Harris English's wide backswing is a key for his success. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Memphis, Tenn., and specifically TPC Southwind, became the Dawg Pound as Georgia Bulldog Harris English notched his maiden PGA TOUR victory by two strokes from the chasing pack.
English, a TOUR Sophomore, withstood a final-round charge from two seasoned campaigners in Phil Mickelson and Scott Stallings. He performed with a maturity and poise well beyond his 23 years and carded a 3-under 32 on the back, including two birdies in his last three holes, for a final round of 69.
English hit a selection of very solid and well-controlled shots over the final hour or so to give himself a few stress-free and certainly viable opportunities for birdies over the tough closing stretch of holes. He did so by unleashing, what in my opinion is, a golf swing that does not get the credit it deserves. English swings the club with power, poise, control and balance and his action is as fundamentally sound as any in the game right now. There are so many elements to his swing that are worth emulating, but one I feel is especially important is the overall width of his swing arc.
Harris makes a beautifully wide backswing and an equally wide down-and-throughswing which allows him extra time to unload maximum energy into and through the ball. It also makes it much easier for him to square up the clubface through impact which in turn results in more powerful and consistent shots. This is a very important principle of the swing to remember: generally, the narrower the radius of the arc is, the more hand and forearm action is required to present the clubface consistently squarely through impact. Conversely and more often than not, the wider the arc of the swing is the less compensation and manipulation is necessary to square the face.
A simple drill: A few elements have an influence on the width of the swing arc, but probably the most influential is the hinging of the elbows on either side of the swing. For right-handers, the back-and-downswing width is largely controlled by the hinge of the right elbow and the throughswing width is controlled by the hinge of the left elbow.
By way of explanation, the more your elbows hinge the narrower the swing arc will be and the less they hinge the wider the arc will be. In my opinion and in an ideal world, at the top of the backswing the trail elbow would be located to the right of the right side and slightly lower than its shoulder, while being hinged to about 90 degrees.
So, if you feel that your backswing could use a little extra width, and I am sure it could, strive to keep your right elbow to the right of your right hip as you ensure that it hinges less than 90 degrees at the top of the swing. If you really want to get a feeling for what less elbow hinge feels like, use a swimming arm-band floatie and inflate one of its sides. Put it on your trail arm so that the inflated panel is sitting over the fold in the elbow. Then make a backswing and you will feel how the floatie will not allow the elbow to hinge too much as it retains a 90-degree shape between the forearm and the bicep. Once you have rehearsed the wider swing and got used the feel of it you can go ahead and hit shots with the floatie still on your arm. You will be surprised at how easy it is to return the clubface consistently to the ball – just like English.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.