Restricting the hip turn in your golf swing can increase your power – but only if you've got the flexibility to rotate the shoulders to a 90° (or greater) angle to the target line on the backswing.
Fact is, purposely restricting the hip turn is best left to supple, strong and highly skilled golfers. Most amateurs would do better to get their hips more involved in the swing.
The concept behind the restricted hip turn – to increase coil and tension between the upper and lower body, then release this stored energy on the downswing – makes sense. It's just not practical for the masses.
Instead, you should strive to rotate the hips in a 1-to-2 ratio in relation to the shoulders. For example, a 90° shoulder turn would be matched by a 45° hip turn. Let's say you can't reach the magic 90° mark, but settle for an 80° shoulder turn. Rotate the hips to 40° and you'll still earn good results.
If you struggle to rotate the hips to their fullest, flexibility may not be your problem. It could be as simple as your stance. Spread the feet too wide at address and you'll limit how far your hips can move comfortably. Golf teachers steeped in biophysics recommend a stance no wider than 2” to 4” outside the hips.
To demonstrate, stand straight up with the outsides of your feet directly aligned with your hip bones. Now, spread out with the insides of your feet 2” – 4” outside the hip bones. That's the widest you should go.
Have you been standing wider than this? If so, you may have unwittingly restricted your hips. Try a narrower setup and you'll feel an immediate difference. You'll see it in your golf shots, too.
Narrow Your Stance for Better Hip Turn?
The hip turn is one of the most important parts of the downswing. In fact, it might actually be the most important part of the downswing. If you are going to accelerate the club all the way through impact to maximize your distance potential, you are going to need a great hip turn on your side. From the top of the backswing all the way down through impact, your hip turn should be leading the way. The best players in the world all make excellent use of their hips during the downswing, and you should make it a goal to follow their lead.
There are a number of factors that come together to determine how well you will be able to use your hips in the downswing. Of course, the mechanics of your swing leading up to that point are the biggest factor, as making a fundamentally sound golf swing throughout your backswing will set you up nicely for a good hip turn and a powerful strike. Most amateur golfers have poor fundamentals in both their setup and their swing, leading to disappointing shot outcomes more often than not. If you are willing to take the time to work on the basic fundamentals of your swing – things like balance, tempo, grip, and more – you will be well ahead of the competition each time you step on the course.
One of the basic fundamentals of the game that could be included in that quick list above is the stance. The way you stand next to the ball prior to making a swing has a lot to do with the kinds of shots you are able to hit. A good stance will provide a stable platform on which you can make an aggressive golf swing. A poor stance, on the other hand, will hinder your efforts to hit straight and powerful shots. While it might not be the most exciting part of the game, spending time on the practice range working on your stance is an investment that is almost certain to pay off in the long run.
In the content below, we are going to look at once specific part of your stance – it's width. The distance between your two feet is surprisingly important in the golf swing, as using different stance widths can lead to rather large changes in your swing and your ball flight. Finding the right stance width will help you maximize your hip turn in the downswing, leading to a potential increase in swing speed. Also, once you understand the relationship between the width of your stance and the swing you are making, you can start to use stance width as a way to customize your swing to the shot at hand. This might seem like a rather small detail within the scope of your swing as a whole, but it can have a big impact on your game.
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.
The Importance of Stance Width
For many amateur golfers, the process of taking a stance is composed of simply walking up to the ball and standing next to it. Many players fail to understand the importance of the stance, so they pay almost no attention to it while preparing to hit a shot. Of course, this is a mistake, and you probably know better. However, even if you know enough to pay attention to your stance, do you know exactly how to create a stance that will allow you to play your best golf? Maybe, maybe not.
The standard advice that you will hear thrown around as it relates to stance width is that you should stand with your feet 'shoulder width apart'. This is a good starting point, but what does that mean exactly? Should your feet be directly under your shoulders, or should the inside of each foot be lined up with the outside of each shoulder? Certainly, the old adage of standing with your feet shoulder width apart could benefit from some added specificity. In reality, there isn't a 'correct' width for the stance that will apply to every golfer – instead, stance width is another one of those points that is unique to the individual player. A good stance width for one player may be terrible for another, so you will have to work on your own stance until you find the width that best for your swing.
