Is Your Golf Backswing Too Long or Too Short?

By Todd Kolb
January 20, 2020

Buddies Keep Saying Your Golf Backswing is Too Long or Too Short? Finally Understand What You’re Getting Wrong and How to Make it Right with These Clear-Cut Swing Tips.

How often have you been told that your golf swing is too short? Or too long? Or that you’re swinging too quick from the top?

The length of your backswing is a go-to topic for golf advice for one simple reason:

It matters. A lot.

If your golf swing sequence is too long or too short, you can’t hit a quality golf shot. You’re going to lose some fundamental element of an effective shot, whether you lose swing speed, distance, tempo, balance, or solid contact.

But as important as backswing length is, many golfers struggle to find the sweet spot. They just don’t know how to tell if they’re too long or too short. Or if they have identified the problem, they still don’t know how to fix it.

If that sounds like you, I have your solution right here. I am going to share:

  • How tendencies in your golf shots indicate that your backswing is either too long or too short
  • Suggestions for getting to the root of the problem and making effective adjustments
  • An easy checkpoint to help you make sure you’ve got the perfect swing length going forward

Plus, I’ll wrap it all up with a bonus drill to get you out of your head and help you master swing length naturally.

Let’s get into it.

Tendencies: How to Judge the Length of Your Backswing

Now, there are several factors like wrists and grip that can be causing a nasty slice.  (You can learn more about proper wrist hinge and grip here).  But today, we are going to focus on proper swing length.

When I talk about “tendencies,” I’m referring to the things that tend to happen in your golf shot when your golf swing is either too long or too short. These are the telltale clues that help you figure out where the problem is and what needs to change.

If you’ve noticed a tendency in your own golf shots that isn’t mentioned here, please share in the comments and I’ll try to help you pinpoint the problem.

Tendencies of a Short Golf Backswing

If your backswing is too short, you’re most likely to see that manifest in two ways.

First, you may be struggling with a lack of distance. It’s fairly easy to make sense of this one. If your lead arm is parallel to the top of the ground at the top of your swing, you’re going to get a shorter distance than if you lifted your lead arm higher in the backswing.

In other words, if you feel like you should be getting a longer ball flight, it might be because your backswing is too short.

Second, your tempo may be off. You see, the purpose of the golf backswing is to build energy that you can then transfer into a nice, smooth downswing. If your backswing is too short, you’ve lost the opportunity to build up that energy.

As a result, you attempt to pack speed as you transition from the top of your golf swing into your downswing, throwing off your golf swing mechanics and the rhythm of your motion. If fellow golfers frequently observe that your swing is really fast or you’re “coming over the top,” check your swing length. Your backswing might be too short.

Tendencies of a Long Golf Backswing

A too-long backswing is also identifiable by two crystal clear tendencies.

First, if you’re struggling to make solid contact, your backswing could be too long. Golfers with an over-extended swing often find themselves hitting it off the toe, off the heel, hitting it too high . . . hitting it anywhere but the sweet spot. If you consistently make poor contact, you might be able to end your frustration just by shortening your backswing.

Another sign of a long backswing is lack of balance. The next time you swing one of your irons, take a moment to notice how your body feels at the finish. Do you feel solid and balanced? If not, you may be over-extending at the top of your swing.

Now that you know how to diagnose your golf backswing, here’s how to fix the problem.

Suggestions for Adjusting the Length of Your Backswing

If you’ve already tried to adjust your backswing length just by feel, you know it’s really hard to just sense the correct length. Not only that, but the length of your swing is influenced by multiple factors. Simply trying to “swing shorter” or “swing longer” won’t help you.

The good news is that once you recognize the elements that effect your swing length, you discover that adjusting is way easier than you thought. With that in mind, give these three suggestions a try.

Adjust Your Swing Shape

Swing shape refers to the angle of your golf club as it moves throughout your swing.

If your golf club moves around your body at a low angle, you’re going to get a shorter backswing . . . especially as you get older. It comes down to flexibility, especially in the hips. Sure, a remarkably agile golfer might be able to swing at that low angle and still get a good backswing length. But the vast majority of golfers are going to find that a flat swing shape limits their range of motion considerably.

Now, if your swing shape is more vertical, you likely have a longer backswing.

Depending on what you learned from your golf shot tendencies, you could try fixing your backswing by making your swing shape a little steeper or a little more shallow.

