It's impossible to swing the golf club consistently on-plane if your body moves up and down while swinging. This usually happens when you fail to maintain your posture or spine angle,.
If you raise up or back (from the hips/waist) on the backswing, your swing plane will become flatter. If you bend over, your plane will become steeper or more upright. In either case, you'll be forced to adjust on the downswing just to make contact. It's important to hold your posture moving down and through the ball, too.
Golfers with back problems often struggle to maintain spine angle, as do those with weak core muscles. For everyone else, good posture is easily attainable if you focus on turning around your spine.
A great mental key is to imagine a javelin running through the top of your head, down the spine, and nailing you into the ground in your setup posture. (OK, so it's not the most pleasant picture.) Because you can't move up or down while swinging, you must rotate around the javelin – in other words, around your spine.
Use a full-length mirror or other reflective surface to practice this motion and check your positioning. With the mirror to your right (or left, if you're a lefty):
- Hold a club across the front of your shoulders with your arms crossed and assume your stance as though hitting a golf ball.
- Rotate back while watching yourself in the mirror. Your head should move very little up or down.
- After several repetitions, turn around so the mirror is on your left.
- Turn back and through, watching the mirror as you move past the impact area and into the finish.
Few amateur golfers exhibit consistent posture throughout the swing. Become one who does and you'll move to the upper ranks of ballstrikers.
Top Swing Plane Drills to Maintain Spine Angle
Maintaining your spine angle throughout your swing is one of the important fundamentals in golf that is easy to overlook. While you are busy worrying about your grip, your stance, your target, and everything else there is to think about in golf, you may forget to concern yourself with your spine angle as you swing back and through. However, if you want to swing the club on a repeatable plane - which you will need to do in order to produce consistent shots - you are going to have to maintain your spine angle nicely. It isn't necessarily difficult to maintain your spine angle, but you will need to work on this point during your practice sessions to ensure it doesn't become a problem on the course.
One of the best ways to work out any spine angle issues you may have in your swing is to use some practice drills. Golfers of all ability levels can benefit from using drills because they help to ingrain good habits that can transfer into your performance on the course. It is one thing to know what you need to do - it is another thing to actually make the right moves while doing some drills in order to teach your body how to get the job done. By adding even just one or two drills to your regular practice routine, you can gradually put your body into new habits - which is what needs to happen in order for your game to improve.
Before we get too far into the drills that can help you with your spine angle, we should first make sure you are clear as to what spine angle means in the golf context. This is a term frequently used by golf teachers and experienced players as they talk about swing technique. Simply put, your spine angle is the angle that is formed by your spine when you tilt from the hips over the ball at address. When you stand up next to the ball to prepare for a shot, you naturally bend from the hips to provide yourself with room to reach down and grab the handle of the club. The amount of tilt that you put in your spine when you bend over determines your spine angle at address. Some players stand relatively upright when addressing the ball, while others bend over significantly. No matter how much you decide to tilt your spine at address, your job is going to be the same - to maintain that amount of tilt throughout the entire swing. If you can hold your spine angle from address all the way through impact and beyond, you will likely be very happy with the quality of your ball striking.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Triple Takeaway Drill
The first drill that you should consider using as you work on your spine angle is called the 'triple takeaway' drill. As the name would indicate, this drill is going to ask you to make three takeaways before you actually start your swing. The repetitive motion is going to help you feel and understand the proper technique to use in the takeaway. The takeaway is a crucial part of the swing for many reasons, including the fact that it can help you stay in your posture when done correctly. A large number of players who have trouble with their spine angle make mistakes within the first foot of the backswing, and they are never able to recover. If you can get through the takeaway without having anything go wrong, you will stand a much better chance to make it through the rest of the swing in god position.
If you would like to complete the triple takeaway drill during an upcoming practice session, please follow the steps below.
- To start, take one of your mid-irons from your bag. You could technically complete this drill with any club, but six or seven iron will be a great place to start. After you get the hang of the drill with one of your mid-irons, you can move on trying it out with shorter or longer clubs as well. You aren't actually going to be hitting any shots with this drill, so you don't need golf balls at this time - all you will need is your club and a safe place to make some swings.
