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Better backswing

3 bad backswing mistakes hurting your swing, according to a PGA Tour coach

January 24, 2023

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Your downswing happens in the blink of an eye, and the moments around impact in milliseconds. It's hard work making big changes to that area of your golf swing, when it happens so quickly and at such a high speed.

But one thing where golfers can make big changes, with the relatively small amount of time they do have, is on their backswing. Get your backswing in better shape, and you'll increase your odds of getting your downswing into a better spot. You'll hit the ball longer and better because of it, too.

(Editor's note: if you're looking for some more DIY swing fixes around this topic, you might enjoy this Golf Digest Schools series, check it out)

So with the season coming up, we called up Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher Tony Ruggiero, a member of the coaching staff at the prestigious Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to learn about a few of the mistakes he sees golfers make far too often when it comes to their backswing turn. And, crucially, how to avoid them.

Backswing Mistake #1: They slide their hips

The exact amount varies from golfer to golfer, but as you turn on the backswing, a majority of your body weight will move over to your trail foot. Transferring your weight throughout your swing helps generate power, but often, golfers will overdo it.

"Golfers know they want to get behind the ball so they end up leaning and slide weight over there," Ruggiero says.

Golfers who slide—which happens when your hips move laterally rather than turning—instead of turn will often never make it all the way back to the ball in time for impact, he goes onto say. They'll hit big chunks because of it.

The Fix: In Tony's second video below, you can see him place an object, like a chair or golf bag, just outside of his student's trail foot. Your goal is to avoid hitting it

Backswing Mistake #2: They lift and twist (instead of turning)

Because nothing in golf is that easy, there's the opposite problem to sliding on the backswing.

"Golfers know they want to turn, but they twist and lift instead of turning," Ruggiero says.

This is an important distinction. Twisting and lifting is exactly as it sounds. Rather than turning your arms into a powerful position, you fake it, and practically place them into a position. You won't get much power that way.

The Fix: Tony says he often uses exercise bands with his students. Giving them an unstable surface and some resistance which forces them to make an athletic turn.

"Lots of golfers think they’re too old or too out of shape to learn to turn, but it's not true," he says. "You can build stability and flexibility with simple exercises that really help you get better fast."

Backswing Mistake #3: They turn too soon to start their downswing

Once golfers' backswing is complete, many golfers will make the mistake of simply turning too soon. This causes the classic over-the-top move, and when paired with an open clubface, can lead to a big slice.

"Right handed golfers often try to clear or rotate thru the ball by turning their left or lead side," Ruggiero says. "It’s the driving off your right side that turns you through."

The Fix: As Tony says, turning through is the ultimate goal, but the key is to make sure to transfer your weight back to your your lead side. Teachers call this "re-centering," and when you look at pros' golf swings, it actually starts to happen late on the backswing, and continues as the downswing starts.

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