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Go ahead, let your hips turn in the backswing

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As an instructor, I see a lot of golf swings every day and a large majority of the golfing public seems to have an obsession with not turning their hips in their golf swing.

Magazines and books have been pushing the idea that if we can restrict our hip turn and rotate the shoulders substantially more, we have the formula for more power: Degree of Shoulder Turn – Degree of Hip Turn = Power. Giving this idea to a novice golfer is like letting a child play with matches; there’s going to be a lot of damage to repair.

Photo 1 depicts a swing where a golfer is attempting to restrict hip turn and generate as much shoulder turn as possible, while Photo 2 shows a golfer who is embracing the notion that the hips need to turn.

What is noticeable is that when restricting the hips the golfer is forced to turn their shoulders and arms on a much flatter plane. Many golfers struggle with taking the club too far inside during their take away and lifting the club to reach the top of their backswing, the classic slicer move (inside-up-over the top). The inside takeaway occurs from the fact that the hips have not rotated and the hands and arms feel the need to fan or rotate the club to generate that feel of rotation.

Photo 1

No Hips - Takeaway

Photo 2

Hip Turn - Takeaway

Going forward the golfer is unable to rotate the hips so they lift the club to the top of the back swing resulting in a very flat shoulder turn (Photo 3) and a loop (Photo 4) that will force them to come over the top.

Photo 3

No Hips - Top of Backswing

Photo 4

No Hip Turn - Downswing

Allowing the hips to rotate will help alleviate some of these issues and allow you to create more shoulder turn (even with some steepness to them) in the process.

Photo 5

Hip Turn - Face On

Photo 6

Hip Turn - Top of Backswing

Photos 5 and 6 show a golfer who has allowed his hips to turn on the backswing and, in return, his arms and hands have rotated properly. That created more connection between the arms and chest. The golfer was also able to generate more shoulder turn by allowing his hips to turn more during the takeaway, and potentially breaking the dreaded habit of coming inside, up, and over the top.

So instead of restricting the hips, let them rotate for a more fundamentally sound golf swing.

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Scott is a Certified Personal Coach at GolfTEC Main Line in Villanova, PA and also the Head Men's Golf Coach @ Division III Rosemont College. Each day he utilizes 3-D Motion Measurements, Foresight Launch Monitors, and high speed video to help each of his students achieve their specific goals. Past experience include owning and and operating the Yur Golf Swing Teaching Academy in Philadelphia. He started my golfing career at Radnor Valley Country Club in Villanova, Penn., and spent time at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla. In his short 7 year instruction career he as taught over 5,000 golf lessons. He currently works with many of the top local Amateur golfers in the Philadelphia area, and many of the best Junior golfers. Teaching golf has always been my passion and with my civil engineering and philosophy background from Villanova University, I am able bring interesting perspective and effective techniques to my instruction.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Stephane Gauthier

    Apr 3, 2015 at 12:09 am

    Great article. I recently stumbled upon this “method” by experimentation and reading more Hogan related stuff and it has greatly improved my strike.
    For me it has become a natural trigger to my takeaway. It feel like I move rear hip back which prevents any swaying and gives me the feeling the club and hands is lagging behind (like Dufner). It also “feels” like I’m rotating in place as I feel very centered over the ball with this method. less sloppy.
    Anyways, It’s nice to read confirmation that I’m doing the right thing. Thanks!

    Stephane

  2. colemantle

    Aug 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Great article. I had recently fell into the trap of restricting my hip turn and my play got consistently worse with each round.Was sucking the club inside on my takeaway and all the other symptoms you mentioned. If i promoted an extreme outside take away I could manage to get some decent strikes but no consistency. Luckily my uncle was watching my swing and immediately noticed my hips not turning which led me to internet searching which led me to this article. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Phil Murdock

    Jul 1, 2014 at 1:12 am

    I agree to a degree but, you should not purposely try to turn the hips immediately as that will also cause a flat,inside club and also left arm plane.This makes it very hard to get the club back to the ball on a descending blow.Especially with an iron and can cause drastic duck hooks with a driver if you don’t bottom out behind the ball first.Please correct me on his if i’m wrong.I have the best luck with a conscious shoulder turn to move the club back with minimal hip turn.Let the shouler turn dictate how much the hips turn.Depending on your age or flexability.Restricting the hip turn is definately hazardous though.I’ve been toying with this for 8 years and it is still not easy to exacute.I think a steady head(not locked in place) and a steady deliberate, no wrist braking take away initiated by the upper torso is key for power and more consistancy!!!

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jul 22, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Phil, you are spot on. The goal of this was to make sure you don’t purposely restrict your hip turn. Restricting the hip turn doesn’t allow the club to get deep enough at the top of the backswing. Much like everything, moderation is key. Find your happy Hip Turn place and stick to it.

