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Low and Slow: How to Nail the Takeaway

Golf Swing Takeaway

Takeaway: When it comes to golf instruction and swing, the takeaway is often overlooked. 

The first few moments after a golfer starts his swing are extremely important because it’s what sets a swing up for success later on

Swings are a great way to get your heart rate up. It will end up badly if it starts off poorly. That’s why the first move back is so critical to a successful golf shot. 

That being said, it’s often overlooked because it’s a little unclear as well. There’s a clear beginning, but not a clear end point.

We know it as a subset of the backswing, but there’s no universally recognized point where it ends. Therefore, it’s ignored for other, more tangible aspects of the swing, like the pause or transition down.

For the purpose of this article, you can start your swing when you begin and end it when your hands and your clubhead reach belt level. 

It’s the very beginning of every golf swing and, if you get it right, you’ll have a better chance of hitting the shot you want. So, in this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how the first move back can make or break the rest of your golf game.

What are different ways to take the club back? 

To start out, let’s talk about the different types of methods. Most golfers and instructors use the one-piece method and the right arm technique.  There’s no need to overthink the first move, but it is important to pay attention to what you’re doing because it’ll influence the rest of your swing.

Two different methods

  1. One-Piece method
  2. Right Arm Method

Takeaway One Piece 

The one-piece method gets its name from the fact that it is a single piece. Focuses on one part of the swing. In this instance, The front shoulder

All else should be as quiet as possible. With the one-piece, you simply concentrate on bringing your lead shoulder under your chin. This movement will allow you to move your club and arms backwards without having to move your hands, wrists or arms. 

This move minimizes the amount of unnecessary movement that occurs in your takeaway. This allows the club to stay on the right path longer, thus, getting you into the correct spot at the top of the backswing. 

You will also notice that your head stays really still because all you’re doing is moving your front shoulder under your chin. Keeping your head and sternum still will make it easier to get solid impact because you haven’t swayed back or dipped down on the way back.

Takeaway: Perfect Golf

Perfect is a bit of an arbitrary word in this game but for this article we’ll say “perfect” is for the guys who win millions of dollars for hitting it around on TV. It’s amazing how quiet the world’s best players are when they return to the table.

In golf, less is more. If you move less on the way back, that means you don’t have to do as much on the way down.

This will not only create more consistent results but will also lead to more power. You can lose your balance if you sway as you go back. To return to neutral, sway your hips while descending and you will be able to get back on track. This is almost impossible as it all happens in just a few moments.

One Piece Takeaway

Right Arm Takeaway

The back-arm, or right-arm as it’s commonly known, is similar to the one-piece in that it focuses on one part of the takeaway. I like to call it the back-arm takeaway because it would not be a right arm for left-handed players, so for the sake of universality, we’ll call it the back-arm method. 

The main difference between one-piece and the back-arm is what you concentrate on and how many parts there are. With the back-arm strategy, all you’re doing is pulling your back arm (right arm for a right-handed player) backward.

To help you better understand, you can imagine that there is a person standing next to you and you’re either handing them the golf club with your back arm or shaking their hand. This will keep the club moving in the right direction on its way back.

This method will cause your back-hand to open up so that the palm faces out.

This type of takeaway has the advantage of engaging your forearms’ rotation. This type of takeaway is a good choice if you find it difficult to rotate the clubhead at impact. 

How do I begin the takeaway order? 

Now that you know the two main types of takeaways, we’re going to discuss how to start the takeaway.

As you probably know, the game of golf has many components and they all play a role. Your legs are the biggest muscles in your body, and they create power starting at the ground. Your hips, waist, and forearms create speed. There is also a large transfer of power on the way down.

How do these muscles affect your first move? Here’s a quick overview that hopefully simplifies the role that each of them play.

Big Muscles

When you first start playing golf, the best advice I can give to amateurs is to use your big muscles (legs, chest and shoulders) rather than your smaller muscles (wrists).

It is important to use your big muscles to generate speed and power. Later in the backswing smaller muscles are used, but for now, keep them silent.

Watch guys like Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods. They start by engaging their big muscles early, then let the smaller ones complement things on the way back down. Plus, the larger muscles are more important in long shots while the smaller muscles are more important when shooting around the green.

Spine Turn

Turning around your spine is another big move to make on the way back. If you alter your spine angle too early, this can cause havoc with your game.

Imagine your spine as a tether-ball pole you used to use when you were young. You want to wrap your muscles around that pole, so to start, you’re simply making a twisting-type movement with your side muscles. 

how to maintain spine angle during golf swing

The club will be able to pull away from ball without wasting any movement. Remember, less is better! Moving your body toward your back foot won’t help you generate power, instead you will lose power.

Here, the goal is to turn your spine in a direction away from the target. As long as your legs are flexed and you have enough space on the base, you will be ready to achieve this position.

