Golf Backswing: 3 Common Mistakes You Probably Make

By Todd Kolb
October 16, 2018

The 3 Most Common Golf Backswing Mistakes


The golf backswing is one of the most scrutinized aspects of any golfer’s technique, and for good reason. A quality golf backswing sets you up for a powerful follow-through . . . and a poor golf backswing can alter your clubface angle, weaken your downstroke, and cause you to slice the ball.

I have been teaching the game of golf for over twenty years. I’ve worked with beginners all the way up to touring pros. Time and again, I’ve seen how a player’s backstroke technique can make or break their scorecard. If you find yourself falling behind your buddies when you’re playing a round of golf, odds are pretty good that the problem is in your golf backswing. Fortunately, with the right knowledge and the right tools, poor golf backswing technique is easy to correct.

I am going to share the three most common golf backswing mistakes and teach you simple drills to help you correct those errors. I’ve used this same approach with a lot of my students, always to the betterment of their game. In fact, I went over these exact same tips with a student just the other day.  And sure enough, that student took seven strokes off their next round of golf.

If you’re sick of slicing the ball, this advice is for you.

What You Will Need

To practice the tips I am about to teach you, you will need three things:

  1. Your golf club
  2. Your golf ball
  3. A training aid ball

A simple ball can help you work on your golf backswing

A training aid ball goes by different names, depending on who sells it . . . the Impact Ball, the Tour Striker Smart Ball, etc. This is essentially a soft ball just a little smaller than a soccer ball. It’s a simple training aid that gets huge results. I’ve been using it with my students for over ten years, and I see it more and more on the Tour. Right now, I’m going to teach you how this ball can help you transform your golf backswing.

Golf Backswing Mistake #1: Opening the Clubface

You probably don’t need me to tell you that your clubface should be square at the moment of impact. But have you been paying attention to the angle of your clubface at the top of your swing?

One of the most common errors among amateur golfers is opening up the clubface at the top of their golf backswing. Now, I use the term “error” cautiously here. In reality, there are some golfers who open their clubface on the backstroke and get it back to square by impact.

However, these people are often pro golfers. For you, the weekend warrior, your best bet is to keep that clubface square at setup and on the backswing so there’s nothing for you to correct on the downstroke.

Now, you may be opening the clubface without intending to . . . or even without realizing it. Often, this is an error that happens when you cup your lead wrist, hinging it so your hand tilts up and away from the target. What you want to do is maintain the wrist position you had at setup when you initially squared the clubface.


It isn’t always easy to notice what your wrists are doing in the half-second it takes to swing, so this is where the training aid ball comes in handy.

The Fix

This drill will help you keep the clubface square in your golf backswing so it’s square at impact.

  1. Take your setup.
  2. Place the training aid ball between your forearms, just above your wrists.
  3. Take your shot, making sure the ball doesn’t drop from between your arms.

Positioning that ball between your lower forearms forces you to maintain the position of your lead wrist. If you run this drill several times, you’ll get used to the way your backstroke should feel, and you’ll break the wrist-cupping habit that’s been causing you to slice the ball.

Mistake #2: Separating Elbows

This is another bad habit you probably don’t realize you have. Many golfers are guilty of working their trail elbow away from their lead elbow on their golf backswing. This creates a steeper angle for the club, and your shot is bound to suffer as a result.

Elbow separation causes the arms to chicken wing in the golf backswing, which can lead to many problems
The back elbow chicken wings and causes a steeper club angle, often caused by poor flexibility

Anyone can make this mistake, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you’re over the age of 40, you’re almost certainly making it. I would know. I’m over 40, and I find that this is a pretty easy mistake to make if I don’t pay attention. Elbow separation results naturally from a lack of flexibility in the body, and it can really hurt your swing if you don’t learn to correct it.

The Fix

This mistake is as difficult to self-diagnose as wrist-cupping. Fortunately, the following drill will show you right away if you’re letting that trail elbow work away from the lead elbow. It will also help you break the habit.

  1. Take your setup.
  2. Place the ball between your upper forearms. You want it a little higher than in the previous drill, but still below your elbows.
  3. Take your golf swing without letting the ball drop.

The chicken wing causes a steep golf backswing

This drill forces you to keep your elbows the same distance apart in your golf backswing. In turn, it helps you get your club in a better position at the top of your swing.

Mistake #3: Poor Body Rotation

Someone may have already taught you to rotate your upper body during your golf backswing. However, if you’re like a lot of golfers, you could still be forcing your arms to do too much of the swinging.


If you watch the best ball strikers, you’ll notice that they keep their lead arm connected to their chest. This forces the body to rotate. Many weekend golfers make the mistake of allowing their arm to move separately from their body. As a result, it weakens the rotation and, therefore, the swing.

The Fix

To get a quality pivot, I like to think about positioning my lead arm on top of my pec muscle and keeping it there throughout the swing. But there’s an even easier way to monitor your arms. Here’s the drill:

  1. Take your setup.
  2. Place the ball between your arms right at the elbows.
  3. Take your golf shot, keeping the ball in place.

Notice how it feels to have the ball between your elbows. You should feel like your arms are connected to your chest. It shouldn’t be a tight feeling, just a feeling of connectivity. You want to maintain that sense even when you remove the ball.

Poor body rotation in your golf backswing leads to the arms separating and doing too much work
With poor rotation, the arms tend to separate from the body, weakening the rotation and swing


Okay, let’s have a quick review.

There are three very common golf backswing mistakes that could be hurting your game. With a little awareness and the right practice, you can reverse these errors.

If you tend to open your clubface at the top of your swing, practice swinging with a training aid ball between your arms, just above your wrists. This helps prevent wrist cupping so you can keep the clubface square.

Using a small ball between the arms can help you work on these common golf backswing mistakes

If you tend to work your trail elbow away from the lead elbow on the backswing, practice swinging with the ball between your upper forearms.

If you tend to work your arms away from your body instead of rotating your torso, practice swinging with the ball between your elbows, forcing you to keep your arms connected to your chest so you pivot your body instead.

All of these errors are challenging to detect through self-awareness alone. The drills I provided not only help you correct the mistakes you might be making, but they also give you instant feedback on your form. If you lose the ball, you know your technique needs a tune-up.

Just keep practicing until the correct movements become second nature. I promise you, you’ll see fewer slices and lower scores in no time.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

Has this advice been helpful to you? Is there anything here you disagree with? What other techniques have you found helpful for improving your golf backswing?

Whether you want further clarification or want to share a difference of opinion, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a line in the comments.

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