One of the most common mistakes that amateur golfers make is swaying in the golf swing. It’s something that happens fairly naturally and feels like the logical way to make that ball travel farther.
Everyone, especially amateur golfers, wants to hit the golf ball farther, so it’s tempting to sway, or drift, in your backswing to make that happen. The problem is, it leads to a whole slew of other issues that actually make the ball fly shorter and farther offline.
Amateur golfers who sway in their golf swing are often faced with inconsistent contact, lack of distance, and struggles with balance. The inconsistent contact is because it’s difficult to repeat a swaying golf swing over and over again.
One of the goals of stopping swaying is to allow your golf swing to become repeatable, leading to consistency and distance too.
Stopping your backswing sway isn’t the only issue though. Often times when people sway in their backswing, it’s because they have a misunderstanding of the golf swing and how it works. Simply stopping your sway, but keeping your old approach to the golf swing, will only make the swing harder.
Don’t be discouraged though! The change is fairly simple once you understand how the golf swing works and use that to your advantage.
What it means to Sway in the Golf Swing
First of all, we need to talk about what it means to sway in your backswing. A lot of people use this language to describe a swing error, but if you don’t know what it’s referring to, you might try to correct the wrong thing.
Swaying in the backswing is the lateral movement of a golfer’s body, typically the head, away from the target during the backswing.
People typically talk about the head in the golf swing because the head is, sort of, an indicator for the rest of your body.
- If your torso is swaying
- Then your head will also sway
- And then you sway with your legs
It’d be really difficult to sway with your legs and/or torso and have it not show up in your head, but that would also be called a sway.
Like I said above, swaying is typically a result of a golfer wanting to hit the ball farther. We tend to think that the more weight we swing back and forward, the farther the ball will go. While, ideally, that is true, it rarely plays out that way.
Swaying happens because a golfer assumes the golf swing happens on a line; the target line, swinging straight back and straight through in order for the ball to fly straight down the target line.
If that were the case, moving weight back on that target line and then through on that same line, would help the ball fly far and straight.
The truth is, though, the golf swing exists in a circle, not a line. Stay with me on this, it’s a fairly simple, but helpful thought. Your golf swing ought to swing around the center of that circle; your spine, not back and forth along the target line.
Since your swing exists on a circle instead of a line, power comes from creating torque around your spine. A lot of amateur golfers need to change their paradigm of how the power is created.
Power is not created by swaying back and forth like a pendulum, but instead, from twisting around the spine like a tetherball. In this analogy, your spine is the pole, arms and body are the rope, and club is the tetherball.
Why to Stop Swaying in the Backswing
Now that we’ve got all that cleared up about the what of stopping your sway, let’s dive in to the why.
Let’s keep with the tetherball image to illustrate why you need to stop swaying in your backswing.
- Imagine there was an object, like another ball placed on a ladder (i.e. a golf ball on a tee), you wanted to hit with the tetherball.
- To do that, you’d probably measure how long the rope is and place the second ball that same distance from the pole.
- That way, when the first ball flew around the pole, it would come in to contact with the second ball.
It’s the same with your golf swing. When you address the golf ball, you’re “measuring” the distance from your spine to the golf ball. As long as your spine remains in the same location (i.e. tetherball pole), the club and golf ball will come in to contact with one another.
The moment your spine moves from its original location, it becomes significantly harder to return to the exact location and make contact with the ball solidly.
Yes, it is possible, but it is very difficult. Even an amateur can accidentally do that every once and awhile, but it requires incredible hand-eye coordination to do consistently.
Another reason to make this change is that hitting the ball with the center of the clubface actually helps hit the ball farther than swinging harder. Too many people sacrifice centeredness of contact in order to gain swing speed, leading to swaying.
Maintaining your spine location allows you to hit the center of the clubface more frequently. Slow down your swing a little bit to stop your momentum from taking you away from your swing center.
Now on to how to stop swaying in your backswing. If you struggle with this swing error, then fear not, this next section is on how to stop swaying.
