What is a Rotary Golf Swing

Much of modern golf instruction aims to simplify the swing, making it easier for amateurs to learn and develop a repeating action by boiling it down to a few basic moves.

If you've heard the term “rotary golf swing,” you're familiar with a prime example.

In essence, a rotary swing involves the body revolving (rotating) around a fixed point, the spine. There's minimal lateral movement on the backswing or follow-through; the weight shift to the right foot, then the left, is very subtle. The rotary swing is designed to generate power from the core muscles (hips, torso) while placing minimal stress on the joints and spine.

Because it's widely associated with enigmatic golf legend Moe Norman, the rotary swing is often referred to as a “one-plane” swing.

That is, the shoulders, arms and club arc around the body on the same plane, as opposed to a two-plane swing where the left arm, at the top of the backswing, is either above or (more rarely) below the level of the shoulders.

However, rotary concepts also apply to two-plane swingers. Since installing rotary swing moves in a two-plane swing is more complicated, most amateurs are guided toward the single-plane path. It's simpler and requires much less practice time to develop and ingrain.

Golfers who master the rotary swing method are typically excellent ballstrikers with solid power. They attack the ball from inside the target line, producing a natural draw.

Best of all, the rotary swing's relative simplicity makes it easy to diagnose and fix faults.

What is a Rotary Golf Swing?

What is a Rotary Golf Swing?

As the name would indicate, a rotary golf swing is one where the club moves mostly around your body in a rotational manner. There are really two general categories that golf swings can fall into – rotary, and vertical. A vertical swing is one which moves the club mostly up and down in order to build speed and strike the ball. When comparing these two swing options, it is important to understand that one isn't necessarily better than the other – different swing shapes create different results for each player. As a golfer, it is your job to pick out the kind of swing that is going to be most successful for you. Once you have selected the general shape that will guide your swing, you can get down to work on mastering your move in order to create quality shots time after time.

In the content below, we are going to take a close look specifically at the rotary golf swing. Before deciding to take your game in this direction, you should understand the strengths and weaknesses of this swing shape. Everything in golf is about making tradeoffs – there are no perfect techniques or playing styles. You will always be weighing pros and cons when you make decisions about your game, and that is certainly the case when it comes to the rotary swing. If you do decide that this is the right path for your swing, you should know exactly what you are getting into before starting.

The good news is this – for most players, the pros will outweigh the cons when it comes to a rotary swing. There are many quality golfers who use a rotary-style swing, including some of the best players in the world. You will likely find that there is a lot to like about this type of golf swing, and hopefully those positives will outweigh the few negatives that come along with it. If you are willing to work hard on your technique by putting in time at the driving range, there is a good chance that a rotary golf swing could lead you to some of the best play of your life.

In reality, you probably already have some of the elements of a rotary swing within your current technique. Remember, you aren't starting your swing from scratch when you decide to go in a new direction – you already have a swing that needs to be considered. As you try to go down the path of a rotary swing, make sure you are thinking about your current technique as you make adjustments to bring all of your mechanics together into a cohesive unit. With a combination of some of your current rotary traits along with some new moves, you should be able to create a finished product that can produce great looking shots more often than not.

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 Strengths of a Rotary Swing

The Strengths of a Rotary Swing

If you didn't stand to gain anything from altering your technique toward a rotary swing, there would be no point in making changes to your swing in the first place. So, with that in mind, the first thing you need to understand is what you stand to gain if you focus on swinging in a rotary fashion. While the exact benefits that you enjoy from this style of swing will vary from player to player, the list below contains the common advantages that are found by most golfers. If this list is appealing to you, it would make sense to look further into the possibility of using a rotary motion.

