The Basics of Proper Spine Angle, Golf Tip

There you sit, hunched over your computer. Your back is slumped, your shoulders slouched forward, your neck bent toward the screen and your head bowed as though your favorite team just lost in the playoffs. (Chin up – there's always next year!)

Does this description fit your golf posture, too? If so, you're not alone.

Poor posture afflicts the vast majority of amateur golfers. In fact, pros must constantly work to maintain mastery of this key fundamental. To achieve good posture, of course, you must first understand what it looks and feels like.

Let's focus on spine angle, the most critical element of posture. Spine angle largely determines your swing plane and influences your rotation back and through the ball. It impacts your weight transfer, too.

Follow these tips to improve your spine angle, from setup to finish:

  • Bend from the hips, not the waist: If you bend from the waist, your back will curve outward. This is not only bad for your spine and the surrounding muscles, it's bad for your golf swing. Instead, bend from the hips. This will set your spine straight and promote easier, more natural rotation. Better yet, it will alleviate back strain. Watch this video for a tip on achieving a straighter spine:
    Should You Bend from the Waist, or the Hips?
  • Tilt the spine slightly right at address: The term “spine angle” can actually refer to two separate positions: The forward tilt (toward the ball) and the sideways tilt (to the right, for a right-handed golfer). At address, your spine should tilt approximately 5° right, away from the target, with your right shoulder slightly below your left.
    This tiny tilt positions you to make a full shoulder turn while transferring weight smoothly to your right side on the backswing. You should naturally tilt a little right as a result of your right hand being below your left on the grip, but check your setup in the mirror. Make sure your hips remain level, not tilted to match the shoulders, and that you're not leaning too far right.
  • Keep shoulders perpendicular to your spine: Now that we've achieved correct golf posture, it's time to swing. The idea is to maintain your spine angle from address to the top of your backswing and into the follow-through. Imagine your shoulders staying perpendicular to your spine the entire way.
    That's what the great Tom Watson does, as you'll learn in this helpful tip:
    Tom Watson: Consistent Spine Angle

The spine is, quite literally, the backbone of your golf swing. Perfect your posture and say goodbye to slumps for good.

The Basics of Proper Spine Angle

The Basics of Proper Spine Angle

If you have any experience at all in the game of golf, you already understand the importance of the address position. In golf terminology, your 'address position' is the stance you use prior to starting your swing. Although it is overlooked by many amateur golfers, the address position is actually one of the most important fundamentals in all of golf. Get your stance right, and you will have a great chance to hit a quality shot. Get it wrong, on the other hand, and it might be hard to even get the ball off the ground.

One of the key elements of the address position is your spine angle. Not surprisingly, that term refers to the angle that your spine takes when you settle into your stance. However, the importance of this part of the swing does not end during address – it is important to monitor your spine angle throughout the entire swing. A good golf swing will maintain a relatively steady spine angle from start to finish. Unfortunately, most players come up short on this point, and they have the inconsistent swings to prove it. If you have long battled inconsistency with your swing, it is very likely that your spine angle is at least part of the problem.

In this article, we are going to cover a variety of topics related to spine angle. We will work on getting you into a good spine angle to start the swing, we will talk about staying in that spine angle throughout the motion, and we will offer some troubleshooting tips. By the end of the article, you should have an excellent understanding of how this key fundamental works and what you can do to use it to your advantage.

Of course, no one fundamental is ever going to be able to solve all of the problems you may have in your game. Golf is hard, and there are countless things which can go wrong in the swing. While working on your spine angle, remember that you need to keep your other fundamentals in mind at the same time. Things like grip, swing plane, shoulder turn, balance, and more are all going to play a role in the final outcome of your shots as well. It is always best to take a big-picture view of your swing, even when working on one specific fundamental.

You stand to benefit in a couple ways when you improve your spine angle both before and during your swing. For one thing, an improved spine angle can sharpen up your ball striking, which is always a good thing. Also, you may be able to generate additional power thanks to the fact that you will be turning more efficiently. In the end, you will simply have a better golf swing, and you will be able to count on more consistent play from round to round.

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.

Setting Up in the Right Position

Setting Up in the Right Position

It should be no surprise that the most important part of this process is setting up with a proper spine angle. After all, if you hope to maintain your spine angle throughout the swing and into the finish, you need to start off in a good position. Most amateur golfers never even manage to get into a good position initially, making the rest of the swing nearly impossible. By taking time now to learn how to build a good stance, you can make life much easier on yourself once the club goes in motion.

