Backswing and Body Separation

After leaving the University of Oklahoma, I began working on my golf swing with one of the most renowned instructors – Hank Haney. My college coach wasn’t happy with my decision. He considered Hank, a “backswing” coach. I always wondered why my coach discounted the importance of the backswing.


Understandably the backswing doesn’t hit the golf ball. Some golf teachers have promoted just starting the swing at the top of the backswing. Baseball players do it why not golfers? While this makes some logical sense, here are some reasons I have discovered that make the backswing as important as the downswing.


There area actually two primary movements that create the backswing.

When you watch good swings, you often see the winding yet fluid turn of the body in the backswing motion. This action is considered a negative movement as it moves in the opposite direction of the target whereas the movement toward the goal is an active movement.

Even though the backswing looks like one fluid turn, it is a sequence of actions. The series consists of the pelvis and torso turning together and about halfway back, the pelvis stops, and the shoulders become a bit more. The backswing is a turn of the body above the turn of the pelvis.

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 8.45.08 AM.png
First Movement of Pelvis and Torso
Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 8.45.31 AM.png
Second Movement of Torso that Completes the Backswing

I have found this sequence and separation of upper body from the lower body to be a critical factor to the downswing. Here’s why.

The Transition

The transition is where the backswing continues as the downswing starts. Moe said, “As I am going back, I am coming down.” Moe was describing the separation of the backswing to downswing. Technically what he was describing was how the lower body moves toward the target as the upper body continues moving backward, away from the target.

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 8.47.51 AM.png
Separation (Photo taken from Inside the Single Plane Swing)

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If you do not separate in the backswing, you can not make distinctions in the downswing. In other words, the body must position itself, though separated movement in the backswing, so that it can again separate those changes in the downswing.

Its all about Sequence

A proper golf swing consists of timing. But what exactly is timing? Timing is very simple if you think of it as stages of the body’s movement where one part of the body moves faster or slower than another. The timing of the swing is indicated by WHEN one part moves faster than another. The backswing timing consists of the following:

  1. Torso, Hips, Arms, club – all move together – at the same speed – half way in backswing.
  2. Hips Slow down – Torso, Arms and club continue to the top of the backswing.

The downswing consists of the following:

  1. His move into lead knee as the weapons and club keep going back.
  2. Hips and Torso accelerate together.
  3. Bones slow down; Torso continues to accelerate
  4. Arms follow Torso acceleration.
  5. Torso slows down, Arms accelerate.
  6. Hands follow Arm acceleration.
  7. Club speeds through impact.

Keep in mind that the downswing is happing very rapidly making it difficult to feel. Personally, I can easily believe the backswing but hardly feel the downswing. These are why, as I mentioned in my latest video “Inside the Single Plane Swing,” that to accomplish the proper feelings in downswing you must commit to the following Single Plane fundamentals.

  1. Hit into and through the swing with a flexed lead knee.
  2. Swing through release with the trail foot on the ground.
  3. Keep your spine tilted through impact.

With these three fundamentals in place and the proper separation of the backswing, you can maximize the rotation of the backswing and downswing – without inhibiting movement and increasing speed.

To find out more about my latest instruction of how to feel your swing and learn the proper sequence you can go here:

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3 comments on “Backswing and Body Separation”
  1. Dave says:

    Thank you Todd, You explain this is sequence is so well. At the top of the backswing the eyes are focused on the ball and the subconcious mind is sending a message to hit the ball and hit it hard. This in turn causes the hands and arms to accelerate ahead of the pelvis and torso which is a huge shot killer. I find practice swings in slow motion and even stopping between positions to get the feel of the proper sequence before I address the ball. Am I correct in my thinking?


  2. Todd Graves says:

    Hey Dave, I think the best thing you said is “feel the proper sequence”. I do believe that the sequence is learned through practice where the lower body starts the downswing. Yes, you are correct in your thinking.


  3. Bruce Kelso says:

    I get the feeling of “launching” my backswing with my pelvis and shoulders together to the “half way point.” It is at this point that the momentum in my shoulders, hands and arms continue back to the finish of the backswing and the pelvis slows, stops and reverses direction leading the shoulders hands and arms to impact. It is a dynamic yet subtle sequence that contributes to a blend of balance, power and accuracy based upon the intensity of the total movement. And that’s why it’s important to practice those positions often and correctly to mold them into a smooth integrated movement instead of mindlessly beating balls; although I really like hitting balls.


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