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This nerdy graph reveals a terrible golf swing takeaway mistake—how to avoid it

October 19, 2023

Something I've been thinking about recently is the takeaway in the golf swing.

(Yes, I realize that's a little weird, but an obsession with golf makes people a little weird, so here we are).

It started this summer when Rose Zhang's longtime coach, George Pinnell, explained how hard they work on Zhang's takeaway. It's an area that is often overlooked, he said, but that the pair want to make sure the clubhead moves first via the wrists and arms with a quiet upper body. That sets the platform for a powerful backswing turn, as Zhang explained her recent Golf Digest cover story:

"To take the club back correctly, my lower body stays quiet, and the first few feet of the swing are controlled by a coordinated rotation of my upper body and arms. They work together. The mistake is to start back only with your arms."

The 'normal' takeaway sequence

Generally speaking, Zhang's explanation is how most takeaway moves work, as the Titleist Performance Institute co-founder Dr. Greg Rose explains below.

  1. The clubhead moves first
  2. The arms start moving next
  3. Begin turning torso
  4. Complete backswing with hip turn

That’s what TPI’s Dr. Rose calls the "normal" takeaway sequence. There are some slight variations in speed and amount—that's OK!—but similar to the downswing, the broad strokes are the same.

But one move that can spoil any takeaway …

The mistake: Starting with your hips

Starting with your hips is the takeaway sequence spoiler that Dr. Rose says he tries to help players avoid.

When your golf swing starts with a hip slide, simply put, it messes up the order of the rest of your backswing. Your arms start lifting instead of turning, and it also slides your hips so far away from the ball they can’t come back in time.

It's a mistake it a lot in very new golfers and junior golfers who may struggle with a club that's too heavy, but it pops up everywhere. Tin Cup was more interested in flirting with Molly Griswold than helping her golf swing during their first lesson, which is a shame, because you can spot some early hip slide on her takeaway.

All of which is to say: The start of your swing should see the club and arms moving first (more on that here). Start with the hips, and you'll struggle the rest of the way.