Is your backswing too long? The majority of inexperienced players I see have too long of a backswing. So why would so many people have such long swings? It all boils down to Human Nature. Human Nature says that the longer you swing the farther you will hit the ball. If this were true, why is it that I can hit a ball 300 yards with a 3/4 swing but I can't hit it 400 yards with a long swing?
When you watch the Pros on TV, you do see varying lengths of backswings. On one hand, you have a player like Jeff Sluman who has shorter swing and then you have a player like John Daly who has a longer swing. Even though they look different are there any similarities between their backswings.
1. Pros hinge their wrists to their maximum. This means that the angle between the left arm and the golf club at the top of the swing is 90 degrees or less.
The average player tends to be locked up in their wrists because they try to hit the ball too hard. If you try to hit the ball too hard, your wrists will lock up and your left elbow will break causing the club to go back too far. You have to allow the wrists to stay loose throughout the swing. The looser wrists will give you more power without having to take the club back too far.
2. The shoulder rotation in a Pros' swing determines the amount the left arm goes back.
The shorter backswings and the longer ones are both relative to the amount of shoulder rotation each one creates. John Daly can turn his shoulders back more than 90 degrees. Because of this superhuman shoulder rotation, his swing appears longer than others. You should have a shoulder rotation of 90 degrees. Some people feel tight and they are not capable of turning their shoulders back this far. If you feel tight when you turn back, it's not a bad thing. This tightness is a good thing because it tells you that you have created torque in your swing. Think of your body like a giant spring. If you were to wind up a giant spring it would get tight. Then, if you let go, it would want to snap back the other way. Most people avoid this tight feeling by over-rotating the hips on the way back. What they don't realize it that when they rotate the hips more than 45 degrees they lose this torque that is necessary for creating consistency in the swing. So don't avoid this tight feeling. Only turn back as much as your body will allow.
The next time you go to the range keep your lower body stable and turn your shoulders back as much as you can, until you feel tight. This tightness tells you that you have created the necessary torque in your backswing. Also, make sure your wrists are loose enough to allow the club to hinge to atleast 90 degrees in your wrists. This will give you maximum power without having to swing back too far.
Paul Wilson Director of Instruction Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate