It's true that many great golfers feature some degree of slide in their swings. This is usually evident in the lateral movement of their head away from the ball on the backswing, a la Curtis Strange.
Obviously, some amount of sliding is OK – it's inevitable, really. The important thing is that you don't substitute lateral motion for golf rotation.
Many amateurs, in an effort to shift weight to their right side on the backswing (left side golf rotation for lefties), will tilt the upper body in that direction. Unfortunately, this is counter-productive; their balance tips to the outside of the right foot, making it difficult to shift back to the left on the downswing.
- Place a club across the back of your shoulders and hold it there with your wrists/forearms.
- Standing up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, turn slowly to your right, then left, repeating several times.
- Keep the club in place and bend from the hips into your golf posture.
- Resume making right and left turns, completing several repetitions at a time.
The lower body plays a key role in rotation, too. From the top of your swing, work on turning your belt buckle quickly toward the target and through to the finish, when it should face the target.
By rotating rather than sliding, you'll build a more powerful and efficient swing that is much easier to maintain.
How to Rotate Your Body Without Sliding
Rotating your body during the golf swing is a great thing – sliding is not. While the golf swing is endlessly complicated, the way your body should move is actually pretty simple, and it is summed up in that first sentence. If your body is rotating during the swing, you should be in good shape to strike the ball beautifully. If, however, you are sliding from right to left or vice versa, you are going to struggle. Many amateur golfers slide during the golf swing, and they struggle to hit powerful shots as a result. If you can get the slide out of your game, you should notice an immediate improvement in the quality of your play.
If you get a chance sometime soon, watch a golf tournament on television. Specifically, watch the way the players move their bodies during the swing. Most likely, you will see that nearly every player does a great job of staying balanced and avoiding any significant amount of lateral slide. The golf swings used by the best players in the world are focused on body rotation, and yours should be as well. When you do manage to create a golf swing that is simply driven by rotational movement without much in the way of lateral action, you will see just how much power you are actually capable of on the course. Most players are able to hit the ball much farther than they understand, but they first have to learn how to rotate properly to 'unlock' that hidden swing speed.
For many golfers, the change to a rotational golf swing from a lateral one can be difficult. If you are currently sliding side to side in your swing in order to move the club back and through, you are going to have a lot of work to do in order to make this change. That work, however, will be worth it in the end. It is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to raise the level of your game while still using a lateral swing (one that slides). There is no promise of instant results on this point, but hard work over an extended period of time can leave you with a rotational swing that is capable of launching the ball high into the sky.
In the end, making this change is going to come down to fundamentals. The content below is going to outline the basic fundamentals you need to have in place in order to rotate your body without sliding through the shot. Once you understand clearly what it is that you are trying to do, you can then get down to the business of making it happen. Again, the 'making it happen' part is not likely to come quickly, but you can get there if you are willing to be patient and work hard.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Two Kinds of Slides
There are two different points during the swing where the slide is a real possibility. Some players will slide early in the backswing – almost immediately upon the swing getting started. Other players, however, will hold steady in the backswing only to slide into the shot on the downswing. Each of these slides is a problem as they can both rob you of power and control. To maximize the effectiveness of your swing, you will need to make sure that neither of these lateral slides is present in your move.
To prevent against the backswing slide, you need to pay very close attention to the first foot of your golf swing. With very few exceptions, players who are going to slide in the backswing do so almost immediately upon starting the swing. As the club begins to move away from the ball, the right knee drifts to the right and the rest of the body follows along. In fact, you might even get to a point with this kind of slide where it is really the right knee that is starting the swinging action.
To correct this problem, make sure it is your left shoulder that is starting your swing. At address, you should be standing with a nice posture and your chin should be well up away from your chest. Once you are in a good stance, focus on turning your left shoulder under your chin and let the rest of the backswing take care of itself. This sounds extremely simple – and that is because it is. As long as you can make sure your left shoulder turning away from the target is the first thing you do in the swing, it will be hard to go wrong otherwise. Your slide should be gone as soon as you learn how to turn back correctly, and your right knee should be holding in place nicely. Most golfers try to complicate the backswing by making all kinds of different moves, but it is best executed when it is as simple as possible. Keep that right knee stable while turning the left shoulder under your chin and you will be well on your way to success.
