Golf Swing Takeaway: How To start Your Swing Correctly

Golf Swing Takeaway

Golf is cause and effect as each part of the swing builds upon itself. 

The golf swing takeaway sets up the rest of your swing; if things don’t go right with your first motion in the backswing, it has a direct impact on your transition and downswing. 

So many golfers think they need a better transition or better downswing. When in reality, the takeaway and backswing might be the part of your swing that needs adjusting as one impacts the other. 

What you do with your first move determines where the club will be at the top and ultimately at impact. The good news is that you can change your takeaway pretty quickly and in this article we’ll show you exactly how to make those changes. 

Soon enough, you’ll have a smooth, powerful takeaway that will set up the rest of your swing for a consistent motion. A better takeaway should help you hit it longer, straighter, and lead to lower scores on the golf course. 

Golf Swing Takeaway 

So, how do you take the club away from the golf ball and start your swing? 

First, let’s talk about what should happen on the takeaway in a perfect swing. 

After setting up in an athletic stance, square to your target, your left shoulder should make the first move. The big muscles move the swing even though it might look like the hands move the club. 

In reality, the left shoulder rotates underneath your chin. 

The left arm remains straight in this process and the hands have not done anything at this point. Once the club is parallel to the ground, you want to look at a few key checkpoints to see if things are starting off correctly.

First, where is the butt-end of the club pointing? Is it at your target, left, or right? 

When the shaft is parallel to the ground on your takeaway, you want it to point directly at your target. If it’s right, the takeaway was probably too far inside and if it’s left of the target, probably too far of an outside path. 

The next checkpoint is to see where the clubhead is pointing? 

Even if the shaft is pointing at your target, the club face itself is very important too. If the clubface is pointed toward the sky, it will likely lead to a cut or slice. Conversely, if it’s closed and pointing straight at the ground, it will likely lead to a draw or hook. 

Ideally, the club should be covering your hands and in a neutral position. This is what would happen in an ideal takeaway. To groove your backswing like this, let’s break it into three parts; setup, pre-shot waggle, and takeaway.

Also Read: Top of The Backswing – What You Need To Know

Part 1: Setup Position

To create a proper takeaway, you need a solid starting point. If your address position isn’t fundamentally sound, it’s going to make it challenging to take the club back in a strong starting position. 

While there are a lot of components to the setup and it varies with each shot you face on the course, here are a few of the golf swing basics.

  • Grip: Your grip has a big impact on the first part of your swing. Strive to have a neutral or even strong grip at setup. A weak grip makes it easier to suck the club back too far inside, which creates all kinds of problems on the downswing. 
  • Arms: At address, try to get your arms as close together as possible so they will work with the shoulders on the takeaway. 
  • Square clubface: Finally, make sure your face is square to the target. If it’s right of your target, it’s easy to take the club too far inside or vice versa if it’s pointing left of your target at address. 

Strive for a neutral, square address position to set up the waggle and correct takeaway. 

Related: Golf Ball Position for Every Club in the Bag 

Part 2: The Waggle

Did you know that a waggle can lead to a more effective takeaway? 

According to the great Ben Hogan in his book, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, “The bridge between the address and the actual start of the backswing is the waggle. As the golfer takes the club back on the waggle, he accustoms himself to the path the club will be taking on his actual backswing.”

So if you want to improve your takeaway, start with a waggle. 

The waggle is a preview of the shot that you want to hit; it provides a mental picture to let your mind and muscles start to work together. If you don’t have a pre-shot waggle, you’re making golf harder on yourself! 

Here are a few tips to using a waggle as part of your pre-shot ritual:

  • The left hand controls the waggle and the right-hand works with it. 
  • Keep your arms close to the sides of your chest. According to Mr. Hogan, there shouldn’t be any shoulder rotation in your waggle, just hands. 
  • Vary your rhythm of the waggle based on the shot. For example, if you’re hitting a driver, you’ll want a faster, more aggressive waggle (Bryson DeChambeau illustrates this point very well). 

Once your waggle paints a clear picture of the shot in your mind and removes tension, it’s time to take the club back. 

Part 3: Upper Body Moves First

So many amateur golfers think that the hips should start turning as soon as you take the club away. But instead, your hips should remain in the same position and instead, your upper body moves first. 

Here’s what Ben Hogan said about the first part of the backswing in a later chapter. “The shoulders start turning immediately. The hips do not. Just before your hands reach hip level, the shoulders, as they turn, automatically start pulling the hips around.”  

On your backswing, the goal is to turn your shoulders as far around your body as possible. In an ideal scenario, the shoulders would turn at 90 degrees (or more if you’re very flexible) while the hips are only about half that much rotation. 

A good checkpoint for shoulder rotation is to make sure that your chin is resting on your left shoulder at the top of your swing. If the chin isn’t resting there, you might not have made a full backswing and broken down your left arm to get the full turn. 

The bigger the shoulder turn, the better! 

Tiger Woods agrees with Ben Hogan on the importance of a big shoulder turn. As he said in his book, How I Play Golf, “Midway through the backswing the club should be parallel with your stance line. You get it there by swinging the club back with your shoulder, arms, and hand working together smoothly. From there, it’s easy to swing the club into perfect position at the top of the backswing.” 

