When it comes to the golf swing and instruction, one of the most overlooked areas of focus might be the takeaway.
Those first few moments immediately after a player starts their swing are incredibly important because it’s what sets a swing up for success later on.
If the swing starts off poorly, it will, no doubt, end poorly as well. That’s why the first move back is so critical to a successful golf shot.
That being said, it’s often overlooked because it’s a little unclear as well. There’s a clear beginning, but not a clear end point.
We know it as a subset of the backswing, but there’s no universally recognized point where it ends. Therefore, it’s ignored for other, more tangible aspects of the swing, like the pause or transition down.
For the purposes of this article though, it starts when you begin your swing and ends when your hands and clubhead get to belt height.
It’s the very beginning of every golf swing and, if you get it right, you’ll have a better chance of hitting the shot you want. So, in this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how the first move back can make or break the rest of your golf game.
What are the Different Ways to Take the Club back?
To start out, let’s talk about the different types of methods. The main two that most golfers and instructors talk about are the one-piece and the right arm method. There’s no need to overthink the first move, but it is important to pay attention to what you’re doing because it’ll influence the rest of your swing.
Two Different Methods
- One-Piece Method
- Right Arm Method
The One Piece Takeaway
The one-piece methods gets its name because it focuses on one main part of the swing. In this case, the front shoulder.
Everything else stays as silent as possible. With the one-piece, you simply concentrate on bringing your lead shoulder under your chin. This movement will shift your arms and club backwards with very little movement in your arms, wrist, or hands.
The advantage of this type of this move is that you minimize the amount of unnecessary movement in your takeaway. This allows the club to stay on the right path longer, thus, getting you into the correct spot at the top of the backswing.
You will also notice that your head stays really still because all you’re doing is moving your front shoulder under your chin. Keeping your head and sternum still will make it easier to get solid impact because you haven’t swayed back or dipped down on the way back.
Perfect Golf Takeaway
Perfect is a bit of an arbitrary word in this game but for this article we’ll say “perfect” is for the guys who win millions of dollars for hitting it around on TV. If you watch slow motion videos of the best players in the world, its amazing how quiet they are on the way back.
To me, perfect means simpler because with golf, remember that less is more. If you move less on the way back, that means you don’t have to do as much on the way down.
Not only will this create more consistent results, but it will generally lead to more power as well. For example, if you sway on the way back, you get yourself off balance. To get back to neutral, you have to sway back on the way down and then still open your hips. This is nearly impossible to do as all of it is happening in a just a few seconds.
Right Arm Takeaway
The back-arm, or right-arm as it’s commonly known, is similar to the one-piece in that it focuses on one part of the takeaway. I like to call it the back-arm takeaway because it would not be a right arm for left-handed players, so for the sake of universality, we’ll call it the back-arm method.
The difference between the one-piece and back-arm comes in what you focus on and how many moving parts are present. With the back-arm strategy, all you’re doing is pulling your back arm (right arm for a right-handed player) backward.
To help you better understand, you can imagine that there is a person standing next to you and you’re either handing them the golf club with your back arm or shaking their hand. This move should keep the club on the right path on the way back.
In this method, you will notice that your arm, not only moves backwards, but it also rotates slightly so that your back-hand opens up, so that the palm is facing out.
The advantage of this type of takeaway is that it helps engage the rotation in your forearms. If you struggle to get the clubhead rotated through impact, then you may want to give this type of takeaway a try.
How do I start the takeaway?
Now that you know the two main types of takeaways, we’re going to discuss how to start the takeaway.
As you know, there are a lot of different components in the great game of golf and all of them play a role. Your legs are the largest muscles in your body and help create power from the ground up. Your hips and waist create speed, while your forearms impact wrist hinge, and there is a huge transfer of energy on the way down.
So how do all of these muscles factor into your first move back? Here’s a quick overview that hopefully simplifies the role that each of them play.
The best piece of advice I like to give amateur golfer is to only use your big muscles, like your legs, chest and shoulders, rather than your small muscles, like your wrists to get started.
The goal is to move around your big muscles to create speed and power. Smaller muscles are used later in the backswing, but to start, keep those small muscles silent.