Draw Line

Imagine a line extending indefinitely both in the direction of your target and in the direction of your ball. You want your clubhead to remain as close to that line as possible. Keep your wrists quiet to help you stay connected.

If the clubhead begins to travel outside that line, you will likely notice that your shot shape will be a slice or fade.  Similarly, if the clubhead travels inside the line too quickly on the way back, you’ll tend to draw or hook the ball. But it can also result in coming over top.

Keep your face on the line As long as you can

It will be necessary to bring your golf bag inside the line eventually, but you should delay this action as long as possible. This will allow you to have a proper golf path.

Checkpoints to Ensure a Correct Takeaway

As you work on your first move back, there are some great checkpoints you can use to make sure that you’re in the correct position. 


While positions are important, don’t forget about tempo as well! If you make a jerky move on the way back, you’re going to make it nearly impossible to time everything up properly.

Remember, you need to hit the ball with the most speed. If it happens during the transition or on the way back, you will decelerate a little.

So make sure to check your tempo and think “low and slow” on the way back.

Still Head

You want to make sure that your head is in the same exact spot it was at your address.As I mentioned earlier, be sure that you don’t let it drop or shift backward during your first move back.

You can ask a friend to take a video from a face-on angle so you can monitor your head movements. Your head should be the same when you are addressing the crowd and by the time you have your belt up.

Even the slightest of head movements can have a significant impact. Download a golf app to your phone and draw a circular shape around your head. You can then see if the movement is lateral or up and down. The smallest of things can make a big difference!

Proper Golf Takeaway

Club Over Hands

Next, you should check to see if your clubhead is covering your hands. If someone stood directly behind you, the clubhead would pass directly over your hands, at belt height.

You can check this by setting up a camera in a down the line angle behind you and recording a video. If your clubhead travels directly over them then you’re in the correct position. The clubhead can cause problems if it gets too far inside or outside your hands.

Remember that too much distance outside will create a fade or pull and too much inside will create a push.

Dominant Palm

Finally, let’s focus on the palm of your dominant hand (right hand for a right-handed player). In the same video you mentioned above where you shot down-the-line, look at your dominant arm.

This hand should have its palm facing outwards or away from you. This will ensure that the clubface is parallel to your forearm.

A second way to check is to look at the toe of your face. It should be pointing upwards in the same position. This will make it easier to square everything up at impact.

Most Common Mistakes

Too Wristy

There are two common mistakes I see often in the first back move. Both of them relate to not using the correct wrist action. 

The first is when the player uses their wrists too much too early in a swing. A lot of times this means that a player’s first move is with their wrists instead of shoulders or spine turn. Use the big muscles, not the smaller ones, to turn!

Your sequence can be ruined if you engage your hands too early in the first move. It could lead to a path that is too close to the ball. This would result in either a draw or hook. Or, it can result in a backswing which is too long at the top. This will throw the whole swing out of balance. Another thing it can do is cause a flippy or overly active wrist, which hurts when you hit the ball.


Many golfers over- or under-rotate the hands on their way back. As I said above in the “Dominant Palm” section, you want the toe of the club pointing towards the sky at belt high. 

Over-rotation or under rotation is usually when the toe is either facing behind you, or out in front. Both of those positions can affect the direction of your shot. 

You’ll find that you’ll either hit the ball left or right of your target, depending on rotation speed and your dominant hand. You may even find that your shots are off in both directions because you cannot figure out how quickly to rotate your hand.


In their first move, golfers often bring their club too close to or outside their target lines. I talked about this above in the “Draw Line” section. 

Basically, if you bring it too far inside your hands, you’ll tend to swing with a path that is too far inside to out. 

In the reverse, if you bring it too far out, your path will also be too far out to in. Both of these paths will result in a shot which is difficult to control. 

Please read our article on the correct golf swing hand path.

Golf Takeaway Drills

Golf Swing Takeaway Practice Drills

These golf takeaway drills can be simple, but they are highly effective. You can practice these drills both at home and the course in order to create an ideal golf takeaway.

First, I’ll talk about an on-course drills that you can use on the range (though the at-home drills can be used on-course as well). :

On Course Drill

  1. Playing partner should stand behind you in line with imaginary ball and targets.
  2. Bring your club back to belt height and have that person “catch” your club head. 
  3. Only let them catch your clubhead when it is in the position where your glove would be covered. 
  4. To get the correct feel, repeat this motion several times before you hit your shot. 

 This golf takeaway drill helps you keep the club on the correct path during your first motion back.

What are some drills that you can do at home to help you learn?

It is easy to practice your first move at home or in your office. Here are two drills you can try:

At-Home “No Arm” Drill

  1. Cross your arms over your chest. 
  2. Imagine swinging your arm by simply turning your upper body.
  3. You may feel as if your spine is twisted. 

This drill will allow you to feel the correct spine bend and keep your head steady throughout the first move. Set up at address with no club.

