Most golfers would like to be able to hit a golf ball further, but this does not always mean hitting the golf ball harder. It often requires hitting the golf ball smarter.
From a stable address position; the backswing shoulder turn creates a powerful coiled up position. However, as a golfer starts in the downswing, they should be careful to not release all of this valuable coiled up power too early. The important phase is through the impact area where the club head should be accelerated to maximum velocity as it makes contact with a golf ball.
If a golfer is guilty of spinning their shoulders at the start of the downswing and opening their body up too early, the golf club could be accelerated prematurely from the top of that swing. This could also throw the golf club out of line which ultimately could create a lack of accuracy on the golf shots.
Instead, the shoulders should be maintained in a slightly closed position for as much of the downswing as possible, at least until the hands have dropped below the hip level. Then as the club attacks the golf ball at the last moment, the shoulders can release their valuable stored up coiled energy to propel the golf club to maximum velocity through the impact area. They should create longer straighter and more consistent golf shots. In the finish position, the shoulders will be fully turned and opened and facing to the target or even left of the target depending on a golfer's level of flexibility.
If you want to hit the ball further, avoid hitting it harder from the top of your swing and hit it smarter by keeping your shoulders closed for longer.
Ladies Can Create More Power Keeping the Shoulders Closed
The desire to add power in the game of golf is not limited to female players. All golfers, regardless of gender, want to hit the ball at least a little bit farther. Despite the fact that there is much more to this game than just sheer distance, most amateur golfers are obsessed with the idea of hitting the ball as far as possible. If you are in pursuit of added distance and you don't know where in your swing to look for improvements, this article is going to offer an idea for you to pursue. By keeping your shoulders closed for a little bit longer in the downswing, you may be able to add yards to your game without making any other notable adjustments.
As you already know, the backswing is all about turning your shoulders away from the target to create the possibility for speed in the downswing. Unfortunately, the potential power that is built up in the backswing is often thrown away early in the downswing by the average amateur golfer. If you allow your shoulders to immediately open up to the target, even before the downswing has gotten going, all of that backswing shoulder turn will have been wasted. From there, you will be left to weakly swipe at the ball at the bottom of the swing, and your power will be disappointing.
The goal of this article is to help you avoid such a mistake. By learning how to keep your back to the target for just a little bit longer, you can develop a powerful downswing which will save up your energy until the last possible moment. If you have ever wondered how professional golfers are able to unleash so much power into the ball, this is a big part of their 'secret'. Pro golfers don't waste their shoulder turn – they save it up and turn the club loose at the bottom.
Rather than a major mechanical adjustment, correcting your mistake on this point has more to do with tempo and rhythm than anything else. If you can master the right overall rhythm for your swing, everything will fall into place nicely. Most amateur golfers feel rushed during their swings, as they want to get the shot over with in order to see where the ball is going. Don't make that mistake. The ball isn't going to run away as you swing, so take your time and keep everything in order from start to finish. You don't have to swing quickly in order to generate power – you simply have to use your speed at the perfect moment to pass energy from the club to the ball.
While this article has been addressed specifically to the population of female golfers, the advice below can really be applied to any player. It is a good idea for all golfers to work on keeping their shoulders closed as the downswing begins, so female golfers can feel free to share this advice with their male playing partners.
All of the instruction 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.
Setting Up for Success
You can't do a good job of holding your shoulders closed at the top of the swing if you don't get them into a closed position to begin with. So, before we go any further, we need to highlight the important steps you must follow in order to make a complete shoulder turn during the backswing. Only when you are able to consistently turn your shoulders properly in the backswing will you be able to worry about keeping them closed to start the move forward.
Each of the following points is a key ingredient in a quality backswing.
- The all-important shoulder turn. As has already been discussed in the introduction, you aren't going to hit powerful shots without a nice shoulder turn on your side. The backswing is all about the shoulder turn, as this is the move which will set you up for a powerful attack into the ball. One of the big problems many amateur golfers have when making the shoulder turn is placing their chin in the path of their left shoulder. At address, you need to make sure your chin is up away from your chest while your eyes look down at the ball. Why does your chin need to be up? Simple – your shoulder needs to have room to pass under your chin if it is going to complete its turn. Were your chin to be down, your shoulder would run into it along the way, and the rotation would be compromised as a result. There is no need for your chin to be down into your chest, so don't make this mistake. Keep your chin up and your eyes down, and the path will be clear for your shoulders to turn all the way back.