Look at guys like Brooks Koepka or Tiger Woods to see how they start by engaging the big muscles early and let the smaller muscles compliment things on the way down. Plus, the bigger muscles play a larger role in longer shots while the smaller ones are more important for shots around the green.
The other big move on the way back is to turn around your spine. If you change your spine angle early it can wreak havoc on your game.
Imagine that your spine is like a tether ball pole that you used when you were a kid. You want to wrap your muscles around that pole, so to start, you’re simply making a twisting-type movement with your side muscles.
This will allow the club to pull away from the ball without any wasted movement. Remember, less is more! Moving your body toward your back foot won’t help you generate power, instead you will lose power.
The goal here is to turn around your spine away from the target. As long as your knees are flexed properly and you have a wide enough base, you should be primed to get into this position.
Next, imagine a line being drawn between the target and your ball, extending indefinitely in both directions. You want to keep your clubhead hovering over that line as long as possible. The goal is to keep your wrists silent as it will help you keep everything connected.
If the clubhead begins to travel outside that line, you will likely notice that your shot shape will be a slice or fade. Similarly, if the clubhead travels inside the line too quickly on the way back, you’ll tend to draw or hook the ball. But it can also lead to coming over the top as well.
So, keep the face on that line as long as possible.
Eventually, you will have to bring it inside the line, but try to delay this move as long as possible. This will ensure you have a proper golf takeaway path.
Checkpoints for a Correct Takeaway
As you work on your first move back, there are some great checkpoints you can use to make sure that you’re in the correct position.
While positions are important, don’t forget about tempo as well! If you make a jerky move on the way back, you’re going to make it nearly impossible to time everything up properly.
Remember, the most speed needs to happen as you strike the golf ball. If it happens on the way back or during transition, you will decelerate slightly.
So make sure to check your tempo and think “low and slow” on the way back.
You want to make sure that your head is in the same exact spot it was at your address.As I mentioned earlier, be sure that you don’t let it drop or shift backward during your first move back.
Have a friend take a video of you from the face-on angle to monitor your head movement. Your head should look the same at address and by the time your grip is belt high.
Remember, even the slightest head movements can make a huge difference. Download a free golf app on your phone so you can draw a circle around your head and notice if it shifts laterally or up and down as well. Little things can make an enormous difference!
Club Over Hands
The next checkpoint that you want to evaluate is to make sure that your clubhead covers your hands. Meaning, if someone was to stand directly behind you, your clubhead would travel directly over your hands at belt high.
A good way to check this to set up a camera behind you in a down-the-line angle and record a video. If your clubhead travels directly over them then you’re in the correct position. Trouble happens when the clubhead gets too far outside or inside your hands.
Remember, too far outside will likely create a pull or fade and too far inside will likely create a push or draw.
Finally, let’s focus on the palm of your dominant hand (right hand for a right-handed player). In that same video that we mentioned above, where you shot a down-the-line view, look at your dominant hand.
The palm of this hand should be facing outward or away from your body. This will mean that the clubface is square to your lead forearm.
Another way to check this is to see if the toe of the face is pointing towards the sky at this same position. This will allow you get everything square at impact easier and more consistently.
Most Common Mistakes
There are a couple common mistakes that I often see in the first move back. Both of them relate to not using the correct wrist action.
The first is when a player uses too much wrist too early in the swing. A lot of times this means that a player’s first move is with their wrists instead of shoulders or spine turn. Remember, use the big muscles to turn, not the small ones!
On the first move back, if your wrists are engaged too early, it can lead to a couple different things that will mess up your sequence. First off, it could result in a path that comes too far inside the ball, which would result in a draw or a hook. Or, it could also result in a backswing that goes too far at the top and throws the whole swing off balance. Finally, another thing it could do is lead to a flippy, overly active wrist which hurts you at impact.
Next, a lot of golfers will over or under-rotate their hands on the way back. As I said above in the “Dominant Palm” section, you want the toe of the club pointing towards the sky at belt high.
Over or under-rotation usually means that the toe either faces behind you or out in front of you. Both of those positions will hurt your shot direction.
