There are a number of useful things to look for when you’re at the top of your backswing and if you can incorporate a few of these into your own golf swing you should start to see much more consistent results out on the course.
For this article, I’ve picked out what I think are three key points to look out for at the top of the backswing.
If you can make sure you implement these three changes you should find that a lot of other areas of your swing slot into place.
Swing changes always require a bit of work so don’t try to implement them all at the same time.
Work through them in order making sure that you are comfortable before moving onto the next change.
You may find some changes easier than others but stick with it. All of these changes will improve your consistency so work through them on the range before heading out to the golf course.
A mistake at the top the backswing can be challenging to come back from so let’s make sure you are doing the right things at the top of the swing so your ball striking is more consistent when you reach the bottom of your swing.
1. A Neutral Clubface
Arguably the most important thing you should have a the top of your backswing is a neutral clubface.
What do I mean by a neutral clubface?
Well the simplest way to think about it is that if the club was placed behind the ball it would be perfectly flat with no angle to the left or right.
If you can get your clubhead into this neutral position of the top of your backswing, a lot less can then go wrong on the downswing.
With a good shoulder turn you’ll return the clubhead to neutral at the ball and see those lovely straight shots flying down the fairway or towards the pin.
The best way to check if you have a neutral clubhead at the top of your backswing is to use the camera on your phone.
Record a video of yourself hitting a shot, I’d recommend using a 7 iron for this as it is usually quite an easy club to hit and it’s also easier to identify the clubhead position.
If you have a neutral clubhead of the top of your backswing your left wrist will be flat and your clubface and wrist will be parallel to each other.
If your wrist looks more cupped than flat, then your club is open (aiming right) and if it looks too flat and therefore not parallel to the clubface then you have a closed clubface (aiming left).
Fortunately, if you don’t have a neutral clubface at the top of your backswing it is easy enough to fix.
All you need to do is make a smooth practice swing putting the club in that neutral position I described above. It may feel odd at first, particularly if you have a really cupped of really flat position to begin with but keep repeating that parallel position and it’ll start to feel comfortable.
You may find it easier to picture a professional while rehearsing or to even take a printout with you to the range.
Personally, I’d pick Adam Scott. The former Masters champion has a pretty much perfect position at the top of the backswing, so use him as your guide.
Once you’ve rehearsed the position a few times, use your phone again to record your swing and check that you’ve reached that neutral position.
It may take a few practice sessions before it feels comfortable but being in a neutral position at the top of your backswing will make you much more consistent.
2. Don’t go past parallel at the top of your backswing
Yes, John Daly hits the ball a long way and won two major titles but for the majority of golfers swinging past parallel is not going to work.
An overly long swing will lead to inconsistent strikes and in fact some of the best golfers in the world swing short of parallel.
Jon Rahm is the ideal example of this, he hits it long and straight with a golf swing that stops well short of parallel.
A swing that goes past parallel leaves so much more to go wrong simply because the distance to get back to the ball is greater.
Also, your arms and body can get out of sync leading to thin or fat shots and poor distance control.
Our phone camera is going to be our friend again in checking this issue. It’s another nice simple fix. Record your swing and check to see if your clubhead goes past parallel at the top of your backswing.
If you find that it is then we need to work to shorten up that swing.
A good way to start is to make a much slower backswing. This will make you much more controlled as you bring the club make and remember it’s the clubhead speed at impact that is going to make the difference when it comes to distance, not on the backswing.
Plenty of amateur golfers swing way too fast on the backswing causing them to lose control and go past parallel.
Hideki Matsuyama actually pauses at the top of his backswing to help with control and the green jacket in his closet shows that it has worked well for him.
So, take a slow backswing, ideally making sure you finish your backswing just short of parallel.
If you do this you’ll find that your ball striking becomes much more consistent and you’ll probably end up hitting the ball much further.
Make sure you use your camera again to check that you reach this position at the top of your backswing.
It’s also worth checking periodically that you are not going past parallel at the top of your backswing as you may find that you slip back into the bad habit.
Keep that backswing smooth and clubhead just short of parallel at the top of your backswing and you should see those scores tumble.
3. Keep that head stable
Now, a fair question may be, why are you talking about the head at the top of the backswing?
Well, one big issue that I’ve seen quite a few of my golfing friends suffer with is that as they make the transition down at the top of their backswing, their head drops down and they lose all their height.
This can cause several issues, the most prevalent of which is those horrible fat shots where the club hits the ground well before the ball.
Losing height at the top of the backswing causes us to fat the ball because the club drops down much quicker so the bottom of the swing ends up being much further behind the ball, hence a fat shot.
So, keeping the head stable as we move from the top of the backswing into the downswing is absolutely crucial.
There is a great drill to fix this but you’ll need a friend to help you out.
Address the golf ball, then ask your friend to lightly rest the grip end of a golf club on the top of your head. An alignment sticks also works well for this if you have one.
As you swing down from the top of the backswing there should be very little separation between the top of your head and the golf club.
A small amount is fine but if you see a big gap then that means you are losing too much height causing inconsistent strikes.
Keep taking practice swings making sure that you minimise the gap between the top of your head and the grip of the golf club.
After a while you should see that you are maintaining your height a lot better as you swing down from the top of your backswing. This should eliminate fat shots so you hit the ball first then the ground. That’s the key to good ball striking.
These are a few key things that you should be doing (or not doing) at the top of your backswing.
The top of the backswing is a crucial part of the swing. A mistake here can be very hard to recover from as you make the downswing and reach the golf ball.
The one big takeaway that I think links all the areas I’ve touched on together is to make sure that you take a smooth backswing and then make a smooth transition from the top of the backswing to the downswing.
This will allow you to keep your height more easily, stop you from going past parallel at the top of the swing and make it much simpler to get the clubface in the correct position at the top of your backswing.
Many golfers swing down much too quickly trying to get more distance. My view is that slow and steady wins the race.
It’ll give you much more consistent strikes which will do much more to increase your distance than swinging too aggressively.
With all swing tips, make sure you take these to the driving range first before heading to the golf course and groove them into your swing.
The neutral clubface position in particular may take a bit of practice to get correct but when you do you’ll really start to see the benefits.
It makes the game far simpler, which is what we all want!
Those are a few examples of what you should be doing at the top of your backswing and if you can incorporate them into your swing you should see a big improvement.