The hips are described as one of the most important parts of the body in a golf swing. Their turning motion provides the rotation which gives the swing it's power. Turn the hips well in the backswing to gain easy distance.
Unfortunately, the hips do not get used enough in the swing by most golfers. Usually, it is the hands and arms that drive the swing. In golfers who are lacking in strength, flexibility or suffer from injuries in the upper body, the hips are even more important as power from the other areas becomes even more limited. The hips need to turn properly in the backswing and should turn far more than most golfers realise. A big hip turn means that the shoulders can coil backwards more and allows the hips to turn before any other part of the body in the downswing, allowing the whole body to attack the golf ball at the same time, creating huge power for very little effort.
The backswing should begin with the golf club being taken away from the golf ball with a turn of the hips. As the club head moves away from the golf ball, the feet, knees, arms and hands should remain extremely still until the golf club has moved at least a foot away from the golf ball. Following this, the wrists begin to hinge but the hips need to continue to turn until they have turned approximately 40-55 degrees of turn from their original start position. More turn allows the shoulders to make a full coil of approximately 90 degrees from their set up position. If flexibility does not allow this amount of rotation then it is okay to slightly lift the heel of the front foot in the air during the backswing to achieve full rotation.
To understand how to use the hips correctly in the backswing, try this exercise. At the set up position, hold the golf club at approximately the halfway point in the club shaft with the grip end of the golf club touching the stomach just below the naval. The arms should be nice and straight and the posture position should be as normal for hitting a golf shot. At this set up position the golf club is pointing at 6 o'clock. Turn away for a backswing so that the golf club points to 8 o'clock. At this point, the club should still be attached to the stomach and the arms and hands should not have moved. The only movement should have come from the hips. This highlights a perfect hip turn and at this point in the swing the shoulders can then continue to turn while the hinging of the wrists will remove the club from the stomach. This action is often termed the 'one piece takeaway' as the body is moving in harmony in 'one piece'.
Use this exercise to power the backswing with the hips and create a consistent powerful motion.
How to Create the Best Hip Turn Golf Tip
Golf is a rotational game. If you are going to generate speed in your swing, you are going to need to rotate properly – it really is that simple. Sadly, most amateur golfers fail to rotate properly in the swing, as they allow some degree of lateral motion to get in the way of a truly great turn. You aren't going to generate any significant power by sliding side to side in your swing, yet that is exactly the move made by countless amateur players. To take your game to a new level of performance, you need to learn how to leave that lateral slide behind.
The best way to eliminate the lateral slide from your game is to work on improving your hip turn. While it is the job of your shoulders to rotate away from the target in the backswing, your hips should be taking over as the downswing begins. Golfers who are able to deliver impressive power into the back of the golf ball use their hips dynamically in the downswing, accelerating the club all the way through impact. It might be your upper body that is actually holding on to the club, but it is up to your lower body to produce the power needed to play this game the right way.
There are a number of different variables that need to come together in order to create a quality hip turn. In this article, we are going to break down the hip turn into a number of parts. Once you understand everything that needs to work together to promote a great hit turn, you will be able to get down to the task of focused practice out on the driving range. Nothing comes easy in golf, no matter what part of your swing you are trying to improve. Learning how to engage your hips properly in the swing will be difficult at first, but sticking with the process is sure to lead to some impressive results.
It should be noted that using your hips correctly in the golf swing is not only about generating power. Yes, a great hip turn is going to increase your club head speed, but it is also going to make it easier for you to create solid contact. By moving your body through the hitting area in the same manner swing after swing, you will have an easier time delivering the sweet spot of your club to the back of the ball. Making contact on the sweet spot is one of the keys to playing good golf, and you should find that you are far more consistent on this point when your hips get involved. Once you learn how your hips should be firing through the ball you will wonder how you ever played golf any other way.
All of the instruction contained 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.
It Starts with a Stance
The task of turning your hips correctly in the swing actually starts before the club even goes in motion. Your stance plays an important role in this equation, as the way you stand over the ball is going to largely determine how well you are able to turn your hips. A fundamentally-sound stance will promote a great hip turn, while a poor stance will make it nearly impossible to engage your lower body properly. Take a look at the list below for a reminder on the key points of a quality stance. Before you go any further, make sure that each of these points is present in your address position.