The golf swing is a rotational movement, and the width of your stance will largely dictate how much rotation you are able to achieve. If your stance is an appropriate width, you will be able to make a large turn without having to worry about losing your balance at any point. However, if your stance is either too narrow or too wide, your turn will be cut short and you may lose your balance as well. This is why figuring out the width of your stance is so important. You can actually experience negative results on both ends of the spectrum – a stance that is too wide will be a problem, as will one that is too narrow. Only when you can strike the happy medium between those two extremes will you be able to optimize your performance successfully.
A narrow stance tends to shorten your turn by affecting your balance. As you keep turning back, you will start to feel like you are losing balance, so you will change directions and head down toward impact. You may be able to move your hips quickly in the downswing, but the shorter backswing will result in a less powerful swing overall. It is possible to play some nice shots from a narrow stance while hitting short irons, as they don't require a long swing, but you will always struggle to create quality shots with the longer clubs if your stance is too narrow.
On the other end of the spectrum, a stance which is too wide will make it physically impossible for you to achieve a great turn. Your flexibility will run into its limits at some point, meaning you will have to stop turning even though your balance is in good shape. Also, the speed of your hip turn through the shot will be limited when your feet are particularly far apart. An extra-wide stance can be useful in the short game where rotation isn't an issue, but rarely will it work properly in the full swing.
So, in the end, only a stance that is precisely the correct width will do for your swing. If you stand too wide, your turn will be restricted and your hip rotation will be slow. Standing too narrow may enable you to make a quick hip turn through the shot, but again you will fight a shortened shoulder turn going back. If you would like to maximize both your hip rotation through the shot and your shoulder turn in the backswing, you are going to have to work hard to find the perfect stance width for your game.
Testing Your Current Stance
In order to know whether or not you need to make changes to your current stance, you will want to test its performance at the driving range. One of the things that makes improving in golf such a challenge is the fact that you can never start from 'zero' – meaning you can't just reset your mind and body and build a swing from scratch. You will always be making adjustments to your previous swing technique, so everything that you do will be relative to what you have been doing up to this point. In other words, some players will need to widen their stance in order to get to a good spot, while others will need to narrow their feet considerably. Until you figure out exactly where you are right now, you can't possibly know where you need to go.
Fortunately, there is a quick and easy test that you can use at the driving range in order to gauge the current status of your stance. Follow the steps below and you will gain a good idea of whether or not your stance width needs to be adjusted.
- After you arrive at the range and get set up with a bucket of balls for your practice session, take your driver from the bag and set aside a few balls for this drill. It should only take a few shots to get the information you are looking for, but you can repeat this simple drill as many times as you would like.
- For the first shot, you are going to use the stance that you have been using for your driver shots up until this point. Don't make any adjustments based on what you think you need to do – just hit the first ball with your usual stance, and go from there based on what you learn.
- Before hitting the first shot, be sure to pick out a target and carefully take your stance just as you would prior to hitting a drive on the course. You should never cut corners on your pre-shot routine or any other part of your swing, even when you are just hitting shots on the range. Careful preparation leads to positive results, and you should be consistent in the way you prepare to swing the club each and every time.
- With your stance taken and your target selected, go ahead and hit your first shot. Again, try not to do anything different with this swing than you would with any drive you would hit on the course. Don't try to hit the ball particularly hard, but don't go easy on it, either. Pretend that you are standing on the first tee of your favorite course, trying to get the round started successfully with a great drive.
- Once the shot is struck, continue all the way up into your finish position and hold steady as you watch the ball fly. It is crucial that you hold your finish position at the end of the swing, as this will be the way your stance is measured.
- After the ball has landed, and while you are still holding your finish, look down at your legs – specifically, look at your knees. Are they next to each other? If your knees are right next to each other, you can be confident that your stance is an appropriate width for your swing. However, if they are offset, you likely have some work to do with your stance. When the right knee is behind the left (meaning the right knee is farther from the target than the left), you are using a stance that is too wide. On the other hand, if your right knee has passed your left and is now closer to the target, you are using a stance that is too narrow.
This is one of the simplest golf drills you can complete, yet it will tell you just about everything you need to know about your stance. After you hit the first shot, take note of the position of your knees and adjust accordingly before making another swing. Through trial and error, you should be able to get into a stance that is the perfect width for creating a balanced, aggressive swing with the driver after just a few shots.
