The takeaway is, after impact, the most important part of the golf swing. As your first movement away from the golf ball, it initiates a sequence that will determine the quality of your entire golf swing — its power, accuracy and consistency.
A great takeaway doesn’t guarantee a great golf swing, but even the slightest errors here will lead to manipulations and compensations which will make the rest of the swing very difficult — difficult to perform with power and accuracy, difficult to repeat consistently, and difficult to learn.
99.9% of all golfers could improve their golf swing, most of them dramatically, just by correcting their setup and takeaway.
The good news is that the takeaway is, when done correctly, a very simple movement. You’re starting from a static position, and the movement is actually very small and easy when you learn to use the correct muscles properly.
The great news is, if you’ve been reading the articles in this section and working on the drills, then you’re already most of the way there. You have an intellectual understanding of exactly what the takeaway is and what each part of the movement is trying to achieve. You understand the faults caused by an incorrect takeaway, and how to avoid them. And, after working through the drills, you have a kinaesthetic awareness of the main movements in the takeaway — you know what a good takeaway feels like.
The bad news is, if you are like most golfers, then as soon as you pick up a golf club you completely lose the plot!
You probably have numerous bad habits, built and ingrained over time, based on a misunderstanding how the golf swing works, and not helped by the mountains of bad instruction out there.
You can probably perform Golf Swing Drill 205 – Takeaway: Turn with Shoulder Flexion fairly easily by now, but as soon as you try the takeaway with a golf club, you will instinctively become fixated on the movement of the club. You will forget to move your body correctly, but you won’t even realise it. That’s what you’ve always been taught; the position to move the golf club into. And the easiest, most natural way to lift the club into position is with your hands and arms — they are the part of you that is connected to the golf club, and they are the part of you that dominates your interaction with the world around you in your everyday life.
As we saw in Golf Swing 207 – Takeaway: Common Faults in the Golf Swing Takeaway, the natural dominance of your hands and arms will instantly destroy any chance you had of consistently making a great golf swing.
This drill will fix that, once and for all, and it will quickly put you on track to making the beautiful golf swing you’ve always dreamed of.
As always, apologies to the lefties out there, but for simplicity these instructions are given for a right-handed golfer.
Tiger Woods’ Golf Swing Takeaway
Before you work on the drill, spend some time looking closely at Tiger Wood’ takeaway in slow motion, as shown from various angles in Figure 1.
Tiger turns his hips earlier than we recommend — we suggest that you learn to perform the takeaway with no hip turn in order to initiate a better separation between your body segments, which Tiger does automatically after years of intense practice. Otherwise, Tiger’s setup and takeaway is about as good as you’ll ever see.
Figure 1. Tiger Woods’ golf swing takeaway, various angles.
While watching these clips, go through the checklist in the drill below, noting how Tiger performs each aspect. Visualise yourself moving in the same way.
The movement in this drill is almost identical to Golf Swing Drill 205 – Takeaway: Turn with Shoulder Flexion, except for some slight additional movement in your hands. It is, however, much more difficult once we introduce a golf club.
You are looking for the same feeling of rotating your body around your tilted spine by pulling with your obliques. You will need to learn to move your arms and hands correctly in order to move the golf club on the correct path, but always try to stay focused on the rotation of your body. Don’t try to “swing the club”, you must turn your body to move the club.
You will feel like you are turning your torso a long way, and hardly moving your arms at all as your hands just lift in front of your sternum.
Swing the golf club with your body, don’t let the golf club swing you!
To begin with, you should work on this drill with the golf club turned upside-down. This reduces the weight and inertia of the golf club, and makes it easier to move without your hands instinctively dominating, “twitching” in an effort to control the golf club.
Follow all of the steps in Stage 2, below, but hold the golf club by the end of the shaft, near the club head, pointing the club grip at where the ball would be. You won’t be able to grip the thinner club shaft exactly the same as the club grip, but make it as close as you can.
Once you can do this perfectly, at full speed, 4 out of 5 times, then move on to Stage 2.
Once you are confident that you can feel the correct movement primarily with your body, without your hands dominating, then grip the golf club properly and continue.
You will find it easier to use a short iron to begin with, progressing to longer clubs as you gain confidence.
