Golfers of the early 90s will remember being brought up on a diet of instruction trying to mimic the swing of Nick Faldo, who was arguably the best golfer of that era before Tiger Woods burst onto the scene.
Faldo’s prescription for how to get a longer backswing in golf was to see certain positions as “checkpoints” the club should ideally be in to complete the backswing and provide the necessary drills on how to achieve these positions.
Indeed, if you look back to the videos that he produced, what he advocates goes against the modern teaching philosophy and we’ll see some of why that is the case shortly.
Faldo’s game was built more for controlling the golf ball and not geared towards over-powering a golf course.
In the same period, if you really wanted to see how to get a longer backswing in golf the antithesis of Faldo’s highly controlled swing was John Daly and Fred Couples.
Both players had long backswings where the clubhead travelled beyond the parallel position.
They exhibited a freedom of movement and in Daly’s case his “grip it and rip it” ideology was the genesis of the “bomb and gouge” generation we see more of in today’s professional game.
Bringing things up to date we see professionals with all forms of mannerisms and idiosyncrasies in their swings who compete at the highest levels.
So where does this leave the amateur game?
Coaching amateurs still involves helping to improve technique and make bad shots more playable – as the pros still do.
There is also more of an acceptance that like the pros, there are different ways to swing the club that can be effective.
But now there is also more of an acceptance of physical impediments that might prevent us from areas of improvement – the emergence of things like the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) is designed to help more golfers get into better shape to swing the club better.
So let’s go back to the backswing and focus on a topic that a lot of golfers want to achieve – how to get a longer backswing in golf?
There are several ways we can achieve this but a couple of things need to be considered first of all:
- What are the benefits of a longer backswing in golf?
- Is your body able to accommodate a longer backswing?
What are the benefits of a longer backswing in golf?
There are two distinct merits to achieving a longer backswing in golf.
A longer backswing can help generate more clubhead speed which translates into more distance.
There are not many golfers out there who aren’t interested in hitting the golf ball further so this has to be a major benefit and will peak most golfers’ interests.
A longer backswing can also help with the timing and sequencing of your downswing which can improve the quality of the strike and fewer wayward shots.
Is your body able to accommodate a longer backswing?
We’ve touched briefly already on physical constraints so if you do carry any ailments – muscle pain, stiffness etc it’s worth getting these checked out thoroughly before attempting to make a longer backswing.
Some of what we’ll describe for getting a longer backswing will not put any more stress onto your body but nevertheless don’t run the risk of any injury.
So, now that we have looked at the merits of how to get a longer backswing in golf and some of the physical considerations what can we do to achieve that longer backswing?
There are four key elements to consider:
- Narrowing your stance
- Free tension
- Allow your hips to turn
As with a lot of things in golf, big changes can be made to improve your golf that doesn’t involve altering your actual swing.
This is particularly true when it comes to the address position.
When addressing the ball it’s very common to see golfers have their feet set at ninety degrees to their target line – no problem with this as we see most professionals set up to the ball this way.
However, this can restrict your ability to make a full turn as having your right foot set square (if you are a right-handed golfer) can create the feeling of locking in your right leg which can really restrict the turning action of your upper body.
One way you can achieve a lengthened backswing is to “flair out” your right foot (if you are a right-handed golfer).
What we mean by “flaring out” your right foot is that instead of setting up with it aimed at 90 degrees to the target.
You don’t have to flair your right foot too much but the effect of doing this will allow a freer movement of your hips and chest helping to promote a less restricted backswing which in turn will be a longer backswing.
Have you ever watched a long-drive competition?
If you haven’t, find some videos online, especially Kyle Berkshire, Martin Borgmeier and Bryson DeChambeau
So why are we talking about long drive guys and what have they got to do with our quest of how to get a longer backswing in golf?
If you watch them, the one thing they have in common which is relevant for us is that they all lift their left heel slightly off the ground in their backswing.
For left-handed golfers look at Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson as both raise their right heel in their backswing.
Why do they do this?
To increase their turn and with Berkshire and Borgmeier in particular to lengthen their backswings.
This helps them generate enormous power when they transition into the downswing – Berkshire has recorded clubhead speeds of 150 mph (241km/h).
If these guys benefit from lifting their left heel more golfers should be trying this as well if they feel that they can’t get a longer backswing.
We can’t promise 150 mph clubhead speeds but you’ll find that the length of your backswing will increase.
Finally on this point, it’s interesting to note that in a recent exhibition match that featured a “long drive” contest on one of the holes, Justin Thomas made a swing where he lifted his left heel to gain more length to his backswing.
Narrowing Your Stance
This sounds a little counterintuitive, especially if we’re thinking about the driver swing but this is also another way you can answer the question of how to get a longer backswing in golf.
When we widen our stance we create a more solid platform to swing from but if you have flexibility issues this wider stance may also restrict creating a longer backswing.
Narrowing your stance will aid in getting a fuller, longer backswing because you will have less resistance to turn against in your swing.
Tension in the golf swing is bad news.
When golfers get nervous and under pressure on the course it’s very easy to quicken the swing up which means that sometimes the backswing gets a little short and a little quick which can lead to miscues in the downswing, poor contact and errant shots – not what anybody needs!
This can start at address where the grip pressure can become tight, which tightens up the muscles in your forearms, upper arms, and shoulders.
If muscles are tight they can’t perform efficiently which can restrict movement.
At address, really feel like there is very little pressure in your grip.
If somebody was to try and pull the club out of your hands they would be able to do so with little resistance from you.
Having very light pressure on the grip means less tension in the arms and shoulders which means that your body is more ready to make a nice full athletic motion.
Allow your hips to turn
Golf tuition previously was more focused on restricting the movement of your hips but trying not to turn your hips is a sure-fire way to a shorter backswing.
How do we combat this? Allow your hips to turn!
Free up your hips to be able to turn in unison with your upper body in the backswing.
You can still maintain control of the clubhead and not feel like your backswing will suddenly resemble John Daly’s!
We set out at the start to answer the question of how to get a longer backswing in golf.
Taking into account any flexibility issues we’ve highlighted some simple things that you can implement into your golf swing which can help gain that ideal, fully loaded backswing.
As you’ll notice with these tips there is nothing deeply “technical” in the quest of how to get a longer backswing in golf.
Some are simple changes you can make in your setup and others will be easy to build into your existing swing – as with all things related to golf, a little bit of practice will help you achieve that longer backswing.
Practising these suggestions will also see results in added distance off the tee and maybe taking less club for your approach shots as you will be able to generate more clubhead speed.
If you find that you are suddenly hitting hit a few extra yards passed your regular playing partners don’t be too surprised if they start to grill you on where the extra distance came from!