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Four essential movements for a better golf swing

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Everything I teach comes from studying the best golfers in the world. I don’t necessarily teach the “Fundamentals of Golf” that I learned growing up as a junior golfer, because I’ve found they don’t apply to all golfers universally.

I prefer to teach what I call the “Tour Fundamentals of Golf,” which I’ve seen seen the majority of golfers on the PGA, LPGA, European, and Champions tours adhere to and apply in their own games.

I’ve found that four movements — rotate, tilt, shift and extend — have a huge effect on club face orientation, swing direction, low-point control, and club head speed. They are essential to playing golf at a high level, and are used by the best players in the world. The difference between an elite golfer and a higher handicapper can also typically be found in one of the four areas.

Let’s break down each fundamental to garner a better understanding of each.

Rotate

The initial move away from the golf ball is very important, as it sets the tone for the rest of the swing. The best players in the world begin the swing by rotating the buttons of the shirt (center of sternum) until they point at the trail knee. This will place the hands just past the knee, with the club head just slightly out in front of the hands. The average tour player has 27 degrees of rotation prior to the club becoming parallel to the ground in the backswing. There will be tilting going on as the player rotates also, but that is setup by forward bend at address. I like a player to think “rotation” in the first few inches away from the golf ball, and then the thought of “tilting” follows.

Tilt

Once the buttons of the shirt, or center of sternum, are pointing at the trail knee it’s time to begin adding tilt. For a right-handed golfer, that means feeling your left shoulder working down and across, moving the hands and arms inward. The average tour player begins with their trail shoulder tilted 11 degrees downward at address, and by the time they reach the top of the backswing the forward shoulder is tilted downward 36 degrees. That means from the time the buttons reach the trail knee in the rotation phase, the shoulders tilt another 20-plus degrees before the player reaches the top of the backswing.

Shift

Movement in the transition and into the downswing should begin with a lateral bump of the hips towards the target. This initial move is key to facilitating the plane in which the golf club will be moving into impact. From the top, Tour players shift and sit down into the ground so that they can then spring up and create maximum force into impact. The average golfer typically does the opposite; they begin with a spinning of the hips, and with most players not being able to disassociate the hips from torso, the golf club is out of balance and on top of the plane. This also leaves them on their trail side coming into impact due to the spinning action, creating both thin and heavy mishits.

Extend

The extension (straightening) of the arms, club, and body after impact is a key characteristic all great ball strikers have in common, and each movement is produced by what happens prior to impact — so the first three movements are very important! The best players in the world use the ground to push off of just prior to impact, causing the legs and pelvis to straighten post impact. This is why they are able to hit the golf ball as far as they do. This movement is also what controls the positioning of the golf club. Don’t be afraid to feel the front knee straightening through impact. The backside will then begin to tuck under and the arms will extend. Unfortunately, I see 95 percent of golfers trying to do the opposite, which robs them of power and the consistency they want.

For more information on what I call the “Tour Fundamentals of Golf,” I’d welcome you to read my book, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf. Click here to purchase.

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Bill Schmedes III is an award-winning PGA Class A member and Director of Instruction at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, the largest golf facility in New Jersey. He has been named a "Top-25 Golf Instructor," and has been nominated for PGA Teacher of the Year and Golf Professional of the Year at both the PGA chapter and section levels. Bill was most recently nominated for Golf Digest's "Best Young Teachers in America" list, and has been privileged to work and study under several of the top golf coaches in the world. These coaches can all be found on the Top 100 & Top 50 lists. Bill has also worked with a handful of Top-20 Teachers under 40. He spent the last 2+ years working directly under Gary Gilchrist at his academy in Orlando, Fla. Bill was a Head Instructor/Coach and assisted Gary will his tour players on the PGA, LPGA, and European tours. Bill's eBook, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf, can now be purchased on Amazon. It's unlike any golf instruction book you have ever read, and uncovers the TRUE fundamentals of golf using the tour player as the model.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Gene

    Nov 18, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Bill, am I missing something? The title of your book is “The 5 tour Fundamentals of Golf”, but in your WRX article you write about the “Four Essential Moves for a Better Golf swing.” I am wondering if it is four or five fundamentals (essentials) for a better golf swing?