The other slide that you can make in the swing, the downswing slide, it going to be a little more difficult to correct. Assuming you are getting to the top of the swing in a decent position, the downswing slide is going to be mostly the fault of your left knee. Rather than using your left hip to rotate to the left, you are allowing your left knee to move toward the target and your hips are sliding as a result. This is a common problem among amateur players who are trying to 'help' the ball into the air. Many players feel the need to hit up on the ball at impact, and sliding in the downswing is a way to do just that. However, you will be a much better ball striker if you keep your upper body over the ball and hit down through impact confidently.
Fixing this slide is going to come down to teaching your left hip how to behave correctly right from the top of the swing. As soon as the club starts to transition from backswing to downswing, your left hip should start to rotate and your left leg should straighten. The straightening of that leg is going to be key in this equation. Maintaining flex in the knee is a sure sign that you are sliding, so focus on getting the knee straightened up early on in the downswing. With your hip rotating back and to the left while the left leg straightens out, it will become easy to stay on balance and right over the ball coming into impact.
It is relatively easy to locate the point in your golf swing where you are sliding – it is much more difficult to actually fix that slide. Your golf swing is engrained deep within your muscle memory at this point, and it is going to take some time to break your old habits. In order to successfully eliminate your slides and put a great rotation in place, it will be necessary to hit plenty of range balls while maintaining focus on this specific part of your technique. The rewards for your work may not be immediate, but you will love the ball striking you can achieve once the change has been made.
The Beauty of Simplicity
There is a temptation in golf to make the swing as complicated as possible. In some ways, golfers feel better when they have a complicated swing because they feel like they are doing more to create good shots. In reality, your goal should be to make the simplest swing you can make while still providing your shots with enough power to reach their targets. A simple golf swing might not look very exciting, but it is going to get the job done more often than not. You want to be able to repeat your swing over and over again throughout the course of a n 18-hole round, and that will only happen when you make it as simple as you can.
Balance is one of the keys to simplicity. A well-balanced swing is always going to look and feel simple, because your weight isn't going to be moving around from side to side (no sliding). As you stand over the ball, think about keeping your weight inside of your feet throughout the swing. If you are able to do that, you will know you are rotating nicely without having much of a slide move present in either direction. Most amateur golfers fail on this point, as they let their weight drift to the right or left at one point or another. Keeping your weight centered will enable you to swing aggressively while staying balanced – the precise combination needed to hit long drives and accurate iron shots.
If you would like to work on making your swing simpler going forward, one of the best things you can do is record yourself on video. Ask one of your friends to record you while swinging, either on the range or just while making practice swings in your backyard. As you are reviewing the video, take note of any moves that you are making which don't seem to be actually help you swing the club. It is very possible – likely, even – that you are making at least one or two moves in your swing that you don't even know about. As you watch the video, identify those parts of your body that seem to be moving for no obvious reason. It will be those moves that you try to eliminate during your next practice session.
One example of an extra move that you could potentially take out of your swing is the left heel coming up off of the ground in the downswing. Many amateur golfers make this move, yet it serves no real purpose in terms of striking the ball solidly. If you spot the left heel coming off of the ground on the video of your swing, consider taking that action out of your swing to simplify your action overall. At first, keeping your left heel down on the ground will likely feel as though it is taking power out of your swing, but that is probably not the case. If anything, keeping that heel down should permit you to rotate faster and swing even harder.
The goal of simplicity is one that all golfers should keep in mind during their practice sessions. Taking things out of your swing, rather than adding things in, is one of the best possible ways you can improve your game. It is hard to play well when your body is moving in countless different directions during the swing, so boil everything down to the basics and create a move that you can repeat over and over again.
Setting Up for Easy Rotation
Even after you understand the importance of rotating rather than sliding, it may still be difficult to make it happen within your swing. The temptation to slide side to side is strong for some players, and you might have years of bad habits to break as well. If you are finding it particularly difficult to get away from the sliding habit, there are some steps you can take in your set up position to promote easier rotation. These steps are simple to implement in your game, and they could lead to quick improvements in your ball striking both on the range and on the course.
