Making a full shoulder turn is one of the most important fundamentals of the golf swing, yet most golfers fail to achieve it consistently. A full turn contributes hugely to the correct striking of the golf ball, the power that can be generated and also affects how straight the ball can be hit.
A full shoulder turn is a coiling motion, where the upper body rotates and the shoulders turn approximately 90 degrees around the spine from the set up position. This means that after the backswing, for a right handed golfer, the left shoulder turns underneath the chin and the back faces to the target. Do not forget, however, that there should be resistance and stability during the backswing. This is provided by the lower body as the upper body coils against the legs. Ideally, through the backswing, the feet will stay flat on the floor, the knees will stay as still as possible and the hips will turn a little up to approximately 45 degrees.
A full shoulder turn contributes three benefits to the swing:
If the shoulder rotation is incomplete during the backswing, the arms tend to fly outwards away from the body and across the target line on the downswing, causing an outside to inside club path that can produce a slicing shot. A full shoulder turn helps to keep the arms on plane, inside the target line, and helps to keep the club head on the correct line through the ball.
A full shoulder turn promotes a correct weight shift in the swing. The majority of the weight should move on to the back foot on the backswing. A reverse pivot, where the body weight moves forward towards the target on the backswing, and then backwards through the downswing, is a main cause of slicing and poor ball striking, as the golfer cannot drive through the ball effectively. Finally, during an incomplete turn, the small muscles such as the hands and arms, tend to be used to swing the golf club. This often leads to inconsistent ball striking and shots prone to slicing, as the golfer is unable to control the club face through the ball.
Checking whether a full shoulder turn is made on a backswing is simple. During a practice session, use two tour sticks as a guide. One should be placed on the ground in between and in the middle of the feet across the target line. Hold the second tour stick across the chest, parallel to the target line, so that it touches each shoulder with the arms crossed over it. Keeping the feet as still as possible, rotate the body away from the intended target, as if making a backswing.
When the complete turn is made, check the tour stick across the shoulders and compare it to the stick that is on the ground. Ideally, the stick across the shoulders should be in line with, or slightly behind, the stick on the ground. This is a full shoulder turn. After this, the finish of the swing can also be checked. If a full turn, through to a good finish is made, the stick across the shoulders will be in line, or slightly in front of, the stick on the ground. Perform this drill in practice for more power, a better strike and to hit the ball straighter.
Create More Power in Golf Swing – Make a Full Turn
How do you think you should go about creating more power in your golf swing? Head to the gym to build some muscles? Hit the track to lose a few pounds so you can become more flexible? Maybe buy a new driver in order to take advantage of all of the modern technology that is used in the game today? While all of those steps could potentially add a few yards to your drives, nothing will have quite the same impact as learning how to make a full turn in your backswing. With a full turn, you give yourself plenty of time to accelerate the club head on the way down, meaning you can reach your swing speed potential right as the club contacts the ball.
Unfortunately, most amateur golfers don't make a full turn, and you might already fall into that category yourself. If you fail to take the time necessary to turn all the way back, you will rob yourself of power potential. As your swing gets shorter, the time you have to build speed is reduced, meaning you will never hit the same top speed with the club head that you could have reached with a full turn. While power isn't everything in golf, it sure is helpful – so taking the time to learn a longer backswing will provide you with a big boost out on the course.
It might be helpful to think about this concept in terms of a car racing down a track. If a race car has a full mile of straight, open track to accelerate, it is going to reach an impressive speed. However, if you cut that track in half and only provide the car with a half mile to speed up, it will likely fall well short of its potential top speed. The story is the same with your golf swing. The backswing is essentially building a track for you to accelerate down on the way to the ball. Making a long backswing is like putting your car at the start of a longer track – you will have the time necessary to achieve an impressive top speed. By cutting your backswing short, you lose 'track' and your power will never live up to its potential.
You might think that you need to improve your flexibility to make a bigger turn, but often that is not the case. Certainly adding flexibility can help your golf swing as a whole, but there are likely other steps that you can take to make a longer swing without changing anything about your physical capabilities. Often, golfers come up short of a full backswing due simply to mechanical and mental mistakes. Clean up your technique, and clean up the way you think about the swing, and you should be able to lengthen your swing out nicely.
All of the instruction included below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play golf left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
What Does a Full Turn Look Like?
For many golfers, it can be hard to even figure out what it looks like (and feels like) to make a full turn. Certainly, a full backswing is not the same for every golfer. The player who is flexible and athletic will be able to turn further away from the ball than a player who is relatively inflexible and perhaps a bit out of shape. Therefore, a 'full turn' is not going to have the same definition for all golfers. Instead, we can define a full turn as a move away from the ball that provides you with as much rotation as you can accomplish without falling off balance.
