This ‘wide arc’ swing thought helps Phil Mickelson hit bombs

Phil Mickelson won his second-straight PGA Tour Champions event on Sunday.

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Welcome to Play Smart, a new game-improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Instruction Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you play smarter, better golf.

Phil Mickelson looks like a man re-born in what are supposed to be the twilight years of his career. He’s adopted a healthy lifestyle based on a foundation of “education” and “accountability,” he’s been gaining tons of swing speed, and he just went two-wins-in-two-starts on the PGA Tour Champions.

Barring one poor drive on the 9th hole on Sunday, Lefty played fantastically from tee-to-green, leading the field in driving distance, putting average and birdies.

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But, naturally, what stuck out to me most about Phil’s victory is what he said afterward about his golf swing. Turns out, he’s working on something that is pretty common among the rest of us — especially those golfers who tend to hit slices.

Most golfers have one or two swing issues that continually creep back into their swings. They fix them, hit the ball better, and then gradually it comes back. Along those lines, Phil tends to make a “narrow” arm swing on his backswing, and he’s been working on creating a “wider” swing arc for years.

You can see the difference between Phil’s narrow and wider swing arc in the top-of-backswing picture from this fantastic Golf Digest article, written by Phil Mickelson’s then-swing coach Butch Harmon back in 2010. It’s when Lefty first started working on this move in his swing, and it’s really clear to see the difference. The inset picture is Phil’s older swing; the main image is his new one.

You can see him practicing the feeling below:

What is a wider swing arc?

A wider swing arc, in short, is when your arms stretch further away from your body and head on the backswing. It’s a big power move, not just because it helps you stretch and create larger backswing turn, but also because it can help shallow-out your angle of attack. And that can be a big deal for golfers who struggle with a slice, because a slice can often be the product of an angle of attack that’s too steep.

And that’s exactly what Phil Mickelson says his own problem is. His backswing gets too narrow, which causes him to get steep and handsy, which can lead to two-way misses.

“A wider arc will allow me to have less face rotation through the ball,” Mickelson says, “As I get a little steeper, the club’s going to flip more at the bottom.”

You can hear GOLF Top 100 Teacher Jonathan Yarwood explain it more in-depth right here:

The swing thought: If you’re hitting slices or taking divots, try feeling like your arms are stretching further away from you on the backswing.

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Luke Kerr-Dineen Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.