- Great balance. No backswing can be considered a success without solid balance. It is extremely important to be balanced in the backswing because you won't be able to hold your shoulders closed to start the downswing if you are leaning one direction or another. Balance should always be one of your top priorities in the golf swing, no matter what other elements you are trying to improve. The golfers you see play on the professional tours always have excellent balance, and you should be trying to follow their example.
- Engaged lower body. You are going to need your lower body to jump into action once the downswing begins – more on that later. For now, it is important that your lower body remains engaged in the backswing so it is prepared to do its job when the time comes. Your knees should be flexed at address and they should stay that way all the way up to the top of the swing. It is common for golfers to give up their knee flex on the way back as they try to feel tall and powerful over the ball, but that is a costly mistake. Take note of how much knee flex you are using at address and make sure you still have that same degree of knee flex when the backswing is complete. While your backswing is first and foremost about your shoulder rotation, maintaining your knee flex is another crucial piece of the puzzle.
- Eyes on the ball. The idea that you need to keep your 'head down' during the backswing is mistaken. In fact, trying to keep your head down will cause trouble when it comes to your chin getting in the way of your left shoulder. However, you do need to keep your eyes down, as it is always easier to hit something if you can actually see it. Pick out a specific spot on the golf ball and watch that spot throughout your backswing and on into the downswing. This type of focus will help you tremendously when it comes to making clean contact at the moment of impact.
Making a great backswing is not an easy task. You shouldn't just brush off this section, assuming you are already doing a good job of turning away from the target. The backswing is just as challenging as any other part of the game, and you need to give this area your full attention before moving on. Make sure your backswing fundamentals are all nicely organized before working on keeping your shoulders closed in the downswing.
Delaying Your Upper Body Rotation
When we say that you need to 'keep your shoulders closed', what we are really saying is that you need to delay your upper body rotation in the downswing. While the backswing is all about upper body rotation, there are many more moving parts in the downswing which you need to consider. The upper body should not be the first piece of the puzzle to jump into action when the downswing begins. Instead, you should keep your shoulders closed to the target while you allow your lower body to get things started.
Assuming you have made it through the backswing in good shape, there is a specific order of events which needs to transpire for you to get from the top of the swing down to impact with as much power and control as possible. We have laid out the proper sequence below.
- When you arrive at the top of the swing, the first thing you are going to do is pause. This is not necessary intentional as much as it is necessary. The club has to come to a stop before it can change directions, so you will be forced to pause if only for a moment. Some players like to take a longer pause, while others like to stop only briefly before getting started with the downswing. This is a matter of personal preference and comfort, so feel free to pause for as long as you see fit.
- To get the downswing started when your pause is complete, you need to start moving toward the target with your left hip. This is where so many amateur golfers – male and female – go wrong. If you turn your upper body toward the target rather than your hips, you will waste your potential power and the swing will be weak by the time you reach impact. Hold your upper body back and turn your hips aggressively toward the target. You don't want to slide toward the target, however, so make sure this is a rotational action. Once you have started the action by turning your hips toward the target, you can then begin the task of bringing everything else along for the ride.
- As the downswing continues, your hips are going to keep turning toward the target while your upper body begins to follow suit. You should think of the downswing as an unwinding of your entire body from the ground up. You basically want to uncoil toward the target, with your lower body leading the way for your upper body. If this was a race, your lower body would beat your upper body every time – or, at least it should. Keeping your shoulders closed will enable your lower body to 'win', and your swing will have additional power as a result.
- Eventually, you will get into a position where your hips are facing toward the target and your upper body is over the ball. At this point, you will finally release your hands through the shot, and the club will contact the ball. Most amateur golfers get into a rush to release the club, and they wind up wasting the release before impact has arrived. Before you use your hands to fire through the ball, make sure your hips have cleared and your shoulders are over the ball in a square position.
If you can add up all four of those steps correctly, the end result will be a powerful and effective golf swing. Of course, everything you see listed above is going to happen in just a fraction of a second, so it is going to be easier said than done to execute this technique. The best way to learn this type of downswing is to work through it step by step in slow motion before putting it all together in a full speed swing. Take some time away from the course to work on these individual movements and then match them all up in the appropriate order. It will take time to get comfortable with this process, but your game could take a big step forward if you get it right.