The Hip Sway
The first step in stopping your sway, is to focus on your hips. In the backswing:
- Your hips ought to turn, not shift. So, your front hip (left side for a right-handed golfer) ought to move down and towards the golf ball.
- Then, your back hip (right side for the right-handed golfer) ought to move toward your back.
This combination will cause you to turn around your spine rather than shift backwards.
The next thing to focus on is your shoulders. Your shoulders will turn in the exact same motion as your hips, just slightly delayed.
Stop Lateral Movement in the Golf Swing / Sliding
After that, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t shift too much weight on to your back foot (right foot for a right-handed golfer). Shifting weight to the back foot is natural in the golf swing, but too much weight shift back is when amateur golfers get into trouble.
Even though it won’t be possible to keep a 50/50 balance of weight between both feet in the backswing, shoot for that breakdown and it’ll help you stop swaying. Swaying often leads to an over-shifting of weight to the backside.
Finally, to stop swaying in your backswing, make sure you can hold your follow-through for at least a 3 second count at the end. This might seem like it has little bearing on backswing swaying, but here’s the deal:
- Swaying in the backswing also leads to balance issues.
- So, for people who sway a lot in their backswing, they also often struggle to maintain the correct balance all the way through their swing.
As I’ve said in other articles, the follow-through is a great diagnostic tool. If you can’t hold your follow-through without falling over, you might have an issue with swaying.
Best Drills to Stop Swaying in the Golf Swing
Now that you know how to stop swaying, here are some great drills to help you put those ideas in to practice and actually improve your golf swing.
No-Club Swing Drill
This first drill is great because you can literally do it anywhere at any time, you don’t even need a golf club.
- Wrap or fold your arms across your chest and address and imaginary golf ball.
- Then, take some practice swings by just focusing on the turn of your shoulders and hips in the backswing.
- This position makes it really easy to notice the rotation of the hips and shoulders around your spine instead of a swaying back and forth.
- At the same time, you can pay attention to the amount of weight you have on your back foot at the top of your backswing.
- Repeat this swing over and over again whenever you can a chance to give yourself muscle memory.
Then, when it comes time to actually hit a golf ball with a club, you’ll have it ingrained in your mind.
Club Next to Head Drill
This next drill requires that you have help from a friend.
- Address a golf ball and have your friend stand outside of the ball, so you’re both facing each other’s chests.
- Have the friend grip their golf club and hold the grip end to the side of your head. The grip ought to be next to your back ear (right ear for a right-handed player).
- Then, hit some golf balls with your friend holding the club in place.
If you sway, you’ll touch or push your friend’s club grip. Your goal is to hit a shot without touching or pushing the club too far backwards.
Another alternative way to do this drill is to place something on the top of your head that’s fairly easy to balance; a beanbag tends to work well. Then, hit some golf shots with it resting on your head. It’ll obviously fall off in the downswing, but it if falls off in the backswing then you’re swaying too much.
Hit on a 2×4 Drill
Finally, like I said above, balance issues are often a result of swaying too much. So, this drill focuses on improving your balance and, indirectly, improving your swaying.
- Get a 2×4 piece of wood that you can stand on during your golf swing.
- Try hitting some golf shots and maintaining your balance on this board.
- It seems fairly easy, but you’ll quickly realize that this unstable ground forces you to engage different muscles that keep you standing upright.
- Since you’ll be slightly elevated, you may also need to elevate the golf ball on its own 2×4 as well.
The point is, though, that your feet aren’t on stable ground, yet you have to maintain your balance just the same as you would in a regular golf shot. The 2×4 will subconsciously deter you from swaying too far backwards, so you don’t fall on the ground.
The Bottom Line
For those of you out there that struggle with shot consistency, distance, and balance, you may have an issue with swaying in your backswing.
I know that if you take the ideas and drills in this article and put them in to practice, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your golf swing.
At first it might be a struggle to shift from one way of hitting a ball to another, but in the long-run, you’ll play better golf and have a higher overall potential.