Lee Trevino says ‘people make the biggest mistake.’ Here’s how to check for it

Lee Trevino

Lee Trevino last year at the PNC Championship.

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Lee Trevino wants to tell you a story about pilots and airplanes. In the end, there are a couple of points to it. 

Here goes:

Say the pilot gets in trouble at 35,000 feet, Trevino says, as compared to a distance much shorter. The former is better than the latter. And why is that?

“He’s got time to work with it on the way down to get it back together,” he said.  

Kinda like the backswing. That’s point one.

Point two? There’s probably no one ever who can compare the start of the golf swing to a pilot in danger. But it works. And that’s Trevino, who is both a six-time major winner — and a storyteller extraordinaire.

OK, back to point one, which is part of what Trevino calls “the biggest mistake in the world.” The lesson was shared this week by the Mentality Golf Instagram account, which grabbed it from the YouTube page of golf instructor Carl Lohren. It originally aired on an episode of the Champions Tour Learning Center.

In the video, Trevino is watching a right-handed player swing. The move is clean.   

“I want you to watch his left shoulder,” Trevino said. “As you get older, it doesn’t happen. Watch how the first movement of the backswing is his left shoulder; takes the club back.” 

The player did. 

And the benefit? 

“People make the biggest mistake in the world of taking the golf club back and instead of taking it back with the left shoulder — that’s when you get the biggest arc,” Trevino said in the video. “And when you get the biggest arc — you know what it’s like, it’s like a pilot getting in trouble with an airplane at 35,000 feet; he’s got time to work with it on the way down to get it back together. 

“The longer you can take a golf — without moving on it; without moving your body — the longer you can get the club away from the ball, the longer you have to do what you want to do with it. You want to draw it, you want to fade it, you want to hit it low, you want to hit it high.”

lee trevino swings
Lee Trevino has an easy swing adjustment to fix your slice
By: Zephyr Melton

But what if you don’t take the club back in that way? 

In the video, Trevino demonstrated. He flicked the club back with his wrists.

Importantly here, he could also touch the clubhead with his right hand. 

“If you manufacture a backswing, which means you take the club very abrupt up, that means, look, the shoulder never moved,” he said in the video. “See, that shoulder never moved and here’s the club; you can touch it.”

And that’s how Trevino checks to see if he’s manufacturing a backswing.

“And how you can test this on yourself is by taking the club back and getting your hands belt-high, and see if you can touch the head of the club,” Trevino said in the video. “And if you can, that means you’re manufacturing a backswing. 

“So what we want to do is, we want to put the club down, and the only thing that moves that club back is the left shoulder. It moves back. Now, at waist high, look how far my hand is from the clubhead. And when it’s that far away from the clubhead, that means that you’re going to get more power simply because your arc is bigger.” 

It’s here where you can check for yourself. We’ll wait. The video is below. 

One last thing, though. 

In the video, Trevino ended things with a warning. 

“But be very careful: As you get older — you know, you’re looking for a little distance and everybody blames, oh, I lost my legs; hell, they haven’t lost their legs; they’re still walking around,” Trevino said in the video. 

“But what happens is, it’s their backswing. And once this club gets here, they don’t have any time to do anything. And they’re coming into the ball way too steep. So you want to take this club and you want to move the club back with your left shoulder.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.