As you already know, there are a lot of components which need to come together properly in order for the golf swing to work as it should.

What is a Quality Golf Swing - How to Build it From Top to Bottom

One of the reasons that this is such a difficult game is the sheer complexity of the swing itself. Many golfers and golf teachers like to say that it is best to ‘keep the swing simple’, and that is a great goal, but it is easier said than done. It takes a lot of hard work and attention to detail in order to build a ‘simple’ swing which works effectively time after time.

One of the many parts of the swing that you need to execute properly in order to hit good shots is the shoulder turn. In this article, we are going to address the importance of the shoulder turn, and we are going to explain how you can perform this move correctly. A good shoulder turn can serve as the engine of your golf swing and improving in this area may help you to unlock distance which was previously undiscovered in your game.

Before you get ahead of yourself, however, we need to temper your expectations a bit. Can an improved shoulder turn help you to play better golf? Yes – absolutely. But here’s the thing – there are many other moving parts, as mentioned above, which will need to fall into place before you can enjoy the type of success you have in mind. If you simply improve your shoulder turn while leaving the rest of your swing a mess, the ball still isn’t going to go where you expect. Only when you take the time to build a quality golf swing from top to bottom, and start to finish, will you be able to make meaningful strides 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.

What It Looks Like

What It Looks Like

On the surface, the shoulder turn seems like something that would be pretty easy to understand and execute. After all, the name of the move describes what you are going to do – turn your shoulders. Of course, nothing is all that simple in golf, and there is more here to understand than meets the eye. In this section, we’d like to explain exactly what a good shoulder turn should look like, so you have a specific goal in mind when you get out to work on your own technique.

Let’s take a look at a few key points with regard to the shoulder turn.

  • Chin up. That’s right – the first point we are going to discuss doesn’t actually have anything to do with your shoulders specifically, but rather with your chin. At address, you need to have your chin up away from your chest. This is important because it is going to create a path for your left shoulder to take as it turns away from the target. Think about it – if your chin was down, the left shoulder would run directly into the chin as you turned away from the target, and your shoulder turn would likely be cut short as a result. Unfortunately, many golfers keep their chin down at address because they have been told that it is important to ‘keep their head down’ during the swing. Yes, you want to keep your head still and keep your eyes on the ball, but that doesn’t mean you need to force your chin down into your chest. Once you get comfortable keeping your chin up at address, you’ll notice that this is a comfortable position which also helps to improve your posture.
  • Rotation is the key. There is a reason that it’s called a shoulder turn – you are supposed to be rotating your shoulders away from the target in the backswing, and toward the target in the downswing. It’s not called a shoulder slide, because you need to avoid sliding laterally as you swing. Countless golfers have too much lateral movement in their swings, a mistake which almost always leads to trouble. Turning instead of sliding is going to help you make a more powerful swing, and it is also going to help you strike the ball cleanly. Make sure the focus of your swing is on rotation and keep lateral movement to a minimum. There is bound to be a little bit of side to side movement in your swing, but make sure it is not intentional. In other words, that lateral movement should be a byproduct of your excellent rotation.
  • Taking enough time. One of the key things to understand about the shoulder turn is that it takes time. You can’t rush through your swing and expect to make a great shoulder turn. Simply put, it takes time to turn your upper body away from the target and then back toward the target on the way down. If you don’t allow yourself the necessary time to complete the turn, you are never going to reach your potential on the course. Some golfers get in a rush during the swing as they just want to get the shot over with, but try to avoid this line of thinking. Remember, golf is a slow game, and it’s okay to take your time during the swing. When you see another golfer who seems to be doing a great job of turning his or her shoulders away from the target, it is a good bet that player is not in a rush.
  • Lower body stability. Again, we have to look away from the shoulders themselves for a key point with regard to the shoulder turn. It is nearly impossible to turn your shoulders correctly if you aren’t supporting that turn with a stable lower body. Your knees should be flexed at address and you should make sure they maintain their flex while you turn back. Even as you transition from backswing to downswing, make sure your lower body is holding up its end of the bargain. If your lower body is unstable during the swing, you’ll probably need to cut your shoulder turn short in order to remain on balance and save the swing. Professional golfers generally have great stability in their lower bodies during the swing, and you should strive to follow their lead.
  • No perfect length. Too many golfers obsess about the length of their shoulder turn. It seems that many players think they have to turn their back all the way to the target if the shoulder turn is to be considered successful. That is simply not the case. Sure, it’s great if you can make a big turn, but not everyone has the flexibility to make that happen. If you aren’t a particularly flexible person, don’t worry – you can still hit great shots, and you can still use your shoulder turn effectively. You should be more concerned with the timing of your turn than the overall length of the rotation, anyway. With good rhythm, you can turn back and through the ball in an effective manner time after time.

