The Golf Backswing, Step by Step

By Chuck Quinton, Master RST InstructorFULL BIO

Once you've mastered the takeaway using our "5 Minutes to the Perfect Takeaway" video, you're ready to begin the process of building the perfect top of the backswing position that even Tiger Woods would envy.

improve my golf backswingJust like this student, you can dramatically improve your golf backswing with the instructions in this video.

Learning the perfect golf backswing position will take time, but this video walks you through each step in an easy-to-follow manner that will get you there in the shortest time possible. And, I guarantee that you've NEVER seen the backswing taught like this in golf!!

This is because we work with how your brain learns new movement patterns. The system of isoloation and progression you'll see in the video is the exact same way you learned anything else in your life and the Rotary Swing Tour golf learning system is the only one of its kind in the world!

How does it work? Think of it this way. When you were learning math, you didn't start with complex equations before you learned how to add. You started with incremental steps and broke things into smaller, more managable chunks. Learning a new motor movement pattern is no different. Work through this golf backswing instruction video step by step at least 5 minutes a day, and you'll learn the perfect golf backswing. It's that simple.

You'll notice in this first picture below that we start with very simple steps. There is no golf club, no setup posture, just isolated movements to help your brain create the new movement patterns with as few distractions as possible. This is very, very important, so pay extra close attention to this section of the backswing instruction video and the rest of the article.

golf backswingWhen first learning a new movement, you should start without a club or a ball.

Completing the golf backswing, in many ways, is simply continuing the movements that we did during the takeaway. In this instructional video, we'll introduce you to right elbow flexion, the position of the right elbow at the top and the internal rotation of the left arm (all for right handed golfers - if you're a lefty, simply switch right for left).

As the video progresses and you master each move of the backswing individually, we progressively add new pieces to build your new perfect golf backswing.

top of backswingWhen you understand the arm movements, you can get in posture, add rotation and include the weight shift.

There are numerous intermediate steps that we use to build the new movement that are all covered in the instruction video. In the phase pictured below, we've added the golf club, but it is flipped upside down so the extra mass and momentum of the clubhead don't distract us from focusing on the movement and contractions of the specific muscles used, while still introducing what it will feel like with a club in your hands.

backswing instructionIt might surprise you, but flipping the club upside down will help you learn the backswing much faster.

The most important aspect of this video is the progression and isolation techniques that I use with my students everyday on the range and that produce the radical changes you see in our students' before-afters.

These techniques and the order in which I present them in this golf backswing instructional video are critical for your success, so don't try and skip ahead.

Building a perfect backswing in golf takes work; there are no quick fixes, just temporary ones. So, take your time with the progression and give your brain time to build the new pathways.

perfect my golf backswingYou might just make a full turn for the first time ever with this instruction, just like this student!
"Looked at the checkpoint video today and one thing in particular hit home. Tried it on the range today and it was a revelation, much better ball-striking and accuracy. I now feel I can be consistent throughout a round, and if anything does go wrong, I go thru the checkpoints. Also, with a proper [back]swing, the downswing is a lot easier. This website has been worth every penny and more THANKS"
-Ricardo L. | July 16, 2012 | Pennsylvania
"Breakthrough. I have been over-complicating the swing....thanks and back to the range!"
-James H. | Oct 9, 2012 | Bahamas
golf backswingWhen first learning a new movement, you should start without a club or a ball.

Checkpoints for Practice

  • You must completely master the setup and takeaway before moving on to the backswing lesson
  • Extend your arms and raise them from belt-high to the bottom of your chest
  • At the top of the elevation, fold your right arm about 90°
  • Grab your left thumb in your right hand and repeat elevation & flexion
  • Once elevation & flexion are mastered, add in posture & rotation
  • Keep the elbow pit facing away and up, never toward you
  • When movement sequence is grooved add the club back in - hold it upside down at first
  • To put it all together, start in setup posture and go through the drills again
  • Next, start in setup and move to the top of the swing in a single motion, first with the club upside down, then held normally

Related RST Articles & Videos:

Video Transcription: 5 Min to the Perfect Backswing

Golf Backswing

Once you've mastered the setup and the takeaway, it's time to get us all the way to the top of the golf backswing.

If you haven't mastered the setup and takeaway yet, you're not ready for this video. Do the right thing. Master the takeaway first, and then come back to this backswing instruction video once you've mastered that piece. You need to have a perfect takeaway to set up the backswing, to make it simple to get to the top in the right position.