  • Balance is at a premium. If there is one single element of the golf swing that is more important than all the rest, it is balance. Without balance, it is difficult to even hit the ball solidly once – let alone doing it all day long. When you watch golf on TV, it is balance that is the common theme among the various swings used by professional golfers. The pros use a variety of techniques to move the ball toward the target, but each of them is able to stay nicely balanced while swinging. Since a rotary swing limits lateral movement throughout the action, you should find it easy to stay on balance, even while swinging hard. Of course, there are other considerations to make in the swing besides balance, but controlling the movement of your body is a great place to start. If you are always on balance while swinging, you will always have the opportunity to hit a good shot.
  • Clean ball striking. As a result of the excellent balance you should have during a rotary swing, you will likely be able to make clean contact time after time. The ability to strike the ball cleanly is directly related to the ability to control your distance – and distance control is something you can't live without on the course. Catching the ball cleanly at impact is a skill that eludes many amateur players, but you should be able to take a big step forward in this category when you properly employ a rotary swing.
  • Controlled ball flight. The ability to control your ball can take you a long way in the game of golf. Most golfers become obsessed with hitting the ball as high or as far as possible, but it is really control that should be your main objective. If you can control the flight of the ball shot after shot, you can shoot low scores. Even on the professional tours, where distance is at a premium, there is still a place for the shorter hitter who knows how to control his or her flight properly. When using a rotary swing, you should be able to produce a consistent flight that you can lean on to get you through a round. Some players will hit a draw out of their rotary swing, while others will hit a fade. The specific ball flight that you use isn't particularly important, as long as you know what to expect each time you swing the club.
  • Pressure proof. Okay, so no swing is pressure 'proof', but a rotary swing should help you perform a bit better when you get nervous. Because this is a swing based on body rotation rather than hand and arm action, there is less that can go wrong from the takeaway on through to the finish. Pressure can do all sorts of bad things to your technique on the golf course, but you should be able to stand up to pressure relatively well when employing this technique. If you are a golfer who likes to take part in tournaments from time to time, you may find that the rotary swing allows you to maintain your level even when the heat is on.

As you can see, there is a lot to like about this kind of golf swing. The list above shouldn't be considered complete, either – there are likely many other benefits that you could discover once you get started. However, even if you only benefit in the four ways listed above, you will still be well on your way to a vastly improved golf game.

The Drawbacks of a Rotary Swing

The Drawbacks of a Rotary Swing

There are always drawbacks. No matter what kind of technique you are considering, you are going to have to be willing to take the bad with the good. Nothing is perfect in golf, despite the fact that many players spend their entire golfing lives looking for that perfect swing, perfect club, or perfect putting stroke. You will be much better off as a golfer if you put the notion of perfection out of your mind as soon as possible.

So, before you get started transitioning your game to use a rotary swing, it is important that you understand some of the drawbacks that may come along with this technique. Just as was the case with the 'strengths' section, not all of these drawbacks are going to affect every player. You may not have any of the issues below come up in your game, which would obviously be great news. However, even if one or two of these problems does pop up, you still may find that the strengths of this technique make it worth dealing with the drawbacks.

  • Flat ball flight. Most likely, you aren't going to hit the ball extremely high in the air when using a rotary swing. Trajectory height is increased when you hit down on the ball to impart a high rate of backspin, but you are going to be making a flatter approach to impact with a rotary swing. You should still be able to hit the ball high enough in the air to stop it reasonably quickly on firm greens, but if you are looking to hit towering iron shots that stop cold as soon as they land, this probably isn't the right swing for you. With that said, a flat ball flight is a great thing in terms of your driver, so you may find that you add a few yards to your total driving distance when you make a nice rotary swing.
  • Struggles from the rough. This is another point that has to do with the shallow angle of attack. When the club comes into impact on a shallow angle, it is more prone to catching anything that is waiting behind the ball – when you are in the rough, obviously, that means hitting the long grass before you hit the ball itself. This is a problem, as you will struggle to carry enough speed through the hitting area to reach your target. You can get around this problem to some degree by playing the ball back in your stance, but it will also be a bit of an issue while swinging in a rotary fashion.
  • Difficulty creating different shots. One of the strengths of the rotary swing is its ability to create the same ball flight over and over again. Obviously, this is a great thing for a golfer under most circumstances, but it can be a problem from time to time as well. Specifically, this is an issue when you want to hit a shot that curves the opposite direction from your usual shot shape. For instance, if you normally hit a draw but you would like to hit a fade to get around some trees on a particular hole, that task may be a challenge. Players who use a more vertical swing usually have an easier time producing a variety of shot shapes as compared to those on a rotary track.
  • Transition to the short game. To hit quality chip and pitch shots, you will likely need to use a swing path that is closer to vertical than it is to rotary. With that in mind, you may have trouble transitioning from your full swing to your short game if you use a rotary motion as the basis for your technique. For some players, the transition from full swing to pitch shot will be a difficult one to manage, while others will have no trouble at all. This Isn't a point that should dissuade you from trying the rotary swing for yourself, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on.

