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The Relative Importance of the Backswing

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

This will be a somewhat unusually short post for the "Swing Thoughts" forum. I'd like to start it off by sharing a video done by 5SK Director of Instruction for Dallas, TX Dennis Sales.

 

 

I'll agree with Dennis in saying that sometimes golfers begin to work on things that don't really matter. I'll disagree with Dennis when he says the backswing doesn't matter at all (and to be clear, he's not saying this).

 

It's a matter of thinking critically about your golf swing.

 

I work with two golfers, a father and a son, who both have a Ray Floyd-like takeaway. They roll their arms and the club gets well inside at A2 and A3.

 

The son, Sean, simply steepens the club from A3 to A4 and makes a downswing that's nicely on plane. The father, Ray, attempts to steepend the club from A3 to A4, but over-corrects, and is steep from A4 to A4.5, so then he spends the remainder of the downswing tipping back, uncocking, and trying like heck to get the shaft to lay down again. He's more successful than most would be as he plays to a 9, but while Sean can play with that backswing, his dad cannot.

 

So in helping these two golfers get better, we simply had to ask ourselves "why?" we would change something. The answer should never be "because it looks funny." When we change a grip, we can answer the question "why?" and we can do it better than "it was too weak." That's not a results oriented answer, and if you can't give a results oriented answer, you don't know the cause.

 

Dennis is a very capable golfer, but you'll notice that he arrives at almost identical top of the backswing positions in the three swings in his video. To him, the backswing doesn't matter much.

 

To others, the backswing will matter a great deal - they'll not arrive at the same top of the backswing position with those various swings. The backswings on another golfer will result in very different A4 positions, and thus, very different downswings.

 

Dennis successfully proved his point to his student - a student he felt was trying to get a picture-perfect backswing when Dennis felt the student didn't need to work on his backswing as it was not the cause of any of his current issues - and everyone here can learn from that.

 

And that doesn't mean you get to ignore everything that happens before A4 or A5… I'd just ask that you always be able to answer "why?" and that the answer should get to the actual cause of your current problem or issue. You'll never take a golf lesson from me, Dave, James, or Mike where we ask you to do something for the heck of it.

post #2 of 10
Erik,

Do you think the relative importance is related to the end golfers goal? Some golfers may come to you for a lesson to just get a bit more improvement and therefore a bit more enjoyment from the game and therefore making a few compensations is okay. But for someone trying to build a swing, who is willing to put in much more work should focus on removing the compensations.

Previously I would have agreed that the age old, "you don't hit the ball in the backswing" comment was true, but the more I work on my own swing, the more I realize if I make mistakes in the backswing I will eventually be forced to make a change somewhere along the line to fix it. In that vain, I would want to not make compensations in the backswing because it is probably the easiest part of the swing to change.
post #3 of 10
I think I can probably learn a lot from this post. I think I over analyze and try to fix things that aren't necessarily my priority. I need to be able to answer the "why" with something better than "because that's what other people are working on"

Thanks for the pearl!
post #4 of 10

I think that as long as you get in a position to make a good downswing it does not matter as much how the club travels to get there.  All he really was doing is changing how the arms and club moved in the back swing and not so much the body.  Pretty much got to the same position at the top.  I think there are a lot of things that matter a great deal such as weight distribution, steady head, balance and wrist angles, in the back swing to name a few.

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mchepp View Post

Do you think the relative importance is related to the end golfers goal? Some golfers may come to you for a lesson to just get a bit more improvement and therefore a bit more enjoyment from the game and therefore making a few compensations is okay. But for someone trying to build a swing, who is willing to put in much more work should focus on removing the compensations.

 

I don't think it matters at all.

 

Regardless of the golfer before me (us), we fix the #1 priority item at any given time.

 

For many - for example a player who hits pulls and cuts and wants to draw the ball and who never gains enough depth to hit OUT at the ball - that means work on the backswing. They're not getting to a position at A4 that lets them do what they want on the downswing.

 

For others, it may not be a downswing thing at all.

 

But to say they fit into a group like you've suggested, no, I don't believe they would. I'm inclined to say that better players tend to work on downswing pieces more, but is that because they've got a decent backswing already or is that because we don't want to touch their backswings because they're ingrained and we think we can just tackle stuff on the downswing to clean up their #1 priority?