Behind the shaft is depthThe area behind the shaft is depth

I'm going to walk you through the exact same progression that I use when I teach students in person, so that you can get the exact same experience and understand exactly how you need to work, through the backswing, to get into a perfect position at the top every time without any problems.

There's two techniques that I use.

The first one is progression, or stacking. What that means is, I'm going to make things really simple at first, and then each time we master a simple little piece of the golf backswing I'm going to stack another piece on there to make it more challenging.

The second piece is, I'm going to use isolationism. What that means is, I'm going to take all the distractions away at first. There's going to be no club, no ball, none of that. We're really just focusing on movement, because that's really what we're trying to do. We're not trying to hit a perfect golf shot or have a perfect contact or impact position yet.

We're trying to learn a new movement pattern, and that's critical. You take [skip] what position the club face is in and realize all you're trying to do is create a new movement pattern, and that's it. I'm going to show you exactly how we do that with the golf backswing.

The first thing I'm going to do is get rid of the golf club. We don't need that yet - that's just a distraction.

Here's the first thing that we're going to do. Before we actually start the movement, I want you to understand the concept. It's critical that you understand this because this will affect your vision, or what you conceive the golf swing to be.

Depth is not created with the armsDepth is not created with the arms

Once you understand what your preconceptions are, and how they may be flawed a little bit, you'll understand why people end up in the typical positions that we see every day on the lesson tee in their backswings.

The first thing I want you to think of is that, when you're looking at the golf swing from down the line, there are two dimensions, basically. You're going to think of vertical movement in the golf swing, and around movement, rotation.

When I demonstrate this for my students, what I'll typically do is put a shaft down the line, in the middle of my body, and tell them that anything behind this shaft would be in the "depth" dimension, and anything moving straight up and down would be in this vertical dimension.

Where most people go wrong with the backswing in golf is that they try and move their arms and club into this depth dimension. When they do that, that's how you end up really flat and deep, and in a bad position at the top.

The arms move with the bodyThe arms move with the body

What you need to think of is that you never move your arms into this depth dimension (check out this golf swing plane drill for more). All the arms are doing is moving in this vertical dimension, and that's it. Technically, that's not exactly what happens, but that's what 99.9 percent of the students need to focus on and feel in their golf swings.

What you're going to do is, to get into this depth dimension - because obviously the club is going to end up behind us - that is handled through rotation in the backswing. Now, as I turn, that starts to move my arms into this depth dimension. It's done by rotation, not by me taking my arms and swinging them across my body. That's going to end up with a flat swing.

What your arms do is that they feel as if they're only moving straight up and down in this vertical dimension. As I'm doing this - this is one of our first drills we're going to start - it feels like I'm just moving my hands straight up and down, over my head. That's it. They're not moving this way. They're moving straight up and down.

Now put it togetherNow put it together

When I put these two together; vertical movement and depth movement, rotation, here's what it looks like. I'm going to only do vertical movement, while rotating. When you put the two together, you start to create a golf swing and a swing plane. All I'm doing is this, with this.

What you start to understand now is that my hands and arms always feel like they're out on this side of the shaft, never into this deeper dimension. They feel like they're going straight up and down in front of my body, while my body turns.

That's the concept of the backswing; that your arms are always on this side of the shaft. You never move them into this dimension. They do get there - you can see that my hands are now behind the shaft - but they got moved there by the rotation of my body.

That's the first concept that I want you to understand. Now let's get to work doing some drills for the golf backswing.

It's very important that you follow along with me and go through the drills with me. It doesn't do you any good to just sit here and watch this video. I need you to get up out of your chair and follow along with me, because this is important.

The first thing we're going to do, we're going to isolate down to the simplest movements that we can create during the backswing. That is what we call shoulder elevation in the backswing. It's very little.

Shoulder elevationShoulder elevation

This is how much my arms are going to move during the backswing in golf. I'm starting them at belt-high, and moving them up about to the base of my chest, so the bottom of my elbow is just below the bottom of my pectoral muscle. It's a tiny amount of movement, vertically.

You'll notice that my hands are staying straight in front of my sternum and the buttons on my shirt. That's it.

From this dimension, I'm standing straight up. Hands are about belt-high, and they're elevating to the bottom of my chest. This is what happens during the backswing.

