It is really important that you begin the sequence of movement for your swing correctly as this dictates whether you will make a good backswing or not.
The takeaway is one of the most important parts of your golf swing, as if this movement is correct it sets up a great opportunity to swing well. If this movement is incorrect however, you are now out of position at the very beginning of your golf swing and you will struggle to regain a good movement sequence throughout the rest of the swing, leading to very inconsistent ball striking.
To ensure you make a good takeaway, work on achieving the correct shoulder turn. At set up, you should create a straight line between the following three points - your left shoulder, your left hand and the club head. These three points should remain in a straight line as you take the club away from the ball up to hip/waist height and by doing this you will create the correct shoulder turn during your takeaway.
Stand looking at your reflection. Check to see that you have created the straight line just discussed. Now maintaining this straight line, turn to your left so that you can see your right side in the reflection. Make your takeaway movement keeping your left shoulder, left hand and club head in a straight line as you look in the reflection. This will ensure that you turn from your left shoulder and that this instigates your takeaway. As you swing the club towards the reflection, work on pointing your left arm directly at your reflection, whilst remembering to keep the club head in a straight line with your left shoulder and left hand. To complete the correct takeaway, as you point your left arm towards your reflection, maintaining the straight line, allow the club head to rise upwards so that when your left arm points at the reflection, the club head appears at the bottom of your arm, covering your hands from the reflection.
Keeping this straight line from your left shoulder to your left hand and into the club head will allow you to make the correct shoulder turn during your takeaway and now you are set to continue to the top of your backswing from a great position.
Correct Shoulder Turn Start to Finish
What do you think is the most important part of the golf swing? Balance? Grip? Address position? All of those elements are certainly important, but shoulder turn deserves a place in this argument as well. If you are going to hit powerful, accurate golf shots time after time, all day long, you are going to need the help of a great shoulder turn. Of course, in the end, you will want to have all of the various components in your golf swing working together in the same direction – but be sure that you don't overlook the value that a great shoulder turn can bring to your game.
It might be helpful to think of the shoulder turn as the engine of the golf swing. It really is what makes the swing 'go' – you can have a bunch of other quality mechanics and techniques in place, but if you don't have a good shoulder turn working for you, it will be hard to drive the ball down the fairway. Just as the engine in your car is responsible for making the wheels turn, it is the responsibility of your shoulders to turn your swing back and through the ball. When your shoulders are working correctly, the swing feels both controlled and powerful at the same time. When the shoulders fail to do their job however, hitting even a short shot can feel like a major chore.
There is a misconception in the minds of many golfers that you need to make a huge shoulder turn in order to have a quality golf swing. That simply isn't true. While making a big turn is a great way to generate power, it is possible to hit quality shots without making the biggest turn in the world. However, you do need to use your shoulders to the best of your ability. You might not be able to turn back as far as your favorite professional golfer, for example, and that's okay – you can still hit quality shots if you are using your shoulder turn correctly. Throughout the rest of this article, we are going to address exactly how you can make sure your shoulders are living up to their end of the bargain in the golf swing.
Of course, your shoulders are not in this alone – they need to be properly coordinated with the rest of your body as you swing. In other words, the shoulder turn that you make needs to match up with the other fundamentals that you have in place. It would be a mistake to focus your practice sessions on your shoulder turn alone, as you could easily lose track of other important elements that you need to optimize your ball striking capabilities. Working on your shoulder turn is a great idea, but it is only going to be successful if you also work on coordinating your turn with everything else that needs to be done.
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 is important for you to understand the basics of the shoulder turn before you head to the range to get down to work. Fortunately, the shoulder turn is a relatively simple and straightforward process in the golf swing – as long as you know what you are trying to do. Sadly, many amateur golfers do not quite understand the shoulder turn, and they fail to achieve good outcomes as a result. Read through the following points to educate yourself on the basics of this key swing ingredient.
- Shoulders relatively level at address. One of the best things you can do for your shoulder turn is to set your body in a good position before the swing even begins. Specifically, you want to stand over the ball with your shoulders relatively level. If there is a dramatic tilt in your shoulders from one side to the other, it is going to be hard to maximize your turn effectively while still staying on balance. While it is okay – and even encouraged – to have your right shoulder set slightly lower than your left over the ball, you want to stay somewhere near level in order to facilitate a good turn.