As you turn away from the ball, your goal should be to turn as far as you can without losing balance and without straining yourself unnecessarily. The backswing should be comfortable, but you should definitely feel like you have reached your limit before you change directions to start back toward the ball. For some golfers, reaching the limit will mean that the club is approximately parallel to the ground when they start the downswing. Others won't be able to go that far – and some may be able to go farther. In reality, it doesn't actually matter how far you turn, as long as you are turning as far as you can. The goal here is to maximize the power potential you have in your swing, and doing that requires making a great backswing. Once you are able to consistently make a full turn away from the ball, you will be able to see how much speed you can generate. If that speed isn't enough to satisfy your distance desires, you can then pursue other methods intended to add length to your swing (stretching, exercise, etc.).
As you are working on learning how to make a full turn, try to hit on all of the three points below. If each of these points is met during your backswing, you should be well on your way to some powerful drives.
- Staying balanced. Everything else that you do in the swing will be wasted if you are unable to keep your balance. Without balance, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to consistently make great contact with the ball. No matter what you are doing in your golf swing, and no matter what you are trying to improve, balance should remain at the top of your priority list. It is great to work on a longer backswing, but only if you accomplish that without losing your balance along the way.
- Natural ending. The best way to tell if you are making a full turn in your backswing is if your rotation is ending on its own, or if you are causing it to end because you want to change directions. The backswing should complete because you simply can't turn anymore without losing your balance. If you are forcing yourself to turn back to the left prior to the natural conclusion of your turn, you are wasting power that could have been used to hit the ball farther down the fairway. Don't tell your backswing when it is done – instead, let the backswing tell you when it has been completed.
- Back to the target. At the very least, you should feel like you have turned your back to the target when you are at the top of your swing. This is a good mental note to keep in mind while you are hitting practice balls – as you stand over your shot at address, think about turning your back to the target in the backswing. As long as you can accomplish that simple task, you will be making a good turn and you will be ready to attack the ball aggressively. Many golfers make a backswing simply by picking the club up with their arms and hands, which doesn't lead to the generate of any power at all. Turn your back on the target and only start forward once you are sure the backswing is finished.
There shouldn't be anything complicated about your backswing, as you can make a full turn just by hitting on each of those three points. If you can successfully stay balanced, turn your back to the target, and allow your turn to come to a natural conclusion, you will have done everything you can do to prepare for a great strike. From there, it just comes down to turning the club loose aggressively through the hitting area to take advantage of all of the power you built up thanks to that great turn.
Monitoring Your Balance
Any experienced golf teacher will have seen the following scenario play out countless times in front of their eyes. A student comes for a lesson with the goal of hitting the ball farther, so the teacher tells them that they need to work on making a better turn in the backswing. After some instruction, the lesson ends and the student goes off for a week or two to work on what they have learned. When they return for another lesson, the student is swinging back so far that they are falling off balance, and they can't even strike a decent shot down the range. Now, instead of working on power, the teacher has to go back to working on swing fundamentals simply to restore the balance that has been lost in an effort to hit the ball farther.
If you fall off balance during your swing, you aren't going to like the results – it's just that simple. Even though it feels like you need to swing harder and bigger in order to gain yards, you can't do that by sacrificing balance along the way. That is a trade that you will lose, and your game will be worse for the experience. As you work toward a better turn, remember that balance has always been king in golf, and it always will be.
As you are working on your turn, there are some important keys to watch for in reference to your balance. If any of these points start to get away from you during your practice sessions, you can be relatively sure that balance is becoming a problem. As soon as you notice your balance start to go, slow things down and get your swing back under control. It is better to be too controlled than to go too far, as going too far will mean your swing could quickly fall apart.
- Loss of contact quality. The first sign that you are losing your balance is poor contact with the ball at the bottom of the swing. If you are usually able to strike the ball cleanly but you are starting to now struggle with that part of the game, you may be falling off balance due to your bigger turn. It is essential that you maintain the ability to create a clean strike, so pay close attention if you start to hit the ball fat or thin on a regular basis. Even a slight miss-hit can cause a shot to drift well away from the target, meaning that even a minor change in how you contact the ball could lead to major changes in your performance on the course.
- Loss of distance. Believe it or not, you could start to hit the ball shorter than ever before if you lose your balance – even if you are making a bigger turn. Without balance at the top of the swing, you won't be able to have your legs lead the way aggressively through impact, because they will be too busy making sure you don't fall over. You have to have your legs underneath you in order to make a powerful swing, and that all starts by being balanced at the top. If your shots begin to come down short of your usual distance, it may be that poor balance is the culprit.
