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Love it or hate it, Stack and Tilt might help your swing

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Stack and Tilt.

The moment someone utters those three little words there’s a thought that jumps into your head and also a connotation. It is one of the most loaded phrases in all of golf and the elephant in the room in terms of golf instruction.

Every season I get a handful of new students who come to me and the first question they ask is, “You’re not going to make me do anything CRAZY like Stack and Tilt, right?”

I never quite understood how Stack and Tilt had become a pejorative phrase among golfers until it dawned on me, it’s different and it actually works.

It doesn’t just work though, it contradicts a myriad of concepts  “top golf instructors” in the world teach and therein lies the problem. I will admit I am not a full fledged “Stack and Tilt’er,” but I do incorporate aspects of it in my own swing. Let’s take a look at Stack and Tilt’s basic concepts, why it is scrutinized and see how you might be able to utilize them to improve your golf swing.

The Basics (for a right-handed golfer):

  • Weight Forward
  • (Left) Shoulder Down
  • Hands In
  • Straight Leg (right)
  • Arms Straight
  • Tuck Hips

Weight Forward

Stack weight forward

Flaw: Old school instruction used to teach a full turn with your weight balanced between your two legs, moving the majority of the weight to the back leg and then fully transferring it on the down swing to the lead leg. The problem with this is that many amateur golfers hear this and begin to move their weight and their entire upper body to the right on the back swing, resulting in a sway.

Fix: Stack and Tilt advises you to start with more weight on the lead leg (55 percent or even more), and during your back swing feel an increase in percentage (60 percent or more). This concept eliminates the sway and forces your body to stay more centered over the ball throughout the entire swing. If you struggle with a sway, using a weight forward concept is great option to help you remedy your problem.

Shoulder Down

Stack shoulder down

Flaw: A lot of golfers concentrate on generating a full turn in their back swing, but many most don’t realize that when they make that turn it needs to be done on an angle where the shoulders turn down and not out. Many amateur golfers don’t turn their shoulders on an angle and as a result need to raise and lift the arms to generate height on the back swing causing erratic loops and inconsistent swings.

Fix: Stack and Tilt states that if you can get your left shoulder to turn down and not out, it allows the head to remain steady and it also allows the club to move vertically without lifting. Keeping the head steady is also key fundamental for striking the ball first and eliminating fat shots. Many golf instructors don’t emphasize this enough during golf instruction, and as a result many golfers generate height in their back swing by lifting the club rather than letting the shoulders do the work. If you struggle with inconsistent ball striking turning your left shoulder down can help alleviate a variety of swing faults.

Hands In

Stack hands in

Flaw: The closer to your body you can keep your arms the better. Take a look at the above pictures, the picture on the left shows a golfer moving the club “straight back,” which is commonly taught by golf instructors. Not only does it move the club immediately off plane, but it causes the arms to disconnect from the body, thus losing any possibility of repeating this move consistently.

Fix: Stack and Tilt advises golfers to move there “hands in,” forcing the club to swing on an arc and thus remaining connected to the body for a more repeatable takeaway. Many high handicappers disconnect their arms immediately to start their swing and either move the club too far inside or too far outside making every swing different than the next. By using Stack and Tilt’s “hands in” fundamental, you can start to improve your takeaway and keep better connection to your body throughout your swing.

Straight Leg

Stack Leg Straight

Jim McLean just had a heart attack. Just kidding, but isn’t maintaining the flex in your back leg one of the most important rules in golf?

Flaw: Believe it or not, it is impossible to maintain the same amount of flex during your back swing and turn your hips at the same time. To be able to make a full shoulder turn, you need to turn your hips. To do so, you need to change the amount of flex each leg.

Fix: The more your back leg straightens, the more your hips can turn, which lets your shoulders turn even more. Its a win-win. Like anything in golf, we want moderation, so don’t lock the back leg but feel free to let your hips turn and allow that trail leg to elongate on the back swing. Many senior golfers have trouble with making a full turn and generating distance with their golf swing due to flexibility issues but when I get them to turn their hips they create a fuller turn resulting in dramatically more distance.

Arms Straight

Stack Arms foldedStack Arms Straight

Flaw: Maintaining length and creating extension are two of the most important aspects of the golf swing. Many beginners tend to misinterpret a hinge of the wrist for a bending of the arm.

Fix: Stack and Tilt emphasizes maintaining extension not only on the back swing, but at impact and into your finish. Many instructors teach the importance of extension, and over look how important maintaining that extension well after impact is as well. Not only will this help produce consistent ball striking, but it will also help generate club head speed through impact. Signs that indicate your extension may be lacking are large divots, seeing the club over your shoulder on the back swing, and the club hitting or resting on your shoulders at the top of your back swing.

Tuck Hips

Stack Tuck

Flaw: Many golfers have a difficult time finishing their swing and maintaining their balance after impact.

Fix: There may be a variety of reason for this, so Stack and Tilt simplified things by saying, “Raise the belt and tuck the hips.” Take a look above — by raising the belt, the golfer is forced to clear their hips fully, and by tucking the hips the golfer has placed their core directly over the lead leg in a stable and balanced manner. If you have difficulty maintaining your balance or fully finishing your golf swing, Stack and Tilt is a viable option for creating a stable finish, something all golf instructors can agree upon.

