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The proper sequence of an efficient takeaway

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The first few feet the club swings back is one of the most critical parts of the golf swing. How we start our takeaway will dictate how our body moves and will set the tone for the entire swing.

In order to have the most efficient swing possible, the club head and shaft must move first to start your golf swing. I say club head and shaft because based on your current takeaway, FEELING one move first then the other may be more beneficial to you.

There is no one correct way to swing a club, and everyone’s takeaway can be slightly different. There are many different takeaways you see each week on Tour, but players who don’t start the takeaway with the club head moving first have what I call “sequence moves” in their golf swing. In other words, they have found the right combination of moves to sequence their swing to get back to impact.

So why does the club head need to move first? To start, the club head travels the farthest in our swing in relation to our body once we grip the club. Imagine looking at your swing face on. The arc or circle the club head is traveling on is much longer then the arc or rotation of your body. In order to have the proper kinematic sequence to be efficient, the club head would have to start moving first, since it travels a longer route to the top.

Second, getting the shaft and club head moving first will help you generate shaft speed. Concentrating more on swinging the shaft will help generate speed for most players. The average PGA Tour player’s 6 iron club head speed is 92 mph, while the average Tour player body rotates between 7 to 12 mph. Focusing more on swinging the shaft properly will produce more speed and consistency.

Below are pictures of the first two major winners of this year

Dustin Johnson (2016 U.S. Open winner)

1-DJ

Danny Willett (2016 Masters winner)

2-Danny Willett

Having a proper set up is the root to an efficient swing. Starting with your right shoulder below your left, having angle in your right wrist and a soft right arm is imperative to get the proper sequence.

3

Once we have the proper setup, we can then move the club head first and allow our right arm to properly fold. This is done by moving the club head/shaft and folding the right arm. The club head will have looked to travel first, without the use of excessive wrist hinge (the club head does not move first by just cocking your wrists). In the picture below, my shoulders have already started to move around my body, just by moving the shaft and my arms. I have not physically tried to rotate my shoulders yet. My arms will eventually pull me into a coil position.

4 and 5

A player that starts their swing by physically trying to rotate their chest and shoulders to start their swing will almost always result in a swing that is too long, as the club head has to play catch up to the body. I call these players “over rotators.” Often, in this move, the club gets too far behind their body as a result. A great feel to correct this is to keep your chest over the ball as you start your takeaway.

6 and 7

Another common fault is a player’s hands dragging the club head back with their arms and shoulders. This is very common with players attempting a “one-piece take away.” The right arm locks up and the player’s spine will tilt toward the target as a result. The player will usually have to make a very late wrist hinge as a sequence move and a hip slide back into the ball as a result from the tilt.

8

A great drill to rehearse a proper takeaway is to take your left hand off the club, hold your upper right arm to your chest (for a right-handed golfer) and get the feeling of the club head moving. The club head should move farther than your hands when you look down. Make this a subtle move, where the club head doesn’t travel much farther than knee or waist high. Your left hand should keep your right arm in a folding position. Once you set the club, you can then put your left hand on the club. Take note of the position your arms are in and your shoulders.

9

Use a mirror to check your positions at home or take advantage of your smart phone on the range. You can also download a swing app or use video on your phone to check your positions. Swing analysis software used to be in the thousands of dollars, now it’s free, or just a few bucks.

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Kelvin is a Class A PGA golf professional in San Francisco, California. He teaches and has taught at some of the top golf clubs in the Bay Area, including the Olympic Club and Sonoma Golf Club. He is TPI certified, and a certified Callaway and Titleist club fitter. Kelvin has sought advice and learned under several of the top instructors in the game, including Alex Murray and Scott Hamilton. To schedule a lesson, please call 818.359.0352 Online lessons also available at www.kelleygolf.com

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Ken

    Dec 16, 2019 at 3:47 am

    What a great article. I can’t believe I hadn’t read it before. Very helpful stuff here. Thank You.

  2. ndj

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:40 am

    HI Kelvin,

    This little drill and key has significantly helped my ball striking. I’m interested what other instructors you recommend to continue refining the swing with this takeaway in mind? Thanks!

    • ndj

      Aug 26, 2016 at 10:52 am

      Whoops, ignore the this post. I didn’t realize the last one went through. Looking forward to the next article!

