Understanding the Different Meanings of "Golf Swing Width"

"Golf swing width" can mean three different things and two of them can be easily confused with one another:

1. The width of the swing arc.

2. The amount of distance your hands are away from your right shoulder at the top of your swing (for right handed golfers).

3. A type of golf swing dictated by the build of the golfer according to a theory explained in the book The Laws of the Golf Swing: Body-Type Your Swing and Master Your Game

Below is explained each meaning of "golf swing width."

The Width of the Swing Arc

Wonder how golf pros make such effortless swings but still hit the ball such a great distance? Tour pros have either learned through experience or have been taught how to achieve greater arc ("width" in this context) in their swings.

One theory is called hand sway. It is a measurement of the distance the hands move side to side in the swing on the backswing and the follow-through. Most tour pros have a hand sway measurement 1 1/2 to 2 times that of ameteurs. In addition, research has found the average pro's hand position at impact is 7 inches in front of where their hands were at the address position. Compare that with the fact that at impact, amateurs' hands ended up 2 inches BEHIND where they were at address. This would indicate that the pros maximize the side to side movement of their hands in their swing resulting in greater distance and straighter shots.

The fact that the amateurs' hands were 2 inches further back at impact versus address, means that the club head moves beyond the hands and the shaft is leaning backwards at impact. This clearly results in a great deal of loss of power in the swing. The longer the hands maintain their distance on the backswing the bigger the arc. The further the hands are extended through impact, the longer the club head moves down the target line, resulting in improved force. A longer arc and more extension down the target line will create greater distance and straighter shots.

Try this for improving your distance and accuracy:

  1. From the address position, begin the backswing by extending the club as far back and straight as possible without losing your balance. This keeps the club traveling back in the correct path and consequently will increase the width of the swing.
  2. At the top of the backswing, keep your hands away from your chest as far as possible. This will maximize the potential for distance. If this is done right your body and club will be in an ideal position to begin the downswing.
  3. You need to maintain the distance of your hands from your chest for as long as possible throughout the downswing. This provides the extension and the image of the effortless swing that the pros use. Keeping your hand sway through to the finish maximizes the chance of hitting the ball straight by allowing the club to stay on the target line longer.

Don't Overdo It

It is common these days to hear a lot of people talk about the need for width in the backswing. You do need to swing the club in a wide arc to generate power, as alluded to above, but you can overdo it. Both Davis Love III and Tiger Woods have tremendous width on their takeaway. That's one reason they hit the ball so far. But if you spend enough time watching either one of them, you'll notice that their swings go off when they get too wide going back.

The Amount of Distance Your Hands Are Away From Your Shoulder at the Top of Your Swing

Creating width in the backswing will produce improved club head speed, and consequently, power. "Width" in this context refers to the distance between your hands and your right shoulder (for a right-handed golfer) throughout the backswing.

Bending the elbow (the left elbow for a right-handed golfer) on the backswing may limit the movement in the chest and front shoulder region. But, if you are able to open up your chest during the take-away you can create a very wide take-away.

Muscles in the chest and front shoulder area often become tighter as we age. The way to offset this is using light resistance training to stretch and strengthen these muscles. It has been disproven that strength training can damage your golf, and your body will grow tighter and weaker with age without strength training.

One very simple exercise that can be done in your home with minimal equipment is the alternate arm chest flye on a stability ball.

A Type of Golf Swing Dictated By the Build of the Golfer

Three of America's top-rated golf instructors have come up with a technique that customizes body type to swing type. The "LAWs" of the title The LAWs of the Golf Swing reflect those types: "L" for leverage (average build with average flexibility - such as Annika Sorensam or David Frost); "A" for arc (tall with maximum flexibility - such as Davis Love or Michelle McGann); and "W" for width.

Width players are categorized as having a thick torso, shorter arms and a limited amount of flexibility. These individuals are muscularly advantaged players and generally have difficulty creating a sufficient amount of arm swing because they are blocked by a thicker chest. Examples of width players include Laura Davies, Peter Jacobsen, Arnold Palmer, Craig Stadler, and Hal Sutton.

The authors help you identify which group you belong to then offer drills and lessons to help you build the proper swing to minimize your natural deficiencies. In other words, they build on what you can do while at the same time assist you in getting out of your own way.

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