Golf - How Shoulder Turn Impacts Shot Power & Consistency - Part #1

How to Optimize Your Body & Golf Swing

You’ve spent a lot of time & money getting fit and buying new “optimized” clubs. You’ve got them and the reality sets in that while they are the latest, coolest new technology, you’re still not hitting the ball consistently. Maybe you need to optimize what actually swings the club – Your Body?

Shoulder Turn

There are numerous physical factors that will impact your shot consistency, distance and accuracy, the most important area of which might be your shoulder turn.

How Shoulder Turn Impacts Backswing

Everyone has heard that you’re supposed to start your backswing by keeping your hands in the center of your chest as you turn your shoulders. Well many of you start of with your hands there, but then because of flexibility issues your shoulders abruptly stop. When your shoulders stop turning, you will use probably use your arms and hands to lift the club. This lack of shoulder turn and manipulation of the club by the arms and hands will destroy your consistency; here’s some reasons why:

Plane – lifting the club with your arms and hands may likely move the club off plane. Even though you’ll do your best to to reroute the club in the downswing, it’s really difficult to be consistent from swing-to-swing to get it back on plane and square up the club face to hit the ball straight and long.

Sequence – ideally, when you have unrestricted shoulder turn, the golf downswing sequence is supposed to start with the legs and turn of the hips to turn the shoulders and finally pulling the arms, hands and club through impact. When you lift the club with arms and hands, however, muscles in the shoulders, arms and hands may create problems.

Sling Shot Analogy

Like a slingshot, pulling back and then releasing the elastic energy, muscles and other elastic connective tissues in the body will stretch, load and fire to create the necessary forces to move the body and swing the club.

But when shoulder turn is restricted and the arms and hands lift the club into place, muscles in the arms and hands will stretch, load and fire prematurely before the muscles and other elastic tissues in the hips can stretch and start the ideal downswing sequence. You’ll end up with an out of sequence downswing that is inconsistent in terms of plane, path, club face, tempo & timing, all of which typically negatively impacts shot distance and direction.

Shoulder Turn is Spine Rotation

What most golfers call shoulder turn is actually the turn of your upper spine, your thoracic spine or t-spine for short.

Your t-spine is the part of your spine that is supposed to turn freely and easily to get your shoulders under your chin or your back to the target in your backswing.

Your t-spine is 12 bones or vertebrae that runs from the bottom of your rib cage to the top of the shoulders. Your ribs attach to your t-spine and because your sternum is attached to the front of the rib cage we can get and idea how well your t-spine is turning by watching your sternum turn.

The Sternum is the Visual Key to Seeing if Your T-Spine is Turning

In the golf backswing, when the sternum stops turning, your t-spine has stopped turning and the remainder of your backswing is all arms after that.

What Shoulder Turn Looks Like in Golf Swing

In the golf swing you should be able to get a 90 degree shoulder turn. Half of the 90 degrees, 45 degrees should come from your hips turn, and other other 45 degrees should come from your t-spine.

With ideal shoulder (t-spine) turn, you should be able to get your left shoulder to point straight ahead at the top of my backswing if my t-spine has adequate mobility. This is the “shoulders under the chin” position at the top of the back swing.

Spine Angle

Often times finding another way to get behind the ball pays a toll in terms of what it does to your “spine angle”.

The spine angle is an imaginary line that indicates where your spine is in space. Ideally you should be turning around your spine when you turn into your backswing. When you turn around your spine your body will turn faster, creating greater club-head speed. If you don’t turn around your spine your club-head speed will decrease and you will be much less consistent as it negatively impact your club plane, path, club face and various other factors.

Ideally, your spine angle is established at address to be positioned slightly backwards or away from the target. This angle shouldn’t change until after impact. If it does change before impact then you’re introducing inconsistency into your swing.

Getting Your Shoulders Under Your Chin

You’ve read that you should position your left shoulder under chin at the top of your backswing. That’s accurate and for a golfer with normal shoulder turn that’s great, however, if you have restricted t-spine turn (shoulder turn) you may have to change your spine angle to make this happen. One way to do this is to over rotate your hips (since you can’t get enough rotation from your t-spine).

Hip “Over” Rotation

In this scenario, the golfer turns more at their hips to get behind the ball, but this action changes and negatively impacts the spine angle, introducing a lot of swing inconsistencies.

T-Spine Mobility Check

Let’s do a quick check your shoulder turn in your golf swing.

Setup at address and without changing your spine angle, slowly turn to the top of your back swing and hold. If your left shoulder is under your chin then great, if not, it’s an indication that your t-spine is restricted and likely a big part of any inconsistency your experience in your golf swing.

If you want to test your t-spine mobility a little more accurately, try this.

  • Sit on a ball with your knees bent at hip level.
  • Sit tall with arms crossed (place a club across chest point to your left) and squeeze a 12″ diameter ball between your thighs to lock your hips.
  • Slowly turn to your right and hold to see where the end of your club points to (relative to your left knee).
  • Ideally, the club should be pointing inside the left knee, indicating that your t-spin (shoulder turn) mobility to your right is good. If it’s not then you just found a big source of distance and direction inconsistency.

How to Increase Shoulder Turn (T-Spine) Mobility

The fastest way to increase T-spine mobility is as follows:

  1. Put PC360 Torso Harness on and attach light resistance band to left underarm.
  2. Sit on a ball with your knees bent at hip level.
  3. Slowly turn to your right until you reach the end of your range of motion. Don’t Force It!
  4. Take a deep breath in through your nose and then exhales as you turn a little more to your right. Repeat this 2 more times to your right. [If your shoulders turn a little more then you have a “functional deficit” meaning that your muscles or other soft tissues are limiting your turn and you don’t have a structural block (like bones hitting against bones). With a functional deficit you canimprove your mobility; with a structural block you may not be able to increase your t-spine mobility.]
  5. Repeat steps #3-4 above for 2 more sets of 3 repetitions. Don’t Force It and Stop with Any Pain!

Now assume your address position again with the same club in your hand and try turning to the top of your backswing again and you should feel that you can turn easier and further after mobilizing your t-spine.

Backswing Connection Drill

Once you have mobilized your shoulder turn to the right, then go work on retraining your swing to be more connected at the start of your backswing. You should feel the ability to turn easier, further and stay connected (your arms to the turn of your t-spine):

  • Take address posture.
  • Slowly turn shoulders to your right into backswing keeping the butt end of the club point to your sternum.
  • Take some half swing and hit some easy 30 or 40 yards shots and enjoy a more consistent swing.

What’s Next?

In part 2 of the Shoulder Turn Series we’ll show you how your t-spine turn (mobility) into your downswing can impact your consistency.


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