There are many important points which go into the address position, and we are not going to be able to cover all of them here. Instead, we are going to talk only about those which specifically impact your spine angle. Pay attention to the three keys below while building your stance to make sure you end up with a spine angle that will serve you well.

  • Stick your backside out behind you. Believe it or not, this is actually one of the biggest keys to creating a proper spine angle. When you settle into your stance, you should feel like you are pushing your backside out behind you and away from the ball. This is important because it will flatten out the bottom of your spine effectively. Many golfers keep their backside tucked in under their torso and they wind up in a hunched position as a result. You want to keep your spine as straight as possible from your waist up to your shoulders, and you can take care of the bottom portion of this picture simply by sticking out your backswide. This might feel a little uncomfortable – or even embarrassing – at first, but you will adjust quickly when you see how this position can benefit your game.
  • Keep your chin up. So far, our two tips don't seem like they have that much to do with your actual spine. The first tip was related to the position of your backside, and this one is talking about the positioning of your chin. By setting up with your chin lifted up and away from your chest, you are going to do the same thing for the top of your spine that you did with the bottom of your spine in the last tip. Lifting your chin up will help you to pull your shoulders back slightly while sticking out your chest. The top of your spine will be straightened out as a result, and you should now see a pretty straight line from waist to neck. Not only will keeping your chin up help you to form a great spine angle, but it will also help you to make a full shoulder turn once the swing does get started. Without having your chin down and in the way, you will be able to turn your left shoulder freely in the backswing. You should wind up making a bigger turn thanks to this tip, meaning more distance may be in your future.
  • Flex your knees. No discussion of the address position would be complete without mentioning knee flex. You absolutely have to have your knees at least moderately flexed at address, for a variety of reasons. Specific to this discussion, you need knee flex if you are going to be able to maintain your spine angle before and during the swing. You can't bend out over the ball without flexing your knees, and you certainly can't make a great turn if you skip this point. Some players like to have their knees flexed more than others, but all golfers need at least a little flex to make good swings. Experiment with varying degrees of knee flex during practice until you find the sweet spot for your own game.

You don't need to make things too complicated on this point, so those three tips are all you need to make big improvements. By sticking your backside out, lifting your chin, and flexing your knees, you can get most of the way to a great stance in no time at all. These tips should get you to a point where your back is flat as you stand over the ball ready to swing. Next, you need to make sure that you have the right amount of tilt in your hips to create the proper angle at address. We will deal with that topic in the following section.

Finding the Perfect Angle

Finding the Perfect Angle

If you worked through the content in the previous section, you should now have a good idea of how to get your back into a flat position. Next, you are going to need to bend that flat back out over the ball to finish off your stance. As you know, you shouldn't be standing straight up and down when getting ready to swing. Of course, you also shouldn't be standing in a position which leaves your spine parallel to the ground (that would be pretty difficult, anyway). So, the ideal amount of tilt is going to be somewhere between those two extremes. But where do you draw the line? That is going to depend on your own personal needs.

Not only do you have a swing which is unique to you, but you have a unique body as well. Your specific combination of height, weight, and frame will determine how you are going to tilt yourself out over the ball at address. Some players are best served with a significant spine tilt, while others do better only bending slightly from the hips. To find the right spot for your own game, please follow the steps below.

  • Walk up to the golf ball with the club in your right hand only and set the club head down behind the ball. At this point, you are not going to set your feet into place or put your left hand on the grip.
  • With the club head down behind the ball, make sure it is soled properly – meaning the middle of the sole of the club is flat on the ground. Once you have the club soled correctly, do your best to hold it still while moving through the rest of the steps.
  • Next, you are going to set your feet in a general position near where you think they will end up. It is important to note that you don't need to get this exactly right just yet – you can make minor adjustments before starting the swing.
  • Now that you are in a rough stance, tilt your spine by bending from the hips until your arms are hanging down in front of you. You should be in a comfortable position with your arms hanging straight down toward the ground. At this point, you can go ahead and add your left hand to the club in order to complete the grip.
  • With both hands on the club and your arms hanging freely from your shoulders, you can adjust your stance if necessary. Hopefully, you will have gotten pretty close with your first stance, and you will only need to move your feet slightly to settle into your final position.
  • Once you are comfortable, feel free to make the swing. While this list makes it look like a long process to get into a good stance, it should only take a moment or two once you have gained some experience.

It isn't important to know how many degrees you are going to be bent over at address. Golf is a 'feel' game, meaning it is more important to know what your swing feels like than to know what it would look like from behind. Spend some time working on this part of your game during an upcoming practice session and you will quickly get better and finding the right spine angle over the ball.

