Category Archives: takeaway

Practice Your Takeaway

Everything that wants a good ending needs a good start.

Arnold Palmer once said that if you take the club back the right way for the first eighteen inches, not much else can go wrong after that.

Well, maybe if you’re Arnold Palmer, but the importance of a good takeaway cannot be ignored. A mistake here can ruin a swing that has barely begun.

A good takeaway has these characteristics:

  • The club starts back slowly. A golf swing is not a drag race.
  • The club goes straight back for the first foot.
  • The clubface stays square to the clubpath.
  • No tension enters your body, anywhere.

Get a club, set up, and practice this over and over and over this winter. Every day. Just the first two feet or so of your swing.

You cannot practice this too much, and you cannot practice anything that will have a bigger payoff.

The Mental Forward Press

One of the most difficult things to do is to begin a motion smoothly from a complete stop. In golf, we want to take the club away without a jerk or without putting tension in the body.

At one time, the way to do this was to have a forward press. This would be a slight movment toward the target that the backswing could play off of, hopefully in a rhythmic way.

The trouble with a forward press was that unless it was done carefully, it could get the golfer and the club out of position before the club was taken away, to the detriment of the shot that followed.

Now days we don’t hear much about forward presses. If you watch the professional golfers, you don’t see very many of them with one. I guess that move is out of favor.

But the problem remains. How do we solve it? By having a forward press that is more in the mind than in the body.

This is what I think we should do, ideally: start the swing with a reverse waggle. Instead of taking the club back, with just then hands and wrists, like a traditional waggle, raise the clubhead a bit and swing the club forward, toward the target, by the same amount. Then flow right back into the backswing and come down into the ball.

That makes the swing a three-step movment, not two. It sets you up with perfect rhythm, and keeps you relaxed throughout the swing. Unfortunately, since the club is not next to the ball at the start, it might be difficult to find the ball accurately at impact.

But you can take a practice swing like that, if you want to. It’s not unheard of. Then, address the ball, and do the reverse waggle in your mind, and, following the same rhythm as in the practice swing, take the club into a relaxed, flowing swing.

It’s still a three-part swing. You merely did the first part in your mind.

If you try this, you might find your body responding to the initial mental movment in some way. That’s O.K., just ignore it. Focus on the mental feeling as you get your swing started.

Another benefit of the mental forward press is that it will take your mind off any anxieties you have of the shot you’re about to hit. Anything that helps you in that department is all right.

Your Takeaway is All in Your Mind

The hardest thing to do in any sport is to start accurately from a dead stop. What normally happens it that initiating motion starts with a jerk. It might be a slight jerk, one you don’t even notice if you aren’t paying attention, but it’s there.

In golf, that little jerk is enough to throw your golf club off track and put tension into your body in order to keep the club from getting even farther off track. Forget about getting it back on.

This is true for any stroke. The effect is equally damaging in every stroke. With a driver, it will cause you miss the fairway. With an iron, either from the fairway or around the green, it will cause you to mishit the ball in any number of ways. With the putter? You can fill in the blanks.

It is my opinion that many good swings from good setups that result in poor shots were doomed in the first inch the club got taken away from the ball.

The way to solve this problem is to use your mind correctly.

A fact of life is that mind leads body. Whatever you do with your body, it occurs in the mind first. Then the body follows and expresses in the physical world what already happened in the mental world.

What I want you to do, then, before you take the cub away, is to imagine that the club is going back. Take the club away first in your mind, then do it again with your body. There should be no more than a quarter-second delay between the start of your visualization and the start of the club.

Since your mind is already moving, it is easy to have your body follow smoothly. Trust me, this works.

Try it with any club, any shot. Start the club back with your hands, arms, body, whatever you use, and monitor the physical feeling you have at the moment of takeaway. Then set up again and imagine the club moving back while you stay still, then let the club follow that mental image.

I think you will find your takeaway to be much smoother. If you continue your stroke into a full swing, you will also find it to be more relaxed and controlled all the way through.

Now your good setup and good swing will lead to a good shot.

The Forward Press

Many books you read will tell you that a forward press is a good way to start your golf swing and you should have one. You might even hear that a forward press is good for your putting stroke. I agree. It’s difficult to start moving from a dead stop and do it precisely. There’s always a little bit of odd motion that needs to be corrected, and that’s the last thing we to spend any time doing in the golf swing. It’s hard enough to get right as it is.

A forward press also helps you set up a rhythm for your stroke. The press movement, what ever it is for you, gives you a small movement to play off of so the start of the real swing is smooth, and leads you into a smooth rhythm for the entire swing. That’s always helpful. There is another way to get both these things done without making a physical movement, and that is to press in your mind.

Whatever we say about the mental game of golf needs to be grounded in the principle that the mind leads the body. Whatever we do with the body begins in the mind. That doesn’t mean that before I swing the club I’m going to think, “OK, now swing the club.” That’s just a comment I can make to myself and carry out or ignore.

What I mean is, the swing begins with the mental activity that triggers the movement of my body. That mental activity is linked to the physical movement and cannot be separated from it. The mental activity and the physical movement are not two things, but one. You might not be aware of the mental part, but try swinging your club without your mind starting first. You can’t do it.

Being aware that this is the process, mind first, body follows, you can realize that the swing starts in your mind and use that as your forward press. Consciously start a feeling of movement in your mind and let the body follow that feeling in such a way that results in swinging a golf club. The following with the body will occur in less than a second, and is the continuation of movement, not the start of movement.

When you start your swing or stroke in this way, you not only get the benefits of the forward press, but you also get the benefit of having your mind taken away from the random thoughts that you know hurt you but you can’t get rid of. You conscious mind needs something to do, so give it something that works for you — a generalized feeling of movement that flows right into starting the club back — a feeling that stays out of your way and lets the golf swing you have trained yourself to make, come out. You can’t do any better than that.