The golf swing is a harmony (or not) of physics, geometry and highly precise motor skills. My goal as a golf instructor is to help you classify and simplify your golf swing. Let’s look at the basic movements of the body in the backswing and help give those pieces an identity.
In the first picture, you will see that I am setup in a standard position with a 6 iron. The number I have on the screen is measuring my shoulder bend, or how far forward I am bent forward with my upper body (0º is standing straight up and down). As you read, keep in mind that numbers in green are within the PGA Tour averages and numbers in yellow fall just outside of those averages, while numbers red need work as they are significantly outside of the Tour averages.
I marked some boxes around my head so that you can see where my head moves as I start to change the numbers around. The second picture shows the top of my golf swing where my head doesn’t move. You’ll see the picture on the left has a new number, shoulder tilt. And the right picture has a new number, Shoulder turn. To keep my “setup posture” or my body’s inclination to the ground, I had to bend my spine to the left in the backswing.That keeps my head from raising up in the left and right picture.
If you notice, the shoulder bend number on the right has changed from 39º forward in the first picture. This is because I had to extend my spine on the backswing to keep my head still. 39º forward to 9º back. 39º to 0º forward and 0º to 9º back equals 48º I extended on the backswing.
Now look at a few pictures where I moved my head and how the numbers change. You’ll notice my head moves away from the target. I tried to bend my spine to the left in the backswing, but I didn’t stretch my back out (I hit pretty far behind the ball when I did this). As a result, you’ll see the shoulder bend number is now 18º forward. 39º to 18º is only 21º (remember I did 48º before). You’ll see my left arm is now lower to the ground, almost parallel and my shoulder turn number is much lower at 13º.
And this last picture is my favorite. It was really difficult to hit the ball doing this. I whiffed 4 times in a row! Hitting the ball far or having any consistency in direction and contact would be extremely difficult.
I was able to keep the shoulder bend and turn consistent to my first swing, but I tried to turn my shoulders “level.” You’ll see my shoulders are no longer tilted to the left, but in fact 12º to the right! My head moved away from the ball, and I came up out of my initial body inclination to the ground.
In the golf swing, your spine bends forward and backward, tilts to the left and right, and turns closed and open. If you keep your spine bent forward in the backswing, it becomes much more difficult to turn your shoulders. You have to rely more on flexibility and strength, instead of technique and skill, to hit the ball far. If you don’t tilt your spine to the left in the backswing your head will raise up, and it will become more difficult to hit the ball on a consistent basis.
Your next step? Get your head into a local GolfTEC and get measured, learn how you currently use your spine in the backswing, and then develop a plan of attack to fix it!