  4. John

    Oct 18, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Wow, I wish I would’ve looked up this article earlier in the season! It’s mid-October and here on the East Coast the season is winding down quickly. Anyway, I am a classic over the top, outside in path slicer. I’ve made bad adjustments to set up facing way left, extra strong grip, etc. to “play” my slice, i.e. a big banana ball that starts left and curves back to the fairway ( or most of the time , on the right side fringe of the rough) This of course robs me of distance and I’m usually faced with a long second shot into the green. So I’ve been going to the range a lot lately working on stuff , reading countless articles on shoulder turning and where your arms should be at the top of the backswing, etc., etc. I’ve also read about starting the downswing with the lower body, which I’ve gotten down, but if I’m not in the proper place to begin with, well then it’s still going to end up in trouble. Then I started thinking about just a good, solid hip/core turn for both back and down swings. Read something recently that made sense about “letting the arms just go along for the ride” and that they will find the proper plane that way….well went to the range and did just that. Low and behold, I was hitting DRAWS….draw after draw. I’ve never hit a draw in my life and although very excited thought it must’ve been a fluke. Did some more researching on-line, came across this very article and …well, you guessed it…back to the range! No fluke, hit all draws, not one slice!! So, I apologize for the long winded reply, but just wanted to say thanks for the confirmation of hips in the swing! It works for me and I hope it helps other slicer/over the topper/outside inners out there. Now just can’t wait to get out for another round!! 🙂
    John

  5. russell

    Aug 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    x factor by Jim Mclean he is along with Ledbetter hurt more golf swings than you can imagine,the best golf coach bar none Jimmy Ballard,and if you want proof check out the players he has coached in the last 25 years….

  6. Jeff

    Feb 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Amen Scott. Thanks for liberating the vast majority of golfers who are no longer 20 yrs. and cannot execute the x-factor without hurting their game or their back. Fortunately, I discovered this move some time ago, and found getting the club on plane to be much easier. Loss of distance? Correcting an over the top move will do wonders for your distance.

  7. Jeff

    Feb 26, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I spent so many years working on the “X-Factor” that so many of the golf magazines support, but finally broke free of this advice. Just look at Bubba. He turns his hips more than most people turn their shoulders.

    Thanks for the article, Scott.

  8. Gene

    Feb 25, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Scott,
    how true, especially for senior golfers like me – I tried for a long time to keep my hips from rotating – it was supposedly to produce maximum power and once in a while it happened but more often than not, inconsistency reigned – once I started allowing my hips to turn naturally, everything fell into place – I am becoming much more consistent and in control of my swing -this is good instruction for those willing to listen and trust it!

  9. Nick

    Feb 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I have often been confused by the advice not to restrict hip turn in the back swing. Snead had pronounced hip rotation in the backswing and I don’t hear anyone saying he had problems with power or accuracy in his ball striking. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yzE5QODhtg

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Feb 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Hey Nick, Thanks for the comment. I too was bewildered by the amount of students I get bumping their hips right and left in an effort to restrict hip turn in hopes of more power. Its almost comical how much better they get the moment I tell them to let them turn, almost every aspect of their swing gets better. By turning the hips you become an athlete!

      • brian cosgrove

        Jul 9, 2013 at 9:34 am

        Wow! I am 71 (6 handicap} and drift in and out of the backswing hip turn. Every time I go back to the hip turn move I srike it so much better. I think I worry about that old axiom of restricting the backswing hip turn. I am a Canadian instructor and have not used this much in my lessons but because of my success and your confirmation I will when needed. Thanks for the info.

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Instruction

How the Trail Arm Should Work In Backswing

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Stop getting stuck! In this video, I demonstrate a great drill to help you move your trail arm correctly in the backswing.

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Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve

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Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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Instruction

Jumping for Distance (Part 2): The One-Foot Jump

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In Part 1, I wrote about how I think this concept of jumping up with both feet for more power may have come about in part due to misinterpretation of still photography and force plate data, self-propagation, and a possible case of correlation vs causation. I also covered reasoning why these players are often airborne, and that can be from flawed setups that include overly wide stances and/or lead foot positions that are too closed at setup or a re-planted lead foot that ends up too closed during the downswing.

In Part 2, let’s look at what I feel is a better alternative, the one foot jump. To me, it’s safer, it doesn’t complicate ball striking as much, and it can still generate huge amounts of vertical ground force.

First, set up with an appropriate stance width. I like to determine how wide to stand based on the length of your lower legs. If you go to your finish position and stand on your lead leg and let your trail leg dangle down so your knees are parallel, your lower trail leg should extend only as far back as it will go while being up on the tip of your trail toe. If you roll that trail foot back down to the ground, viola, you’ll have a stance width that’s wide enough to be “athletic” and stable but not so wide you lose balance when swinging. You can go a little wider than this, but not much.

To contrast, the stance below would be too wide.

Jumping off the ground can be caused by too wide of a stance and lead foot position that is too closed at setup

Second, make sure your lead foot is open sufficiently at address. I’ve previously outlined how to do both these first two points in this article.

Third, whether you shift your weight to your trail foot or keep a more centered weight type feeling in the backswing, when you shift your weight to your lead foot, be careful of the Bubba replant, and then push up with that lead leg to push your lead shoulder up. This is the one-foot “jump” and it will take advantage of parametric acceleration (read more about that here).

But also at the same time, shift your lower spine towards the target.

From a face-on viewpoint, this can look like back bend, but in 3D space it’s side bend. It kind of feels like you are crunching the trail side of your mid-section, or maybe just bending over to the side to pick up a suitcase, for example. This move helps lower your trail shoulder, which brings down the club (whereas this is more difficult to do if you try to two-foot jump with your trail leg). It also helps you to keep from getting airborne off your lead foot. Further it doesn’t change your low point (by not changing the relative position of the C7 vertebrae in its general orb in space) and complicate ball striking like a two-foot jump does.

At this point, the club releases and you can stand up out of the shot (you don’t need to transition in to any sort of dangerous back bend) in balance on your lead foot having generates tons of vertical ground force without having jumped off the ground or putting yourself at risk for injury.

“Movember” mustache… not required!

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