The way you move your body is at the heart of the golf swing.

The Question of Correct Rotation VS Lateral Movement?

If you move your body properly, you will have a great chance to produce quality strikes time after time. On the other hand, if your body is not working in a manner that is productive, you’ll be fighting against yourself and it will be tough to make clean contact. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers fail to use their bodies correctly in the swing, and the results speak for themselves.

It is the battle between rotation and lateral movement that we are going to be discussing in this article. Ideally, your golf swing should be based on rotational action, with very little lateral movement involved. However, for most players, that is not what happens. Instead, they slide badly from side to side during the swing, while their rotation fails to hold up its end of the bargain. If you are going to reach your potential as a golfer, you need to learn how to rotate your body nicely while keeping any sliding action out of your game.

One of the reasons this is such a difficult issue to correct is the fact that many golfers start out thinking that they actually need to slide in order to hit good shots. On the surface, this notion does make some sense – as you stand over the ball, you want to make a swing which sends the ball to your left (from the perspective of a right-handed golfer). So, to hit the ball in that direction, shouldn’t you slide to the left in your downswing? No, as it turns out, you shouldn’t. The best way to propel the golf club through the hitting area is by turning back and through, even though that might not be obvious at first. The sooner you can transition your swing into a rotational action, the sooner you can get on the path toward lower scores.

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 Benefits of Proper Rotation

The Benefits of Proper Rotation

It is easy enough to find a golf instructor who will tell you what you need to do in the golf swing. While that can be helpful to a certain degree, it does have its limitations. Why? Simple – when you are only being told what to do, and not why to do it, you may lack motivation to keep working hard on particular parts of your swing. It is essential that you understand the actual benefits behind any change that you attempt to make to your game. Knowing what you stand to gain if you can make the change successfully will make it that much easier for you to work hard both on the range and on the course.

With that in mind, we want to lay out some of the key ways your game stands to benefit if you learn how to rotate correctly. Please take a moment to review the points listed below.

  • Build speed. The main benefit you should enjoy when you rotate correctly in the swing is the ability to generate impressive speed. Simply put, you aren’t going to be able to build the same kind of speed by sliding side to side as you will by rotating back and through. A rotational movement is going to be faster than a lateral movement in this case, and the end result will be a swing with more speed moving through the hitting area. If you have ever wondered how professional golfers are able to hit the ball so far while making smooth swings, the answer can largely be boiled down to rotation. Pro golfers, and quality amateur players, know that rotation is the best way to generate power. If you manage to improve the rotation of your swing in upcoming practice sessions, don’t be surprised if your shots suddenly fly farther.
  • Deliver an accurate strike. One of the biggest problems associated with sliding during the golf swing is the trouble you will likely have making clean contact with the ball at impact. Since your center of gravity will be moving from side to side, you may find that it is difficult to determine where the bottom of your swing will wind up being located. That means some of your shots are likely to be hit thin, while others will be hit fat. If you can take the slide out of your swing and instead rotate yourself around a stable center of gravity, it is going to instantly become easier to make great contact. While you might be most excited about picking up yardage when you improve your rotation, it is really this point which stands to make the biggest difference in your game. Good golfers tend to be those who are able to strike the ball solidly time after time.
  • Hit down through impact. When playing iron shots, you will typically want to hit down on the ball in order to produce backspin and generate a quality trajectory that will be useful in a variety of situations. Unfortunately, if you slide laterally through most of your shots, it is going to be difficult to produce this kind of downward hit. The bottom of your swing will flatten out as a result of the slide, and you’ll always struggle to produce high, spinning iron shots. Simply by adjusting the way your body works during the swing, you can learn how to hit down more effectively with your irons. You should notice a difference in the way the ball feels coming off the club, and you should see a trajectory which launches relatively low before climbing high into the sky and coming down softly.
  • Stay balanced. It is easy to overlook the importance of balance in golf. If you are too busy thinking about other parts of your technique, you may forget that one of the best things you can do is to stay balanced from the start of the swing on through to the finish. When you slide laterally, it is nearly impossible to stay balanced as your weight is going to wind up drifting too far off to one side or the other. Golfers who rotate more than slide tend to have an easier time keeping their balance, and they produce more consistent results in the end. If you feel like you are constantly struggling to stay on balance when making swings, a renewed focus on body rotation might be just what you need to get on track.

It should be clear by this point that you have a lot to gain if you are willing to work on the rotation of your swing. We aren’t saying that you will instantly reach your potential as a player if you focus on rotation instead of lateral movement, but you will be going in the right direction. Improving in golf is all about taking one step at a time and learning how to rotate correctly is certainly a big step.

Keys to Watch

Keys to Watch

The first stage in this process is to understand that rotation is important, and you should be trying to rotate while keeping the lateral slide out of your game. We have that stage out of the way, so now it is time to get down to work. You’ll need to work on this type of swing on the driving range before you can hope to use it effectively on the course. So, what should you be watching for while you practice? The following keys can be used to direct your practice sessions.

  • Stop at the top of the swing. The position of your body at the top of the golf swing can tell you a lot about any mistakes you have made up until that point. As you swing back, you should be rotating to the right with very little – if any – lateral movement. You’ll be able to tell how you’ve done by simply stopping at the top of the swing and holding your position for a moment. Once you have paused your swing, you will want to check on your right leg to see how it’s position has changed from address. Hopefully, your right knee will still be flexed and the right leg as a whole will not have moved much from its position at address. If you have slid to the right, you may find that your right knee straightened up in order to accommodate the slide. Or, if you did manage to maintain the flex in your right knee, that right knee may not be outside the position of your foot. Either way, your right leg will not be in a strong position at the top, and the rest of your swing will be in trouble.
  • Hold the finish. Just as you can stop your swing at the top of the backswing to see how you are doing, holding your finish at the end of the swing is also a useful way to evaluate your performance. Basically, you are looking for the same signs as you were looking for at the top of the backswing, only on the other side of your body. You don’t want to see that your left knee has drifted outside of your left foot, as this will be a sign that you are sliding too much laterally. However, straightening your left knee is okay – and should be expected – so don’t worry if your left leg is in a straight position when the swing is finished. As long as you have managed to keep your left knee either overtop or inside of your left foot, you should be in a pretty good position at the finish.
  • Watch your divots. If you are practicing on natural grass – as opposed to artificial turf – you can use the pattern of your divots as a helpful piece of information to evaluate your performance. Try hitting a few wedge shots and check out the pattern of your divots when you are finished. As mentioned earlier, hitting down through the ball at impact is important with your irons, and that is especially true with the short irons. If you are taking nice divots with your wedge, it is certain that you are getting down through the ball. However, if you are picking the ball off the top of the turf without taking any divot at all, you may be sliding laterally rather than rotating. Simply failing to take a divot is not a sure sign that you are sliding, but it is cause for enough concern that you will want to look closer at your technique.

You should feel like most of the golf swing is taking place between your two feet. If your swing is getting outside of your feet on either side – the right side going back or the left side coming through – there is probably too much lateral movement in your swing as a whole. When you do manage to keep your swing between your feet, the action will feel simpler and you should notice a quick improvement in the consistency of your ball striking.