Does A Shorter Golf Backswing Improve Your Game?

Is a shorter golf backswing better? A simple question with a not so simple answer.

This is a common golf swing tip, similar to “keep your head down” or stay still, but does it work? Will it help you improve your golf handicap?

We want to take a deeper look and try to determine if the shorter golf backswing concept is a myth or a fact.

If you have spent time on a public driving range, you have probably received unsolicited swing advice from a stranger (fellow golfer).

You should always take “these notes” with a grain of salt. Do you want swing advice from the guy that just shanked his 7-iron?

Let’s get to the bottom of it. Maybe a shorter golf backswing could help you break 100 for the first time!

Male golfer at the top of his backswing, wearing a white cap and blue shirt, against a very blue sky.

What Is The Golf Backswing?

The golf swing is a 7-part sequence. Address, Takeaway, Backswing, Transition, Downswing, Impact, and Follow-Through.

The backswing is the 3rd step in the process. It involves moving the club to the top of your swing.

A properly executed golf backswing involves your entire body. Your arms, your legs, and your torso.

The length of a golf backswing can vary depending on the golfer and the type of shot you are playing.

For example, you will have a shorter golf backswing when hitting a wedge versus hitting your driver. That being said, for the purposes of this discussion, we are talking about your full swing.

Now that we have defined it, it is time to explore if you want a shorter golf backswing.

Female golfer wearing all white on her backswing.

Do Professional Golfers Have A Shorter Golf Backswing?

This seems like a good place to start. Do the best players in the world have a shorter golf backswing than amateurs struggling to break 90?

You can quickly find several examples of powerful PGA tour players with shorter golf backswings.

Jon Rahm is currently one of the best players in the world (ranked in the top five) and he uses an amazingly short golf backswing.

Similar to Rahm, Sergio Garcia uses a shorter golf backswing and is also known as an elite ball striker.

The final example we would highlight is JB Holmes. He generates tremendous power with a shorter golf backswing.

Male golfer standing in the shade of tall trees halfway through his backswing.

That was quick. So, we have our answer! Not so fast – there are some examples of great golfers with extremely long backswings.

John Daly, Bubba Watson, and Ben Hogan quickly come to mind.

Check out the length of Daly’s backswing. It is amazing to watch.

Ben Hogan has one of the most famous golf swings in history and if you check out a video, his backswing goes well past parallel.

It turns out the professional golfers are not going to help us answer our question. It appears you can play great golf with swings of different lengths.

Don’t worry, we aren’t giving up. Let’s take a look at the “pros” and “cons” of a shorter golf backswing.

A Shorter Golf Backswing: Pros & Cons

Golf swings are like fingerprints – each one is different. Will a shorter golf backswing help your game?

Female golfer after taking her swing, body from waist upwards is in shot and set against a blue sky.

The Pros:

#1: Balance

A shorter golf backswing will make it easier for your to stay on balance. Less movement means you should be able to finish in a nice pose.

It is important that you repeat the same swing each time you hit the ball. Staying on balance throughout your swing makes it easier to execute the same motion each time.

#2: Consistency

It makes sense. A shorter golf backswing means the clubhead travels a shorter distance during each shot.

The shorter arc will allow you to more consistently make solid contact with the ball.

The more often you make solid contact with the golf ball, the more you can trust your yardages to be accurate.

Knowing how far each club in your bag travels is critical to playing well and shooting lower scores.

Female golfer looking focused on her backswing.

#3: Timing

Great ball striking and distance come from timing the release of the golf club. You want your maximum speed at impact.

A shorter golf backswing makes this timing easier to achieve. You can take advantage of lag in your swing if you time it correctly.

The impact position is the most important piece of your golf swing. A short golf backswing may help you improve this component.

#4: Accuracy

In the above section, we talked about famous professionals with shorter golf backswings. We highlighted Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia.

It is no coincidence that they are known for extremely accurate iron play. Sergio is a poor putter but has made millions in professional golf by hitting great iron shots.

Less can go wrong in a short swing and you can deliver the clubface to the ball in the same position each time you swing.

Is A Shorter Golf Backswing A Benefit featured image

To be accurate, you need to hit the ball the same way every time. A shorter golf backswing is a great way to improve your accuracy.

#5: Activate Your Lower Body

Go back and watch the swing videos of Sergio and Rahm. Pay close attention to their lower body.

You will notice that their legs and hips start their downswing. As Chubbs said in Happy Gilmore, “it’s all in the hips”.

A shorter golf backswing will force you to activate your lower body to start your downswing.

There are a couple of advantages to making this move. First, it prevents you from “coming over the top” with your hands and arms. The club simply follows the lead of your lower body.

Second, power comes from the lower body. You can use the ground to generate power even though you are using a shorter golf backswing.

A golf ball on a tee on a course lined with beautiful pine trees.

The Cons:

A shorter golf backswing isn’t the answer for every golfer. It can cause problems if not done correctly.

#1: Quick (Poor Tempo)

When some golfers try to shorten their swing they can get quick. They lose the pause in transition and “jump” at the ball.

Your swing tempo is critical to your success. “Getting quick” can cause duck hooks or even shanks (you don’t have time to get the clubface square).

The key is to use a shorter golf backswing without getting quick. It is possible to be short and slow.

#2: Loss Of Power

Golfers who try to play with a shorter golf backswing may experience a loss of power. No one wants to give up distance.

The solution to this problem is to leverage your lower body to generate speed instead of your arms.

Male golfer after having taken his shot, a beautiful view of trees and sea in the distanve.

It will take some practice to make this adjustment. To allow your lower body to control your swing.

#3: Harder To Work The Ball

No one in the world curves the golf ball (on purpose) more than Bubba Watson. Take a look at his golf swing – what do you notice?

One of the reasons he can curve the ball so much is that he has a longer backswing. This gives him more time to manipulate the clubface.

It will be harder to curve the ball on purpose with a shorter golf backswing. It can be done, but it is more challenging.

The question you should ask yourself. How important is this to your golf game? It is critical for PGA professionals and scratch golfers, but not for higher handicaps.

Conclusion: Is A Shorter Golf Backswing A Benefit?

Male golfer observes his shot in the distance, club in hand.

We have looked at the best players in the world. We have considered both the “Pros” and the “Cons”.

We have our answer. It depends. Helpful, right? It depends on your natural swing and your level of play.

We can confidently say if you are a beginner or still trying to break 90, a shorter golf backswing will improve your consistency.

Don’t try it on the first tee. Play around with the concept on the driving range.

Get a buddy a film your current golf swing while you practice. Hit 10 balls trying to use a shorter golf backswing.

Now have your buddy film you swing again. Is your backswing shorter? If so, how did those shots compare to shots you hit with your longer swing?

A shorter golf backswing will help most players, but not everyone. The best thing about golf is that you are always looking for your perfect swing!

Golfer's legs and club in shot, just after impact with ball in mid air.

A Shorter Golf Backswing Can Also Help Your Short Game!

Wondering how? Check our guide below!

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Ray has been playing golf for 35+ years, including being part of his High School and College golf teams. While he still enjoys playing in amateur tournaments, Ray now focuses on growing the game of golf through teaching and coaching. He has two sons that both play golf competitively and loves spending time watching them compete. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +2 handicap.

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