- Knee flex. If you only get one point right out of this entire list, make sure it is this one. As you stand over the ball, your knees need to be at least slightly flexed if you hope to use your hips properly later in the action. While some players feel comfortable with a deep knee flex and others only like to flex their knees a little, all players need at least a degree of flex at address. If you stand over the ball with your legs completely straight, it will be impossible to rotate your hips through the shot when the downswing comes around. Flexing your knees causes all of the muscles in your legs to get involved in the stance, so they will be prepared for the job they have to do later on. Watch professional golfers as they prepare to swing and you will see that all of them have at least some knee flex at address. This is not a coincidence – pro golfers flex their knees because it helps them turn their hips, and you should be doing the same.
- Back in a flat, upright position. In addition to failing to flex their knees, another common mistake made by amateur golfers is hunching over the ball. Once your knees are flexed and you are 'sitting' into your stance, you then want to make sure that your back is straight and relatively upright. You do want to be tilted out over the ball slightly, but you should still feel like your chin and chest are up as you take your stance. If you were to hunch over the ball with your back curved and your chin down, it would be nearly impossible to rotate with any kind of speed in the backswing or downswing. Just as you should work on having good posture when sitting in a chair, you should also have good posture when you stand over the golf ball.
- Properly balanced. To turn your hips loose in the downswing with an aggressive rotation, you have to make sure you are on balance when you reach the top of the swing. And, of course, to be on balance at the top of the swing, you need to first be on balance at address. Balance is something that many golfers take for granted, but it is a key component to quality performance on the course. There isn't a fundamental in golf that isn't connected in some way to balance, and that is certainly true of the hip turn. You simply can't turn your hips the right way if you aren't on balance to start your swing. Work on placing your weight directly between your two feet at address to get your swing off to a balanced and controlled start.
If you are anything like most other golfers, you probably start hitting shots right away when you head to the driving range for a practice session. While it is fun to launch balls down the range, you would be better served to spend some time on your setup fundamentals prior to hitting shots. During your next visit to the range, try spending a few minutes perfecting your stance before you actually put the club in motion. By making this a normal part of your practice routine, you will quickly become quite adept at forming a proper stance time after time.
Getting to the Top
With a good stance in place, you will have one of the biggest hurdles out of the way. Players who start from a good stance are usually able to produce decent shots at the very least. Now, the next step is to take that stance and move it up to the top of the golf swing. Your hips are going to be a passive participant in the swing as the club moves back, so this part of the swing is really all about setting the stage. If you can get to the top of your swing without making any major mistakes, you will then be able to allow your hips to take over as the club heads down toward the ball.
One of the first mistakes that you need to avoid on your journey from address to the top of the swing is the lateral slide. This point was mentioned in the introduction, and it is something that you have to watch carefully to make sure it doesn't infiltrate your mechanics. If you get into the habit of allowing your body to slide to the right (away from the target) during the backswing, there will be very little you can do to save your swing before impact arrives. You want to make your swing all about rotation rather than lateral movement, so this is a point that should never be taken for granted.
The best way to confirm that you are avoiding the dreaded lateral slide is to monitor the position of your right knee. As the club begins to move back away from the ball, pay attention to any movement that is occurring with regard to the position of your right knee. Is the knee staying in place, or is it sliding to the right and away from the target? If that knee is sliding, it is a safe bet that your center or gravity is sliding as well. Do your best to keep the right knee directly over top of your right foot and you will be well on your way to a balanced backswing.
Another key element to arriving at the top of the swing in a good position is simply to take your time on the way. Many golfers rush through the backswing, as though they are in a hurry to just get the swing over with as quickly as possible. There should be no rush, however, as the ball isn't going anywhere until you hit it. You need to give yourself time to complete your shoulder turn, so relax before each swing and focus on using an even tempo to take the club up to the top. It will be easier to take your time on the range than it will be out on the course when you are nervous, so make this point a focus of your practice sessions until you have it mastered.
The last point that you need to think about with regard to your backswing has to do with the position of your head. While your head does not need to stay perfectly still throughout the entire swing, it does need to stay in roughly the same place as you go back and through. Specifically, it should be on the same 'level' throughout the swing, meaning it should not be moving up or down dramatically. Some amateur players have a tendency to come out of the swing on the way back – in other words, they allow their head to lift up, and they lose their posture in the process. Avoid this outcome by keeping your head at the same level throughout your swing. Not only will this key point help you to make a great turn, but it will also lead to far more consistent ball striking round after round.
