Left Side Breakdown in the Golf Swing

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Published: February 18, 2014

A very common breakdown in the golf swing is for the left side to collapse in toward the ball and away from the target. It is most commonly caused by the golfer taking the club back too flat during the early stages of the backswing.

This pulls the body around early and exacerbates the flat swing. Some golfers also simply start the swing by turning their lower body, not realizing that it is important for it to stay more quiet during the early stages of the swing.

In the picture below, you can see this breakdown in action. Note the amount of bend in the left leg and how much it had moved away from it's original starting position. Apart from the reasons mentioned in the video, overswinging and a lack of flexibility can also cause this breakdown.

left side breakdown

In the next picture, you can see the culprit of this move. Note how much the club has moved inside and beneath the shaft plane at this early stage in the swing.

The momentum of the club will pull the body around with it and put the golfer in a flat position upon arriving at the 9 o'clock check point in the backswing.

Here you can see the flat position versus one that is on plane at the right. The swing on the right is moving the club more efficiently and actually takes about 1 full second less time to complete.

In fact, the golfer on the right is actually already at impact by the time the golfer on the left starts his downswing. All of this is caused by moving the club and body inefficiently.

In the end, it takes much more work to swing the club and becomes more difficult to time when extra parts are moving. Work on keeping the club more on plane and keeping the lower body more quiet and stable to help improve your ball striking.


Checkpoints for Practice

  • Left side breakdown (in right handed players) is a common fault when learning the Rotary Swing
  • The left knee should stay fairly stable, but often tends to collapse inward during the backswing
  • Keeping the left knee quiet helps shorten the swing & keep the head centered
  • Fix left side breakdown by getting the club to work back more upright, along the shaft plane established at address
  • Limit hip & body movement early in the swing to keep the club moving up rather than around
  • Learning to keep everything quiet reduces moving parts & increases consistency in your golf swing

Video Transcription: Left Side Breakdown

We're going to talk about one of the most common faults I see in golfers learning the swing. It's something that's really, really important; that you understand where this fault comes from and what it can do to your golf swing.

One of the things that I emphasize, and I'm sure you're familiar with this, is reducing the overall amount of moving parts. Basically, "If it doesn't need to move, don't move it" is kind of my approach to it.

One of the things that I see that's very, very common that we're going to talk about today is the breakdown of this left side (for a right handed golfer) during the backswing. What I mean by that is that basically this left leg is going to completely collapse.

Left leg movesMovement of the left leg relative to its address position

There's going to be a lot of movement here in this left side, as you can see in this golfer on the left. I'll advance through the frames here. I'm going to start to walk back through. I'll put a line here where his knee is. I'll just draw a couple of lines on the inside and outside of his knee.

We've got lines there. As he's going back, that knee is starting to collapse in. As we get near the top, notice now much that left leg has moved from where it was at address. This is a very significant amount.

This is one of those things that doesn't need to move. In fact to move it, in my opinion, is more or less a swing fault because this gets everything shifting onto this right side. It tends to cause the head to move back, which you can see from the top; where his right ear started out at address, notice how far his head moves back behind the ball.

This is just all those extra moving parts that we've worked hard in this swing model to eliminate and it just creates inconsistency because now this golfer has to get everything back to where it was at address, and even farther through.

Left leg stays quietThe left leg stays much more stable in this swing

As he comes back down he's athletic enough that he does a good job to get back there pretty quickly, but he's just introducing an element of timing into the golf swing that's not necessary. With a little bit of work, this golfer can keeping this a little bit more quiet and constant, and he's going to tighten up his swing quite a bit.

I'll show you, on the right here, we've got another swing where you can see things staying a little bit more stable as the club goes back. First you can watch the right ear on this red line, then watch the left leg in between these two lines.

As the club works back, note how there's very little movement. The knee is staying inside this line so far, all the way to the top of the golf swing it just barely moves. The knee moves barely into that line, whereas you can see on this side the left leg is completely collapsed, and the whole leg has moved inside that line - a very big difference.

You can also note, at the top of the golf swing, how much more compact a movement this is because the body's not allowed to turn as far when this leg is kept from swaying back in, or buckling in, or breaking down, collapsing, whatever you want to call it.