Holding It Together

Holding It Together

Unfortunately, the hard work is not over just yet. Now that you have completed the stance and you are bent out over the ball nicely, you need to make sure that you hold your spine angle steady throughout the golf swing. Many of the amateur golfers to do manage to build a good stance wind up wasting it at this point. The fundamentals of your swing need to be such that you can make an aggressive move through the ball without coming out of your stance. This can be done, of course, but it isn't going to be easy. Most likely, this will be one of the most difficult parts of building a reliable swing.

To help you keep your spine angle in place throughout the golf swing, we have assembled the following tips.

  • Start the swing by moving your left shoulder down. It may surprise you to learn that the riskiest part of the swing – at least, as far as spine angle is concerned – is the takeaway. It can easily go all wrong right from the start, leaving you scrambling to try and recover. When the swing starts, it will be tempting to move your left shoulder up and away from the ball. That is the wrong move to make. Instead, you want to move that left shoulder down toward the ball, which will encourage rotation without lifting you up and out of your stance. This is a simple move, but it is one which eludes most average players. If necessary, practice this move over and over again, all by itself, without even having a club in your hands. If you can execute this move properly within your swing, you will have stepped around the biggest hurdle between you and a quality swinging action.
  • Maintain the flex in your knees. The flex in your knees and the angle of your spine have a close relationship during the golf swing. If you allow your knees to straighten up, it is very likely that your upper body will straighten up as well. You need to stay down in the swing from start to finish, so pay close attention to the behavior of your knees. When they stay flexed, it will be much easier to remain bent out over the ball. It is common to lose knee flex at the top of the swing when transitioning from backswing to downswing, so watch out for that trouble spot.
  • Avoid the overswing. The modern game of golf is one which is obsessed with distance. This is a shame in many ways, as golf is more fun when you understand that the main goal is to control how you move the ball from one location to another. Unfortunately, the obsession with distance is in full swing, and the game is worse off as a result. Anyway, if you can manage to resist the temptation to swing as hard as possible, you will improve your chances of holding your spine angle through the swing. Golfers who overswing go back too far before transitioning into the downswing, and they often stand up out of their stances as a result. Swinging extra hard is not going to make you a better golfer, and it might not even allow you to create any extra distance. Do your best to take away the desire to overswing and you will find that your spine angle is much easier to maintain.

At some point in the swing, you will need to come up out of your spine angle to move into the finish. This should certainly happen after the ball is gone, and hopefully after you are well into your follow through. As the club moves back up away from the ground and toward the target, you can allow your upper body to follow it along into a balanced finish. When you are done with the swing, you should have your weight balanced on your left side while your chest faces the target you had picked out for the shot.

It Matters in the Short Game

It Matters in the Short Game

If you think that you can leave concerns about spine angle for your full swing alone, you would be mistaken. This fundamental matters in the short game as well, although things are a little different when you get on and around the greens. To understand how you should be thinking about spine angle in the short game, review the points below.

  • Relax a little on the greens. You still want to use a solid spine angle when putting, but you also want to relax yourself a little bit in order to have feel and touch when swinging the putter. Instead of holding yourself into a perfectly straight spine position, let your shoulders relax and come down a bit at address. You don't want to be hunched over, but you don't want to feel like you are a putting robot, either. Spend some time on the practice putting green until you can find a position that feels comfortable and repeatable.
  • Sit into your stance a little deeper. Since you don't need to make a big shoulder turn when hitting short game shots, it is a good idea to flex your knees even a little more than you would do normally. Whether chipping or pitching, add a little extra flex to the knees and make sure to hold that flex all the way through your shot and into the finish. This extra flex is going to help you stay balanced nicely during the swing. That balance is particularly important when chipping and pitching, as you often have to stand on uneven ground for these kinds of shots. Sitting down further into your stance is directly related to spine angle, as it is going to be easy to hold your spine angle when playing from uneven lies if you have more knee flex.
  • Feel free to get creative. For the most part, you can play nearly all of your full swing shots from the same stance. That is not the case in the short game. The short game requires tremendous creativity, so be sure to feel like you can go 'outside the box' from time to time. If it is necessary to use a stance which is totally different from your usual technique – and that means giving up on your normal spine angle – feel free to go for it. Creativity reigns supreme when it comes to the short game. Don't put yourself in a box and feel limited by your technique. Be open-minded when on or around the greens and do what it takes to produce quality shots.

Spine angle is one of those fundamentals in golf which is easy to overlook. You probably haven't spent much time thinking about it up until now, but that should be changing in the near future. Get down to work on your spine angle as soon as possible and it is very likely that your game will take a big step forward as a result of your efforts. Good luck!