The Prevailing Wisdom
Maintaining your spine angle throughout your swing is the key to consistency. It’s a myth that’s been around since the invention of gutta percha golf balls and has done more harm than good for golfers of all abilities and handicaps.
Why it’s misleading
Two reasons: It’s a very difficult concept to grasp (honestly, do you ever think about what your spine is doing unless your back hurts?) and, the truth is, your spine does move during your swing. In fact, it moves a lot.
What to focus on instead
Keeping your forward bend toward the ball constant. This angle is formed at address and proves—once again—how critical setup fundamentals are to your game.
How to Do it
Sole the club by bending from your hips (never bend from the waist). If you bend properly, a line drawn up the shaft should intersect your spine on a perpendicular angle. Equally as important as your forward bend at address is your side bend. In a fundamentally sound setup, your spine should tilt away from the target (to your right) about 5 degrees. If you’re not bent to the right at address, you’re bent left, and that’s trouble.
Maintain your foward bend
If you alter your forward bend, either by lowering your torso toward the ground or rising up, you’ve got big-time swing trouble. Rising up on the downswing increases the risk of catching the ball thin or stranding weight on your right side, which
can lead to weak, glancing slices. At address, imagine that your head is resting against a wall. As you swing to the top and then back down and through, try to maintain contact with that imaginary wall. This keeps your forward bend intact all the way through your swing.
Numbers Don’t Lie
The Science Behind It
Steve Atherton, VP ofinstruction, GolfTEC
At GolfTEC golftec.com, instructors use state-ofthe-art motion analysis to measure your swing. Two swing components we measure are shoulder bend and shoulder tilt. We define shoulder bend as how much you bend toward the ground at address and away from the target during the swing. Shoulder tilt indicates how much your spine leans to the left or right.
At address, the average Tour player bends forward 36 degrees. Most other golfers set up with too much too little forward bend. This causes them to lift the upper body at the top of the swing and at impact (notice the change in shoulder bend in the chart below), the cause of inconsistent shotmaking.
The key role of shoulder tilt is its effect on weight transfer. Most golfers set up with level shoulders (zero shoulder tilt), which causes them to lean back toward the target at the top (reverse pivot). The average Tour pro tilts his shoulders to the right at address. This simple move allows you to get behind the ball effectively for a powerful weight shift. Notice the shoulder-tilt measurements from the top to impact. The numbers don’t lie-your spine should move farther to the right (up to 20 degrees) on the downswing.
Increase side bend at the top
As you swing to the top, increase your side bend by tilting your upper body to the right at least 10 degrees. A good way to think about it is to feel like you’re moving the top of your spine farther away from the target than the bottom as you make your backswing turn. If you try to keep your spine constant in this sense-that is, don’t tilt it to the right-you’ll end up with a reverse pivot and a possible slice.
Increase side bend coming down
As you make your way back down to the ball, move the top of your spine even farther away from the target. Bend your spine at least 20 degrees, which will position your right shoulder under your left as you swing through impact. Combined with proper hip rotation and a constant forward bend, this move places the club on the preferred inside-out path and creates maximum clubhead speed.