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Better Ball Flight for all Golfers

Only five factors determine how a club can loft a golf ball into the air. Regardless of how the club is taken away from the ball in the backswing, it must approach the ball with a square face, on-target path, and make centred contact, for straight direction. A shallow angle of approach gives better trajectory. Additionally, greater clubhead speed results in increased distance. These five factors are the only scientific principles known to affect ball-flight, and are termed the Ball Flight Laws.

Hypothesis: To introduce a new backswing, which is shorter and wider in order to incorporate all the components of the Ball Flight Laws. This backswing, termed the ‘pure-width’ backswing, has maximum attainable width of both the arms, associated with minimum possible length of swing, and no intentional wrist-cock. It permits the club to remain low to the ground and square to the target line for the longest possible time. It thus sets the club on the correct path and angle earlier in the downswing, thereby allowing the club more time in which to accelerate past the ball. This swing, therefore, gives more consistency, as it is less reliant on perfect timing for its success.

Technique: A golfer is first required to feel and visualise the wider arc and the swing path of the new backswing: Set up in the normal ‘address’ position. Remove the left hand from the club. Remain in posture, and with no body movement, move the right arm to a horizontal position, level with the waist and along the body line. The right shoulder and elbow remain relaxed, and the palm of the right hand faces the target line. Stretch the left arm across the body and reach for the club, then make the usual grip, without any adduction of the right arm. Standardised instruction is used to achieve the prescribed backswing:

  1. A club is placed on the ground, parallel to the target line. Its grip-end is placed two feet from the golfer’s right foot, at its centre.
  2. The golfer moves the arms-triangle low and wide, without any fold in elbows or wrists. This move continues until the butt-end of the club being swung is level with the right hip. In this position, it exactly matches the position of the club on the ground ( in terms of width of swing and of direction of shaft travel). The shoulders should neither rock, nor rotate intentionally, during this phase.
  3. The arms triangle then proceeds upwards from this position for another foot, by minimal flexion of the right elbow.
  4. The golfer keeps his/her feet as close together as possible, until the arms movement has been grooved.

A pilot study using 21 golfers as subjects was undertaken. Their centredness of impact, clubhead speed and swing path were found to improve. Additional observations as seen from video recordings of these subjects were:

  1. Automatic weight-shift, which helps to shallow-out the swing arc in the impact area
  2. Hips leading in the downswing as there is more room for the arms to fall ‘into the slot’ as opposed to ‘hit from the top’.
  3. Wrist cock occurs only ‘pre-impact’. The early- or late-hit of deliberately cocked wrists is avoided.
  4. The arms and body remain ‘connected’ and hence move in synchronisation during the downswing.
  5. The backswing is too short to allow faulty shaft, arm or wrist positions at the top.
  6. Fewer relative movements of the small muscles of the arms and wrists are involved, making this swing a simpler motor skill to acquire.

Further randomised, prospective study would compare the ‘pure-width’ backswing to the conventional backswing.


Teaching a ‘Pure-Width’ Backswing

Conventional teaching of the golf backswing involves the use of complex manoeuvres and the use of many different muscle groups. A simpler teaching content can give the golf swing greater consistency, and better results. A backswing having maximum attainable width of both the arms, associated with minimum possible length and wrist-cock – a ‘pure-width’ backswing – is simple to teach, and less complex to master.

Aim: To demonstrate that a ‘pure-width’ backswing is attainable with simple coaching and in a limited time-frame.

Method Twenty-one right-handed, Caucasian, amateur golfers, eighteen male and three female, of ages ranging from 19 to 70 and handicaps from -4 to -27 participated in this pilot study. They attended one-hour sessions over four consecutive days. Backswing width was assessed from video-replay of the subjects’ existing swings. The angle of the left forearm from horizontal was used as an indication of arm width, 30 degrees being ideal. The angle between the left forearm and shaft was measured as an indication of width at the wrists. This angle was required to be greater than 100 degrees. Subjects were then taught the ‘pure-width’ backswing, and, within a controlled environment were re-assessed for backswing width in terms of arms and wrists.

Results: At the end of the backswing, eighteen subjects came closer to the ideal left arm angle than they were before, and eight of the thirteen who had bent left forearms, unwittingly lost the bend it. All subjects were divided into two groups – those with a ‘before’ left arm angle greater than 30 degrees, and those with a ‘before’ left arm angle less than or equal to 30 degrees. For subjects (n=16) who had mean arm angles of >30 degrees, (62.2 +/- 3.5 vs. 53.1 +/- 3.0 : mean +/- SE) the arm angle was significantly (p=0.03, 2 tailed t test) reduced. For subjects with an arm angle equal to or <30 degrees, (14 +/- 6.2 vs. 35 +/-7.4 ; mean +/- SE), the arm was significantly (p= 0.04, 2 tailed t test) closer to the ideal required angle.

All 21 subjects increased the left wrist-to-clubshaft angle, and 11 showed a 90 degree or greater angle. The increase was significant (p<0.001, 2 tailed t test), with mean wrist angle being 86.33 +/- 2.3 vs. 74.95 +/- 2.78; mean +/- SE. Data was analysed using SPSS Inc. software, copyright 1995

Conclusion: This study proves that ‘pure-width’ is easily attainable, and requires only some easy-to-follow and basic instruction. Further study is required to assess what long-term effect the ‘pure-width’ backswing has on a golfer’s ball striking ability.


