The first few feet the club swings back is one of the most critical parts of the golf swing. How we start our takeaway will dictate how our body moves and will set the tone for the entire swing.
In order to have the most efficient swing possible, the club head and shaft must move first to start your golf swing. I say club head and shaft because based on your current takeaway, FEELING one move first then the other may be more beneficial to you.
There is no one correct way to swing a club, and everyone’s takeaway can be slightly different. There are many different takeaways you see each week on Tour, but players who don’t start the takeaway with the club head moving first have what I call “sequence moves” in their golf swing. In other words, they have found the right combination of moves to sequence their swing to get back to impact.
So why does the club head need to move first? To start, the club head travels the farthest in our swing in relation to our body once we grip the club. Imagine looking at your swing face on. The arc or circle the club head is traveling on is much longer then the arc or rotation of your body. In order to have the proper kinematic sequence to be efficient, the club head would have to start moving first, since it travels a longer route to the top.
Second, getting the shaft and club head moving first will help you generate shaft speed. Concentrating more on swinging the shaft will help generate speed for most players. The average PGA Tour player’s 6 iron club head speed is 92 mph, while the average Tour player body rotates between 7 to 12 mph. Focusing more on swinging the shaft properly will produce more speed and consistency.
Below are pictures of the first two major winners of this year
Dustin Johnson (2016 U.S. Open winner)
Danny Willett (2016 Masters winner)
Having a proper set up is the root to an efficient swing. Starting with your right shoulder below your left, having angle in your right wrist and a soft right arm is imperative to get the proper sequence.
Once we have the proper setup, we can then move the club head first and allow our right arm to properly fold. This is done by moving the club head/shaft and folding the right arm. The club head will have looked to travel first, without the use of excessive wrist hinge (the club head does not move first by just cocking your wrists). In the picture below, my shoulders have already started to move around my body, just by moving the shaft and my arms. I have not physically tried to rotate my shoulders yet. My arms will eventually pull me into a coil position.
A player that starts their swing by physically trying to rotate their chest and shoulders to start their swing will almost always result in a swing that is too long, as the club head has to play catch up to the body. I call these players “over rotators.” Often, in this move, the club gets too far behind their body as a result. A great feel to correct this is to keep your chest over the ball as you start your takeaway.
Another common fault is a player’s hands dragging the club head back with their arms and shoulders. This is very common with players attempting a “one-piece take away.” The right arm locks up and the player’s spine will tilt toward the target as a result. The player will usually have to make a very late wrist hinge as a sequence move and a hip slide back into the ball as a result from the tilt.
A great drill to rehearse a proper takeaway is to take your left hand off the club, hold your upper right arm to your chest (for a right-handed golfer) and get the feeling of the club head moving. The club head should move farther than your hands when you look down. Make this a subtle move, where the club head doesn’t travel much farther than knee or waist high. Your left hand should keep your right arm in a folding position. Once you set the club, you can then put your left hand on the club. Take note of the position your arms are in and your shoulders.
Use a mirror to check your positions at home or take advantage of your smart phone on the range. You can also download a swing app or use video on your phone to check your positions. Swing analysis software used to be in the thousands of dollars, now it’s free, or just a few bucks.
By Guest Contributor Kevin Kelley