- Left shoulder under chin. If you only remember one thing about the shoulder turn from this entire article, let it be this point – your left shoulder should turn under your chin in the backswing. Even if you make a number of other mistakes throughout your swing, you should have a chance to strike some solid shots if you can simply achieve this goal. As soon as you settle into your stance and get ready to swing, your mind should be focused on turning that left shoulder under the chin completely. This is a great point to use as a swing thought because it is simple, important, and easy to execute. Get your left shoulder under your chin on each and every swing that you make and you will quickly become a better player overall.
- Give it time. One of the underrated keys to making a good shoulder turn is giving that turn plenty of time to develop. You can't rush through your swing when making a good turn – it just isn't going to work. Players who rush their golf swings wind up swinging with mostly arms and hands instead of shoulders, and the results speak for themselves. In order to make sure you are incorporating plenty of shoulder turn into your game, commit yourself to giving your swing enough time to develop.
- Finish it off. Yes, the turn away from the ball is important. But, perhaps just as important, is the turn through toward the target. Don't think that the job of your shoulders is complete when your backswing is finished. You need to turn all the way through the ball toward the target in the downswing, as your shoulders have to work along with your hips to bring speed to the clubhead. When the swing is finished, your shoulders should be square to the target, giving you a good chance to watch the ball as it flies through the air.
It is going to be hard to go wrong if you are able to put the four points above into your golf swing. With a good shoulder turn on your side, much of the work you need to do will already be completed. Of course, there are other pieces of the puzzle to consider – and we will touch on those below – but this kind of shoulder turn will put you well ahead of the game.
Facilitating a Big Turn
As mentioned above, you don't actually have to make a huge turn in order to hit good shots. Some high-quality players are able to turn well more than 90* as they go back, but you might not have that kind of physical capability to bring to the table. That's okay – but you should be doing what you can to make your turn as long and complete as possible.
Toward that end, the tips in the list below are going to help you to make your own personal best turn. By following these tips, you should be able to squeeze a bit more rotation out of your swing, and yards should be added to the end of your shots as a result.
- Work on your flexibility. There is no substitute for flexibility when it comes to being able to make a great golf swing. If you are willing to invest a bit of time and effort into your body, you could see tremendous results on the course. Obviously, you should always have your doctor's permission to start any kind of fitness program, and you should work with a fitness professional as well if you don't know what you are doing. Improving the flexibility that you have in your core and your upper legs can go a long way toward allowing your shoulders to rotate impressively in the swing.
- Open your right foot. At address, think about opening your right foot just slightly to the target line in order to make it easier for your shoulders to rotate away from the target. Opening up the position of your right foot will take some of the stress out of your right knee during the swing, which is always a good thing. Also, your right hip will be able to give just slightly going back, clearing the way for a bigger shoulder turn. When you do make this adjustment, however, be careful to avoid the dreaded slide to the right in the backswing – sliding away from the target can easily cause you to lose your balance. No matter how you have your feet positioned, balance should always be one of your top priorities in the swing.
- Get down into your stance. There is a tendency among many amateur golfers to stand relatively straight up and down rather than flexing the knees at address. This is, of course, a big mistake. You need to have plenty of flex in your knees for a variety of reasons, including the fact that knee flex can help you to make a big turn. When your legs are engaged in the swing – which they will be when you have your knees flexed – you will have a stable and powerful platform on which to rotate. Try making swings with varying degrees of knee flex until you find a stance that is perfect for you.
You shouldn't feel like you are forcing yourself to make a big turn during the swing. Instead, you should feel like your turn is happening naturally because of the other adjustments you have made in your technique. Forcing a big backswing is always going to lead to trouble because of balance issues, so avoid that feeling at all costs. By implementing the tips above, you should find that a bigger turn is easy to make and that you have increased the power available to send down through the club and into the shot.
Of course, you don't necessarily need to use all three of these points in order to make a great turn. In fact, you don't even need to use any of them. If you are flexible through your core, you might find that your turn is sufficient even without any adjustments – and that's great. However, if you are not a player who naturally can turn well into the backswing, you should consider trying these tips to enhance your rotation quickly. Start with one of the tips, work on it, check your results, and then move on to the next (if necessary). In the end, the goal is for you to be left with a full rotation of your upper body both back and through the swing.
The Pause Drill
Golf swing drills are a great way to teach yourself important fundamentals, and that certainly is true when it comes to the shoulder turn. You are only going to get comfortable with a proper shoulder turn by doing it over and over again – and there are a few drills around that can help you learn this move as quickly as possible. In this section, we are going to deal with one drill specifically that should help you to learn what a great shoulder turn feels like, and what it is capable of achieving.