- Slipping. A subtle sign that your balance is getting away from you is your feet slipping out from underneath you during the swing. When you start to move around too much during the backswing in terms of your center of gravity, your feet won't have the traction that they need to hold on to the ground during the aggressive downswing. Specifically, you may notice your back foot slipping out from underneath you when the club starts down toward the ball. If you have not previously suffered from footwork problems in the swing, look to your balance as a likely cause of this issue.
Letting your balance get too far off track is a great way to ruin your entire swing. It isn't too dramatic to say that without balance, you really have nothing as far as a golf swing is concerned. Maintain balance as your top priority, and only look to increase your turn as far as you can while holding onto that essential balance.
It's All About Timing
It isn't actually a lack of flexibility or anything like that which inhibits players from making a full turn. Mostly, it is about timing and tempo. To make a good turn, you have to have the ability to be patient during your swing, waiting for the backswing to finish before starting forward. If you get in a hurry because you are nervous about the outcome of the shot or you are trying to hit the ball as hard as possible, you will be disappointed in the results of your swing. Tempo is nearly as important as balance, and good tempo is required if you are going to finish your turn back time after time.
As the clubs get longer, it becomes harder and harder to finish your turn without rushing into the downswing prematurely. Most players don't have much problem finishing the backswing with a pitching wedge, for example, because a pitching wedge is a short club which requires a short swing. The driver, on the other hand, is a different story. Finishing your backswing with the driver requires tremendous patience because this is the longest swing of any in the game. The driver is your longest club, and it is going to take the most amount of time to get from address to the top of your swing – or at least it should. Many players rush the backswing because they think they need to swing fast to hit the ball far. In most cases, the opposite is true. To hit your driver as far as possible, make a slow and controlled backswing that provides for plenty of time to get the club up to the top of the swing with a full turn.
One of the best ways to work on the tempo of your driver swing is to practice trying to hit shots only half of your normal distance. So, if you average 250 yards off of the tee with your driver, get out to the range and work on hitting drives that only go 125 yards – while still making a full swing. In order to do this successfully, you are going to have to slow everything down from start to finish. You will move the club completely around your body as you do in a normal swing, including making a great turn, but you will only do everything at half speed. Not only is this a great way to learn how to slow down your motion, but it can also help you spot any problem areas you might have with your balance.
After a period of time spend on the practice range hitting half speed drives, go ahead and gradually work your way back up to full speed shots. However, as you increase the speed, make sure your backswing remains long and methodical. You don't need to swing fast in the backswing in order to hit the ball hard in the forward swing – the only point at which the club needs to be moving quickly is at impact. Use a smooth, even tempo throughout the backswing and transition so you are perfectly positioned and balanced to turn the club loose when you get down to the hitting area.
Any work that you do on the timing of your golf swing with the driver is likely to continue to pay off throughout the rest of your set. The concept of taking your time to complete the backswing applies to every club that you use, and every shot that you hit – even in the short game. The golfer with the best tempo for the day is often the one that comes out on top, so make this point a top priority (along with your balance) and you should find success.
The Right Equipment
Getting the right equipment is always important in golf, and you will need to monitor the performance of your gear as you start to increase the speed of your swing. The right clubs for your game are based largely on your swing speed, so clubs that worked great previously might not be such a good match once you successfully add power to your stroke. Specifically, if the shafts in your clubs are no longer stiff enough to hold up to your swing speed, you will notice a drop off in performance.
What does it look like when your shafts can no longer keep up with your swing? Usually, the ball will float high in the air, and you will often miss out to the right of the target. If you are swinging faster than the shaft is capable of keeping up with, the club face will tend to hang open at impact and the ball will be sent sailing off to the right somewhere. Additionally, you will notice that more and more of your shots fly way too high in the air, coming down short of the target with lots of spin. It will quickly get frustrating to play with clubs that can't keep up with your swing, as you won't be getting rewarded for the good swings that you are making.
After you have successfully picked up the speed of your swing, take some time to visit a local club fitter to go through an evaluation. The club fitter will be able to measure your swing in a variety of ways, and they can then suggest clubs and shafts that you may wish to try out. Although it will cost you a bit of money to invest in new gear, this may be a necessary step if you wish to get the best possible performance from your new swing.
Making a full turn is one of the essential components of hitting long drives, along with balance and tempo. Hopefully, by using the instruction contained above, you will be able to improve your turn and move your drives farther and farther down the fairway. Distance isn't the only thing that makes a good golfer, but it sure is helpful. Even without changing your physical capabilities, you should be able to make a better turn and a more powerful swing simply through an improvement of your overall swing technique.