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Are you 'cheating' your backswing? Here's what you need to know

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January 30, 2024

I'm Luke Kerr-Dineen, Senior Editor for Game Improvement at Golf Digest and resident golf swing nerd. Golf IQ is my new weekly newsletter where I’ll share insight from some of the smartest people in the game to help us all play better golf.

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Before the PGA Merchandise Show last week, I made a pit stop to see Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher Shaun Webb. Shaun, alongside Golf Digest Best in State teacher Mike Granato, are the two men behind Athletic Motion Golf, which recently opened a high-tech facility in Orlando.

Like most golfers stuck in the colder climates, I’ve been spending most of my offseason wanting to make some upgrades to my golf swing, and the problem I brought to Shaun was three-fold:

  • The issue I run into is that my right arm tends to get “stuck” behind my body (left frame).
  • In order to get my arms back out in front of me, I throw away all shape in my body (middle frame).
  • On my release, you can see how my arms fling way out to the right (right frame).
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It’s a common downswing problem that can often turn right-to-left draws into blocks and hooks. Shaun explained how the backswing was the root cause of my issue.

Are you ‘cheating’ your backswing?

Taking a closer look at my golf swing under the watchful eye of a second opinion, I was falling into the trap of cheating my backswing turn. This happens when golfers try making bigger backswings than their body's range of motion allows. They turn, then hit the wall of what they’re physically capable of, which causes different parts of their swing to collapse.

Sometimes you’ll see golfers lose their grip on the club or lift out of their posture. For me, it was causing my right arm to collapse slightly, drawing it too close to my body, leading to the stuck issue.

In essence, I was cheating my backswing turn—making my swing look long, but lacking the good, powerful stretch golfers need in their body to generate power. Like the way the golfer below gets his club close to parallel at the top of his backswing, but without much stretch. You can tell he’s not generating much power from there.

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My goal, basically, became to feel more width and stretch in my arms—especially my right arm. I worked on keeping my right arm stretched wide away from my body on the backswing. Just as PGA Tour player Michael Kim explains in the example below, it made my golf swing look slightly shorter, but it forced me to turn more. As Kim’s coach and Golf Digest’s No. 3 ranked Teacher Sean Foley later explained to me:

“When you get yourself in that position, with that wide arm structure at the top of your backswing, your muscles are organized in a way which forces you to use your body for power.”

Nicolai Hojgaard is particularly good at this, as you can see here. Super wide with his arms and wrists, but super turned with his shoulders.

Anyway, more stretch, width and organization on my backswing landed my downswing in a much better spot.

Time to get to work, and for the rest of us, learn the lesson some good coaches taught me: Don’t cheat your backswing turn and collapse your arm. Feel the width and stretch—that’s where power is.

If you have questions you’d like me to answer you can email me at luke.kerr-dineen@wbd.com.

You can also follow me on X (Twitter) or Instagram and ask me there.