Once you can do this, we're ready to add the next piece in. A lot of people...if we're going to be doing this, we're in trouble. It's just straight up and down; vertical movement only.

Right elbow flexionRight elbow flexion

Now what I want you to do is move your hands to the base of your chest and then fold your right arm. Notice that my elbow and my shoulder are in alignment, and right now my wrist is in alignment. Later on we're going to add a little bit of rotation, but for right now elevation, flexion is how you're going to learn the basic movements of the arms in the golf backswing. This is it.

From down the line, elevation, flexion. Notice that I didn't collapse my right arm because when we add the left hand in here in a second, that would cause my left arm to fold. I'm just going here, a little bit of flexion - not a lot of movement.

Now I'm going to do elevation, I'm going to grab my left thumb, and I'm going to fold my right arm.

Left wrist is flatLeft wrist stays flat

This is the vast majority of what's happening in the backswing. As I'm doing this, notice that my left wrist is flat and perpendicular to the ground. This would be parallel, this is perpendicular. As I fold my right arm, notice that my left wrist is now on an inclined plane. It's at an angle.

This is because I'm allowing my left arm to rotate slightly as I go back during the golf backswing. This will set the club on plane. If I didn't do this, the club shaft would be too steep. Elevation, flexion, and now my hand would be on plane as I let that rotate. Notice that my right elbow is still in front of my shoulder and the left elbow is above the right elbow.

Elbow pits face outElbow pits face out

The other critical piece here is to notice what I call the right elbow pit. My elbow pits, at address in neutral joint alignment would face straight away from me, not in like this. That's not good posture, that's not normal. Everybody's elbows face out this way, if we took all the muscles off you.

As I elevate, my arms come across to the center. There's a little bit of internal rotation, but we want to try and keep this right elbow pit always facing out, away from us. That's going to be very critical when we get into the rest of the backswing.

Elevation, grab the left thumb, flexion, and we've got a great golf backswing.

Elevation, flexionElevation, flexion

Now, as I mentioned, there's going to be a little bit of rotation here. We're not going to worry about this so much for now. Just here, and get that elbow and shoulder in alignment. From down the line, we've got elevation, flexion.

Notice that there's not a great deal of bend in my right arm. I want to feel like I have a lot of width and my hands are out, away from me. I'm not trying to rip my thumb back into my shoulder. Here, and that's it.

That's the basic movement of the arms. Once you can do that correctly - watch yourself in a mirror, that you look just like I did there - now what we're going to do is stack another piece on there. What we're going to do is rotation, with our elevation and flexion. We're going to make it a little more challenging.

Elevation, flexion, posture, rotationElevation, flexion, posture, rotation

What we're going to do here is elevation, flexion...now, because you should have already mastered your setup by now you should know how to hinge from the hip and get into the right position, and you should have already done "5 Minutes to the Perfect Rotation," so I shouldn't have to tell you how to rotate at this point.

Rotate to the top, and now I'm in the right position. Stand up again. Elevation, flexion, posture, rotation. That's it. This is how you check your backswing in golf every time. Stand straight up, elevation, flexion, get into your posture, and rotation. Stand straight up. Elevation, flexion, get into your posture, rotation.

Notice that my elbow is still in front of my shoulder. I didn't do anything with my arms when I added rotation. I just transported them, as a unit, with my torso rotation. That's how your arms get moved into that depth dimension I was talking about earlier.

Don't let the elbow driftDon't let the elbow drift away from the body

If you find that you do this and your arm looks like this, you've let this elbow drift away from you. What you need to imagine is that I've drilled a bolt into your arm that allows it to move up and down, but it doesn't allow it to move this way. It doesn't allow it to move away from the body. It's only moving in that vertical dimension, not the depth dimension.

If you find that you're here and your elbow just moves out a little bit, that's where that little bit of rotation of this part of your arm comes in. A lot of you will find that it's really normal for you to get here, and your elbow pit wants to face back at you.

As we get into the rest of the backswing what we'll see is that, as I'm going back, I want that to face away from me. At this point, it should feel like it's facing the sky. It should never feel like it's rotated in.

The elbow pit points to the skyThe elbow pit points to the sky

If it's facing the sky, my elbow can fold up. If it's facing this way, my elbow is going to fold in and move out away from me, and get that flying right elbow. It's important to keep that elbow pit facing away, and now we're in a great position at the top.

