Golf can be a hard game to learn – the golf swing is a strange movement and if you’ve never swung a golf club before just making contact can be a challenge. However, there is an easier way to learn how to hit a golf ball – this approach is called learning golf backwards, or backward chaining.
This isn’t a new idea, a British golf professional called Reg Knights wrote a book based on this approach in the 1960s. Furthermore, in a recent interview, LPGA player, Alison Lee revealed that this is the way her farther taught her to play the game and it resulted in her playing in the US Open aged just 15.
How to learn golf backwards
Learning golf backwards is very simple, begin with a 1-foot putt. Once you can hole five putts in a row move back to a 3-foot putt, then move to 6-feet, 10-feet and finally 20-feet. The next stage is to hit a 10-yard chip, then a 20-yard chip, before moving to 50-yards and progressing onto a full swing.
It is a good idea to achieve a small amount of success at each stage before moving backwards. See below for an example plan:
Learning golf backwards example plan
- 1-foot putt (x 5 – try to hole all 5 before progressing)
- 3-foot putt (x 5 – try to hole 3 out of 5 before progressing)
- 6-foot putt (x 5 – try to hole 1 out of 5 before progressing)
- 10-foot putt (x 5 attempts)
- 20-foot putt (x 5 attempts)
- 10-yard chip (x 5 – try to hit 3 chips onto the green before progressing)
- 20-yard chip (x 5 – try to hit 2 chips onto the green before progressing)
At each stage you’re learning how to contact the golf ball and control the direction of your golf shots. All that is happening as you progress is that your golf swing is getting very slightly longer both back and through.
Why this approach works
The golf swing requires you to control 600 muscles working across 200 joints – that is a hard problem to solve! As a result, your body tries to freeze many of your joints to keep control and make the task simpler, however these joints are needed for a full golf swing. When you start with a 1-foot putt, your body can learn to hit a ball with just a few simple movements. As you hit from further away, you can slowly add in more joints and bigger movements. This allows you to slowly progress the difficulty of learning the golf swing, bringing more success at each stage.
The other advantage of this approach is that you will develop an excellent understanding of how to create a great impact position and control where the golf ball goes. Impact is all the golf ball cares about, so this focus on impact creates a great foundation for the rest of your golf game and golfing life.
Are there any disadvantages?
Yes, many beginner golfers just want a hit a driver, a backward chaining approach means it may take you two or three practice sessions before you work your way up to hitting driver, but it will be well worth the wait. I would argue the benefits of this approach far outweigh the negatives if you don’t mind having a little patience.
This approach can be something you work through with a coach, but you could also begin by learning how to putt, and how to chip yourself and then find a golf pro for some help as and when you need it.
This approach also means you don’t need to buy a full set of beginner golf clubs straight away. Instead you can buy a putter and wedges, then consider adding in some irons and woods as and when you need them.
Summarizing learning golf backwards
This isn’t the only way to learn how to play golf and it will take a little time as you build up to a full swing. However, after reflecting on how I learned the game, and how I have coached for the past 15 years, this is certainly a great option for golfers who want to get into golf and build the foundations of a great golf game.
Will Shaw, PGA Professional