Every Instructional Trick Shot Demonstration that I perform, I always stress the importance of the spine angle and posture and the importance of maintaining both.
Spine angle can be defined by the angle that the spine and the ground create. The spine angle is created when we bend from the hips to take our stance. If you’re standing straight up, your spine is 90-degrees to the ground. If you address the golf ball, the angle of your spine lessens and as each of us are built differently, there is no one perfect angle and is completely unique to you. Once you have taken your stance and have set your spine angle, you want to maintain this for most of your swing. So, you can think of the spine as the axis or the pivot point for turning your shoulders.
During my demonstrations this is how I am able to hit 90% of my unique shots. From changing the tee height from 1 foot to all the way to 5 feet, I find my spine angle first, set it and maintain it throughout the golf swing.
Where many players make their mistake is during the swing they lose their spine angle. Often their impact position looks more like a standing position than the athletic position that they originally started in. By changing your spine angle and standing up in the swing, there are many negative results that can take place.
First if you lose your spine angle and stand tall, you have a great chance of topping or in fact missing the golf ball completely. It is not the fact that you lifted your head like most people say that caused the top shot or the whiff but rather because you changed your spine position.
Second, the body loses power, torque and most likely, rotational momentum if you straighten your spine angle in your golf swing. In other words, lifting the spine to an upright position during the swing is the cheap way out of forcing the lower body to stay flexed in order to make solid contact with the ball.
If we stand up, the spine angle becomes more vertical and this causes the golf club to come outside the target line. Normally if a golfer stands up during the swing it occurs in the backswing. In order to make contact with the ball the club must travel from outside the target line to inside the target line through impact. This outside to inside swing path creates a steep plane angle and causes fat shots, pulled shots, severe slice (open club face) and smother hooks (closed club face).
Now that you know what spine angle is, here’s how it can help you.
Maintaining a proper spine angle means maintaining an athletic and flexed position throughout the swing. By doing that, more power can be released through the ball. Better yet, by holding your spine angle, you’re more likely to swing on plane, a key ingredient to more consistent golf shots. Lastly, maintaining some degree of spine angle takes pressure off your lower back, a common place for injury among amateurs and professionals alike.
Here is a great drill to achieve this feeling: without a club, place your rear on a wall and get into your balanced address position with your hands in clapping position. Let your trail arm and hand swing and fold about halfway back, then clap your target hand while stopping at impact. At the start of the downswing, begin clearing your hips through impact keeping your rear brushing the wall. Keeping your eyes focused on a spot on the ground, you should finish with your hands together at impact and your belt buckle to the target. You will notice the left hip finishes touching the wall. Repeat this several times when practicing — before, during, and after hitting balls.
When we grip the golf club our trail hand grips the club lower than the target hand. Since the trail hand is lower the trail shoulder should be lower than the target shoulder. This creates a spine tilt.
Spine tilt benefits in two ways;
First, it allows the trail arm to be level with or slightly lower than the target arm. This will encourage the club to be swung on the proper inside to inside path. When most people slice the golf ball the trail shoulder and arm is higher then the lead and this causes an “over the top” motion into the golf ball.
Second we can align our shoulders parallel to the target line. If we did not have a spine tilt the tendency would be to open the shoulders to the target line. Meaning a right handed player’s shoulders would be aligned facing left of the target line not parallel to the target line. An open shoulder alignment will cause us to swing the golf club on an outside to inside swing path.
So, everyone that plays the game of golf has spine angle and spine tilt but most have been unaware of them or the importance. These two angles are often over looked fundamentals of the golf swing yet they play an important role in the golf swing. Spine angle in the golf swing determines the plane the club is swung and how solid we strike the ball. Spine tilt has a direct affect in our shoulder alignment.
So, next time you watch golf on TV look at that PGA Tour golf swing and the athletic posture appears to stay the same from setup through impact, the player is “retaining his spine angle.” This dynamic motion makes room for the arms, hands and clubhead to freely accelerate and release through impact creating optimum clubhead speed. You won’t see a single player with an upright spine.
Pay attention to these elements of your golf swing and you will reap the rewards of a more efficient and powerful golf swing.
By: Todd Keirstead
For anyone interested in contacting Todd for private golf lessons or corporate outings email him at firstname.lastname@example.org