Time for Your Hips to Shine
After all of the preparation has been done and your backswing has been completed, it will finally be time to begin the downswing. That means, of course, that it will finally be time to put your hips into action. It is actually the hips that are the first thing to move toward the target as the downswing gets going. Countless golfers attempt to start the downswing with other parts of their body – the shoulders, the hands, etc. - but it is really the left hip that needs to take control of the swing at this point. If you can successfully start your downswing by rotating your left hip to the left, everything else should start to fall into place.
At the top of the backswing, your body is coiled up and there is plenty of potential energy waiting to be released. Of course, that energy is only going to be released properly if you manage to move your body correctly from the top of the swing down through impact. One false move, like starting the downswing with something other than your hips, can ruin the whole swing and destroy any chance you had to develop power through the hitting area. You can't recover once you make a mistake at the start of the downswing, so work hard on learning how to start with your hips if you would like to tap into all of your power potential.
To make sure you turning your hips correctly throughout the downswing, review the tips listed below –
- Stay level. One of the biggest mistakes that is made by the average golfer with regard to the hip turn is allowing the left hip to quickly become higher than the right during the downswing. Many golfers want to 'help' the ball up into the air, so they lean back away from the target as they swing down. That lean is often started by picking up the left hip while the right hip moves lower. Don't make this mistake. You don't need to help the ball up into the air, as there is already loft on your club for just that task. Instead, keep your hips as level as possible as they rotate, as this is the fastest way to turn toward the target. If you currently hit a lot of your shots fat, especially with short irons, there is a good chance you are making the mistake of lifting your left hip through the downswing. Work on maintaining the flex in your left leg – while keeping your left heel on the ground – to make sure your left hip stays down in its proper position.
- Keep it moving. The first step in having a great hip turn in your swing is managing to start your downswing with the movement of the left hip. The job is not done at that point, however, as you still have to continue moving through the downswing and into the follow through. If you fail to keep your hips moving all the way to your finish, you will never be able to develop the kind of speed that you have the potential to produce. It is common for amateur golfers to stop their hips right around the moment of impact, as they feel that the job is already done. Giving up on your hip turn in that way will inevitably lead to a loss of swing speed, and it could cause swing path problems as well. From the top of your swing, you should have only one thing on your mind as it relates to hip turn – keep rotating hard until you are all the way into a balanced finish.
- Separation between hips and shoulders. Your hips should not be square to your shoulders at any point in the golf swing (after address, of course). You are going to start with your hips and shoulders squared up, but that relationship will be lost as soon as you begin to turn your shoulders back away from the target. Then, from the top, you will maintain the gap between hips and shoulders by rotating your hips toward the target as your shoulders lag behind. These two parts of your body should only sync up again in the finish position, where they will both be (roughly) square to the target you have selected for the shot. This separation is important for the overall consistency of your swing, and it is going to help you produce more power as well.
A good hip turn is going to feel natural, aggressive, and powerful through the ball. It may take some significant practice time on the range to get comfortable with the way your hips need to work in the swing, but keep at it until you start to develop confidence in this move. You simply aren't going to be able to live up to your distance potential without learning to use your hips correctly, so there is no point in giving up on this key fundamental. Be patient with yourself as you practice and the rewards will be significant in the long run.
The Hips in the Short Game
Your hips are a key part of the power that you can generate with your full swing, but they are important in the short game as well. That is, they are important when hitting shots from around the greens, such as chip shots and pitch shots. As you might expect, you really aren't going to use your hips at all while putting, as you want to keep your body as still as possible while rolling the ball toward the hole.
When chipping and pitching, however, you do want to use your hips slightly just to get the club moving toward the target as you transition from backswing to downswing. This hip movement is going to be quite subtle – nowhere near as aggressive as it is when making full swings on the tee or from the fairway. You will only want to turn your left hip just slightly open to the target as you transition down. When done correctly, this move can add tempo to your pitching action, which will make it easier to hit the ball cleanly time after time.
The same line of thinking applies to greenside bunker shots, although you may want to add even a bit more hip action on shots that require plenty of speed. For example, if you have a poor lie in a greenside bunker and you need a powerful swing just to get the ball out of the sand, using your hips in the downswing is going to be a key part of the equation.
Hip turn might not get as much attention as other fundamentals like shoulder rotation or balance, but it is a major part of hitting powerful golf shots. Take a moment to review the current status of your hip turn and dedicate yourself to improving in this area if you feel like your present swing is coming up short. With a better hip turn and solid fundamentals throughout the rest of your move, better performance is sure to be right around the corner.