How To Shorten Your Backswing

By | on September 2, 2011 | 8 Comments | Array


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Paul Wilson is the creator of Swing Machine Golf and founder of Ignition Golf. Paul's golf swing technique is based on the Iron Byron swing machine. YouTube Channels: Paul Wilson Golf and Ignition Golf Tips. Please Join me on Google+

8 Responses to “How To Shorten Your Backswing”

  1. Hi Paul – I have two problems -too long and across the line.
    If I try to shorten the swing I lose the tight coil How do you shorten and maintain the coil.
    In going across the line at the top my right elbow flies at the last instant – This does not happen on practice backswings ie only when followed by a downswing, do you have any thoughts on how to stop this ?

    • Ian,

      If it is not happening without the ball the ball is changing your swing. You are looking for power in your arms to hit down. I am setting the backswing looking for power in the downswing. So see the backswing as you setting it up to go the other way. I just re-posted this tip the other day:

      The Importance of Setting the Backswing:

      If you shorten and don’t feel the coil you are either shortening too much, moving sideways or moving the lower body too much. If you only coiled your shoulders with no lower body rotation you would certainly feel the coil. Problem is you would only get to 45 degrees of coil. From there if you kept coiling to 90 it would pull the lower into position giving you the coil.

      I see so many people move the lower too much going back. I would think you are doing this too.

      Pros Know Its A Tight Coil:

      Crossing the line is a tough one to fix. You need different thoughts and reduce the power in the arms (especially in the back hand). I would want you shortening it first. Getting used to it. Then tighten it up to feel the coil. If you don’t change anything how do you every fix it?

  2. HI Paul,

    Le me help with a much too long comment for Ian on how to SHORTEN a long backswing. Or for anyone.

    I am king of long backswings (truly close to John Daley in my prime). And this is not meant in a cocky way!

    To shorten your backswing, I agree (in part) with Paul. Here is what I did and nothing worked until I found the real solution::

    1. I tried to STOP my swing at a certain height (short of parallel) – failed for years!
    2. I tried to RESTRICT my lower body. This also failed – for years. And I lost distance! 20 yards or more.
    3. I had people watch my swing and tell me when I was parallel or short of parallel. Failed again to get the right length when I went after the ball. The ball does make you want to get power with the arms. I agree with Paul here.
    4. I video taped my swing and analyzed and over-analyzed it. No lasting solution there either.

    The truth is I tried everything, except what was CAUSING the long swing. I am very flexible, true. But my shoulder turn hasn’t been over 100 degrees lately, but certainly 90-100 degrees. Then I came across Paul’s tip (on the left shoulder) and tried that hike the arm UP and that was part of the solution. I felt a tighter coil for the first time and a more vertical back swing!

    But the MAIN SOLUTION (I wish everyone could read this who is struggling with a long backswing, women especially) has to do with achieving the proper TIGHT COIL. Paul teaches this religiously, from Machine Golf book to now.

    When I was swinging much longer like Daley, I had a TIGHT COIL and could hit the ball over 300 yards. As I got older the swing got naturally shorter, but NOT by much. I work out and do flexibility exercises almost daily. I swing in my backyard at least 100 x per day with my driver in the air, driving my lower body. That tip comes from Paul too.

    The full answer came to me when I read an old, old golf book on the left shoulder. The proper wind-up is coiling of the left AREA of the shoulder(the whole left shoulder) and not just turning and pulling with the left arm. A TRUE wind-up is a powerful move that starts IMMEDIATELY at the take-away. I WILL REPEAT THIS: THE TRUE COIL STARTS WITH THE TAKE-AWAY. You need to coil (like Paul and other prosl) with powerless arms while turning that left shoulder AREA in a tight rotary action.

    Your left shoulder actually moves OUT a few inches within the first few feet of the back swing. It does not slide or stop moving. You keep turning the left shoulder until it is so tight you can’t breathe! If you have done it right, you will feel the coil in the first few feet – before the left arm gets parallel to the ground. THIS IS THE SOLUTION. You cannot STOP the club by looking at the height. If you do you will go back soon to a longer swing. Trust me. I have repeated this maddening cycle for years and years. And I am a “better player” who shoots in the 70s all the time. (Mostly because of my short game though.)


    Then comes the magic (at least for me): the downswing is AUTOMATIC. Realize I was a scratch golfer for 10 years while I played all the time. Now about a 5 handicapper. With an excellent short game. I practice daily, hit hundreds of balls, and live and breathe this game. Paul knows!

    Honestly, I don’t have time to even THINK about turning my lower body. My upper body is so wound up that it HAS to reverse and hit the ball. I don’t feel my arms hitting the ball in any way. Not anymore. The downswing leg trigger is automatic. Paul is correct, but it takes thousands upon thousands of swings (which he tells you to do) to get it. This is the truth. You do the lower body movement until you can’t do anything else with your body. It becomes “natural.”

    When I hit for extra length, like Paul, I do add some arms. All pros do a combination of leg drive and some arm work to manipulate the club. Because they hit thousands of balls every day, every week. They are pros, and amazing at it. But they can manipulate the club face (like Johnny Miller) and feel where the club is at impact. This is also the truth. But we are not Tiger Woods or Johnny Miller. That’s why Paul talks physics and not manipulating your club. if you do, you have to do it perfectly or you will hook or slice it all over the place. I can do this when I play every day and hit hundreds of balls per day. Otherwise, forget it. I can’t break 80. I have a backyard practice area and I hit hundreds of balls per day from wedges to 6 irons. How many people who want to change their swing do this. I am doing this and find swing changes VERY DIFFICULT. It took Tiger Woods 2 years to make changes. It is harder if you are a better player and have hit millions of balls over the years, like me. IF you are newer to the game, start swinging all the time whenever you can – if. you want to become a better player (10 handicap and under). And shoot under 80.

