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Lesson 6

Starting the Swing

The method

We are correctly set-up to the ball and are ready to begin the backswing. How exactly does the swing start? The movement back from the ball is made by the LEFT HAND and ARM. You do not need a club in your hands to discover this. Simply assume the correct set-up position with the left hand and arm extended, thumb uppermost. pointed the fingertips at the ball. Now keeping the shoulders stiff simply move the left hand and arm backwards from the ball taking care not to alter the vertical alignment of the palm (in other words don't roll the wrist).

The ARC TRACED OUT IS THE CORRECT TAKEAWAY.

Note that the correct takeaway line is not straight back from the ball as some teachers insist. Neither have you to make any conscious effort to steer your hand into the "inside takeaway". It is a perfectly natural arc back from the ball. Do not complicate it!

THIS IS THE TAKEAWAY LINE THAT WILL TAKE THE CLUB BACK INTO THE PLANE THAT WE DESIRE. So we see that good club-line begins the moment the club-head is set in motion.

Any other method of starting the takeaway will produce a different takeaway, and consequently a different swing plane....and if the plane of the swing is misaligned the club must be OUT OF POSITION AT THE TOP.

The swing is started by a backward movement of the left hand and arm

Now let us repeat the left hand and arm movement with a club in the hand. Keep the shoulders still and move the clubhead back moving the left hand and arm as described. Now since the shoulders are square (at address) the left hand and arm can only move the clubhead back towards the ball, along the arc for a distance of about a foot before being blocked by the square position of the shoulders. Try this.

It is at this point in the backswing movement that the shoulders should begin to turn.... and NOT BEFORE!

They now turn to allow the left hand and arm, and the clubhead to continue to swing freely back along the line of the arc..... all the way to the top of the swing. Thus, we see in action the principle that the body does not propel the arms. Quite the reverse. The hand and arm starts the swinging movement and the body responds by turning to assist (not cause) the swing. Understanding this is vital!

I warn again. If the takeaway is started by a turn and dip of the shoulders you will not achieve the correct takeaway line ... and consequently, the alignment of your swing plane will be wrong.

The essence of the takeaway

To understand the nature of the takeaway think of the simple chip shot. In it the backswing is performed entirely with the hands and arms. No body or shoulder movement is involved. If the shoulders turned, the club would be taken off line. It is the same with other shots, and this is the key to the start of the full shot. Start the drive as you would start the chip... with the left hand and arm alone. Then add the body movement (the shoulder turn) at the proper time simply to allow the swing to progress further, clear to the top.

The full shot is merely an extension of the chip, with the shoulder and body turn added simply to permit the swing to progress fully.

I have defined in detail how the takeaway is made and I have said that any other way of starting the swing is incorrect. Why must this initial movement be so precise? Because only the correct takeaway line can produce a correctly aligned swing plane. An error of line in the takeaway must inevitably result in a misaligned swing plane.

A correct takeaway line creates a correct swing plane...

The most common takeaway error is discussed shortly, but before passing on to that I want to warn you against two common pieces of advice about the takeaway. The first is to take the club-head straight back from the ball and the second is to take the club back on the inside.

Taking the club "straight back" leads to a left shoulder drop, a sway to the right, a collapsed left side, and worst of a all a very steep or "upright" swing plane, making a correct downswing line almost impossible.

Taking the club back on an exaggerated "inside path" is equally wrong. It places the club "across line" at the top, with the shaft pointing to the right of the target, again, making a correct downswing line more difficult.

In the correct takeaway the swing of the left hand and arm takes the club-head automatically on the inside path at the proper time. It cannot do otherwise. This natural "inside arc" is what creates the correct swing plane.

The difference between a "straight back" takeaway, an "inside takeaway", and a "correct takeaway" is demonstrated in this lesson. Note that each of the three takeaway lines MUST result in different swing planes.

The wrists must not roll in the takeaway

We have now got the club moving back from the ball on a correct line. This will automatically place us the swing plane that we desire.

Now we must look at another takeaway error which seriously affects accuracy. It the matter of wrist rolling.

The vast majority of players roll their wrists open or closed during the takeaway, thus altering the alignment of the face of the club to the ball. the club face was square at address and it must REMAIN SQUARE THROUGHOUT THE SWING. Then, when it is returned to the ball at impact it will STILL BE SQUARE or at right angles to the intended line of flight.

So let us start with a guiding principle. It is this:

DURING THE TAKEAWAY, THE CLUB FACE MUST BE AT RIGHT ANGLES TO THE SWING PATH AT ALL TIMES. By the "club face" I mean the leading edge of the club.

By observing this simple rule, wrist rolling can be avoided.

The wrists must not roll during the takeaway

Club Face Check - the halfway stage

At the halfway stage of the backswing the club face will be vertical if no wrist rolling has taken place.
Clockwise roll will place the club face "open" at this stage.
Anti-clockwise roll will place the club in a "shut" position, that is looking at the ground.

From the correct "square" position at the halfway stage, the left hand and arm will swing to the top, placing the face at the correct angle at the top of the swing.

The other two positions (open and closed) will result in an incorrect club face angle at the top and unless some correction is made in the downswing the blade will also be mis-aligned at impact....and inaccuracy is bound to be the result.

An Incorrect Takeaway - the causes and effects...