You’ll find that you’ll either hit the ball left or right of your target, depending on rotation speed and your dominant hand. You may even see that your shots miss both directions because you can never figure out how quick to rotate your hands.
Finally, the last mistake that golfers tend to make in their first move back is that they bring the club too far inside or outside their target line. I talked about this above in the “Draw Line” section.
Basically, if you bring it too far inside your hands, you’ll tend to swing with a path that is too far inside to out.
The reverse is also true; if you bring the it too far outside then your path will be too far outside to in. Both of those paths will create a shot that is difficult to control the direction.
Golf Swing Takeaway Drills
These golf takeaway drills are simple but highly effective. Now, there are a couple great drills that you can practice both at home and on the course to help create an ideal takeaway.
First, I’ll talk about an on-course drills that you can use on the range (though the at-home drills can be used on-course as well). :
On Course Correction Drill
- Have a playing partner stand behind you, in line with an imaginary ball and target.
- Bring your club back to belt height and have that person “catch” your club head.
- Make sure they only catch your clubhead if it is in a position that would cover your glove.
- Simply repeat that motion several times before hitting your shot to get the correct feel.
This golf takeaway drill helps you keep the club on the correct path during your first motion back.
What are some good drills for learning at home?
The great news is that it is simple to work on your first move back at home or at your office. Here are a couple of drills for you to try out:
At-Home “No Arm” Drill
- Cross your arms on your chest.
- Set up at address and take your imaginary swing by just turning your upper body.
- Simply feel like you are twisting around your spine.
This drill will help you feel the correct spine twist and keep your head still throughout the first move back. Another at-home drill you can use is to set up at address without a club.
At-Home Forearm Rotation Drill
- Hold your hands flat against each other so the palms are facing each other.
- Then take your swing as normal.
- Make sure that when they get to belt high, the palm of your dominant hand is facing out toward the target.
This drill will make sure that you have the proper club head rotation and don’t get too wristy.
One Hand Drill
Perfecting this feeling takes some time but this drill will help learn how to start the backswing in golf. I like how he uses only hand at first which makes it easier to feel the club shaft and the impact your wrists have on the face. Watch the full video to learn more.
What is the correct takeaway in golf?
The correct move on the way back is what works best for your game. Because ultimately, you can do it a lot of different ways. If you watch the PGA Tour, you can tell there isn’t one way to do anything.
But, your grip, age, swingspeed, and other factors all play a role. Ideally, you want to try and keep everything as square as much as possible to minimize extra movements. But, golf is far from easy, as you know, so do what works best for your game.
How can I improve my takeaway in golf?
Of all the golf tips in the world, I can’t stress repetition enough. If you’re trying to change any part of your setup, grip, or anything else, it all comes down to repetition.
Because bad habits are intentionally hard to break. Your mind is programmed to make your life easy by remembering things you do over and over again. So replace a bad habit, even in golf, you need to do it over and over again. Repetition is the mother of all learning.
Whether it’s at the driving range or looking in a mirror in your house, the more you work on the first move back, the more likely you are to improve quicker.
How important is the takeaway in golf?
The first move back is pivotal in playing consistent golf. If you get In the wrong positions early, you are going to have to make corrections at the top, in transition or on the way down.
For example, if you open the face on the way back, you are instantly more likely to hit a fade. This can happen in a mili-second and it’s unfortunately what a lot of amateur golfers do. On the other hand, you could start the way back with a shut face and make it much more likely to bottom out with a closed clubhead.
Everything in golf is a chain reaction so the moment you take the shaft back, everything reacts from there. Focus on this move as if your game depends on it (because it does).
Use these golf takeaway tips to start improving your first move back to hit it more consistent and shoot lower scores. Remember, the golf swing takeaway sequence plays a pivotal role in setting you up for success.
If you take these pointers and work them into your current move back, you’ll soon see that your overall golf swing is more consistent because you are starting the swing correctly.
Remember, don’t ignore this part of your game because it is an important part of the swing sequence that sets up everything else up. The takeaway in the golf swing is basic fundamental. It will influence everything else that happens, including the final result.
Master this and watch your game become more consistent than you ever thought possible!