 

And I could be wrong in my inclination - I'd have to ask myself about the last 100 lessons or so in each category, and see how often we worked on the backswing. I might be surprised. If pressed to guess right now though, I'd say what I said one paragraph up.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mchepp View Post

In that vain, I would want to not make compensations in the backswing because it is probably the easiest part of the swing to change.

 

That's also true. Still, for us, we have to be able to answer the "why?" question properly.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ernest Jones View Post

I think I over analyze and try to fix things that aren't necessarily my priority.

 

Happens to a lot of people. :)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cipher View Post

I think that as long as you get in a position to make a good downswing it does not matter as much how the club travels to get there.  All he really was doing is changing how the arms and club moved in the back swing and not so much the body.  Pretty much got to the same position at the top.  I think there are a lot of things that matter a great deal such as weight distribution, steady head, balance and wrist angles, in the back swing to name a few.

 

Yes, that's part of my point - he happened to be good enough to get to roughly the same position at A4, so his backswings didn't affect that. That's not the case for most golfers, IMO - their backswings do affect their ability to start the downswing in a sound position.

post #6 of 10

Since joining this forum Erik, I learned some cool things from everyone. With that said, there are common themes that resound in my mind from everyone:

 

  1. Identify your chief problem and resolve it first.
  2. Identify low hanging fruit in term of improvements and do them first.
  3. Integrate #1 & #2 into your golf swing and work to make them harmonious to you.
  4. Enjoy the game and stay disciplined.
     

Downswing is an important part of the swing as I am re-learning. Interesting to see an instructors perspective on it.

 

Thank you.

post #7 of 10
Quote:
That's not the case for most golfers, IMO - their back swings do affect their ability to start the downswing in a sound position.

I think you hit the key point here.  Especially for you as an instructor.  If the student cannot get to a position to start a proper downswing then you have to work on routing the club more precisely in the back swing.

post #8 of 10

So that's where Dennis went!!!  He taught my AimPoint class in Providence last spring.  Did a good job.  I recall you telling me to mention that The Golf Evolution guys recommended him.

 

I think if the player gets himself into a bad position during the back swing, or causes disruption to achieving any of the 5 Keys, then it is important to correct it.  But if they can get all of them then no issue.  Jim Furyk is an example for me.

post #9 of 10

I liked how Dennis described the backswing as being functional.  For him those three backswings were pretty functional, similar positions at A4, positions that didn't really cause any issues or cause huge compensations on the downswing.  There is a wider range of "acceptable" on the backswing than there is on the downswing and I think Dennis did a nice job of illustrating that.  Making different takeaways, recovering enough by A4 to allow himself to line things up nicely at A6.

 

Erik brings up a good point of always looking at the Why.  When we are trying to "change the picture" we aren't trying to copy the way a certain tour player looks, it's being done for a reason, trying to get you out of your old pattern.  I think it's important to have good examples to show students but it doesn't mean we want you to look exactly like the guy swinging.  So if your swing doesn't look like Rory McIlroy, Grant Waite, Ernie Els, don't worry about it, because no one else can look like those guys either.  But you can definitely learn something from their swings.  

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mvmac View Post

I liked how Dennis described the backswing as being functional.  For him those three backswings were pretty functional, similar positions at A4, positions that didn't really cause any issues or cause huge compensations on the downswing.  There is a wider range of "acceptable" on the backswing than there is on the downswing and I think Dennis did a nice job of illustrating that.  Making different takeaways, recovering enough by A4 to allow himself to line things up nicely at A6.

 

I bolded the important part. Basically, that's it exactly: Dennis doesn't happen to arrive at A4 in vastly different positions. I'd also still bet there are "better" backswings for Dennis (small degrees) - they just aren't likely to be a big priority.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvmac View Post

Erik brings up a good point of always looking at the Why.  When we are trying to "change the picture" we aren't trying to copy the way a certain tour player looks, it's being done for a reason, trying to get you out of your old pattern.  I think it's important to have good examples to show students but it doesn't mean we want you to look exactly like the guy swinging.  So if your swing doesn't look like Rory McIlroy, Grant Waite, Ernie Els, don't worry about it, because no one else can look like those guys either.  But you can definitely learn something from their swings.  

 

And they don't look like each other. :)

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