A good shoulder turn is relatively simple, but there is a lot that goes into learning how to produce this simple movement. We hope the points included in the list above will point you in the right direction. Moving on, we are next going to talk about the importance of a good shoulder turn.

Why It Matters

Why It Matters

You only want to spend time working on parts of your golf swing which are actually going to make a difference in terms of the scores you shoot. If you spend time working on something which isn’t really going to make you a better golfer, that time will essentially have been wasted. With that thought in mind, we’d like to take a moment to explain why improving your shoulder turn is an endeavor worth taking on. As the following points will illustrate, an improved shoulder turn stands to better your game in a variety of ways.

  • Add swing speed. If you are thinking about improving your shoulder turn, you are probably considering this change because you would like to pick up swing speed. This is the main motivation for most players, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. While distance is certainly not the only part of playing good golf, it is a valuable asset to have on your side. Picking up even a few yards with most of your clubs can make the game easier, as you’ll have shorter approach shots into most of the greens, and you’ll be able to hit shorter clubs for those approaches. It would be a mistake to focus only on distance while trying to improve your game, but we must acknowledge that adding distance can be a big boost.
  • Establish tempo. One of the underrated benefits of a great shoulder turn is the smooth tempo it can help you to create. It’s hard to develop an even, reliable tempo when you swing mostly with your arms and hands, but the task becomes much easier when you use the shoulders to drive your turn. It will take a little bit of time to work yourself into a comfortable rhythm, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t settle into a good tempo right away during your practice sessions. It should get easier and easier as time goes by to find a tempo you can trust.
  • Deliver the club on a good path. Another key benefit here is the ability to deliver the club to the back of the golf ball on a good path time after time. With a reliable shoulder turn, you should be able to swing down into the ball from the same direction over and over, which is essential when trying to produce predictable ball flights. If you have long struggled with a slice, using a proper shoulder turn will make it easier to attack the ball from inside-out, which is a big step if you want to get rid of that slice once and for all.
  • Quiet your hands. If you fail to make much of a shoulder turn, you are going to be forced to use your hands and wrists actively in order to hit the ball. This might work from time to time, but it is unlikely to be as consistent as a swing which utilizes shoulder rotation as its main form of power. When you learn how to rotate your shoulders correctly, you can then quiet your hands and let the bigger muscles in your body do the work. After a period of adjustment, you will find that this is a great way to swing the club. This method is useful when playing any kind of shot, but it is particularly beneficial when playing under pressure. Swings which use a lot of hand action tend to break down when the player gets nervous, but the same cannot be said of swings that rely on the shoulder turn.

In the end, it should be pretty easy to convince you that the shoulder turn is a crucial piece of the overall golf swing puzzle. If you still need convincing, just pay close attention to the way professional golfers swing the club during the next tournament that you watch on TV. You’ll quickly notice that virtually every player has a great shoulder turn, even if some go back farther than others. Why do pros focus on shoulder turn when building their swings? Because it works. Add a proper shoulder turn to your game and your results are nearly certain to improve.

Making Improvements

Making Improvements

At this point, it’s time we provide you with some tips to get out and work on your own shoulder turn. How can you improve on the way you use your shoulders during the swing? Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Keep the tips listed below in mind during your next visit to the driving range.

