I see it all the time! In the back swing a golfer will take the club too far to the inside, usually in an attempt to avoid coming over the top in the forward swing. This path that is way too inside on the way back(pic. 1) will actually force the club to return to the ball on a steeper path than the backswing. In many cases therefore it forces the golfer to come “over the top” and get that nasty divot that flies left at a 45-degree angle.
So let’s talk about what a neutral back swing path should be and how it can help you consistently find the proper path in the forward swing. During the back swing when the shaft first reaches horizontal to the ground I like to see that the shaft is also pretty darn close to being parallel with the toe line. (pic. 2).
Please notice is typed “pretty darn close” and not absolutely. There is some room here for individual characteristics but if your swing strays too far you will struggle with consistency. To most easily get this position you will find that the more your hands and arms do to move the club the more variety you will have. Variety may be the Spice of Life but since golfers want to be consistent, let’s use the rotation of the shoulders and rib cage to get the club moving rather than the hands. Generally speaking, golfers with solid backswing positions with have a decent amount of tilt to their shoulders at the top of the swing (red line in pic 2). Golfers who follow the less than desirable extreme inside path in the back swing will have their shoulders in a flat position. (red line in pic 1)
Here is a great drill that you can work on in order to train yourself to start the swing the proper way. Grip the club way down the shaft. You want to go low enough that you can have the grip against the left side of your body, just below the first rib. Now make a small start to the swing, just until the shaft reaches horizontal. If you turn your shoulders and the ribcage while maintaining your posture, the club will not move away from your body. (pic 3)
If you use your hands too much, or the shoulders move to a “flat” position at the top the grip will either come away from you or the grip will shift over onto your tummy instead of staying on your side. It’s a simple drill that you can do at home, on the practice tee or in between shots on the golf course.