If you’re like most avid golfers, you’ve worked to learn a proper a full backswing with complete turn, weight shift, wrist action and arm motion. The game requires a repeatable and reliable full swing. But golf also requires finesse and imagination to play the wide variety of shots you need to score. Learning both a full backswing and a half backswing can pay off in numerous circumstances as you build a complete golf game.
Learning a Half Backswing
The late golf instructor Jim Flick devoted a chapter of his book “On Golf” to what he called “the money shot,” the term he used for shots inside 50 yards that called for a half backswing. Most women golfers will use a pitching, sand or lob wedge for these shots. The wedge you use will depend on the length of the shot, your ability and course conditions such as wind direction. Flick wanted his players to control wedge distances by choosing the right clubs and controlling the length of their backswings. TV commentator and major championship winner Nick Faldo encourages golfers to hit balls on the practice range regularly to learn how far they hit each wedge with a half backswing.
Half Backswing Technique
Flick taught the half swing motion as a pendulum swing with a few minor adjustments to full-swing technique. He wanted a player to narrow her stance, so her heels were 8 to 12 inches apart and to play the ball in the middle of her stance. He wanted a right-handed player to swing the club back until her left arm was parallel to the ground and her wrists were fully hinged. The club and the left arm should look like the letter “L,” Flick wrote. He believed pointing the butt of the grip at the target line was key to a proper path and plane. From there, Flick wanted gravity, not muscle, to cause the arms and club to fall back to the ball.
In his writing, instructor David Leadbetter describes what a full backswing should look like. Leadbetter believes the arms should stay closely linked to the torso on the backswing, and the pivot is primarily responsible for bringing the club to the top of the swing. At the point, your left shoulder should be under your chin, and the clubshaft should be parallel to the ground. Your left thumb should be under your grip, supporting the club. You will have turned your hips about 45 degrees, and you should feel most of your weight on the inside of your right foot.
Dallas-based instructor Shawn Humphries uses the half swing motion to help players reach a proper position at the top of the backswing. As Flick suggests, he has players swing the club back into the “L” position. From there, the arms lift, the shoulders complete their turn and the weight shifts into the right instep. You can use the same drill to build both phases of your swing. Practice swinging back to the half way, pausing to feel the correct “L” position, then swing and turn to the top. With time, you will develop a repeating half and full backswing.
David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.