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Where should my shoulders be at impact?



There is a lot of conflicting advice about whether the shoulders should be open, square, or even closed at impact. The real answer, like most things in golf, is “it depends.”

The key to shoulder position at impact is matching your pivot with your arm swing. What I see on a daily basis is players doing things that by themselves might not be wrong, but they don’t fit with the rest of their pattern. Even worse is someone who tries to a make change to their golf swing by adding a piece that will do more harm than good. That’s because the piece they are trying to “fix” has to match the rest of their pattern.

So where should your shoulders be at impact? It depends on the rate at which your rear arm straightens, the location of your right elbow and the speed of your arm swing. Because people tend to understand things better when they see them we will go over some examples (all examples use a right-handed golfer).

Golfer 1

For a golfer whose left arm is deeper and more across the chest and right arm stays bent longer, the shoulders should be more open at impact. This will help the golfer’s swing move in the direction of the target.

For this golfer, the arms are moving slower, or closer to the same speed as the right shoulder. This is why their right arm stays bent longer. As the hands move closer to impact the right shoulder is also moving at a similar rate down, out and forward toward impact. This gets shoulders more open at impact.

If this golfer’s shoulders were more closed, their swing direction would be too far to the right of the target and he or she would struggle with pushes and hooks. Hunter Mahan in the video below is a good example of this sort of pattern. His right arms stays bent until well after impact, allowing/forcing him to use his body to get the club out to the ball in a way that results in a fairly neutral path.

Click here to see a YouTube video of Hunter Mahan’s swing (SwingVision — down the line)

Golfer 2

In contrast, a golfer whose right arm straightens faster needs his shoulders more square at impact. This golfer’s arms move faster in relation to the pivot than Golfer 1, which is why the right arm straightens faster. Golfer 2’s hands are moving toward impact at a faster rate than his right shoulder is moving down, out and forward. Because of this, Golfer 2’s shoulders will be more square/less open than the shoulders of Golfer 1. This type of golfer has the club working out toward the ball due to straightening of the right arm, and will work toward the target without having the body nearly as open to the target.

A great example of this is Ricky Fowler: Click here to see a YouTube video of Fowler’s swing (down the line)

The key to understanding this is that both Golfer 1 and Golfer 2 can have the same ball flight and resultant path. They just get there two different ways.

Mahan vs. Fowler at impact 


Most good golfers fall somewhere between these two extremes. Poorer golfers mix and match these patterns. Most commonly, I see slicers who open their bodies too fast with a right arm that straightens too fast. This kicks the club out past the ball and causes a path that is out-to-in, which produces deflected slices and big pulls along with shots hit off the heel and shanks. You will also see some good players with a lot of “lag” who keep their right arm bent but don’t pivot enough through the ball, resulting in a path that is too in-to-out which can lead to toe shots.

When working on your impact dynamics, make sure you are adding parts that match the rest of what you’re doing.  Mixing components here can lead to very poor results and frustration.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction and Academy” forum. 

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I currently teach at Hidden Hills Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla. I began teaching golf in 2001 and have had PGA Tour teaching credentials since 2009. I have been lucky enough to work with players on the PGA,, LPGA and Symetra tours as well as top amateur and collegiate golfers, including multiple NCAA national champions. I've had two students in the last two years graduate from the Tour to the PGA Tour. I am constantly trying to push myself to learn as much as possible about golf and many other areas of life.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nick

    Dec 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Could not agree more. I was having an issue with slicing that was corrected by an emphasis on staying connected going back and not letting my shoulders race to open with my arms lagging behind, leaving the face open. A thought of “staying connected” through impact, which is obviously not a completely accurate description of what actually happens in down swing, but it slowed my shoulders and got my ina better impact position and back to drawing the ball. Took a quick look at some video and I am more of a ricky than a hunter.

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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat



Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs



The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location



One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:


  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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19th Hole