Finally, make sure the initial motion of your backswing is smooth. If you jerk it too fast, it can throw off the tempo and timing of the rest of your swing.

As you can see, the takeaway sets up the rest of your golf swing. 

Work hard on the first move to make it easy to get the club into a powerful position at the top and on the downswing. This is known as a one-piece takeaway and the most commonly used method among elite players.

Alternate Option: Right Side Takeaway

A different version of the takeaway is the right side takeaway where the arms remain supple on the first part of the swing. The wrists don’t cock until much later in the swing and the swing doesn’t begin with the left shoulder. 

Instead, the right hand or right arm begins the swing in a two-piece takeaway. While this method can work for some players, it typically takes more time to learn and not nearly as common. A good example of this type of takeaway is Bryson DeChambeau. 

Related: Understanding the Stack and Tilt Golf Swing 

Best Takeaway Drills  

Hopefully, you have a clear understanding of a proper takeaway and how you should begin your swing. Here are a few drills to help you feel a correct takeaway and make it feel effortless. 

Alignment Stick Drill

Watch the video version of the alignment stick dril below:

To get started, grab an alignment stick and place it along the club shaft. This allows you to grip the club with a normal hand position while holding the stick. The alignment stick should rest comfortably on your left hip (assuming you’re a right-handed golfer). 

Then, take the club back as normal but stop once the club is parallel to the ground. The shaft should be inline with your golf club and the head should cover your hands from a down the line angle. This drill helps you maintain the triangle between your arms and shoulders in the initial part of your backswing. 

Trail Hand Drill 

If you struggle with an inside takeaway, the trail hand drill from Scratch Golf Academy can help. When the club gets too horizontal on the backswing it almost always leads to a steep, over the top downswing. 

Start by gripping the club like normal with your left hand. Then, take your right hand and place it in front of your left-hand so it runs along the shaft of the golf club.  

Finally, take the club back just past your hips to feel a connected, one-piece takeaway. Also, if you’ve had an inside takeaway for quite some time, it might appear that the face is shut when you do this drill. But don’t worry, it’s actually square and will make it much easier to create lag on the downswing. 

Don’t forget, a good checkpoint is when the club is parallel to the ground. The face should be pointing down to the ground in a neutral position, not open or closed. 

Training Aids to Improve Takeaway 

While the drills above are helpful, sometimes a training aid can make things easier. Here are two of our favorites. 

Tour Striker PlaneMate

One of the best and most popular training aids is the Tour Striker Planemate, designed by top instructor Martin Chuck. This is a unique device that makes it easy to feel the proper takeaway and will help you groove more in to out swing. If you’ve ever wanted to create more lag and feel the club pull down in the “slot”, this is a great investment in your golf game. 

It’s easy to use and works at home or at the driving range. Plus, unlike so many other devices, this is one that you can use with a real golf club and hit balls with. It comes with different sized rubber bands so you can use it with wedges and chip shots, all the way to full swing drivers! 

Tour Striker Smart Ball

Another great training aid from Tour Striker is the Smart Ball. This helps you eliminate the chicken wing and get through the shot with a connected upper body. The ball rests between your arms during the swing and keeps the upper body moving together. 

Like the PlaneMate, you can groove your swing with it on or off the golf course. Click here to learn more about it now. 

Top Questions About Takeaway 

If you still have questions about mastering the first part of your swing, the top questions and answers below should help clarify. 

What causes an inside takeaway in golf?

An inside takeaway is one of the most common issues that so many golfers struggle with. It’s so harmful to the swing because it tends to make you get steep on the downswing and create an over the top move. 

So, what causes players to drag the club inside and hit a pull slice? 

It could be from a few different reasons including: 

  • Weak grip. 
  • Lack of flexibility. 
  • Incorrect alignment.
  • Poor setup position. 

Or, just bad habits over time. 

What is the correct takeaway in the golf swing?

What’s great about golf is that there is no one way to swing the golf club. Fred Couples has a different swing than Tiger Woods who has a different swing from Phil Mickelson. So I’m not sure if there is a correct takeaway as everyone “swings their swing.”

But in a perfect world, I would recommend getting into a neutral position that we’ve discussed in this article. To confirm a good takeaway position, make sure to check these three things when the club is parallel to the ground: 

  • Have the butt-end of the club facing your target.
  • The club head slightly outside your hands.
  • The club head covers the view of your hands from a down the line angle. 

Is the takeaway the most important part of the golf swing? 

Yes, paired with your address position it has a big impact on the rest of your swing. If your takeaway is off, it will directly affect other areas of your swing.

Wrapping Up

I don’t think you can work on your takeaway enough as it sets up the rest of your golf swing. If you want to become a great ball striker and shoot lower more consistently, this is a fundamental part of the game. 

How you start your swing usually determines how you make an impact with the ball. If the club goes inside or outside, it’ll likely do the opposite on the downswing. And if the face is open or closed, it can make for some big misses too.

But once you get the first part of your swing dialed in, the game gets so much easier. Use the drills and training aids to make this part of your game automatic. 

Do you struggle with your takeaway? If so, what’s your favorite drill or training aid to help you fix the issue?

Let us know in the comments below. 

Picture of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

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