Over the next several weeks, Tom Stickney will be presenting a series called, “The Swing In Pictures” on GolfWRX.

Each Monday a different swing position will be coupled with thoughts you (as the player) should pay attention to based on your current handicap level. I would suggest printing each of these articles out and placing them in a binder, as the series will take you from address through the finish from the front and down the line views.

Click here to view Tom’s previous articles.


This article is meant to be used as a general reference for the most common swing model used in today’s game. As with any golf swing, there are personal idiosyncrasies that will alter the look and/or actions of the club shaft and body motions back and through so there will always be exceptions. Please keep this in mind as you read each section. As Homer Kelley identifies in ‘The Golfing Machine,’ there are 446 quad-trillion stroke patterns, or ways to swing the club. You only need to find the one that works best for you.

The Top (Front View)


The top of the backswing is where the backswing stops and the forward motion of the body and clubshaft begins.  This is the position that will allow the downswing to begin without any radical manipulation.

For the Beginning Player:

  • The shoulders have turned about twice as much as the hips.
  • There is a noticeable separation between the legs as if you were holding a beach ball between your knees.
  • The arms are extended away from the head with a left arm that is relatively straight but not rigid.
  • The rear knee is solid and has not swayed laterally; thus, the weight is centralized on the inside of the rear foot and the forward foot is on the ground or very close.
  • The head should remain relatively stable on the way to the top, it can move slightly laterally towards the rear foot.

For the Intermediate Player:

  • Focusing on lower body control is a must — the knees must remain separated and the forward foot must not be allowed to leave the ground haphazardly.
  • The head should be directly over the rear foot so you can be “behind the ball” or “loaded up” at the top — this is a necessity for power and control.
  • Maintain the “L” created by the rear arm at the top for added width — do not let it collapse beyond 90 degrees.
  • Rear knee control will create a more controlled hip turn to the top and a better foundation for the transition.

For the Advanced Player:

  • Halting the swing “from the feet” is advisable whereas your feet do not leave the ground and the weight stays on the inside of the rear foot at the top.
  • There is a noticeable “lean over the rear leg” at the top which was created by the lateral side bending at address; if your lower body is out of control or over-rotates then you will lose this angle.
  • It is here we desire a medium hip turn, a maximum shoulder turn, and a slight “lean over the rear leg.

For the Professional Player:

  • Notice the high X-Factor — the torque created between the differing upper and lower body turns.  The shoulders will be turned around 90 degrees and the hips around 45, this torque allows the hips to lead and power the downswing without thought and in the proper sequence.
  • The angle of the rear biceps and rear forearm must be as wide as possible to create a short arms swing coupled with a big shoulder turn.
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  1. That wasn’t that great of an answer to the fact your instruction says explicitly to get the head directly over the right foot.

    I think what you mean to say here is just to position your head comfortably atop your shoulders.

    Pointing out head over right foot is too generic as some people might take that to mean oh I need to lean my head backwards, or I need to lean my upper body backwards more to get my head over my shoe.

    It might be better to say move your left shoulder somewhat in line with your right instep. Flexibility of the individual dictates how much they can accomplish this action.

    Head directly over shoulder is just inviting a bad backwards sway into the swing.

  2. Simon–Remember that in the beginning levels there are many things that they need to worry about that the better players do not…secondly, the amount of lateral spinal bending at address controls the amount of lean over the right leg and subsequent head position at the top. If you read the first part of each of my articles in this series you would also see that these tips and photos are very general…there are great players in all types of positions at the top. Try to look beyond what you see as “exact” in the photos and you will find ideas that just might help you improve. There is no one way to swing…

  3. “The head should be directly over the rear foot so you can be “behind the ball” or “loaded up” at the top — this is a necessity for power and control”…. not really… contradicts the point about how the head can move laterally a little bit in the beginners section as well….

    how many good players do you see move their head directly over the rear foot?