  3. ndj

    Aug 24, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Kelvin,

    Great stuff. I’ve incorporated this takeaway key into my swing and my irons have been flush. Still struggling with directional control on drives though. Do you recommend any other WRX authors who mirror your views on the golf swing? I’ve read your three articles and enjoyed them and looking to continue down the rabbit hole.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Aug 25, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      Ndj,

      Glad you enjoyed the articles. I have another article coming here shortly. I will also be setting up a swing analysis link so you can send me your swing if you need me to take a look.

  4. Terry

    Aug 1, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Interesting. But I’m still confused about how to move the club head first without first using the hands and or forearms to get the club head moving. So my take…is this right???….move your hands/forearms to get the club head moving and continue to keep these (hands/forearms/clubshaft) moving until the shoulders kind of follow along and rotate at some point while the right elbow is bending? Feel kind of dim not understanding this.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Aug 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Terry, you are correct, you can just move your hands and allow your right arm to fold which will get you in correct position, a slight wrist hinge is okay as well. Your shoulders will have naturally moved.

      • Terry

        Aug 5, 2016 at 5:28 pm

        Thank you for replying Kelvin. Currently I start my backswing by turning my upper chest and shoulders with hands/arms moving in unison. I don’t over swing. Can’t due to physical issues. If anything I have a short backswing. Is this OK as I generally hit the ball decent. I am contemplating trying to start the backswing as described in the article in the hope of lengthening my >swing a bit. Thanks again for taking the time.

        • Kelvin Kelley

          Aug 6, 2016 at 4:04 pm

          Terry, you don’t need to lengthen your swing to produce more power. Example, JB Holmes and Jon Rahm. This takeaway will give you the chance to produce more arm speed and hit it further. Let your arms pull you into a coil position. Hope this helps! Keep me posted.

          • Terry

            Aug 7, 2016 at 5:22 pm

            Thanks again Kelvin. In my post immediately above, think I didn’t explain my backswing, and ask my question, in the the proper order. So I’ll try again. Currently I start my backswing by turning my upper chest and shoulders with hands/arms moving in unison. Is this OK if I avoid over swinging, which I can’t do because of chronic left shoulder issues. If anything I now have a short backswing.
            Just looked at my backswing, face on, in a mirror. At waist high I look very much like you ( I assume) in picture 5. Not at all like the incorrect picture 6 where you talk about over rotators starting back with chest and shoulders. In pic 6, at waist high, it looks like you already have your left shoulder pointed at the ball whereas at waist high in my swing my shoulders have barely moved, much like picture 5. I must move my arms more than I’m aware of in my backswing. I’ll monitor this and experiment with starting backswing with hands and arms only. I know I originally started turning my chest to start the backswing because I felt it was more precise, controllable and repeatable than any other method I tried.
            Thanks again for taking the time. Appreciate it.
            Terry

            • Kelvin Kelley

              Aug 17, 2016 at 3:07 am

              Terry, sounds like you are on the right track, feel free to send me your swing through a Twitter message to have me take a look if you would like

  5. Kenny

    Aug 1, 2016 at 11:15 am

    So, what body part should you use or feel to begin the process of moving the club back first. I’ve been taught to move the club with my larger body parts (shoulders & chest). But, when I do use the larger muscles I tend to create a lag effect where everything starts to move and the shaft/club follow last. I’ve been trying to do the opposite and initiate the swing by pulling the club back first with the hands and everything moves after. Seems to be working. Thoughts?

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Aug 2, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Kenny, it is not a pulling motion but more of just getting the clubhead to move first. When you do his, you will notice your hands will move and your right arm will fold. So to answer body part, don’t feel it in your chest, feel it in your right arm. Hope this helps

      • Kenny

        Aug 2, 2016 at 2:04 pm

        Pull or Move, same thing. So, basically use your hands to get the club moving first to start the backswing.

  6. Moe Norman

    Jul 29, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    The average tour player will have their shoulders 50* closed and 30* tilted when the shaft is parallel with the ground in the takeaway…

  7. Mitch

    Jul 24, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Always the smartest guy in the room.

  8. Jim

    Jul 24, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Looking back over my shoulder I see at least 100 golf swing books that would call the club head moving first a joke….there is maybe 3 that instruct a hand controlled swing that may buy this….How many millions of swing training clubs with a hing in them were sold in the 80’s that call this a death move peroid….?

