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The Right Takeaway (Backswing) For Iron Shots

Updated on June 1, 2008
Take a look at Tiger, shown here at the apex of his swing, after he's folded his back elbow.
Take a look at Tiger, shown here at the apex of his swing, after he's folded his back elbow.

Start right to end right.

Before you step up to your ball and take a hack with any one of your irons, you may want to consider this: a golf shot will rarely end well if it's not begun correctly. How you pull your club back from the ball at address will go a long way in determining how your club swings down and through the ball at impact.

In this article, we'll take a look at how to correctly draw your club back from the ball just prior to your shot, while being very careful to lay the groundwork for a strong, mechanically complete downswing and follow through.

Step 1: Be conscious of your back elbow.

Your back elbow acts as a control for your free-swinging lead arm. Think of it as the fulcrum to your front side. Properly anchoring the rear arm at the elbow will allow your dominant lead side to glide cleanly through the ball.

As you draw your club backward, keep your rear elbow firmly planted at your side.

Step 2: Begin by drawing your club laterally, not vertically.

One way to better understand the back swing is to think of it in two parts. Essentially, you're performing two different directions of motion with your club. The first is lateral- this means that you'll draw the club head back behind you first, rather than directly up and over your shoulder. Drawing up too sharply will likely send you digging down underneath the ball on your down swing, costing you the quality contact you would have had if you'd made your lateral motion first. A proper swing will begin with lateral motion, bringing the club back. But remember: keep that back elbow firmly set!

Step 3: Follow lateral motion with quality vertical motion.

But the back swing shouldn't be all lateral motion. The apex of your back swing should be high above your shoulder, not wrapped around your back.

About the time your hands reach the same plane as your rear elbow (which should be in the same place it was when you began your swing), begin drawing your club upward. The best way to illustrate this is to replicate the same motion you use when bringing a telephone to your ear. This is called folding the elbow, and is essential in creating a decent to the ball that allows your hands and club head to reach the point of impact at the same time, while giving sufficient loft to get your ball in the air and headed toward your target. When you do this, your back elbow should come off of your back side just slightly. Take a look at the picture of Tiger Woods, at the top of the page. You'll see that his elbow has come up just slightly.

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