One of the most common differences you will see between amateurs & professionals is their ability to maintain their spine angle during the golf swing. The more common label for losing posture at any stage of the golf swing is “early extension”. This phrase simply describes the body extending “or standing up” earlier than it should. It is also a problem that plagues many golfers of varying different abilities.
When a player struggles to maintain their spine angle during the swing, there are generally three main problems that will occur as a result:
- 1) Flat shoulder plane – Inconsistent low point
As the club moves away from the golf ball, there is often a common misconception or misunderstanding about how to get the golf club to the top of the backswing. Often we see people thinking that the club should move around the body, or conversely lift straight up in the air, when in reality it is actually a combination of the torso rotating, and the arms and hands raising the golf club. When players have either too much lift, or attempt to solely rotate the golf club around their body, we will quite often see the spine angle become more upright, and as a result a very flat shoulder plane. This will become a major problem for any player who demonstrates either of these characteristics, as they will most likely find it exceptionally difficult to produce consistent contact. You must remember that if the spine becomes more upright in the backswing, it must attempt to get back into its original position to strike the golf ball, and as a result can be a very difficult movement to repeat consistently with any kind of positive results.
- 2) Poor sequence – poor path
Another common issue we will tend to see from players who lose their spine angle in the backswing is poor sequencing of their body in the downswing. Generally when we see a very high backswing where the spine angle has become more upright than at address, the movement of the spine angle trying to reach its original position will cause the body to move out of sequence, or in the wrong order. We will most commonly see the shoulders and the arms “pulling” the golf club from the top, and as a result we will see the club become very upright in the downswing, and the club moving over the top of the “swing plane”. The most common result is steep, out to in strikes which produce pulls and slices.
- 3) Upright at impact- off centre strike
Probably the most common issue of all when it comes to loosing spine angle in the swing, actually occurs in the downswing as opposed to the backswing. Losing spine angle through impact is most common, simply because it can happen with both good players and high handicappers for a variety of different reasons. As players begin to move the golf club down towards the ball, it is quite common to see the pelvis pushing forwards, resulting in the upper body lifting as the club reaches impact. This can often cause thin and toe strikes as the golf club has impacted the ball in a higher position which is closer to the player than when it started.
Now we know what happens when a player player alters their spine angle during their swing, we must also look at why it happens. There is several different reasons that players may alter their spine angle in the golf swing, however generally speaking some will pop up more often than others. The 3 most common reasons for losing posture in the golf swing are as follows:
- 1) Physical Limitation
Probably the most common reason for loosing spine angle in the golf swing is physical limitations. In recent years the availability of information through TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) has shown us there are numerous things that the body must be physically able to do in order to maintain posture in the swing while we generate speed in the club head. These limitations could be things such as limited hip rotation, tight hamstrings, or even tight shoulders in some cases. If the body cannot move in a functional manner, it will find another way to put the club in position.
- 2) Lifting the club in the backswing
Once we have assessed the physical capability of the person and can safely say there is no obvious physical reason for early extension, or loosing spine angle, we then must look towards bad habits or bad patterns that players may develop. Among amateurs we most commonly see players trying to create more swing speed in an effort to get more distance. Unfortunately for the average golfer, the immediate thought is to simply swing the club longer and higher in the back swing without considering the consequences. In doing so most people will try to swing it past what their body’s are capable of, and as a result lift their arms, and become more upright in their spine angle compared to their starting position. Simply keeping a shorter more connected backswing can often help people improve their strike, distance and most certainly more consistency.
- 3) Trying to create power in the downswing
As many players try to create power from the top of the backswing, we will often see them trying to “move their hips” to get those extra few yards. However peoples understanding of how to use their hips correctly can often be worlds apart from what they actually need to do in order to create more club head speed. As a result we will often see amateurs push or thrust their hips towards the golf ball as it feels more powerful to them. This can be detrimental to distance, accuracy and consistency as it can often produce a two way miss.