    • BD57

      Jul 24, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      Really?

      Gee, someone better tell DJ & Willett that the shaft should still be pointing at their belly, because this business of them setting the club with their hands – making the club head go faster than a mere arm swing would allow – is a “death move.”

      Amazing the snark that people feel the need to post around here.

      • stephenf

        Jul 25, 2016 at 1:37 pm

        Exactly right, BD57.

        What people think they’re doing and what they theorize about, versus what they’re actually doing, are really different things.

        The “clubhead at belly” thing is OK therapy for somebody who isn’t moving his body well to support the swinging of the arms and club on the takeaway. But taken too far, it results in a overly torso-oriented swing with the body heaving and shoving and pushing the club around.

  9. Joe Brennan

    Jul 24, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Another great article. This instruction helped me out in the Audi Quatro….

  10. M.

    Jul 24, 2016 at 10:02 am

    What a load of bs

  11. M.

    Jul 24, 2016 at 9:58 am

    …flip away…

  12. OH

    Jul 24, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Tried this tonight and was shocked to see that it really helped avoid my old overswinging tendencies. Also got me nicely on plane. Going to have to make this part of my practice and pre-shot routines.

    • Bob Edgar

      Jul 27, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Tried this on the golf course yesterday. Best round of the year! It seems to help me get to a good position at the top. Results are surprising.

      • Kelvin Kelley

        Aug 2, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        OH and Bob, glad you enjoyed article!

  13. steve

    Jul 23, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Basically you start the takeaway with the arms and the folding of the right arm “sets” the club, rather than intentional wrist hinge?

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Jul 24, 2016 at 1:56 am

      Steve,

      It’s the feeling of the clubhead moving first which will fold up your arm. A slight wrist hinge is okay, but is not a “wrist only” set. Hope this helps

  14. baudi

    Jul 23, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    So, Carl Lohren is completely wrong?

  15. Chris.C

    Jul 23, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Best change ever made, it’s about keeping things simple in the swing and removing all the moving parts, the setup is also key by getting shape – get “Right Sided” peeps, it’s a much easier way to play and enjoy gold (Gary Edwin inspired) ????

  16. Steven

    Jul 23, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    I am a little confused. If I am reading this correctly, we shouldn’t use the chest to move the clubhead, but we also shouldn’t use the hands with an early wrist hinge. I understand the drill to feel the correct position, but how do we get into that position. I don’t understand how to move the clubhead without moving my chest or hands. Thanks for the help.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Jul 23, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Steven,

      If you have the correct wrist angle at address you can just move the clubhead and fold up your trail arm. Your hands will definitely move as in the photos. A slight wrist hinge is okay as well. Hope this helps

  17. AC

    Jul 23, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Gosh darn it heck, for the last year i have been trying to start the back swing as “one piece” with shoulders/chest first and club. Now, if i understand this correctly, arms first up to between knee/waist then rotate?

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Jul 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      AC, I would prefer to feel your arms pull your body into a coil position at the top.

      • Snoopy

        Jul 25, 2016 at 1:14 pm

        Good write up, but I’ve also seen people talking about keeping the right arm straighter longer in the backswing to create width which should result in more power. Specifically I’ve seen this talked about referring to Adam Scott. So how do these two ideas, a straighter right arm vs folding the right arm quickly, interact with each other? Is it a simple tradeoff of power potential and consistency/efficiency? Or am I totally misinterpreting something? If you fold the right arm and keep the elbow close to the body early during the takeaway, when should the right arm move away from the body?

        • Kelvin Kelley

          Jul 25, 2016 at 1:36 pm

          Snoopy,

          Great question. You can still be “narrow” in the takeaway and then produce “width” and be “wide” at the top of your swing. So you can have both. As in the photos, the right arm has folded, hands close to body, but can still be wide at the top. A straight right arm in the take away will usually produce a tilt in shoulders and cause your body to work under too much.

          Hope this helps

        • BD57

          Jul 25, 2016 at 2:00 pm

          I know of what you speak. One of my faults is to pull the club toward me with the right arm by “over-folding” the right arm – causes my left arm to break down & I lose width. I’ve used a kid’s swimming arm float in the past as an aide to remind me where the folding is to stop.

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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