- Even though you are not going to be hitting any balls with this drill, you still want to take the time to pick out an imaginary target and then build your stance around that target. This is important because it is what you will be doing on the course, and your practice sessions should always replicate on-course conditions as closely as possible. Select a target in the distance, take your stance, and get ready to swing just as you would for any actual shot that you were going to play.
- Now that you are in your stance and ready to go, it is time to make your takeaway - well, it is actually time to make three takeaways. You are going to be taking the club back about two feet from its address position before stopping, returning to address, and doing it again. Repeat the takeaway motion three times in total, and go ahead and complete the rest of your swing after the third takeaway.
- This drill is going to require you to stay in your stance for longer than normal, as your swing would usually be over in just a second or two after taking your stance. This is a good thing, because you are going to feel your spine angle and you are going to have to work at the job of maintaining it throughout the drill and the swing. The spine angle that you have at address should not change at any point during any of the three takeaways. If it does, you will need to stop and address the problem before trying again.
- The best way to ensure that your spine angle stays steady in the takeaway is to keep your chin up at address. Many players bury their chin down into their chest when standing over the ball, and they are unable to turn their shoulders freely as a result (because the chin is in the way). Lift your chin up away from your chest and give your left shoulder a clear path to turn away from the target. This might seem like a simple adjustment but it can have a big impact on your ability to make a stable swing around a steady spine angle.
The great thing about this drill is that you can actually use it out on the course during a round. If you feel like your swing is getting out of shape during a round, take a moment to step to the side and repeat your takeaway a few times. Reminding yourself to focus on the takeaway while on the course is a great way to settle your mind and get back on track. Whether you are doing it in practice or on the course, the triple takeaway drill is an excellent way to dial in your spine angle.
The Mirror Drill
Quite obviously, it is hard to see yourself while you are swinging the golf club. You can look down at your feet and at your arms when they are in front of you, but that is about it. As far as observing yourself making a golf swing, you usually need to have a video camera on hand - unless you use a mirror. Practicing in front of a mirror is a great way to check on the positions of your swing in real time. You don't need to ask anyone else to take video for you, and you don't have to take time out of your practice session to watch the video back. Simply stand in front of a mirror at the right angle, swing to the position you want to check, and see for yourself how you are doing. It is simple, quick, and highly effective. Professional golfers frequently use mirrors to check on their technique, and you should consider following suit.
The first thing you will need to do if you are going to complete the mirror drill is find a mirror that will work. You likely have a large mirror in your bathroom, but there isn't going to be room in there to make full golf swings. Some driving ranges have a mirror installed somewhere along the tee line to permit this kind of practice, so look around for this opportunity at your local course. Otherwise, you will need to find some form of full length mirror that you can place outside in an area where you can make some practice swings. You don't have to be able to hit balls when using the mirror, but you do need enough room to swing safely.
Once you have secured a place to practice with your mirror, follow the steps below to work on your spine angle.
- Take your stance in front of the mirror so that the mirror is to your right (on an extension of the target line). In other words, as you standing in your address position you should need to turn your head to the right in order to see your reflection. This is known as the 'down the line' view of the golf swing. Just as with the last drill, you should use a mid-iron to get the best look at your swing to start with. It is fine to use other clubs later, but start with a mid-iron.
- As you are standing at address, turn your head to the right and check on the position of your spine. You need to note the spine angle you are using at the start because this is what you will be using as a frame of reference later on. If you don't know what your spine angle looked like at address, you will have no way of knowing if it has changed during the swing.
- Next, make your swing up to the top of the backswing and pause. It is important that you make your 'normal' swing - don't do anything different just for the purposes of the drill. Pretend you are hitting an actual shot and swing the club all the way to the top of your backswing. When you get the top, hold as still as possible and turn your head to the right to take another look at your spine angle.
- What do you notice when you check your spine angle at the top? Are you in the same position as at address, or did you move up or down slightly during the backswing? It is crucial to keep your spine angle steady in the backswing as this is the phase of the swing when things are most likely to go wrong. As long as you make it through the backswing in good shape, you should be able to handle the downswing without a problem.