To make it easier for your body to rotate rather than slide during the golf swing, consider making the following changes to your address position –
- Open up the right foot. This is perhaps the single best way to encourage rotation in your back swing. By opening your right foot just slightly at address – meaning you turn your toes out to the right a bit – you will allow your body to rotation more easily without having to slide to the right. Some golfers find it difficult to rotate against that right knee in the backswing, so they wind up sliding as a result. With your right foot open, however, rotation will come naturally and you may not even be tempted to slide away. It shouldn't take much of a movement from your right foot to make a big difference, either – just turning your toes out a few degrees can make the turn back much easier.
- Stronger grip. A strong grip is one where you can see at least three of the knuckles on the back of your left hand when you look down at address. If you are currently playing with a weak or neutral grip, consider turning your grip a little bit stronger to promote a better turn away from the ball. A stronger grip will naturally put your right shoulder into a slightly lower position, which will encourage you to turn instead of slide when you start the swing. Of course, adjusting your grip will also have an impact on your ball flight, so only make this change if you are also willing to learn how to use a new shot shape.
- Play from a closed stance. This is an option that you should really only consider once you are sure the first two aren't going to help enough to get you on track. By playing from a closed stance, you will again be making it easier to turn away from the ball – much like you tried to do by turning the right foot open a bit. Just as with the previous point, using a closed stance is going to alter your ball flight, so this is not an adjustment that should be made lightly.
It may be possible for you to successfully learn how to rotate your body during the swing without sliding from side to side. However, if you have trouble learning that technique, you can certainly try one of the three tips above to get on track. In fact, you might be able to use one or two of these tips on a temporary basis just to learn the feeling that is needed to avoid the slide. Once you have that feeling down and you have gained confidence, you might be able to go back to your old setup while still enjoying the benefits of an improved turn.
The Power of Fitness
Golf is not a sport that is traditionally thought of as one that demands great athleticism. After all, you certainly don't have to run during a round of golf, you don't need to jump, and you can even ride in a cart as you play. Compared to sports like football, basketball, and soccer, the physical demands of golf are minimal at best. With that said, there are still certain physical requirements that must be met in order to produce a reliable, powerful swing. If your body isn't up to the task of the swing you are trying to make, the results are going to be consistently disappointing.
So, if you have aspirations of taking your golf game to a new level, you should strongly consider looking at fitness as a great way to do just that. Specifically, an improved level of fitness can help you to make a good rotation both in your backswing and in your forward swing. It is difficult to turn when your muscles are tight or you are overweight, so you may have to resort to sliding in order to hit the ball. As an added benefit, improving your level of fitness should be a good thing for the rest of your life, not just your life on the golf course. Obviously, you need to check with a doctor before taking on any kind of fitness regimen.
If and when you do get started with a fitness plan, target your core as one of the main areas for improvement. It is the core of your body that is going to have a lot to say about your ability to rotate, so improvement in this area should pay off in a big way. Losing weight can help by simply making the middle of your body slimmer and easier to turn, but adding flexibility to your core muscles is a big part of it as well. Flexibility is far more important than sheer strength when it comes to playing golf, so you would be wise to make that a focus of your efforts.
Another way fitness can help you in making good golf swings is by adding stamina to your body. You might not notice it, but there is a good chance that your current golf swing starts to suffer as your rounds move along. For example, you might be making a great turn at the start of the day, only to see your backswing get shorter and shorter as you near the end of the round. Obviously, your game would benefit from being able to keep up the same swing all day long, and it is fitness that can help get you to that point. When walking a round of golf on a full-size 18-hole course, you are likely to cover five miles or more – which can easily fatigue your body, especially when carrying clubs. By improving your overall conditioning, you should be able to play your best from the first hole to the last, and you will probably enjoy the game more as a result.
Sliding during the golf swing will only lead to trouble, while rotating properly can permit you to hit great shots all day long. Work on taking any notion of a slide out of your golf game so you can simplify your move and just turn back and through the ball with each club in your bag. Making this change may not be easy, but it will need to be done if you wish to reach your goals on the course.