August 5, 2014
Posture: The key to good swing dynamics
If I had to choose, I would say that the grip is the most important fundamental in golf. I say that because the grip controls the club face, which controls the direction of the shot. And the direction of the shot is what golfers react to during the swing. So the swings golfers end up with are often the result of their ball flight. That being said, a good grip will not by itself result solid golf shots.
A solid strike on the center of the face with a good angle of attack is crucial to hitting good golf shots, and striking the ball in this fashion is often the result of good posture. Posture is sometimes a forgotten fundamental, even with good players, so let’s take the time and make sure you’re setting up to the ball properly.
Posture is critical because the golf ball rests on the ground, so to reach it we need to bend forward. This might sound simple, but it’s where many golfers go astray. They bend forward from their waist or their knees. Neither of these positions allow the freedom of motion or stability to make a good swing.
The correct way to bend is from the hips. The hips are not far from the waist, but the difference is huge in providing a platform to swing. You’ll notice that the buttocks jut out when you bend from the hips, but not if you simply bend from the waist. This is a key position to maintain balance and retain your axis tilt (or forward bend) in the golf swing. It’s a core-related movement, much like many other physical motions. When the core is engaged and the bend is from the hips, we end up with the “straight back” look you see on the professional tours. Waist bend creates the rounded back look I see too often at driving ranges.
This golfer has too much knee bend and very little bending at the waist.
On the other hand, players with excessive knee bend have little or no angle at the hips. This posture can be very effective in a greenside bunker, but it’s rarely effective on full shots.
We all start at address a certain measured distance from the golf ball: We are X feet above the ball and X feet beside the ball. The only way this distance can be maintained is by keeping the posture we started with, assuming that posture is correct at address. I think of posture as a balance between the upper and lower body. If we bend from the hips, we need to offset that bend by extending the rear end or we would simply be too top heavy. There’s a balance there. That’s why bending from the waist is dangerous, because we don’t always have the counterbalancing move of extending the rear end. Great players start with the weight on the balls of the feet. The correct balance between the upper and lower body maintains that distribution of weight.
Proprioception is a fancy word for keeping your balance. It is the body’s awareness of its relationship to space and other body parts (think of when you were learning how to ride a bike). Everything we do, from walking down the street to swinging a golf club, is based on one simple principle: keep your balance, don’t fall over! Golf is particularly unique in that it is a game played with the golf ball on the ground. So we have to bend over to reach it, and for the 2 seconds or so of the swing we have to stay in balance. Let’s look at how a poor swinging motion is often the result of poor posture.
When the bend is excessively from the knees, the weight is often too much on the heels. This allows the club to work to IN and flat on the backswing (try making an upright swing with the weight back on the heels, you can’t even see the ball). Then, as a recovery motion, the player is forced out and over in the downswing. MOST “in and over” moves I see start with too much weight sitting too far back on the heels.
This golfer has too much bend from the waist.
Conversely, with the too much bend at the waist, the arm hang can be in too close to the body forcing the club up and outside with the weight too much on the toes. This leads to an attempt to drop the club back under, and an early extension of the lower body toward the ball. “Humping” is what I call it.
It is clear that posture at address can START an incorrect motion from where the golfer is constantly trying to recover throughout the swing. Remember, everything the lower body does must be counterbalanced by the upper body and vice versa. That is why getting the weight over the balls of the feet at address is so critical. I personally think big feet are good for golf!
Here’s a drill that can help you maintain your posture throughout the swing. Click on the images to enlarge them.
- Set your rear up against an aim stick placed in the ground behind you.
- Try making some easy swing with the right cheek brushing it in the backswing and the left cheek bruising it in the downswing and follow through.
- If you can do this, there’s a good chance you kept your spine angle throughout the motion.
See the lower body MUST stay under the torso to keep balance and create a consistent attack angle. You will see very few great players “humping the ball,” and almost none of them backing up from the ball. Of course there are exceptions, but every one of them can be explained.
For example, Phil Mickelson pulls his upper body WAY back from the ball and thrusts his left leg and hand path well forward into the ball. News item: None of us are Phil. I teach many of my professionals to actually feel like the hips and rear end push farther back against the aim stick in the downswing to keep the torso stacked over the lower body. If you’re toe-hitting, hooking or drop-kicking shots, there’s a good chance your upper body has backed away from the ball coming down.
There is much more to be said, but the best way to observe your posture throughout the swing is through seeing it on video. It takes discipline, because the correct posture is not comfortable at first, but once you get into it and maintain it throughout the shot the center face contact is well worth the effort.
As always, send a video to my Facebook page and I’ll take a look.