The Right Mindset
As seen in the previous section, there is plenty of physical work to be done if you are going to create a powerful swing by keeping your shoulders closed from the top. However, that physical work is not the end of the story. In addition to changing your swing mechanics, you are going to have to adjust your mindset as well. Golf is a game which is as mental as it is physical, meaning you have to be thinking clearly if you want to execute quality shots.
The most important thing you can have in mind when starting this new golf swing is patience. If you are in a hurry to get the swing over with as quickly as possible, you will never be able to keep your shoulders closed long enough to hit powerful shots. You have to be patient as the swing develops while resisting any temptation to force the action. It is possible to achieve great things when you let the swing develop naturally, but that can only happen when you have the patience to stay out of the way. If you 'interfere' with the development of your swing, all will be lost and your shots will be disappointing.
Another key piece of your mindset is understanding that it is the core of your body, not your hands and arms, that controls the golf swing. Most golfers think that since the hands are connected to the club, they should be used to control that action. That is not true. Think of the rotation of your body as the engine of the golf swing, while your hands are like the wheels. Sure, they are going to be involved, but your rotation is really at the heart of the matter. Get your rotation right – including holding your shoulders closed as the downswing begins – and you will be on the correct path.
One last mindset point which needs to be made is that you should be trying to delay the hit for as long as possible. This relates to the point on patience, but it is unique because this is specifically related to the moment of impact. As you swing the club, think about delaying the hit for as long as you can – when you do this, you will be sure to get everything possible out of your body and into the swing. Delaying the hit means you are going to rotate fully through the shot before impact arrives, and you are going to hold your angle in the downswing for as long as possible as well. Few amateur golfers do a good job of delaying the hit, which is why so many struggle to produce quality shots time after time.
To summarize, there are three things you want to keep in mind when working on learning how to keep your shoulders closed at the start of the downswing. Those are –
- Patience throughout the entire swing
- Using the core of your body to rotate back and through, powering the club
- Delaying the hit for as long as possible
During your practice sessions, work on these mental game points to make sure your swing as a whole is moving in the right direction.
Adapting to Your New Game
For this final section, we are going to assume that you have already put in all of the work and you are now doing a great job of delaying your shoulder rotation from the top of the swing. This is a big assumption, of course, as it takes a considerable amount of work to make sure progress in your game. Once you have made that progress, however, this section will help you use your new swing to maximum effect on the course.
To use your new swing effectively on the course, and to shoot the lowest possible scores with that swing, keep the following tips in mind.
- Calibrate your new yardages. You should be hitting the ball farther than ever before, now that you are holding your upper body back at the start of the downswing. Adding distance is great, but it can make it difficult to choose clubs accurately. One of your first challenges is to learn how far you can hit each of your clubs. This isn't much of an issue with the driver, of course, as you will simply be pushing the ball farther down the fairway. It is a different story with your approach shots, however. You need to pick the right club when approaching the green, and that ability is only going to come with practice. Don't try to learn your new yardages on the driving range, as range yardages have little correlation to what happens on the course. Pay close attention to your distances during the first few rounds with your new swing and adjust as quickly as possible.
- Adjust to a new ball flight pattern. Speaking of adjustments, you may also have to learn how to play with a new ball flight. Players who do a good job of holding their shoulders back are far more likely to draw the golf ball, meaning you may now be playing with a right to left pattern. If you are now playing a draw, and you used to play a fade, it is going to take some time to learn how to aim properly. The act of aiming to the left to accommodate your fade is probably engrained deep in your game, meaning it will take some time to learn a new plan.
- Slightly reduced spin. Most likely, you are going to be putting less backspin on the ball with this new swing. Why? Well, you should be tracing a flatter, inside-out swing path with this swing, meaning you won't be hitting down as steeply as you were before. In the end, you are left with less backspin and shots that fly slightly lower to the ground. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it is yet another adjustment. Plan for less spin and a lower flight and you should be able to find your way around the course successfully.
Male and female golfers alike can greatly benefit from holding their shoulders back as the downswing gets going. Allow your lower body to lead the way when swinging down from the top of the swing. When everything is sequenced correctly and you have the patience needed to execute this technique properly, great things are possible. Good luck!