    So for me, it’s all about the COIL and left shoulder turn. That’s it. I have worked on other areas for decades. Golf takes tons of practice, as Paul truthfully speaks. Work on all the “tips” Paul gives to you, one at a time, until you master them all. I will always work on my swing. That’s the truth. it is a life-long learning process. If Nicklaus said that and did that, so should we lesser mortals. Review fundamentals. Don’t listen to lousy internet golf advice. Like “crouch” down for first move in downswing. This is terrible advice, as Paul says. This is why golfers are still shooting in the 90s and 100s. Bad teaching. Period. End of sermon.

    Listen to Paul, a great teacher, for the fundamentals, and then apply them yourself to your own body and physical limitations. Or work on flexibility and strength and other weak areas. Golf uses the whole body, and it is an athletic movement. it takes time and talent and practice. It takes lots of mental work, too. So this site is one of the best on the internet. If not the best. I can think of one or two others; but not more than that.

    Hit ’em long and straight – and work on turning that left shoulder properly for a great tight coil. And no, I have NOT been paid by Paul Wilson to write this tip or buy his books and use his method. I believe in the physics of the game and in fundamentals properly understood and applied. I believe in working hard and practicing more than playing. Few teachers out there, even the “great” ones, know the golf swing like Paul. Trust me – I learned the hard way.

  3. Hi Pastor,

    I’ve commented to Paul today about my “John Daly” swing. Was at the range for over 2 hours working on shortening the backswing today using Paul’s tips. I actually have no issues doing this with the irons but the driver is a nightmare. I have to move at less than 50% of my normal speed to not go back to far and pretty much hold the top of the backswing like Matsuyama before starting the downswing. Are you saying that it helps you to actually move quicker on the takeaway to alleviate this?

    I’ll be back there tomorrow working it more of Paul’s tips but was just curious.


    • Hi Scott,

      I turn about 100 degrees or more in shoulder turn. The thing is for me, it’s a very full, tight coil from the first few feet of the backswing. Try staying connected with left arm and shoulder, and think of shoulder rotating around like a spring. My hips don’t turn 45 degrees. Maybe 30. I can’t get tight enough since I am very flexible.

      I meant that I wind up not fast, but WIDE AND SLOW AND LONG. My shoulders move a few inches but my arms move a few feet in a short period of time. I can not reach parallel when I am winding up the upper body right from the START. That means I am thinking of rotating the shoulders immediately and not moving the lower body until it is moved by that shoulder turn. Same as Paul teaches.

      The coil will restrict your back swing. You need to make sure that your shoulder turn is full. Don’t cheat the turn! Keep your left shoulder winding up tight!!! And certainly don’t lift your arms! Don’t let shoulder stop turning with the arms either. When you can’t turn the shoulders anymore, STOP. Heck, I have to stop because it is very, very tight. But my arms and wrists are very very LOOSE at the top. There is a difference. NO tension in the arms or wrists or hands. But TORQUE IN THE LEFT LATERAL MUSCLE. WRINKLES ALONG THE LEFT SIDE OF MY SHIRT. I CAN HARDLY BREATHE THEN I SIMPLY LET THE SWING GO. I CAN’T EVEN THINK “turn the hips,” etc. I don’t have enough time. For me, it’s feel that torque and let the swing happen. But I have been playing a long time as a better player. And I hit balls every single day. Swing all the time. That’s why I stay loose as a goose! Ha!

      I am tight by the time my left arm is parallel to the ground. Really. It’s that soon for me. Then it’s hard for me to over swing. If you try to restrict the back swing when you are flexible like me it doesn’t work. Because I don’t FEEL torqued up. I am ridiculously flexible like an LPGA player. Look at their swings. They go longer than men, usually. They are very flexible.

      Don’t worry about going past parallel if you have a full 90 plus shoulder turn. Like Mickelson. Look at his swing and then look at his shoulder turn. Huge. Is yours that big????? If not, you are not winding up the spring tight enough. Paul will tell you that. He told me that, too.

      Let me know how it goes. Wind up from the start. Think “turn left shoulder around.” I try to see my left shoulder hitting a hand about 4 inches from setup. Really. The left arm stays straight, connected and turning together with the shoulder until, as Paul says, you “ride up” with that left arm and ‘set the position.’ That’s it. IF you can turn beyond parallel after that, you are a “freak” like Daly. He is super flexible. That was me 20 years ago. Easily. I could see the club out of corner of my eye. 120 degrees of shoulder turn back then. That is a curse and a blessing. As you get older, it is a blessing. You can hit the ball long and straight and have plenty of time to get down to the ball.

      Best of luck,

  4. August 1, 2019


    Hi Paul. I have been working on shortening my back swing using this tip I have been imaging taking the club back until the grip is about belt high and it felt strange at first but after a while I felt more comfortable so I decided to video my swing. To my surprise I was just short of parallel with my 7 iron and before I was way past parallel. Feel more in control of my swing now but I was amazed that even though I was trying to go belt buckle high I was in fact going to almost parallel I will continue on. Thanks for all the great tips and your sense of humour

  5. February 11, 2020


    Hi Paul. Just to let you know I am so pleased with my new short (well it feels short) backswing I am hitting the ball much more solid now and further as well. I can really feel my lower body (hips) rotating now. It took some time to trust it but I feel I am on my way. Thanks for all your great tips.

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