That's the first piece. If you do this correctly, you take the time to go through these little steps that I've done - elevation, flexion, rotation - you'll know what it looks like and feels like to be in the perfect position at the top of the swing, every single time.

Now we're going to challenge you a little bit more. Now what I want you to do is go ahead and pick up a golf club, but I want you to flip it upside down. The reason for that is there's a tremendous amount of weight, even though it doesn't seem like it. Once you start moving this around in space, there's a lot of inertia.

As it builds momentum, it's going to want to act on your wrist joints and get you to move out of position. You're also attuned to what the club head feels like to you at the top of your golf backswing, what you're used to.

What you're used to probably isn't right, but you're going to want to settle back into those old movement patterns. We want to create new movement patterns, which means we need to break some old habits and we need to start with baby steps.

Practice with an inverted clubPractice with an inverted club

Now we're going to make it a little bit more challenging.

Hands are still in front of the center of my chest. Elevation, flexion, and let's see if we can keep everything else the same. If it's not, throw the club down and go back to doing it with just your arms until you can do that exactly right, every time.

We go elevation, flexion, posture, rotation. Same thing here. Elevation, flexion, posture, rotation. Perfect position at the top - that's all we've got to do to get there.

Once you master that...and this is going to take a while. You need to be patient with this, because you're going to do it incorrectly. It's taken me lots and lots of reps to do it.

The goal of these "5 Minutes" series is to get you to do these same movements over and over and over again, at least five minutes a day. If you can put in 10, 15, 20 or 30, that's excellent. In five minutes, you should at least be able to start making progress on your golf swing.

Once you start getting comfortable, where you have it with the shaft upside down, flip it into the normal position. This is where things get tricky.

Now what we're going to do is the same thing - oh, I messed up there - here, setup, posture, rotation.

Elevation, flexion, posture, rotation.

Then we should see what it looks like and feels like to be at the top of the swing. Now you're going to notice that club is going to feel a little bit heavier. You're going to notice how it wants to move your hands and wrists out of position. It's very important that you take your time and move very, very slowly.

Turn the club aroundTurn the club around

Once you've done this enough...you're going to start out with just your arms. You may need to do that for the first week, until you can get just your arms correct. Then add the distraction of a golf club turned upside down. Maybe that will take you another week. For some of you, it might take five minutes. Once you can do it correctly, that's all that matters, then you can flip the club back into its normal position and start working from there.

Now, once we know what it feels like to be in the right position, here's what we want to try and do. We want to stack all of these things together and move to the top of the swing in one motion, from the setup position.

We're not quite ready just yet. What we're going to do now is start out in our posture, do our elevation, flexion, and rotate. We want to do this enough, until we get it right every time and can do it from our setup position. That's the next little evolution here, of our drills. The progression here is to start from setup to go all the way through the golf backswing.

Now, once we've got the setup feeling, we know what it feels like to be at the top, we know what the arm movement feels like - it just feels vertical, it doesn't feel like it's moving across - now what we're going to do is try and glue it all together.

Setup, get in your posture, and all I want you to try and do - if your takeaway is already mastered, which it should be if you're watching this video - we're going to try and get from here to the top. I don't want you to think so much about how to do it. Your takeaway should be ingrained by now.

What I want you to do is let your movement patterns happen, let your takeaway happen, and feel the same things at the top.

You know what it feels like. You should have done enough reps right now. By the time you move to this final stage of trying to do it correctly with the club, in your setup position, held normal right side up, then it's going to be just getting to the top.

Practice getting the same position every timePractice getting the same position every time

But first, we're going to take another distraction out. We're going to take the weight of the club head out of there. I'm going to start in my setup position with just the butt end of the club down. I'm just going to try and get to that same top of the swing position by doing the same move.

I'm feeling this, and this, with a club in my hand. I'm just trying to get to the top. If you can't do it with a club in your hands, throw the club down, grab your left thumb, and create the same movement, but now we're doing it from our setup position. Until you can do that right, there's no point in having a club.

Once you get it all together, then take the club, get in your normal setup, normal grip, and just try and move to the same position at the top every time.

Check yourself in a mirror. If you don't have a mirror or camera you're going to have a hard time mastering these moves. You must be able to see exactly what you're doing. Once you can do this, you will have a perfect golf backswing every single time.

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