  2. Drew

    Nov 5, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Bill- great article, very well written. I love the videos. Hopefully, I can get on your waiting list because I would make the drive from ma. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Nick Clearwater

    Nov 3, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    The swing description and measurements sound very familiar, Bill 😉

    Glad to read you are doing well and putting out some good information!

  4. Jerry G

    Nov 3, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Great article. One question, I notice you say great players start the downswing with a hip bump toward the target and others use a rotation. The gif of Tiger looks more like a rotation to me, am I missing something? Thanks for the help!

  5. Andrew Cooper

    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Bill, Rotation then tilt… Isn’t the backswing going to be rotation and tilting simultaneously? rather than in two separate phases/moves. And the average angles you mention-with what club is that? and what are the acceptable parameters? Thanks.

    • Bill Schmedes III, PGA

      Nov 3, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Yes, good question. It doesn’t happen in two separate phases there is just more rotation then tilt early on with torso thats why it was broken up into two phases. The rotation and tilt section pretty much just explain how the body goes from forward bend into side bend as backswing gets closer to top position. Club being hit is a fairway wood. Hope that helps a bit..

      • Andrew Cooper

        Nov 4, 2015 at 5:18 am

        Bill, Thanks for the reply and clarification.
        I ask about acceptable parameters because I think this is important. The average numbers you mention are just that, averages. I suspect the range is actually pretty big e.g. Bernhard Langer looks to have a lot of early rotation (more than 27 degrees) while Fred Couples hasn’t much. Or Bubba Watson has a lot of tilt compared to a flatter shoulder turn like Love III for instance. Turning and tilting, to various degrees, is a given; good players, bad players, indifferent players all do this. Therefore elevating these to “tour fundamentals” seems a bit of a stretch.

  6. Mark

    Nov 2, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    This is the best explanation and video of the bump move I have ever seen. I found with my swing the right leg does NOT move, must feel firm and stacked for this bump to work effectively. I did this playing yesterday. My missing link.

  7. ACas

    Nov 2, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    The “Lateral Bump” is a move that when I put it together my distance and accuracy are at its best. But, it also has created a very inconsistent swing for me, more so coming over the top or I’m leaving the face open. Point is it has me hitting more slices than before. Can you elaborate on this move? In particular how much should this lateral bump in length be? how aggressive do you bump forward? etc…
    Any added information would be greatly appreciated.

    • Bill Schmedes III, PGA

      Nov 3, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Be careful with the bump. Should only be the pelvis early in the transition. If the pelvis & shoulder go together there isn’t separation and that’s where the miss can come from.

  8. RoGar

    Nov 2, 2015 at 11:10 am

    I love the comments of the non believers, I have been playing golf for almost 30 years and teaching for 5. I have always tried to pick the different moves of better players, not only tour players, but top amateurs also. Mr. Schmedes obviously picked up on the same things I did, let’s say the 4 of many very important positions. He’s not making these positions up, he just has great eyes, and a very different perspective than most. I love the article, job well done!!!

  9. Marco

    Nov 2, 2015 at 5:01 am

    I think to much “TILT” is bad for your back with a high swing speed…so you have showed Tiger…i think he have some back problems? Right?

    • Bill Schmedes III, PGA

      Nov 2, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Yes too much would not be good on the body. Over the years I have seen a very small number of amateur golfers with too much. Almost always they show to little. The videos show off each key nicely but for the record I did not pick the golfer to be used that was done by WRX

  10. marcel

    Nov 1, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    here are 100% proven 4 movements for better Golf:
    1. Get a Golf Coach
    2. Get a Golf Coach or quit
    3. Get a Golf Coach and stop complaining
    4. Get a Golf Coach – not new golf set!

    if this fails – focus on soccer or running

  11. Alex

    Nov 1, 2015 at 11:07 am

    This is a recipe for manufactured positions rather than a fluid swing incorporating all of these asepcts, if you taught this to an average golfer they would be a mess. Terrible pros (like this writer) like to break down the swing into parts, (there is tilt already working when you rotate). Please keep teaching these machanical motions to students, they will come to me for lessons to get straightened out. I should actually thank Bill here, the more people who read this, the more will be coming to me for lessons with their garbage swings!

