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When Practicing the Backswing


iacas

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I once heard a story of a kid in Florida who practiced his backswing (at the range, with a ball at his feet) for nearly three hours.

Let me say that again with a little added emphasis: he practiced his backswing for nearly three hours.

He didn't hit a single ball. Didn't even make a downswing. He recorded, used a mirror, checked his video, and made backswings for nearly 180 consecutive minutes.

That's madness.


The backswing is an important part of the golf swing. A lot of golfers get off track with the backswing, and then must undergo a series of compensations from there until well after impact to hit the ball anything like they want.

So, often, practicing the backswing is important. It's often a student's priority. For example, this student:

NVD_Backswing.thumb.jpg.27889b300a828ba3

He would roll the clubhead under the plane during the backswing, push it across or over the top of the plane later, and then just swing left from there. The balls were actually landing at the left corner of what's visible in this photo, some 60 yards left of where it appeared he was aiming.

Anyway, that golfer now looks like this in practice:

NVD_Now.thumb.jpg.3b21f7a1c6001cef9a14ce

He, like almost everyone I have practicing backswing things, does what I call the Three-Step Backswing Practice Routine. Okay, I don't call it that; I just made that term up now.

  1. Make a S-L-O-W rehearsal backswing where you look in a mirror, turn your neck to look at your hands, or whatever you need to do to do it properly (which is often exaggerated). The intent here is to make the swing the way you want to, and see how it feels, and check it right then by looking at whatever body part(s) you need to. Reset in your address position.
  2. Make a S-L-O-W rehearsal backswing looking at the golf ball. Ask yourself mentally if the backswing was "good." Reset in your address position. If the answer was no, go back to step 1 or repeat step 2. If it was "yes," move on to step 3.
  3. Make a S-L-O-W rehearsal backswing looking at the golf ball. Ask yourself mentally if the backswing was "good," and then if the answer is "yes," reward yourself by hitting the golf ball. I don't even care much at what speed you hit the golf ball (it depends on your ability to hit it somewhat cleanly so you don't get frustrated).

You see, I found that I could get students to make awesome improvements to their backswing when I said "okay, rehearse, make a good backswing." They'd do it, and it would be perfect. But then if my instruction was to "make that backswing and hit the ball," they'd lose 80%+ of what was good, because their focus shifted dramatically toward "hit the ball."

By breaking it down and making them think "rehearsal backswing, reward if good," it prevents that shift to the golf ball from ever really occurring. Forcing the golfer to ask themselves "was that good?" before being allowed to make a downswing allows them to focus on making the backswing properly without worrying about the golf ball.

And then, most of the time, the student makes a much better downswing because the compensations are minimized or gone. In this case, for example, we didn't spend one second talking about the downswing, and yet…

NVD_A5.8.thumb.jpg.b3b71721a48e948a32613NVD_A7.thumb.jpg.92cb4f6f2cbc359926135fb

So remember, three steps to improving your backswing without boring yourself out of your ever-loving mind:

  1. Make a rehearsal backswing while looking at it and making sure it's good.
  2. Make a rehearsal backswing while looking at the ball.
  3. Make a rehearsal backswing and, if you can say "yes" when you ask yourself if it was as good as it was in #1 and #2, hit the ball as a reward.

23 Comments


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Wish I had read this about three yeas ago. While not as bad, I was much like the kid you mentioned at the start. Far to much focus on making a correct backswing, and not knowing what to do from there.

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@chris3putt, yeah, that can be a problem, but the post is mostly about how to work on the backswing when it IS the priority piece (without getting bored out of your mind).

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Love the three steps, will probably be linking to this thread a lot in the future :-)

It may seem "boring" to practice this way but it's worth the effort because you'll actually change the picture. Definitely see improvement in a shorter time frame when compared to making a few practice swings and hitting ball after ball while "feeling it".

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Is there something on his club, like a weight or something in the after shots? I am just wondering if that was an aid to help in the change.

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5 minutes ago, mchepp said:

Is there something on his club, like a weight or something in the after shots? I am just wondering if that was an aid to help in the change.

It's a Torc.

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11 minutes ago, mchepp said:

Is there something on his club, like a weight or something in the after shots? I am just wondering if that was an aid to help in the change.

I think the "aid" was starting his downswing from a good position only after making a good backswing. From that new position, he can shift the weight forward and attack from the inside, not throw the club out and "spin out" in an effort to make contact.

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I would have thought that that A4 (in white shirt) was too laid off, but then again, I don't know my ass from a tea kettle. Lol. 

In any case, the white shirt A4 is clearly a better position than the outdoor one. 

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1 hour ago, Ernest Jones said:

I would have thought that that A4 (in white shirt) was too laid off, but then again, I don't know my ass from a tea kettle. Lol.