- Start by working through Golf Swing Drill 108 – Setup: Addressing the Golf Ball. Check your position carefully, making sure that you have the perfect posture, grip, weight distribution and balance, stance width, ball position, spine angle, spine tilt, and arm position. If you have been working through the setup drills, this should all be starting to feel natural and automatic by now.
- Without moving your pelvis or hips, smoothly turn your upper torso (chest and shoulders) 45 degrees to the right. Make sure that you maintain your spine angle and spine tilt throughout.
- The primary sensation, throughout this drill, is of pulling the right side of your upper body behind you, using your obliques, rotating your torso around the tilted axis that is your spine.
- As you turn, lift your arms in front of your chest by flexing your shoulders, so that your hands lift by about 6″ (15cm). At the end of the takeaway, the butt end of the club will reach the same height as your right trouser pocket, and will be level with your toe line when viewed from down the line — see Figure 2.
- Your shoulders should remain passive, and your arms and hands should not move across your upper body, they will be moved laterally only by the turning of your chest. It is crucial that you keep your hands directly in front of your sternum throughout the movement — see Figure 2.
- As you lift your hands, keep your right arm straight and externally rotated. The upper Figure 2.
- Rotate your forearms slightly as you turn, keeping your right wrist flat throughout, pronating your left wrist (and supinating your right) gradually throughout the movement, so that at the end of the takeaway the back of your left hand is facing the target line, and the back of your right hand is facing behind you.
- As you turn, your wrists will cock (abduct) very slightly in response to the weight of the golf club. Do not let your hands become over-active. At the same time as the butt end of the golf club reaches the height of your right trouser pocket, the club shaft will reach horizontal — see Figure 2.
- As you reach this end of the takeaway position, your left thumb nail should be directly on top of the club grip, and reaching away from the target. With the perfect grip, doing this should automatically put the golf club into the correct position.
- The club head will be slightly outside your hands, when viewed from down the line — see Figure 2.
- The club face will be slightly closed (“toed in”) — a little more upright than your spine angle, but not vertical — see Figure 2.
- You should feel that your hands are wide, out away from your body, but still in front of your sternum. You will feel a little reaching in your left arm, and your left shoulder will protract very slightly, but make sure that your left shoulder stays down (depressed), not lifting (elevating) even a tiny bit. Your right shoulder should remain firmly in posture.
- As you turn, feel your weight shift gradually onto the inside of your right ankle.
- Hold that position for a second, check your position, then return to the address position, pause to refocus, check your posture, and repeat.
Figure 2. The end of the takeaway position.
The list above looks long and complex, at first glance, but it’s actually quite simple. Most of the points are for checking and fine-tuning your movements.
The main points to focus on are:
- Rotate your torso by pulling the right side of your upper body behind you, using your obliques, keeping your shoulders in good posture and maintaining your spine angles.
- Lift your hands in front of your sternum as you turn, keeping your right arm straight and externally rotated.
- Keep your right wrist flat, and reach away from the target with your left thumb on top of the grip.
- Shift 80% of your weight onto the inside of your right ankle.
Reach wide with your hands as you turn and shift your weight, but do not lean further to your right. Make absolutely sure that your spine tilt angle remains exactly the same throughout.
Perform this drill in front of a mirror, and on video, to make sure that your pelvis, hips and head do not move much as you turn your shoulders and chest, and that your spine tilt doesn’t change. On video, from face on, watch the angle from the back of your neck to your belt buckle — it must not change even fractionally. If you need to shift your torso slightly in order to shift your weight, make sure that your neck and belt buckle move by exactly the same (tiny) amount.
You will have to turn your head in order to check your position in the mirror, but as you are moving try to keep your head fairly still.
Make sure that you do not push with your left shoulder, both shoulders should remain connected and passive, the movement is made by pulling with your obliques, flexing your shoulders while keeping them depressed, and rotating your forearms. You will feel your left arm reaching, and your left shoulder will protract very slightly, but your shoulders should not lift towards your ears, not even fractionally. The sensation that you are looking for in your left shoulder is one of “reaching under” slightly, rather than “reaching across”, but be certain that you don’t overdo this and change your spine angle or pull your shoulder out of posture.
Make sure that your right arm is externally rotated and remains straight throughout. You should feel that the inside of your right elbow is pointing up towards the sky, but do not be tempted to lift your right shoulder, not even a fraction — this may feel very strange at first, but it is crucial for a perfect takeaway.