  • Take more time. When mentioned this point in an earlier section, but it bears repeating here. One of the best tips you can receive with regard to your shoulder turn is simply to take more time going back. As you swing the club back, give yourself plenty of time to make a big turn with your shoulders. If you are used to making an arms-only backswing, you probably have a pretty quick tempo – it doesn’t take very long to pick the club up and get to the top. It takes longer to turn your shoulders correctly, so you’ll have to slow your overall pace down a bit. If you are struggling to slow down sufficiently, try counting to three as you make your backswing. You will count the number one when you start the takeaway, the number two when you reach the halfway point of the backswing, and the number three when you get to the top. Do your best to count the numbers out evenly and take your time along the way. This simple drill should help you settle into a nice tempo during your practice sessions, and hopefully that tempo will carry out onto the course.
  • Stay down. Again, this is another point which was alluded to earlier on, but we’d like to explain it here in terms of how you should work on improving your turn. The lower body plays a big role in the success of your shoulder turn, and much of what you need to do is simply stay down in your stance. There is a tendency among many amateur golfers to stand up out of their stance as they reach the top of the swing. In other words, the player straightens his or her legs rather than maintaining the knee flex which was in place at address. When you straighten up, it becomes nearly impossible to continue on with your shoulder turn. Your shoulders will stop turning as your legs straighten, and your swing will suddenly be out of position. Don’t make this mistake. Keep your knees flexed all the way through the transition and into the downswing. Also, keep your head as still as possible so you can turn your shoulders freely without losing balance in the process.
  • No hands swing. This is a handy drill which can help you learn how to use your shoulders to hit shots. On the driving range, take one of your irons and set up to hit a practice shot. Take your stance like usual and be sure to use good posture. Then, when you actually make the swing, move the club simply by turning your shoulders back and through the shot. Take your hands and wrists out of the equation for this swing by keeping them as still as possible. You’ll be holding onto the club with your hands, of course, but they aren’t going to play an active role in the actual process of making a swing. You aren’t going to hit the ball as far as you do normally, of course, but you should still be able to send it a decent distance down the range. Try hitting a few of these ‘no hands swings’ until you get comfortable with the technique involved.

There is no way around the work that goes into improving any part of your golf swing. If you hope to get better, you will need to put in the effort. That’s just how golf works. When it comes to the shoulder turn, however, you should be able to see some signs of progress in a relatively short period of time. You might not get all the way to where you would like to be in just a couple practice sessions, but there is a good chance you will be making progress. Use that progress to motivate you to do more work and make even more gains. With any luck, you will have a proper shoulder turn in the near future, and your game will be headed in the right direction.

A Few Final Tips

A Few Final Tips

To wrap things up, let’s look at a few final tips.

  • Useful in the sand. When facing a greenside bunker shot, focus on making a good shoulder turn away from the target. It takes a lot of swing speed to move the club down through the sand and under the ball, and your shoulder turn will help you produce the necessary speed. It might feel a bit awkward at first to make such a big turn when you are so close to the target, but that is how most bunker shots are played (we are talking about explosion shots played from greenside traps). Try to find a practice bunker to work on this technique so it is more comfortable when out on the course.
  • Focus on shoulder turn under pressure. We mentioned earlier how building a swing with a proper shoulder turn can help you perform when nervous. That is true, but it isn’t going to happen automatically. When you find that you are feeling nervous, take a moment before your swing to focus on your shoulder turn. Make a practice swing where you emphasize your shoulder turn and use this point as a mental key while actually hitting the shot.
  • Watch for trouble. When you notice that your game is a bit off track during a given round, be sure to check on the quality of your shoulder turn as one of your first points. It doesn’t take much for the shoulder turn to get a little off, and the results can be ugly when that happens. Specifically, confirm you are giving yourself enough time to finish the backswing properly before the downswing begins.

A proper shoulder turn can take you a long way in the game of golf. You will still need plenty of other great attributes in your swing, of course, but starting with this foundation is going to make things a lot easier as you move along. We hope the tips offered in this article help you make progress on this important part of the swing. Good luck!