Consistently Better Ball-Striking, using a Shorter, Wider (‘Pure-Width’) Backswing

The ambition of every golfer is to increase distance of ball carry and to improve direction. However, rapid improvement in ball striking, and with greater consistency, is difficult using the conventional golf swing. It is a difficult motor-skill to master, being a complicated, multi-planar manoeuvre, involving the use of several small and large

Aim: To verify whether a ‘pure-width’ swing gives improved ball striking and greater consistency, as compared to a conventional swing. This backswing has maximum attainable width of both right and left arms, associated with minimum possible length and wrist-cock. The arms and club shaft at the top of this swing are in line with the golfers’ body line, and parallel to the target line. A pilot study was conducted to compare the two swings.

Method: Twenty-one right-handed, Caucasian, amateur golfers, eighteen male and three female, of ages ranging from 19 to 70 and handicaps from -4 to -27 participated in this pilot study. They attended one-hour sessions over four consecutive days. Subjects were given standardised instruction to achieve the desired backswing.

Results: The number of centred shots of one best set of 15 balls both ‘before’ and ‘after’ was compared. Clubhead speed of these centred shots was also compared. It was observed that: seventeen subjects had the same or a greater number of centred shots ‘after’. The increase was significant (p=0.005, Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test), and went from a median of 6 (3 – 7; 25th to 75th quartiles) out of 15 balls hit to 7 (5 – 8). Sixteen subjects had significantly (p=0.001, 2 tailed t Test) greater clubhead speed ‘after’. The average clubhead speed (mph) increased from 71.84 +/- 1.95 to 74.52 +/- 1.97 ( mean +/- SE). Club path changed significantly (p=0.05, 2 tailed t test), going from an average of out-to-in(O-I) 3.8 [O-I 4.9 to O-I 2.7; range of SE] to in-to-out (I-O) 0.86 [I-O 0.05 to I-O 1.7; range of SE]. There was no significant difference in club face angle ‘before’ and ‘after’. The averages were ‘closed’ 2.05 vs. ‘closed’ 2.1. Data was analysed using SPSS Inc. software, copyright 1995. Impact readings were obtained from a Golftek light-sensitive analyser mat.

Conclusion: The study shows that a much simpler backswing – the ‘pure-width’ backswing – is simple to implement, and yields an improvement in a golfer’s overall ball striking, in a very short time. The improvement is associated with greater adherence of the backswing to the ball-flight law criteria of square clubface, straight swing path and shallow swing arc. The minimal relative movements made by the arm muscles also aid consistency. The ‘pure-width’ backswing can be used by any golfer, regardless of sex, age or handicap, to improve ball-striking. The hypothesis needs further research in terms of a comparative study of golfers of two groups – one which changes to a ‘pure-width’ backswing, and one which uses the conventional golf swing as control.

Twenty three women golfers participated in this study, and improved quickly and dramatically using the Your Golf Guru prescribed full-swing technique. The study was conducted at the Tappan Golf Driving Range, in New York State, USA, during June 2004, with the help of Golf Digest Magazine, and with subjects sourced with the help of the Executive Women’s Golf Association and the LPGA of USA

Effect of right arm and shoulder kinematic modification of the take-away in the golf backswing on ball flight distance

Kanwar Kiran
Willingdon Sports Club, Mumbai, India

The modern backswing in golf involves a takeaway of the arms and shoulder-girdle triangle1 keeping the clubhead in front of the hands and arms, followed by a turn of the shoulders. These moves keep the clubshaft along the swing plane 1,2,3,4,5,6 during the backswing, thus conforming to the desired geometry of an angled circular plane. The importance of the position of the right arm and shoulder during the backswing , and at the top of the backswing, has not been sufficiently examined, particularly considering that the biggest cause of mis-hit golf shots is the right shoulder ‘hitting from the top’. This paper aims to describe the effects of modifying the backswing to prioritise the kinematics of the right arm and shoulder during the backswing.

Methods: Subjects: Three experienced, right-handed golfers, two male (handicaps –10 and –7) and one female (handicap –17) were used for this single-session pilot study. Procedure: Each golfer was required to use their own 6-iron. The same golf balls were used throughout the experiment. All swings were recorded using the same camera, at the same distances from the subject, for both the frontal and down-the-line views. Following a warm-up session consisting of hitting several balls, subjects hit 8 golf shots which were recorded for swing, and simultaneously measured for carry distance. They were then asked to make one change in the take-away parts of their backswings – bring the right arm and clubshaft in line with the right heel, with no intentional pronation of the arm, and without any bend of the elbow or wrist, and then fold the right elbow, in order for the swing to continue to the top. After practising the new swing for 20 balls, 8 more swings recorded, and carry distance was measured. Results were calculated only for the one best shot in terms of carry distance, in the ‘before training’ and ‘after training’ phases, with balls hit outside the 46 metres fairway not being considered.


Sr. No.HandicapBest Distance Before Training (m)Best Distance After Training (m)

All three golfers showed an increase in distance ‘after’, despite the short time frame allotted to the desired swing change, and the fact that no other swing or set-up changes were made. Subjectively, the participants noted that the ‘after’ swing permitted a more effortless downswing, and, although not measured, a higher trajectory.

This pilot study sought to demonstrate that if the right arm and shoulder are in a better position both during takeaway and at the ‘top’, the downswing is more efficient, and much easier, to execute. It is the same move as would be used if one arm was asked to slap the other. The modified backswing taught in this pilot study ensures that the right shoulder is not in a dominant/aggressive position from which it can start the downswing. It also puts the shoulders and hips in a position from which their downswing planes are more synchronised with one another, rather than antagonistic. The body is thus placed in a position from which the hips can lead in the downswing, without volition, thus creating the extra power required for more distance. This modification is utilised in order to ensure a smooth and consistent swing plane on the downswing, the only time in the entire golf swing when correct swing plane is really essential. Such a swing places the arms, and thus also the body, in a position which, while not conforming to the universally recommended backswing plane, yields better performance during the downswing. This backswing modification should be examined in further detail including examining the effects on the kinematic sequence of the golfswing.

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