It is a little bit. It's a drill so he is exaggerating.

It's pretty far from parallel too.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

 

It's pretty far from parallel too.

Good point. I guess if it travelled that extra little bit to get to parallel it would "look" less laid off. Amazing how much perspective shifts over such subtle difference. 

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Great information on the backswing. I equate a good backswing to getting the pole position on a NASCAR race day... It sets me up for a better chance for the win. So, if you were going to assemble a "quick checklist for elements of a good backswing".... What would that look like?

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38 minutes ago, Dave325 said:

Great information on the backswing. I equate a good backswing to getting the pole position on a NASCAR race day... It sets me up for a better chance for the win. So, if you were going to assemble a "quick checklist for elements of a good backswing".... What would that look like?

My real checklist is one item long:

  • Puts a player in a good position to begin the downswing.

In deciding that I look at other things: elbow location and amount of bend, amount of turn, tilts, etc. But there's really not a checklist without being vague like "right elbow in a good position, bent but not too bent." That sort of thing.

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This really helped me in my range session last night and showed itself as a 12 yard improvement on my median drive this morning. I am conscious of the back swing motion and makes it more consistent.

Thanks.

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9 minutes ago, MiddleTees said:

Step #1, mirror checking, do you prefer DTL vs FO?

That would entirely depend on what you were working on.

Plane issues?  Then DTL.  Head moving forward?  FO.  Etc etc.

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This is a great system and seeing as how my BS is my priority piece, well timed, too.

Only thing is that I wish I could take a full length mirror to the range for step 1 but I guess I can do it with video, too, it would just take a little more time. 

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The visual difference between a rehearsal backswing and one where my intent is on hitting a ball is considerable. The fact that the two feel so much alike is astonishing. That I've been unable to make progress in over a year with this problem can be maddening.

I would seriously do better closing my eyes or looking away from the ball during a real swing - that's how deeply the poor mechanics are engrained.

Just within the last few days, I started something else. Since I cannot go by feel (which I thought were necessary in steps 2 and 3 above), I'm trying a visual queue. I finally noticed that the position of my left shoulder relative to the ball at the top is a key on how much of a turn I've executed (duh). I'll try to use that for my queue when rewarding myself with a downswing.

Oh yeah, and I can't worry about the resulting shot quality while trying to make a priority change. Very difficult for me.

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10 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

The visual difference between a rehearsal backswing and one where my intent is on hitting a ball is considerable...[etc.]

I've recently mostly overcome this problem.  It's a matter of trying really hard and just insisting on doing it.

Are you worried if you pause for a couple seconds at the top of a backswing to make sure you've done it right you may loose your balance, posture or tempo and not be able to make a good shot?  That may well be true but who cares?  You're just practicing, you don't need a good shot, you need to make a downswing from the backswing you're practicing.  Pause for 5 seconds first then start cutting it down.

Or try this -- with a partner watching rehearse your new backswing several times and pause just a second on the top of each.  On a swing of your partner's choosing, and without you knowing which, have him yell "Swing!" at the top of your backswing and on that one make your downswing and hit the ball.

Edited by allenc
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Im currently working on this right now with my evolvr. It is crazy how much better things feel when I have the corrected backswing vs what usually felt "normal"

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21 hours ago, allenc said:

You're just practicing, you don't need a good shot, you need to make a downswing from the backswing you're practicing.  Pause for 5 seconds first then start cutting it down.

Agreed. What progress I've made has been done without worrying about the result - just the move.

21 hours ago, allenc said:

Or try this -- with a partner watching rehearse your new backswing several times and pause just a second on the top of each.  On a swing of your partner's choosing, and without you knowing which, have him yell "Swing!" at the top of your backswing and on that one make your downswing and hit the ball.

@iacas suggested this in MySwing thread last year. I'd love to give it a shot but really don't have anyone to ask.

21 hours ago, allenc said:

It's a matter of trying really hard and just insisting on doing it.

This is what it comes down to.

It's not like I can't physically do this. In fact, I can exaggerate the shoulder turn beyond 90*. I just have to find a way for this to feel normal so I can start the downswing from that position every time.

I'll get it eventually. 

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That's a bucket size droplet. Great post. Since I slow swing practice at night indoors, for my reward, I progress to A4, then stop and make sure club not laid off (too shallow, my issue). If I get a few good A4s in a row, I will then try it at normal speed (still stop at A4 to check), if I get shallow then back to square one. If I am practicing with driver which I am a lot lately, then I hit a Dixie cup for a rewarding pop.

In order to build permanent 'neural pathways', and if it doesn't distract you from the purposeful practice, you can also imagine being on the course while doing this, 150 out to the pin if you are working with 7i or something.   

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