they are creating additional clubhead turn that way. In their downswing, they will have to drop the club back behind the head quite a bit.

In the video, you will notice that my swing is a bit flatter and the club shaft more like that of Sergio Garcia’s swing at the top, compared to Tiger. That is intentional.

And there you have it. Practice this indoors first. Then, go to a range and swing in slow motion. Film yourself and use an alignment stick down the target line.

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