None of the points on the list above should be considered a 'deal breaker'. As was mentioned previously, golf is all about making trade offs, so you are going to have to decide if the pros outweigh the cons for your personally. For some players, this will be an easy decision, as the gains they make with their full swing will overshadow any small negatives. For others however, the equation might not come out favorably in the end. The only way to know for sure, naturally, is to give this kind of swing a try and see how it works out on the range and on the golf course.

How to Make a Rotary Swing

How to Make a Rotary Swing

When you decide to give this style of swing a try for yourself, you will need to know exactly what you are trying to do with both your body and the club. Some of the moves you need to make in order to pull off a rotary swing are likely hiding within your current technique, while others will need to be added from scratch. The following list contains points that will have to be checked off if you are going to successfully make a rotary swing.

  • Get balanced over the ball. This is actually a point that applies to any kind of golf swing that you make, but it is especially important if you are going to make a rotary swing. At address, make sure you are nicely balanced with plenty of flex in your knees and a good posture. You need to be on balance throughout your golf swing in order to be successful, and that all starts at address.
  • Shoulder turn back while hands stay quiet. One of the most important parts of making a rotary swing is keeping your hands as quiet as possible going back. If you use your hands and wrists to set the club early in the backswing, you will be moving the club up into the air – and the swing path you use will be vertical rather than rotary. To make your backswing, turn your shoulders away from the target while keeping your hands mostly out of the equation. When you arrive at the top of the swing, your hands should be relatively close to your right shoulder – a sure sign that you have stayed on the flat plane that is associated with a rotary move.
  • Right leg in place. There is no room for lateral movement in a rotary swing. To control your weight properly and avoid a lateral slide, pay close attention to the position of your right leg in the backswing. While it is okay for your right knee to straighten slightly as you go back, you need to avoid allowing that leg to drift to the right. Your center of gravity will follow along if you let your right leg slide right in the backswing, so even a small mistake on this point can cause you to lose your balance.
  • Hips lead the way going forward. Many players who use a vertical golf swing will start the downswing simply by pulling their hands and the club down toward the ball. That might work find for a vertical swing, but it isn't going to work at all for a player making a rotary move. Instead, you need to get the downswing started by turning your hips toward the target aggressively. When you let your hips lead the way, the club will naturally fall into place on the way down, and you should be able to hit through the shot the same way time after time.
  • Hold nothing back. When the moment of impact arrives, the best thing you can do for your swing is to turn the club loose and trust everything that you have done up until that point. There is no point in getting tentative right before you strike the ball, as that lack of confidence could lead to disastrous results. Have confidence in your technique, and trust that the ball is going to head directly for the target when it leaves your club face.

It is going to take some practice to learn how to employ a rotary swing effectively, but that practice will be more than worth it in the end. Once you get comfortable with the basic techniques involved in making a rotary swing, you can then work on hitting plenty of range balls to engrain this type of swing into your memory.

Keeping the Short Game Separate

Keeping the Short Game Separate

As was mentioned earlier, the style of swing that is created with a rotary motion really isn't ideal for the short game. When playing short shots like chips and pitches, you want to hit down on the ball at impact so you can catch it cleanly and create plenty of backspin. Therefore, instead of a flat, rotary motion, you want to use a technique that has more vertical movement. Even if you are committed to using the rotary swing for your long game, you should stick with a steeper action when it comes to the short shots.

When pitching the golf ball, use your wrists to hinge the club up into the air early in the motion to set up a downward angle as you come back into the ball. You aren't always going to have a great lie when pitching or chipping, so a downward angle of attack is ideal to help you miss whatever happens to be sitting behind the ball. Also, that downward angle will give you a chance to generate some backspin, meaning you can stop the ball quickly when it lands on the green.

The key to learning how to hit your short shots while using a vertical swing is simply putting in the practice time necessary to adapt to this style. Most golfers neglect their short game while practicing, instead choosing to stand on the driving range hitting shot after shot. Set aside some practice time for things like chip shots and pitch shots and you will be a better player in the long run.

A rotary golf swing can do a lot of good things for your game, but it does come with a few potential drawbacks. After a short trial period, you should be able to easily determine whether or not the pros outweigh the cons within your game specifically. If you do successfully adapt to making a rotary swing, you should find yourself left with a game that produces a consistent ball flight shot after shot, even under pressure. The only way to know if this kind of swing is going to work for you is to give it a try, so feel free to test it out during your next visit to the range – good luck!