There are two pieces of golfing advice which, in my experience, are guaranteed to ruin the takeaway. They are: "hold the club-head low to the ground in the takeaway" and "take the club-head, hands, arms and shoulders back in one piece".

We have already seen that the takeaway is NOT "one-piece". The hands and arms start the movement. Then the shoulders begin to turn to allow the swing to continue to the top. This implies a genuine swing of the left hand and arm.

In the "one-piece" takeaway the club, hands and arms are being set in motion by turning the shoulders. This is what I call the "body propelling the hands and the arms". This is not a swing at all. It is a stiff, locked movement which actually destroys totally the swing of the left hand and arm. It leads to a lot of errors, as we shall see

Left - The hands and club are being moved by body action

Right - The correct way

Attempting to "hold the club low to the ground" in the takeaway is supposed to give a player a "wide arc". In fact, it does the reverse. In trying to hold the club "low to the ground" the left arm reaches back and down....and the left shoulder dips down with it. This brings about the collapse of the left side and a downward.drop of the head. (see illustration). Again, any possibility of a left hand and arm swing is destroyed. Now, with the arm swing blocked by the body, a player must look to his wrists to keep the club-head moving. This early wrist break completely destroys any chance of a "wide arc".

This type of takeaway is extremely common. Try to understand it, and compare it with the correct takeaway

In the correct takeaway, the left shoulder, hand and arm SWINGS THE CLUB back from the ball. The shoulders then begin to turn so that the swing can continue FREELY TO THE TOP. In this type of movement the left shoulder does not dip down towards the ground. Why should it? The left hand and arm is swinging freely from the shoulder and therefore the left shoulder MAINTAINS ITS HEIGHT FROM THE GROUND more or less constant.

This type of takeaway swings the club smoothly into the correct swing plane that we desire. Note again that there has been no conscious attempt to "steer the club-head inside". it has moved "inside" quite automatically and at the proper time. Indeed, where else could it go?

A Typical Bad Takeaway

Here again, we see the incorrect takeaway described earlier, but from a different angle. The turn of the shoulders is causing the movement of the club. This is obvious. Notice how the left shoulder is dropping down! Again I say this is not a swing....it is a "body heave" to set the club in motion. Above all, notice that this type of takeaway creates and entirely different takeaway line and leads to an entirely different swing plane. This is bound to lead to complications at the top of the swing.

Wrong

Left shoulder drop alters the swing plane

This type of takeaway action causes two other faults. As the shoulder dips down the right leg straightens. Remember, I said earlier the right leg MUST maintain its FLEXED position if a full, correct turn is to be achieved.

Again as the left shoulder dips down, the right hip rises up as it goes back. This is proof that the body is being rocked sideways, rather than turning as it should.

In a correct turn, the right hip moves back, but it must not be allowed to rise up. Like the left shoulder, it maintains a more or less constant height from the ground. The flexed right leg makes this possible.

I want to warn you again about "taking the club straight back from the ball" and taking the club back on the "inside" As we have seen, in a correct takeaway the club swings quite automatically on to an "inside path". No special effort is required to place it there.

It is very important to appreciate that a "correct" takeaway, a deliberate "inside" takeaway and a "straight back" takeaway produce entirely different swing planes, and therefore different positions at the top.

The illustrations show this point.

I say again, make no attempt to consciously take the club back on the "inside", and disregard advice about taking the club "straight back" from the ball.

Both are wrong!

The Body Turn

The body turns simply to permit the left hand and arm swing to progress freely to the top.

A full body turn in the backswing is a must for good golf. It is often stated that a full turn is necessary for power but we have already seen that this is a fallacy. Misleading advice about "coiled up power in the body" and "winding up the body muscles in the backswing" merely encourages heaving with the body during the entire swing.

A full turn is necessary so that the club can be placed into a position at the top from which it can move down into the ball, along the intended line of flight.

But, it is not enough merely to turn the shoulders. the RIGHT SIDE OF THE BODY, from the hip to shoulder, must be fully cleared to the rear to achieve the full turn that we desire. And as the right hip goes back it MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO RISE UP. if it does, the right leg is straightening. Remember we said in Lesson 1 that the right leg remains flexed throughout the backswing.

And the left shoulder must not be allowed to DROP OR DIP. This is vital. Recall what we said about the first movement of the takeaway. It was made by the left hand and arm...then the shoulders began to turn. This movement does NOT call for a drop of the left shoulder. Quite the reverse. The left shoulder must move across, maintaining a CONSTANT HEIGHT from the ground if a full left hand and arm swing is to be achieved.

I mentioned the importance of fully clearing the right side. In order to do this most players will find it necessary to slightly raise the left heel. A left foot that is glued to the ground is certainly going to inhibit a full turn.... the consequences of which you already know!

This is how a correct body turn progresses. After the initial movement by the left hand and arm the shoulders begin to turn. Then the right side of the body begins to clear to the rear (over a flexed right leg) to assist the shoulder turn. Then the left heel rises so that the turning movement can be completed. In other words the body turn in the backswing occurs from the top down in the sequence 1- shoulders, 2- hips, 3- feet. Remember that, because the downswing occurs, logically in the reverse order, namely, feet first, hip shift next and shoulders last.

Now that we understand the reason for the body turn and realise that it has nothing to do with generating power, we can examine the mechanics of the turn in greater detail and really perfect the movement.

In the next lesson I shall be discussing the role of the body.