How to start your swing

Forget the one-piece takeaway and get synchronized

November 2007

1. To synchronize your swing, start with your normal address position and grip...
2. And move the clubhead away from the ball first, before you swing your arms.

One of the basics in golf instruction is the concept of a "one-piece" takeaway -- the club, arms and body moving away from the ball together. Players from beginner level to the tour practice it every day.

But they are making the swing harder than it has to be. Much harder. A one-piece takeaway causes a fatal flaw in your backswing, a flaw that can be overcome only by compensations and lots of athleticism.

In every swing, the clubhead travels a much greater distance from address to the top of the backswing than the arms, shoulders or hips do. That's simple physics. But with a one-piece takeaway, the body turns early, then has to stop and wait for the arms and club to catch up. When the body has to wait, it tends to tilt toward the target, and the arms move out of sequence and lift. Unless you make a compensation, you lose a lot of power.

One simple move to start back -- the one on the previous two pages -- will get your swing in sync. The first thing you should move in your backswing is the clubhead. With a subtle clockwise rotation of your left forearm, start the clubhead away from the ball, without moving your hands from their address position, and let your right wrist cock.

As soon as the clubhead moves, feel as if you're pushing down on the end of the grip with the heel pad of your left hand, so that the butt of the club points to the ground. It should feel as though the end of the grip is pointing straight down before your hands get past the outside of your thigh on the way back.

By getting the clubhead into this position early in your backswing, you're setting your swing up so the club, arms and body can reach the top all at once. Then you can return the club to the ball on a good path and plane without making any quick compensations.

Your swing might feel "handsy" at first, but know that your hands will be so much less active when it counts: through impact. Getting synchronized this way, at the start of the move away, is why players like Ernie Els (see his driver sequence) and Charles Howell III look so effortless when they swing. For them, the club, arms and body move in sync. By starting right, you can have that, too.

Bad: Address

Even from a good address position, it's amazing how quickly things can go wrong if you're out of sync.

Bad: One-piece move

The club, arms and body go back together. Notice how far my left shoulder has turned already.

Bad: Disconnect

Look how my arms have lifted compared to below. My body is turned and now must wait for my arms.

Bad: Reverse pivot

When the body has to stop, it tends to tilt toward the target, which costs power and accuracy.
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