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LOOK AT TONY FINAU’S SWING—and Xander Schauffele’s, Brooks Koepka’s, Rory McIlroy’s and Jon Rahm’s—and two things should immediately strike you. First, they’re all tremendous ball-strikers and great players. Second, they all have noticeably different backswings in terms of length and path. So if you were looking for an “ideal” backswing to copy from these examples, which one should you pick? And does that mean all the other tour players are doing it wrong?
The answer is, there’s no such thing as an ideal backswing length or position; there’s only the one that works best for you. You’re probably going to look different from Tony, Rory, Brooks, etc., and different from friends in your foursome—and that’s OK as long as it matches your grip, your natural build and your level of flexibility.
Along with talented swing coach Terry Rowles, I’ve brought together five of our top students to show you the most common grip/backswing combinations in golf, so you can identify the one that is most similar to yours. Once you know that, we’ll show you how to work on your particular combination to make it better. Edmund, Alex, Nick, Brad and Danny (from left to right with me below) are terrific players who shoot under par and have more than 120 miles per hour of clubhead speed with the driver, but you will see that they have different backswings.
It starts with the way they hold the club. You can think of the position of your right (or trail) hand on the club as a kind of steering wheel for the backswing. Where that hand sits on the handle—to the side of it, under it or on top of it—strongly influences the route the club takes in the backswing. The route of your actual backswing has to match the route it wants to take based on where that trail hand rests on the handle of the club.
Once you’ve established the route the club should take, figuring out the amount of backswing is simple—it’s based on the thickness of your chest and how flexible you are. Let’s establish it right now: Hop up, get into your golf posture and swing your left (or lead) arm like you were making your normal backswing, keeping it relatively straight and using your normal hip turn. When that left arm can’t go back any farther, reach up and join your right hand to your left. That’s your ideal backswing length.
You might have been told to get wider or to stretch your backswing. That’s not necessarily bad advice, but trying to extend your backswing longer than your level of flexibility or body type comfortably allows could pitch your weight toward the target. That creates downswing issues that negate any increased speed you might be generating with a longer move. Besides, many good players can bomb it without reaching parallel at the top. So what’s your ideal backswing? Start by matching your grip style to one of these players here. —With Matthew Rudy

The ‘Side On’ Player Nicholas (Nick) Li will be playing in his senior season on the golf team at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., this fall. He can really crank it off the tee with a swing speed up to 130 mph.

Nick’s grip style is called “side on” because his right hand is just that—to the side of the handle. If he opened that hand, his palm would be facing the target. With this grip, the toe of the club will tend to point toward the sky when the shaft is roughly parallel with the ground.

With this grip, the toe of the club will tend to point toward the sky when the shaft is roughly parallel with the ground (left). If your grip looks like Nick’s, you can correct those mistakes by taking the club back so that when it’s parallel to the ground, the shaft should be roughly parallel to your toe line.

Of the grip/backswing combinations in this article, Nick’s looks the most classic. But as you’ll soon discover, trying to add some of what Nick does into the swings of the other guys would ruin them!


Grab an alignment rod and stick it in the turf on a 45-degree angle with the ground. It should point at your trail hip and be planted about a foot behind where you should play a ball with an iron, which is roughly centered in your stance. Once you have the drill station set up, make some slow rehearsal swings so that the club swings back along that alignment rod. Let it glide along the rod and feel how this takeaway is not too far inside or outside the target line. Keep rehearsing it until you can remove the rod and re-create that path when you start hitting shots on the range and back out on the course.

The ‘On Top’ Player Danny Harcourt played golf at Gettysburg (Pa.) College and was the first two-time All-American in the program’s history.

Danny sets his trail hand “on top” of the club, meaning that palm would face the ground if he opened it. This influences the club to move outside the target line on the takeaway.

You can see how Danny’s trail elbow juts, Jack Nicklaus style, and the club goes across the target line. Even though Danny is slender, he doesn’t have a ton of flexibility, so the club goes back to roughly a three-quarter length, and that’s perfectly acceptable. He can still hit his 7-iron 190 yards. Your first reaction to these pictures might be to think Danny’s swing looks unorthodox. It isn’t. It fits him and works very well.

If we tried to teach Danny to grip and swing more like Nick, it would rob him of his natural ability. It would cause him to have to swing the club differently than he does and would destroy his sequencing.


Here’s another take away drill, like Nick’s, that requires an alignment rod or similar. With Danny, or any of you out there that grip the club with your trail hand more on top of the shaft, the first few feet of the backswing are crucial to get right. You have to make sure the club head stays outside of your hand path. I know that might sound confusing, so let’s get back to the drill that reinforces this move. Grab an alignment rod and stick it in the ground on your target line about two feet behind your normal ball position with an iron.You want it on a 45-degree angle and pointing away from the target. I think you know what to do from here: Start back so the club doesn’t hit the rod.

Original article by Mike Adams on GolfDigest

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