- After checking on your spine angle at the top, return the club back down to address and start over. You can perform this drill as many times as you would like, although it should only take a few repetitions to get a good idea of what is happening with your spine angle as you swing back.
Obviously, you aren't going to be able to use the mirror drill on the course, but this is something that you can do regularly prior to teeing off. Hopefully, the mirror will reveal that you are doing a good job of maintaining your angle. If not, use the information you gather to make the necessary adjustments to get yourself back on track as quickly as possible.
The two drills that have been outlined above should be all you need to check on your spine angle during the swing. As long as you are getting through the takeaway cleanly, and you are making it to the top of the swing without a problem, you should be good to go. If you find that these drills are simple for you to complete, you can set aside any concerns about your spine angle and move on to working on other parts of your game.
For those who are struggling with maintaining the spine angle during the swing, however, work will need to be done. You should prioritize this part of your swing technique because an inconsistent spine angle can make it extremely difficult to strike solid shots. Should you need to fix problems that are popping up with your spine angle, consult the list of tips below.
- Watch your right knee. Believe it or not, the right knee has a lot to do with how well you will be able to hold your spine angle throughout the swing. Specifically, you should pay attention to your right knee during the backswing, when it should be as stable as possible. Many amateur golfers allow their right knee to straighten in the backswing, which will cause you to come up out of your spine angle as well. Work on maintaining a consistent amount of flex in the right knee as you swing back and it will quickly become easier to hold your spine angle at the same time.
- Quiet hands early. Another way to damage your spine angle is to use your hands too early in the backswing. Your hands need to play a role in the backswing, but not during the takeaway phase. Keep your hands quiet during the takeaway and only get them engaged after the club has at least reached a position that is parallel to the ground. If you do use your hands early, you will run the risk of tilting your spine out over the ball too far as you try to balance things out, since the club will be stuck behind you due to the hand and wrist action you have used. Think about the early part of your backswing in much the same way that you think about a putting stroke – use your shoulders to control the movement keep the hands out of the action.
- Manage the length of your swing. One of the common ways that players will come out of their stance is simply by swinging back too far. In an effort to hit the ball as hard as possible, some players will swing back as far as they can, and they will lose their spine tilt in the process. It isn't necessarily a long swing that is going to provide you with distance – instead, you need to make an efficient swing that puts the ball on the center of the club face. So, don't force yourself to go back so far that you lose your spine angle, as that move isn't really going to help you hit the ball farther anyway. Stay within yourself, make a controlled turn while holding your spine tilt, and go down into the ball with confidence and aggression.
Unfortunately, the list of potential corrections that you could need to make to fix your spine angle problems is longer than would fit in this article. At some point, you are going to have to take a close look at the progression of your swing from start to finish in order to figure out where things might be going wrong. If you are unable to find the cause of your inconsistent spine angle in the swing, the best thing to do may be to check with a local teaching professional for help. Taking a lesson and asking questions about this part of the swing should help you quickly get to the heart of the matter.
Spine Angle in the Short Game
Does spine angle matter when it comes to short game shots? In a word, yes. You still need to hold your spine angle steady in the short game just as you do in the long game, although the task is easier because you aren't moving the club nearly as far around your body. When you set up to a chip or a putt, you need to take your stance carefully as you would over any other shot, and then hole that position as you hit the shot. You don't want to let your spine angle tilt up or down while playing short shots, as that movement could make it tough to strike the ball cleanly.
There is a fine balance that you need to strike on this point, because you want to be relaxed and comfortable while hitting short game shots – but not so relaxed that you lose your spine angle. The answer to this problem is to allow your legs to do the work of holding you in place. Your legs contain some of the strongest muscles in your body, so flex your knees and engage all of the big muscles in your legs to establish a great stance. With a solid stance under you, it should be no problem at all to hold your spine angle as you swing your putter or one of your wedges.
Spine angle is an important piece of the overall golf swing puzzle. Once you set the angle at address, it is critical that you are able to hold that angle throughout the swing. Use the content above to work on your ability to swing on plane with a stable spine angle and your ball striking will take a big step forward. This might not be the most exciting part of the swing to work on while at the range, but it is one of the best ways that you can spend your time. Dial in your spine angle on a consistent basis and you will love the results that you find.