Head position at impactCompare the head position at impact

That also keeps the right ear in line at the top. You can see that this swing, at the top, is much more compact and controlled than this swing over here.

As you come back down it becomes easy to keep that right ear on that line into impact before you release the club, whereas here the golfer has to move his head back, get the leg back, get everything back into position before he can really fire through.

On this one, see how his right ear has stayed back behind that line where it was at address. He's hung back on this one, so this is going to lead to the club coming in too much from the inside and you're either going to block it or you're going to hit a hang-back flip, if you release the hands aggressively.

Again, it's just removing all those inconsistencies that cause this. It's really important that the golfers learn to work on, as you're working on your swing, learn to keep the stability in here. Learn to keep everything quiet as possible. Reduce the moving parts to as few as possible and you're going to tighten up your swing significantly.

Club goes back under planeShaft plane at setup (left) - the club goes back under the plane line (right)

Now the key is, what causes this on the backswing? Let's take a look from the down the line view and we can see what's actually going on here. I'll clear out these lines.

You can see the most common reason for this fault. What's going to cause it is the club going back too much to the inside. We've talked about this a lot in the past and you're going to be able to see it here.

I'll draw a couple of lines on the shaft plane at address. Watch what happens as the golfer on the left takes the club back. Right from the takeaway, you'll see the club working underneath the plane, around. It gets too deep at this point.

I always draw a box in here to show a maximum error point. If you could see the club in this box somewhere you're OK, but when it starts to go outside that this is everything turning too early and too flat in the swing.

This forces your body to rotate so much that the left side has to break down because the club is moving inefficiently. It's pulling your body all the way around instead of the club working a little bit more up.

Club too deepThe club is too deep (see box, left) - swing is long & loose (right)

You can see even though this is such a simple little piece that's doing this, you can really start to see his left leg start to move a lot, and it's pulling everything around. At the top of his swing he's got this loose, across the line position. It's not a powerful position. His left leg has moved quite a bit.

We can minimize that movement that you saw from the face on view by getting the club to work up a little bit more upright, rather than quite so around and flat and shallow, because that's taking the club back too flat and shallow.

On the right you can see that happening. The club works a little bit more up the plane. The club head is staying in line or just outside the hands, working up. Then as you get to the top the path to the top is much more efficient.

It's a much more compact movement. There's far fewer moving parts, and you can see at the top that the left leg has just started to turn in just a touch. You can't see any space between here. There's not nearly as much rotation in the hips there.

Club works up on lineThe club works up on line (left) to a good position at the top (right)

It's a lot more coiled up, compact position, and it all starts from just getting the club to more efficiently work up the shaft plane at address. Still being in a one plane position at the top; everything's still the same on the way down, but the key is by keeping that left leg a little bit more quiet and the club working more up rather than working so deep, it doesn't force the body to rotate so much.

Then, again, you can eliminate those moving parts. You're going to have plenty of power stored up here at the top. I'm very coiled at this position, but it's important that you start to work on getting that club to work up the shaft plane, rather than quite so deep.

Hands down, probably 8-9 out of every 10 golfers that I see tends to do this because they think the one plane swing - or Rotary Swing, whatever you want to call it - is a flat swing, and that just not true. It's not a flat swing.

This is a flat golf swing here, and this is going to put you in that position that we've talked about many times before, where at this point in the swing, when the arm is about parallel to the ground, of course the shaft points way outside.

Compare shaft planesCompare shaft planes

This is, again, coupling it with another error that we've talked about in the 9:00 Shaft Plane Drill, that the shaft is too flat at this point.

It's pointing well outside the ball because you've taken it back too flat, whereas if the club starts to work up a little bit more on plane, not quite so inefficiently, you can see that the club is perfectly on plane at this point in the golf swing.

Work on this. You'll start to understand that as you limit the movement of the hips the club has to work up, rather than so much around. The more that you turn your hips and body too early in the swing, the more the club has a tendency to get sucked inside and too around and flat.

Really get the club and everything working up, a little bit more on plane early. Tighten everything up. You'll keep your hips a lot more quiet and you'll have a lot more stability and control in your golf swing.

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