Your right wrist should be flat at the end of the takeaway, and your left wrist should be slightly cupped. The vast majority of amateur golfers get this wrong by cupping (extending) the right wrist as they flatten (flex) the left – this is an indicator that you are too active with your hands, and will usually result in you bringing the club head inside your hands and having to compensate throughout the rest of your swing, leading to inconsistency – see Fault 8 in Golf Swing 207 – Takeaway: Common Faults in the Golf Swing Takeaway.
Your shoulders will change height as they rotate around your tilted spine — the left shoulder rotating down in front of you and the right rotating up behind you — but they must not lift out of posture — keep your shoulder blades firmly depressed.
Use deliberate practice, find somewhere where you will be undisturbed.
Really focus on the feel of your obliques as they pull your torso around your spine. Make sure that your hands remain directly in front of your sternum, and that they are reaching away from your body while maintaining good shoulder posture, really focus on what that position feels like. Feel your weight shift onto the inside of your right ankle, while your turn remains centred around your spine.
Always be keenly aware of your body rotation moving the golf club. Almost all amateur golfers overuse their hands, moving the golf club too far to the inside. If that includes you, then you should feel as if your hands are doing very little, and you will feel as if you are moving the golf club well to the outside, above the plane. You should be aware of the golf club being moved into position, but keep your focus on your obliques doing the work as you lift your hands into position.
As you improve, the golf club will almost seem like an afterthought. You will use its position at the end of the takeaway to help determine what mistakes you made, but during the movement you will only be indirectly aware of the club.
Work in front of a mirror as much as possible, from both face on and down the line. Also use a video camera as often as you can.
Be sure to check every aspect of your address position very carefully in each session, as described above and in the setup drills.
Check your movements against the instruction given here, and look carefully for any trace of the errors described in Golf Swing 207 – Takeaway: Common Faults in the Golf Swing Takeaway. Embrace your errors, put your “game face” on, enjoy the “Oh, that’s interesting!” moments. The more mistakes you can find, the faster you will improve.
Once you feel you are making a good takeaway, use video to check the path of the golf club head, it should be close to that described in Golf Swing 206 – Takeaway: The Perfect Golf Club Path. Be hyper-critical, you are striving for perfection.
Move very slowly at first, feeling your weight shift as you turn, then more quickly, keeping the movement smooth and fluid. Try doing the drill in super slow-motion, then at normal speed, really focus on the feedback from each part of your body.
Perform the drill with your eyes closed sometimes. Pause to feel if you’ve got it right before you look in the mirror. If it doesn’t feel right before you look in the mirror, estimate the error. If you didn’t get it exactly right, how is it different from the perfect position, and what does the error feel like?
If you make mistakes, if anything isn’t perfect, then pause to consider what went wrong. How does the error feel? Correct your position, how does that feel different? Now step away and start again. You will learn more quickly if you make mistakes and fully acknowledge them, be keenly aware of each element of your body, and think hard about where you went wrong.
When working with video, pause for a moment before you watch yourself, think hard about what, exactly, it is that you are expecting to see each time.
Step away regularly, shake yourself down, and take your stance again, working through the relevant setup drills to make sure you are in perfect position. The feedback that you get from your body as you move will be directly related to your stance width, weight distribution, spine angle, spine tilt and arm position — all of these must be perfect if you are to ingrain the correct movements with this drill. You are training your proprioception as well as your muscle control.
As with most things in golf, be aware that feel is not real. The intrinsic feedback that you receive from your body, your proprioception, will change as you improve. If you’re used to moving the golf club too far inside, then it will feel like you are moving it well outside when you first start moving correctly. But, once you grow the correct neural pathways, and the proper movement starts to feel natural, the “well outside” feeling will no longer be what you are looking for.
You learn the golf swing by building “feels”, training your proprioception, but these “feels” will need to be continuously retrained and refined. Keep working on this drill, and keep adjusting the “feels” that you are seeking in response to the augmented feedback provided by video and mirrors.
Your goal is to quickly get to the stage where you move correctly by default, without thinking about it, and any mistakes you make will feel “wrong”.
If you have any questions or comments about this or other articles on Golf Loopy, please send us an email.
Next, we’ll move on to completing the backswing, which is surprisingly simple once you can perform the takeaway correctly. You’ll learn how anyone can easily make a full and powerful turn, and how to get your body and club in a perfect top of the backswing position, every time.