There are so many moving parts to the golf swing and one of the earliest – and most important movements – is the takeaway.
So many players, especially to those new to the game, feel like you should be able to walk up and hit the ball with minimal thought and, if your hand-eye coordination and timing are good, you’ll land it in the middle of the fairway or next to the flag with relative ease.
I’m sorry to tell you, but playing golf is a little bit harder than that.
Every little element of the golf swing has its own specific features and correct way they should be done, and practicing and understanding these individually may be the only way to nail them completely.
The end goal should be a smooth flowing, repeatable swing, but the process to getting there comes in stages – the first of which forms the basis of this article.
The takeaway is one of the earliest stages of the golf swing, coming right after ball positioning and general set-up.
A good takeaway can set you up for success, while a bad takeaway can have the opposite effect.
In this article, I’ll answer some of the most common questions regarding the takeaway in the golf swing, and what you can do to improve yours.
Table of contents
What is the takeaway part of the golf swing?
The takeaway in the golf swing is when you lift the club away from its address position behind the ball until it is parallel to the ground. Ideally, when the club reaches this position, the clubface should match your spine angle. A good or bad takeaway can impact the rest of the golf swing that follows.
If you were to break the golf swing down into parts, the first would be the set up – pre-shot routine, stance, positioning the ball and aligning yourself to your target – followed by the takeaway.
In the takeaway, you lift the club from a resting position until the shaft is parallel to the ground, opening the clubface as you do so – a good checkpoint is making sure the toe of the club is pointed skyward, or slightly closed.
Beyond this position, you start to move into the backswing, where the club rises into the air as the body turns, before transitioning into the downswing at the top, finishing with the follow through.
The majority of poor golf shots than end in bad results start with incorrect early movements, and by the time you are in the backswing you may have already made a slight error in the takeaway that will only begin to compound your problems.
This is why it is so crucial to get the initial stages of the golf swing right.
What is the correct takeaway in golf?
The correct takeaway in golf should be one that is low, slow and smooth, without excessive body turn, wrist hinge or elbow bend. The club should move back into a position parallel to the ground, with the toe of the club matching your spin angle or pointing to the sky. The club, from the head to the base of the shaft, should create a line towards your target.
The correct golf takeaway will ensure that the clubhead is level and in line with your hands, without being too deep or too far out in front of your swing plane.
If your takeaway forces the club to move too far out and away from the body, this can lead to a swing known as coming “over the top” (a layman’s term for an out-to-in swing path) which often leads to a slice.
If the takeaway causes the club to be too deep and around the body compared to the hands, this can lead to a swing that promotes hooks (the result of a club path that is too in-to-out).
The video below from YouTube channel Me and My Golf explores the basics to building the perfect takeaway in the golf swing.
How do you start a takeaway in the golf swing?
You start the takeaway in the golf swing by sweeping the club head back along your target line, slowly lifting it until the shaft is parallel to the ground. The takeaway begins with straight but relaxed arms, ending at the point where they feel like they need to bend. At the completion of the takeaway, you should feel both your thumbs pointed skyward.
Some golfers may find a trigger action is necessary to commit to the takeaway and the beginning of the golf swing.
We have all likely seen that golfer with huge anxiety as they stand over the ball, frozen in their stance for 20 seconds with frustrated playing partners, or onlookers, wondering if they will ever try to hit the ball.
Part of your routine should be an action or swing thought, such as a deep breath out or returning your eyes from the target to the ball, that signals the start of the takeaway to avoid excessive time over the ball where you overthink the swing and tighten your grip.
Rising PGA star Matthew Wolff has one of the most renowned triggers in golf with his pre-swing hip-shuffle, and while you might not take it to this level, a repeatable action or idea that comes into your head to begin the takeaway may be a beneficial part of your routine.
Do you take the golf club straight back?
You do not take the golf club straight back to start your swing. While many golfers think that swinging straight back and through will make the golf ball go straight at the target, a takeaway that goes straight back, rather than around the body on an arc, will set you up to come over the top and slice the ball.
As mentioned earlier, the takeaway – being one of the earliest parts of the swing – actually has an incredibly large role in setting you up for a successful swing.
Golfers who try and keep the club straight in the takeaway will end up with a club head way out in front of their body, causing it to rise through the backswing well outside the desired plane.
If this is matched up with an open club face, huge slices are likely going to be the result.
Instead of trying to take the club away straight, allow it to naturally curve around your body as you begin to rotate into the top of the backswing.
How can I improve my takeaway in golf?
To improve your takeaway, try performing some drills with alignment sticks. They can be used in a range of different ways to ensure your takeaway is being done correctly. Using alignment sticks to improve swing path – as they offer instant feedback if you hit them – will help get your takeaway on plane.
The best drill requires an alignment stick placed a couple of feet behind you in line with the ball and your target.
YouTube golf instructor Peter Finch explains how to set-up the drill below:
If you are someone who takes the club away too far outside the plane (probably indicated by a slice), you need to ensure your club comes back inside of the alignment stick until reaching parallel.
If your tendency is to hook the ball, your takeaway might be too inside.
To fix this, move the alignment stick more in line with your ankles (still a couple feet behind your body) and practice missing it on the far side up to parallel with the ground.
Another useful drill, also utilising an alignment stick, involves holding your club with an alignment stick running along the shaft up to your shoulder.
As you move the clubhead in your takeaway, the alignment stick will slide down from your shoulder while maintaining contact with your hip.
This contact with your hip should be retained until the club is parallel to the ground, and if you are able to achieve this, it means your club is probably in the best position to start the backswing.
Is the takeaway the most important part of the golf swing?
The takeaway is definitely one of, if not the most, important parts of the golf swing. While it could be argued that initial address position is even more crucial, if you don’t take the club away correctly you set yourself up for compounding issues to arise as you continue to complete your swing.
I only have to look as far as myself for a perfect example of how damaging a poor takeaway can be.
For years, I had a real tendency to hit the ball low with no back spin, sending it hurtling through the back of greens at the rate of knots.
After a few lessons with a qualified instructor, it was discovered that I had an extremely closed face that was delofting the club at impact – the cause of which was a overly-closed clubface in the takeaway.
The solution to this: getting the clubface open and the toe of the club pointed to the sky in the takeaway.
No matter how good the other components of my swing were, I would continue to hit low hooks until I got my takeaway right, demonstrating the importance of beginning the golf swing in the right manner.
While the small, intricate components of the golf swing like set-up, alignment, ball position and the takeaway are unlikely to dominate golfing conversations with your buddies, they are the things that will see you hitting the ball dead straight and breaking personal bests.
Next time you are at the range, or practicing at your local course, give some attention to your takeaway and you might be surprised at how the other parts of your golf swing will naturally improve as a result.