Learn How I’m Fixing My Top of Backswing Position with Proper Practice…

Proper practice with mirrors—but without a golf ball—helped RST Certified Instructor Sam Jarman improve his top of backswing position and can help you as well.

By Sam Jarman, RST Certified Instructor – Level 1

I’ve been working hard on my own game over the past few weeks, especially my posture and top of backswing position.  I played poorly in the National Assistants at East Sussex National a few weeks ago and that gave me a real kick up the backside as I felt I was playing well going into the tournament.  It proves that although on my good days I can play some really good stuff, my ball striking is still too inconsistent, especially in tough conditions as was the case at East Sussex in the first round.  Despite some decent driving, I just wasn’t controlling my golf ball well enough with my irons.

I put myself on video when I got back and there were some things I really didn’t like.  My posture was sloppy, I wasn’t loading into my right glute and right heel in the backswing, my right arm was loose and away from my body at the top of backswing position, my transition was weak and I was sliding rather than turning in the downswing.   All of which was leading to big pulls with my irons, and weak cuts with my driver.

There are two videos here which show the issues.

My first point of call was my posture.  I made sure I was sat back into my glutes and that my weight was going down through my ankles. I then set to work on my backswing movements and top of backswing position.  I have always had a problem sliding my hips to the right and getting onto the ball and the outside of my right foot.  It’s much better than it used to be before I started working on the Rotary swing stuff, but it still creeps back in.

The main point I want to stress in this piece is that I didn’t hit that many golf balls when I was working on this. One of the main conclusions I have come to is that a golf ball is a very poor feedback device when it comes to gaining information as to whether you have made a good movement or not.  You can hit a pretty decent golf shot with a not very good golf swing, and you can shank it with a move that is very close to perfect.

You can draw a couple of conclusions from this.  This first might be that if that is the case, why work on the swing at all?  Work on your short game and putting and accept the bad shots and learn to recover from them.  It seems to work pretty well for Phil Mickelson.  I actually think this is a great plan for most amateur golfers, except for the fact that very few people want to learn about and work hard on their short game.  Everyone I talk to wants to hit long, straight golf shots and to look good doing it.

This brings us to the second option; which is to work on the movement of the golf swing in a time and energy efficient way.  To cram as much learning into as short a time as possible, and to make that learning as durable as possible.  I promise you hitting golf balls is not the best way to learn the golf swing. Hitting balls is useful to see what the results of the change in movement pattern might be, but it is nigh on impossible to actually make the changes while worrying about where the ball has gone.

Most of my time was spent without a club and a ball, in front of two mirrors, one in front and one down the line, making small movements, chunking the movements down, chaining them back up until I could feel and, crucially, see in the mirrors exactly which parts of my body were doing what. Once I could feel it, I picked up a club and went over the process again, watching the effect that small changes in body position would have on the relative positions of the shaft and the clubface.

A real breakthrough was the understanding of the way the weight shift in the backswing affects the right arm.

As I wrote on the Forum; “I have always had trouble getting  the right arm under the club at the top of the backswing; I tend to get it loose and behind me.  I get over the top in the downswing and hit cuts with the driver and pulls with the irons.  Not pretty.

“Anyway, long story short, I had gotten a bit sloppy with my posture, and also was getting slightly onto the ball of my right foot, and not loaded into my right glute in the backswing.  Worked all day Friday on Move 1 weight shift and getting really planted onto the heel and into the glute.  Put myself on video on Sunday and the difference was very noticeable.  For the first time (ever?) I’m keeping the right arm in front of me and getting it under the club.

“Just thought I’d share this as I know a lot of people are struggling with the top of the backswing position, and maybe focusing on the right arm and shoulder elevation.  I thought it might be a lack of flexibility that was causing the problem.  As soon as I got the right heel in the ground and into the glute, the right arm just started behaving itself with no effort at all.  So if you are struggling with Move 2, go back and make sure you have Move 1 nailed down first.  For me, Move 2 is more of a result of a good Move 1 than a move on its own.”

The key point for me is that if I hadn’t been using the mirrors, I wouldn’t have spotted this. It was so obvious. At the top of the backswing it works this way:  Weight on the heel and in the glute, right arm in a good position.  Weight on the ball of the foot, right arm wings out and gets behind me.  Instant feedback.

For years I have been working on keeping the right arm tucked in.  I could have written a novel in the time I have spent hitting balls with a bloody glove in my right armpit.  What happens when the glove comes out?  The right arm flies away, because the problem isn’t the right arm, it’s the way the torso is moving over the hips.

Here is a video with my backswing starting to look somewhere near where I want it.  Next step is Move 3, the transition.

To learn more about Sam or contact him for lessons, check out his Certified Instructor bio and his golf instruction website.

The Transition – Working with a Student

I was giving a lesson to a student and good friend, Ed Mylett, yesterday and it was very timely that I had just put out the video on the bump transition because that is exactly what we worked on in his swing. In the screen capture below you will see his swing on the left on mine on the right. The green line represents the outside of our lead leg thigh and hip at address. As you can see in the Ed’s swing, he hasn’t fully gotten onto his left side as indicated by the green line. Your belt buckle should be on or very close to that green line by impact.

Ed needs to get his zipper on that green line.
Ed needs to get his zipper on that green line.

Now, it’s very important to note that Ed is a Rotary Hitter and this swing of mine is also a Rotary Hitter pattern. The reason this is important is because it is this move that brings the club, arms and hands all the way down to hip level. In one of the original Rotary Hitter videos I talked about the throwing motion from the top with the right hand for righties. While this is absolutely correct, I’ve seen several students who are doing this without ever clearing their bodies out of the way. This simply creates an armsy swing with minimal consistency. If you watch the “Rotary Hitter Downswing” video you will see a clip of my swing at the bottom of that page and if you pay close attention you can see just how hard my hips are working to clear to make room for the arms to come through. Sequencing is extremely important in the Rotary Hitter swing motion and it is absolutely paramount that the legs be allowed to bring the club down to the hitting area. If you’re using your legs and hips properly, it will happen fast enough that you still feel like you are throwing from the top, but if you don’t master the clearing of the hips and still throw, you’ll simply come in too steep.

Now, take a look at the two video captures of Ed’s swing below:

Note how much more powerful Ed looks in the picture on the left as he' able to use his legs for power in his swing.
Note how much more powerful Ed looks in the picture on the left as he

In the photo on the left, you can see just how much more of a powerful position Ed is in after we worked on his swing. He’s much closer to being in the proper position than the swing in the right that was our baseline swing of the day. He’s now able to feel his arms being pulled down more by his big, powerful hip and leg muscles and save his arms until later in the swing. This sequencing motion will give Ed a lot of effortless powerful. Stay tuned for more progress on Ed’s swing because we’re going all the way to scratch golf!

Chuck Quinton