Forearm Rotation Exercises at Home

  1. Hold your hands together so that the palms face each other.
  2. Then swing your bat as usual.
  3. When they reach the highest point, ensure that the palm of the dominant hand faces the target. 

This drill will make sure that you have the proper club head rotation and don’t get too wristy.

Left Hand Only Drill

Danny Maude, one of the top YouTube golf instructors, offers some great drills for this video. Video. I like the left-hand only drill as it’s a great way to ensure you’re in the right position and can do it at home too. So even if you don’t have time to get to the range, this drill can help.

  1. Start by putting a tee in the butt-end of your grip (this will act as a checkpoint to ensure you’re doing it correctly).
  2. Then, grip the club with your left hand only on the golf club (assuming you’re a right-handed player). 
  3. Take the club back and bring it parallel to the ground. Once you can confirm you’re in a good position (and the tee is pointed toward the target), then add your right hand on the grip.
  4. Complete the rest of your backswing and hopefully you’ll make solid contact. 

The tee gives visual feedback, which is why it’s the secret of this drill. As Danny says in the video: “When I’ve worked on this drill with some people what they sometimes do is move their left arm and move it online but moving the grip away from their body. It then works around the body and we don’t want that.”

The tee ensures you complete this takeaway drill properly and begin to train a more effective initial move on your backswing. 

Checkpoint Drill

Coaches and players alike use another drill to help them get into a more effective takeaway position. The goal is simple – check your takeaway once the club is parallel to the ground. Most golfers are guilty of taking the club back inside too far and causing plane issues.

You want to look for this instead, when the club is parallel with the ground (also known as P2 or P2 in golf instruction).

  • Square club face
  • The club is just a little bit outside of the hands. 

Once you’ve checked your position you can complete your backswing, and then hit the shot. This is a great way to ensure you’re making the proper move on the way back. Do this a couple of times and then hit shots as normal to get a more consistent swing. 

Takeaway FAQs

What is the correct golf takeaway?

The best move to make on the way back will work for your game. There are many ways to do it. If you watch the PGA Tour, you can tell there isn’t one way to do anything.

Your grip, age and swingspeed are all factors. In order to minimize extra movements, you should try to keep everything as straight as possible. Golf is not easy as you may know. Do what suits your game.

How can I improve my golf takeaway?

Of all the golf tips in the world, I can’t stress repetition enough. If you’re trying to change any part of your setup, grip, or anything else, it all comes down to repetition.

It is hard to break bad habits. Your mind is programmed so that it can make your life easier by remembering the things you do repeatedly. You need to replace bad habits, even if you play golf. Repetition, the mother of learning, is essential.

Whether it’s at the driving range or looking in a mirror in your house, the more you work on the first move back, the more likely you are to improve quicker.

What is the importance of the takeaway?

In order to play consistently, the first move back is crucial. If you make a mistake early, you’ll have to correct it at the top of the course, in transition, or when you go down.

You are more likely than not to hit a fade if, for example, you open up the face as you go back. This can happen in a mili-second and it’s unfortunately what a lot of amateur golfers do. On the other hand you could start with a closed-face and make it more likely to bottom with a clubhead that is closed.

In golf, everything is a series of reactions. So the moment you put the shaft back in the bag, the rest follows. Focus on the move as if it were your game (because it is).

How do I stop the wrists from rolling?

This is a great question, because if you move your wrists too early, it can cause a lot of problems with the backswing. Specifically, if you roll them early it’s easy to suck the club back too far inside which makes it easier to get steep on the downswing.

Hinging earlier is a better way to avoid wrist movement. As the club crosses parallel to the floor, you should think up and not around. By hinging your wrists correctly, you will be in an improved position at the top your swing. 

If you need a good training aid to feel this make sure to check out the Hanger wrist trainer. 

Why does Justin Thomas do that before every swing?

Every golfer has his or her own pre-shot ritual to prepare the mind and body for the shot. Justin Thomas does what only a few players do, he brings the club back until the shaft is parallel with the ground. 

This takeaway move ensures he doesn’t get the club face closed too early on his backswing. By using a point of reference, he will be able to set himself up for a proper backswing. 

He’s said that sometimes a closed face early leads to a swing that is across the line and gets him swinging too far from the inside on his downswing. 

Final Thoughts

Use these golf tips to improve your first move back. You will be able to hit it more consistently and score lower scores. Remember, your golf swing takeaway sequence is crucial for setting you up to be successful.

If you take these pointers and work them into your current move back, you’ll soon see that your overall golf swing is more consistent because you are starting the swing correctly. 

Remember, don’t ignore this part of your game because it is an important part of the swing sequence that sets up everything else up. The takeaway is a fundamental part of the golf swing. It will influence the outcome of everything.

Watch your game become more consistent and reliable than you ever imagined! Looking for more distance? Learn how to get more distance by increasing the width of your backswing.