The drill we are going to use is known as the 'pause drill', and as you might expect, it is so named because you are going to pause your swing right in the middle of the action. Specifically, you are going to pause at the top just as you are transitioning from backswing to downswing. This isn't going to be easy, especially at first, but it is a great way to make sure that you are getting everything possible from your backswing and your shoulder rotation. To get started, simply follow the steps below.
- For this drill, you are going to want to be at the driving range. You will probably have all of your clubs with you anyway, but you should be sure to have a variety of clubs available so you can make different length swings with your wedges, mid-irons, woods, etc. You aren't actually going to hit any shots during this drill, but it is a good idea to have a bucket of practice balls ready to hit with your normal swing once the drill is completed. Hitting shots after you are done with the drill is a great way to reinforce what you have learned.
- To get started, take one of your mid-irons from the bag and take your stance. Even though you aren't hitting an actual ball with this swing, it is still a good idea to pick a target and orient your stance to that target. You can never get enough practice in learning how to aim properly, so don't skip over this important step.
- Now that you are comfortable and ready to swing, go ahead and start the club in motion. Swing back and up to the top of your swing just as you would on any shot you hit on the range or the course. However, instead of immediately starting back down toward the (imaginary) ball, you are going to pause at the top and hold your position.
- What do you notice when you pause your swing? This is a great opportunity to learn a lot about how your swing is working – both in terms of your shoulder rotation, and in other areas as well. As it pertains to the shoulder turn, take note of how well you have managed to get your left shoulder under your chin. Is your shoulder sitting under your chin, or even just to the right of it? If so, you can be sure you have made a great rotation. If not, you still have work to do. Also, how is your balance? You should be able to hold this position without feeling like you are going to fall over in one direction or another.
- After taking note of the status of your swing at the top, you can go ahead and finish the rest of the swing. To get your downswing started, focus on turning your hips first toward the target. When the hips start things up, the rest of your body will follow in turn. This is a powerful way to start the downswing, and it is another thing you can learn from this helpful drill.
- Swing all the way to the finish, hold your position, and then start again. Feel free to make as many swings as you would like while using this drill. When finished, try hitting some balls with your normal golf swing (without the pause). As you are hitting these shots, keep in mind the lessons you have learned from the drill. Hopefully, your shots will be immediately improved as a result of the focus on a great shoulder turn.
This drill might seem simple – well, it is simple – but it is also highly effective. You will quickly learn a lot of things about your swing after just a few repetitions with this drill. To make it even more effective, consider doing it with a variety of clubs. Your swing will take on a different shape and timing when swinging a wedge as opposed to a driver, so work your way through the bag to make sure your shoulders are doing their job no matter what club happens to be in your hands.
Shoulders in the Short Game
When talking about the shoulder turn in golf, we are mostly talking about the full swing. After all, it is the full swing that requires a great turn in order to generate the club head speed necessary to send the ball toward the target. But what about the short game? As you are aware, the short game is incredibly important to your ability to score well during a round of golf. What role do your shoulders play in this part of golf? Well, they are still important, but in a different way.
Obviously, you aren't concerned with generating power when you are playing short shots from around the green. The target is within close range, so it will be no problem at all to hit the ball hard enough to reach the cup. In fact, you are probably more concerned with hitting the ball too hard than you are thinking about hitting it hard enough. So, when it comes to putting and chipping, you are going to think about your shoulders more as a way to control the club rather than a way to generate power.
Short shots should largely be hit with your shoulders, while the hands and arms are just along for the ride. This is especially true when putting. The ideal putting stroke is a simple rocking motion in the shoulders with almost no movement anywhere down the line from the shoulders (arms, wrists, hands). Many golfers call this a 'pendulum stroke', as that title accurately identifies the motion you are trying to make.
When chipping or pitching the ball, you are going to make a similar action with just a bit of added help from your hands. You want your hands and wrists to be free through impact when chipping in order to facilitate the kind of 'pop' you need to get the ball up and moving. However, the general motion is the same, with the shoulders doing the bulk of the work. While it isn't so much about a great shoulder turn in this case, it is still important that you use your shoulders nicely.
You don't want to overlook any of the important keys to the golf swing such as balance, grip, stance and more. To make sure you are swinging at your best, you should add shoulder turn to that list of essentials. Work on improving your shoulder turn in your full swing and you will be on the fast track to hitting the best shots of your life.