START OUT IN FRONT: Beginning your practice swing in front of the ball will produce a better turn.
I've seen two types of faulty takeaways ruin golf shots: The first belongs to the amateur who snatches the club back with very little body turn and sets the club at the top with a wristy motion. His swing is mostly hands and arms. The second happens because a golfer has been told to turn everything back "in one piece." The club, hands, arms and body turn off the ball in robotic-like fashion, and there's no wrist set. He's all body. Both of these faults are going to leave you in an unlikely position to hit the ball solid.
Your backswing should be a blend of a setting of the wrists and a turning of the body. Try this simple drill, which you can even incorporate as part of your pre-shot routine: Start with the club hovering above the ball, and a few feet closer to your target as if you've already swung through the hitting area (above). From this position, take the club back over the ball at your normal pace and set your wrists as the club nears the top of the swing.
You'll notice that by starting with the club extended past the ball, and then eventually setting the wrists, your body turns the way it should. One helpful swing thought to have is swing, then set. It's actually swing, set, turn, but the turn part comes without thinking about it. A proper backswing like this will put you in position for a better shot.
SMITH, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, is based at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., and Tiburón in Naples, Fla.