Take a Look at Your Setup

You’ve heard me say it before: your golf setup determines so much of what happens in your swing. In this case, turn your attention to how far you are from the ball as you set up your shot.

If you are a little farther from the ball, your swing is going to work around your body at a lower angle. This is because the very nature of your setup already has your club positioned at a shallow angle. As a result, you produce that flat swing shape mentioned above, ultimately creating a shorter backswing.

If you stand a bit closer to the ball, your golf club more naturally swings back at a steep, vertical angle. Thus, you get a longer backswing.

In other words, if you need to shorten your golf swing, put a little more distance between you and the ball at setup. If you’re looking for a longer backswing, get closer.

Lead Arm Direction

This is the secret very few people consider when they’re looking at the length of their backswing. But pay close attention, because lead arm direction is central to finding the perfect backswing length.

By “lead arm direction,” I mean the direction in which your lead arm moves on the backswing.

You see, golfers who have a short backswing tend to work their lead arm low and around. As a result, their arm comes too far inside on the background and is parallel to the ground at the top of their golf swing. Now, your lead arm determines your overall swing shape. So, if your lead arm moves low and around, you’re going to get that flat swing shape.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But it is something you want to adjust if you’re getting poor distance and tempo because of a backswing that’s too short.

On the other hand, if your lead arm works straight back and up with your hands reaching high, you have a longer backswing.

If you want to adjust the length of your backswing, one of the most effective changes you can make is in the direction of your lead arm. Your body position doesn’t change at all. It’s all in that arm. Which brings me to my next point.

A Checkpoint for the Perfect Golf Backswing Length

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, as every golfer is a little different. But generally speaking, you can turn to this reference point to ensure that your backswing is hitting the sweet spot. Not too long, not too short.

All you have to do is check that your lead arm is in line with your shoulder at the top of your backswing. More specifically, pay attention to your lead hand.

Is the lead hand above your shoulder? Then your backswing is probably too long.

Is the lead hand below your shoulder? You’re probably swinging too short.

Is the lead hand in line with your shoulder? Perfect. You nailed it.

A Quick Recap

I know this is a lot to take in, so before I move on to the bonus drill, here’s a quick-and-easy summary of everything we just went over.

If you feel like you’re not hitting the ball as far as you could or you find that your swing tempo is off, you may have a short backswing. Try:

  • Creating a more vertical swing plane shape
  • Standing closer to the ball at setup
  • Working your lead arm straight back and up

On the other hand, if your golf shots often suffer due to poor contact or a lack of balance, your golf backswing might be too long. Try:

  • Creating a flatter swing shape
  • Standing farther back from the ball at setup
  • Working your lead arm just a little lower on a the backswing

If your lead hand is in line with your shoulder at the top of your backswing, you’ve found the sweet spot.

Now for the bonus drill.

Bonus Swing Path Drill

While I believe it’s essential to have a cerebral understanding of what goes on in your swing, I also know how paralyzing a wealth of information can be. This golf backswing drill gets you out of your head and helps you find that perfect backswing length naturally. And it’s so simple to do.

  1. Take your setup with your 6-iron or 7-iron and an athletic posture.
  2. Instead of positioning the golf club behind the ball, start with the club out in front of the ball. Your arms should be almost straight with the clubhead hovering in the air just a bit.
  3. Start your backswing from this position, allowing the golf club to naturally swing to the top.
  4. Transition to the downwing through and hit the golf ball.

It may seem a little too easy, but trust me: this golf lesson does wonders for helping you naturally guide that club into the perfect top-of-swing position (and helps with wrist hinge). Make this drill a regular part of your golf warm-up, and you’ll find your perfect golf swing length in no time.

Read Also:  Common Backswing Mistakes

There are 3 common backswing mistakes amateur golfers tend to make, and we have identified them.  From a nasty open club face, to elbow separation, to poor rotation in the hips, these bad habits tend to suck the fun out of the game of golf.  We bet at least one of those culprits sounds familiar.  Luckily, this article covers each mistake, and offers simple golf swing tips to fix each one!

Thoughts? Questions? Difference of Opinion?

Backswing length is a huge topic in golf, so I know you must have opinions or experiences of your own to share. Whatever is on your mind, please join the conversation in the comments. Whether it’s a great tip I haven’t mentioned or a question about your own game, I’m always happy to talk golf.

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