If you aspire to consistent, powerful, accurate golf shots but just can’t seem to make it happen, resist the temptation to run out and buy expensive equipment or scour the internet for questionable golf swing tips. For many beginners and amateur golf enthusiasts, improper posture is the culprit. To understand why let’s start with some golf swing basics.
Golf Swing Basics.
A golf shot is essentially a rotation around an axis, with the axis being your spine. No matter your size or athletic ability, the better the position of that axis, the smoother the rotation will be and the easier to execute the best golf swing. Positioning that axis incorrectly can lead to slices, fat shots, thin shots, pushes, and pulls. It can even lead to injury. If several weeks or months of practice leaves you with a sore lower back, your posture definitely needs work.
To get into proper golf address, hold the club at the level of your belly button, outstretched with straight arms, upright with your head over your hips and shoulders back. Now tilt forward at the hips and only the hips! Try to keep your back flat, with no hunching of the shoulders. Lower the club to touch the ball with the club head, mindful of that flat back, and flex your knees.
Check in with yourself. The feet should point out at a slight but natural angle, arms should hang relaxed directly below the head. Your chest and chin should be up, tailbone back, shoulders back, with a slight flex in the knees to keep your spine in that perfectly straight line. Your spine should be tilted six to eight degrees from the tee, your weight centred over the ankles. What could possibly go wrong, right? The obvious answer is “a lot of things.” Let’s look at some of the most common bad posture habits golf enthusiasts fall into when learning how to swing a golf club.
If your shoulders hunch forward, your club will break the plane. Additionally, your range of motion through the shoulders will be restricted. The resulting inside takeaways will make you more likely to come over the top, resulting in banana slices and all manner of bad shots.
Not hinging enough at the waist is another common problem. Your takeaway will be either outside or inside, and your right elbow is likely to fly and cause you to shoot over the top, resulting in pushes, pulls, slices, topped, thin, and fat shots.
If your butt sticks out too much and your lower back sags, your ability to do a complete shoulder turn is restricted. In addition to bad shots, torquing around a curved spine is a frequent culprit of soreness in the lower back.
NOT ENOUGH AXIS TILT.
At address, your upper body should lean slightly back from the target, your lead shoulder slightly below the rear shoulder. This helps load power on the correct side and allows you to more easily shallow out the swing. Failing to nail this increases the risk of a reverse pivot, which can result in both bad shots and injury.
WEIGHT OVER BALLS OF FEET.
This is both a common instruction and a big mistake. From the balls of your feet, it is impossible to shift your weight back and forth, which is necessary to shallow out the downswing and connect with power. Your weight should instead be centred over the ankles.
Now that you know some of the common problems, let’s look at how you can fix them on the road to your best golf swing.
TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR POSTURE AND SWING.
Some of this posture can be felt out with practice, but without an outside check, it’s easy to develop bad habits without even noticing it. If you don’t have a coach present, you can still practice by taking photos, videos, or time-lapse photos of your address and swing, either with a tripod and timer or with the help of a friend. Look at a photo of your address.
Draw a line on the photo between your tailbone and the back of your head. Your back should be pretty flat against that line. If there’s space between your lower back and the line, you’re over-extending your hips and curving your spine. If your back hunches above that line, you need to practice flattening in. Draw a line between your toes and your head.
Your arms should follow straight along that line. If your arms fall behind that line, you may be standing up too straight. If they extend in front of the line, you are not letting them dangle loosely with gravity, resulting in a tense address. When looking at frames of a video or time-lapse of your shot, draw a line from the target to the top of your shoulders, extending back over your head. This is the plane of your shot. A good golf backswing should stay below this plane. If the club is cutting above the plane at the top of your backswing, you are probably curving your spine a lot. By doing so you run the risk you will shoot pulls with little velocity.
PRACTICE WITH A DRIVER AND A DUMBBELL.
Here is a simple exercise to practice your posture at address. Tuck the grip of a driver into your belt at the back of your pants, pointing the club head toward you. Stand up straight until you can feel the club shaft against your spine, the club head against the back of your head. Pick up a five-pound dumbbell and begin tilting forward at the hips, letting the weight in your hands dangle freely with gravity and keeping contact with the club through your spine and the back of your head. Keep the knees slightly bent. When the weight is over your feet and hanging loosely, the club in contact with your back and head, you have your proper golf stance!
Practice this until your body remembers the stance. Then do it from muscle memory with the club in your hand instead of against your back. Practicing with weighted cuffs around the wrists can also help train your arms to dangle loosely. With a few exercises and a little know-how, any golfer can improve his or her shot by perfecting posture.
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