Unfortunately, the work does not end there, however. Since each club in your bag is a different length, you are going to need a different stance width for all of your clubs. That means the best course of action is to go through this drill with all 13 of your full swing clubs until you have a proper stance width for all of them. This process can be done over the period of several practice sessions, and you can revisit it from time to time just to confirm your stance is staying on track.
Hip Turn from the Top
To answer the question from the title of this article, no, you shouldn't narrow your stance specifically with the goal of helping your hip turn. Instead, you should be focused on taking a stance that will help your entire swing function correctly from start to finish. A stance that keeps you feeling balanced and athletic throughout the swing is going to be your best bet, and you should be able to find that stance through the use of the drill above. Narrowing your stance excessively might permit you to make a fast hip turn, but the trade off would not be worth it if you find yourself off balance and struggling to make clean contact.
So what should you do if you find that you need to improve your hip turn without changing your stance? Work on the transition phase of your swing. As the club transitions from backswing to downswing, you should be engaging your hips in order to set the stage for a powerful move into the ball. Many amateurs get the transition of the swing all wrong, and they pay for it at impact when the ball comes off the club without very much speed. Your hips have to be engaged in the downswing right from the start of the transition. If you wait even a split second after the transition to start your hip turn, it will be too late. Your lower body will be behind the swing, and it will never catch up.
As the club starts to approach the top of the swing, your hips should begin the process of turning toward the target. If you watch a slow-motion video of a professional golfer hitting a driver, you will likely notice that he or she starts the hip rotation toward the target before the backswing is even finished. Many of the top players have this kind of 'overlap' between the backswing and downswing, which is one of the reasons they are able to generate so much power. Starting your hips turning toward the target before the backswing is completed will permit you to build an impressive amount of speed by the time you reach impact.
For a player who is used to starting the downswing with the hands rather than the hips, this change is going to be a drastic one. If you are struggling to feel the correct timing within your transition, try working first on some short pitch shots. Hit pitch shots on the range of just 40 or 50 yards while focusing only on the way your hips are working in the transition. Rather than using your hands to bring the club down toward impact, feel like you are using your hips to rotate the club into place. As you start to gain confidence in this type of swing on pitch shots, gradually work your way up into longer and longer swings.
The key to a great hip turn is timing. Yes, you need to have a good stance (as was covered above), but it really all comes down to timing in terms of getting your hips involved in the golf swing. If you get them started right from the beginning of the transition, they can do great things for you. If not, they will lag behind and be a non-factor in the swing. Work on your hip turn timing on the driving range and you could make great improvements to the quality of your ball striking.
The Big Picture
Everything you do within your golf swing should serve to improve the swing as a whole – not just one part of your game. As it relates to this article, you should not narrow your stance only to help your hip turn, as the narrowing of your stance will have a negative effect on the rest of your mechanics. The golf swing is a complicated system of movements, and any change that you make is likely to affect more than just one of those movements. It is easy to forget about the unintended consequences of swing changes, as you chase one tip after the next in search of the 'perfect' golf swing. Instead of trying all sorts of tips and tricks to fix your swing, you should be focused on the basic fundamentals like balance, rhythm, grip, posture, and alignment. If you are willing to take the time to sort out the basic details in your golf swing, it is amazing how the more complicated parts tend to work themselves out automatically.
Remember that the goal of the game is not to make the prettiest swing possible – it is to shoot the lowest possible score. Many players get caught up in playing 'golf swing' instead of just golf, and they pay the price on the scorecard. The big picture of the practice that you do on the range should always be kept in mind, and that big picture is the scorecard that you are going to add up at the end of the day. If the work you are doing on your swing isn't going to lead to lower scores, you shouldn't be wasting your time on it. It's just that simple. Sure, professional golfers have pretty swings, but you don't need to worry about matching their technique. Focus on the simple parts of the game, work on making small improvements one at a time, and keep your eyes on the prize of lower scores.
The hip turn is undoubtedly an important part of the golf swing, but you shouldn't decide on the width of your stance solely based on what is good for the hip turn. Use the drill included in the content above to sort out your stance width for each club, as that drill is going to lead you to a stance which is able to serve your swing well from start to finish. As far as your hip turn is concerned, the timing of your transition is far more important than the width of your stance. Put your hips in motion right at the start of the transition and they will be able to help you create accurate and powerful shots all day long.