    • Bill Schmedes III

      Nov 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks for the comments Alex. I see no one taught you any manners throughout your years and I’m sorry for that. It doesn’t appear I know you and you obviously don’t know anything about me based on your comments. It’s simple an article made for golfers looking to see what many of the top players in the world are currently doing. I’m one of the busiest coaches I know with a waiting list so I’d love for you to take some players of mine. May help me get a vacation!

      • Steve

        Nov 1, 2015 at 9:00 pm

        I understand both of your thoughts. When i am taught to be in correct positions all i do is think about hitting those positions and not hitting the ball. Completely slows down my swing. But i understand that he is just making a comparison.

    • KK

      Nov 2, 2015 at 5:30 am

      Alex, where do you teach and what are your credentials?

    • Sb

      Nov 2, 2015 at 8:34 am

      Alex, easy to throw stones from your moms basement in between handfuls of Cheetos. Share with us where you are from and where you teach. Tbh, you sound like a range hack who has all the answers and breaks 90 once a year. Until we know who you are, a hack is how you will be treated. Don’t get any crumbs on your laptop.

  12. J-Rock

    Nov 1, 2015 at 7:04 am

    I like the term tour fundamentals. Too many amateurs think they can just hit balls and they’ll eventually get the cap down. There’s a reason tour pros have a lot of similarities in their swings. These four fundamentals couldn’t be truer, but…. The vague description of how it’s done won’t help many. A good instructor can recognize these similarities, as you have done. A great instructor can understand, perform and then explain in detail how to perform it. I don’t believe the information given here will help anyone achieve these fundamentals.
    I see this pattern throughout the golf instruction industry. It’s probably because instructors are mostly failed tour pros who A: don’t remember how they learned to swing. B: are missing some components of the tour fundamentals themselves.
    E.g. the squat and thrust. No tour pro does this. From an outside in view, it looks like they do, this all began with announcers describing Rory’s swing though. The squat and thrust is a byproduct of other mechanical movements in the swing. You need to find and understand the root of the movements which can only be achieved by performing them yourself.

    • Bill Schmedes III

      Nov 1, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      Thanks for the comments. It’s just an article with a limited amount of words to use so I can only get so much information in J-Rock. I also completely disagree with your comments especially towards the end about no tour players squat and thrust. If you were to see the data through 6D and force plates you would find your comments couldn’t be any further from the truth. I do agree that specific movements effect others in a player to player basis though.

  13. Mike W

    Nov 1, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Can you elaborate on the left shoulder working ‘down and across’. I think I know what you mean but can you clarify – down and across….what? Would you say the initial takeaway (ie. the first part of the rotation) is pushing the left hand away from the target, and maybe slightly inward toward the right hip? Thanks.

    • other paul

      Nov 1, 2015 at 7:03 am

      Take it away low and slow
      -op

    • Christestrogen

      Nov 1, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Imagine there is like 50 nails going into the ground…..and you only have 49 hammers…

      -Christosterone

    • Bill Schmedes III

      Nov 1, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      Mike,

      Left shoulder working down and across is just the movement of the shoulder joint as the body goes from forward bend to side bend. Down would be tilting (side bend) and across would be the rotation of it. Hope that clears things up. Thanks

  14. Nolanski

    Oct 31, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Great stuff. I have a tendency to spin out and for whatever reason my body/mind doesn’t want to release the club. I’ll work on it this winter!

  15. Andy Saunders

    Oct 31, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve been going through a major swing change since July. The article sums up my feeling of swinging now, tilt, rotate, swing right down the line(release/extend). Honestly, I’m a 4 cap and don’t really understand how it works, but when I swing “down the line, feeling like I’m hitting a fade” as my PGA Pro wants me to, it results in a crazy powerful slight draw every time, easy to repeat. But, months of repetition to get there, and I’m just beginning to see results over the last month after 4 months of work. It’s exciting! Crazy how the proper swing works.

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