Leslie King Tuition Series - An End to Trial & Error Golf

Lesson 5 - The Backswing

Leslie King Tuition 5 – The Backswing

The sole purpose of the backswing is to correctly position the club at the top…

…it has absolutely nothing to do with ‘generating power’

You have probably been told that the purpose of the backswing is to generate power. Forget it! It does nothing of the kind.

The backswing is a POSITIONAL MOVEMENT. You do not hit the ball on the backswing that comes later! You are merely correctly positioning the club at the top of the swing, aligning it accurately, for the downswing into and along the intended line of flight. If the club is out of position at the top a correct downswing will be virtually impossible without some compensatory movement!

Actually the backswing has a great deal of common with the set-up and address positions. In the set-up we positioned the body for a free swing of the left hand and aim. At address we adopted a square stance so that ‘aim’ of the swing would be right. Now again in the backswing, we are simply positioning the club, and the body, for the downswing into the ball and along the intended line of flight.

In other words the backswing is a precision movement, and like all other precision movements it is performed at moderate speed and with the absence of force. It is vital to see the backswing as a “passive” phase of the swing movement. If you associate it with power and force you will never get the club into position at the top and the swing will be wrecked.

Forget all you have read about the “coiled up power of the backswing” and the resistance between the club and the shoulders that is unleashed into the ball in the downswing” etc etc. These concepts are sheer dynamite and stem from the myth that the downswing is for “generating power”.

Think of a marksman taking aim on his target! He does it calmly and with precision. The rifle must be correctly aligned before he pulls the trigger. Likewise an archer. He positions his bow with precision before releasing the arrow. That is all we are doing in the backswing. Aligning the club correctly in preparation for the “release”. If it is not correctly aligned (or aimed of you prefer) like the marksman or the archer, we are sure to be off target. It is as simple as that!

I have already referred to a “correct position at the top”. This requires definition, and why is it so important?


The left arm and hand swings the club up into this position. The role of the body is to create the conditions for this full arm swing.

From this CORRECT TOP-OF-THE-SWING POSITION the left hand and arm can REVERSE DIRECTION SMOOTHLY into the downswing and achieve a blow into and along the intended line of flight.

But if the shaft does not achieve this correct position at the top and is mis-aligned – that is, pointing either to the right or left of the target – a downward swing into and along the intended line of flight will be IMPOSSIBLE without compensatory movement in the downswing. Such compensatory movements are the beginnings of an unsound action. We want to keep the movement as simple as possible, with all superflous motion eliminated.

Golfers fail to achieve a correct position at the top for two main reasons. First they do not turn fully in the backswing so that the club can never reach the correct position and, second they do not employ the body in the right way. They allow it to hinder rather than assist the swing. We are bound to see how a full turn is achieved and how the body turn is “shaped” and controlled so that it assists the swing of the left hand and arm instead of destroying that swing.

Why a full shoulder turn is necessary

Your backswing though should NOT be about “a full shoulder turn to generate power”. Rather, you should think in terms of a full shoulder turn TO ALLOW THE LEFT HAND AND ARM TO SWING FULLY INTO A CORRECT POSITION AT THE TOP. From there it can swing down again into the ball on a correct line through impact. This is what creates power and straightness.

The illustration shows what happens when the back swing is incomplete. The club is out of position at the top and therefore a correct downswing line (into and along the intended line of flight) cannot be achieved. An out-to-in clubline is almost certain to result.

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COMPLETE THE BACKSWING FIRST. DO IT SMOOTHLY AND WITH PLENTY OF TIME. Power is released at a later stage in the downswing. Don’t run ahead of the correct sequence!

Many of the world’s top golfers assert that a “full shoulder turn is necessary for power”. I have already said that the backswing has nothing to do with generating power. Its purpose is simply to correctly position the club at the top in readiness for the downward swing.

I think it is a mistake to associate the backswing with power. After all, you don’t hit the ball on the backswing. That comes later. Thinking of power tends to make the backswing quick and jerky, and this results in an incomplete turn.

We now know what we want to achieve in the backswing. Now let’s consider how it is done.

I have already stressed at length that the golf action consists mainly of a FREE SWING OF THE LEFT HAND AND ARM to the top, and down again into and through the ball. A correct body turn makes this swing possible. It does not cause the movement of the left hand and arm at any time. By turning correctly the body creates the conditions for full leverage of the left hand and arm. We will now see precisely why the left hand and arm is paramount in the swing. First, the swing of the left hand and arm imparts MOVEMENT to the club-head at all times in the swing. Second, the left arm and hand controls DIRECTION (club-line) that the club-head takes into the swing. Third, the swing of the left hand and arm creates SWING PLANE and finally, the angle of the club-face is CONTROLLED by the left hand.

Hence MOVEMENT, DIRECTION, SWING PLANE and CONTROL, are all governed by the swing of the left hand and arm! That is why I maintain that the swinging of the left hand and arm is the basis of the golf swing itself.

Now lets take a look at the complete backswing movement. Here it is in essence wth the left hand and arm swinging the club to the top, and the body turning in a controlled manner to ceate the conditions for the full swing.

Note that the swinging movement of the arm and hand alone has created the swing plane. The left hand, the club-shaft and club-head have moved on the plane at all times, and they will remain on the same plane in the downswing, thus ensuring an impact into and along the intended line of flight. Remember that!

Actually, the swinging of the club with the left hand and arm alone is a most valuable exercise. It is literally the essence of the backswing and helps to develop “left side control” in the swing. But do it reasonable slowly and be sure to get the club shaft positioned correctly at the top as it is shown in the diagram.

Above all, try to sense how a correct body turn promotes a full swing of the left hand and arm. An incorrect turn destroys the capacity of the arm to swing! Remember, a correct body turn and a full, free swing of the left hand and arm are complimentary. We cannot have one without the other. but the BODY DOES NOT PROPEL THE ARM TO THE TOP.

By achieving a correct body movement the left hand an arm is freed to swing to the FULLEST EXTENT and can develop MAXIMUM LEVERAGE. Once you have acquired this movement your game must improve!

In the next lesson I shall be discussing the method for starting the backskwing and the causes and effects of an incorrect takeaway.

Next Lesson – Starting the Swing

Series Introduction & Masterpost

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