Stack and Tilt is not nearly as terrifying as golf commentators and non-believers make it out to be. It is merely a sequence of moves to get your body moving in a more efficient manner. Although it may seem radical to straighten the trail leg and not transfer weight backward, it is essential to exaggerate these moves to eliminate common faults and misconceptions that have plagued the average golfer for centuries.

There is no perfect way to swing the golf club and there will never be a perfect way to swing the golf club, but there are ways to swing the golf club more efficiently, and Stack and Tilt may be able to help you do that. If your golf swing isn’t quite where it belongs, it might be time to take a look at Stack and Tilt. It may just be the change you’re looking for.

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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.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Glenn kirk

    Aug 4, 2016 at 4:57 am

    Was shanking & hitting woeful iron shots tried stack & tilt now hitting pure irons ????????????

    • Steven

      Aug 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Have tried everything for over 10 yrs. Nothing seemed to work until i tried stack and tilt. My ball striking has improved and distance with my irons has added 10 yards. Now, if i can start making putts.

  2. Billy

    Mar 24, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    I’ve got a question. Can somebody put in stupid terms a description of what it means to “tuck the hips” ? I get everything else and I’m about 99% sure I’m gonna commit to this swing. I fight over the top and simply telling myself “just stay inside the ball is not helping my consistency one bit. Everything else was perfectly laid out in this awesome article, I’m just having a hard time visualizing and practicing tucking my hips.

    Also, another related question. Is chipping around the green type shots the same exact swing? This is the other thing thats messing up my game. I try to make these the same swings. Could somebody good at chipping please help me understand what the secret is to using a consistent chipping method, whatever that is. Thanks a lot in advance whoever answers these riddles.

    • Nik

      Mar 29, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      I started using the Stack and Tilt this year, so by no means am I a pro. To me, tucking your hips kind of feels like standing up on your front foot and pushing forward and up with your back foot. I kind of feel like I’m clinching my “cheeks” together and pushing slightly forward with my hips. I usually end with 90% of weight on my front foot and my hips pointing towards my target. I’m sure I’m over exaggerating it some since I am still finding my groove with the swing and trying to cement the motions, but I am striking iron shots more pure than ever.

      For standard chipping (not flops) I try to keep my hands quiet and use more of a putting type of stroke. This ensures my swing plane is online and I let the club do the work. I will place the ball in different parts of my stance and use different clubs depending on what kind of shot I want to play. I always keep a forward lean on my shafts no matter the flight I’m trying to hit. I typically use a 50*, 56*, or 60* wedge around the green, but I will also use a 7 iron if I need to run the ball a long way up a slope. Play the ball a little forward in your stance for more loft and less roll out (more spin) or farther back in your stance for a lower ball flight and more roll out (less spin). Don’t be afraid to experiment with different clubs and ball positions.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Michael Y.

    Jan 21, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I have struggled often with a repeatable swing. Last week I read then reviewed P & B’s main book on Stack and Tilt. I expect improvements to take some time but hard work is the way to better scoring.
    I have tried the elements of S & T and have never hit my irons better!!! I need more work but their principles have helped me very quickly and given a boost toward the 2105 golf season.
    I know one thing. “The mind is like a parachute; It only functions when it’s open.”

    Michael Y. Las Vegas, Nevada

  4. Pingback: Now Hiring: Swing Coach for Tiger - Alberta SandbaggerAlberta Sandbagger

    • David Lyons

      May 16, 2015 at 5:04 am

      Believe it or not stack and tilt puts much less stress on the back then the moves made above, extension is good for the spine not to mention if a golfer turns and tilts they also extend (fact but still somehow theory) and vice versa as well as vice versa, extend and tilt = turn, extend and turn = tilt imo tigers first swings with foley were very s&tish but then tiger figured it out and went back to a fldxed right leg which led to his back problems(imo), check his warmup for the Ryder cup on YouTube

  5. Uncle Bob

    Jul 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Out of sheer desperation, I am just now beginning to use stack and tilt.
    In my first couple sessions i have noticed significant improvement in how I strike the ball. As I get more comfortable, I think that part of the S&T is what I had unknowingly utilized 30+ years ago when I had a low single digit Hdcp. since my index has quadrupled since then, maybe I am onto something. I had gotten far away from the fixed-head and shoulder-tilted turn of my younger days. I slipped into the habit of swaying and sliding. consequently, my iron play and overall game wilted and died. I was either skulling the ball or laying the sod over on top of it. A good shot was simply a random event.
    Rome wasn’t built in a day. So this could take a while. I haven’t taken it to the course yet. But I hope to this weekend. As with any change, it’s going to be problematic not over thinking it. With that in mind, since I have a tendency toward brain lock, what would be the single most important swing thought?
    Thanks,
    bob

    • David Smith

      Jul 22, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Uncle Bob,

      How’d it go man? Give us an update. I’ve been studying this swing for a year now, I haven’t really given it any attention, I dabbled here and there but get scared trying something new but I am getting tired of inconsistent strikes and considering put it all on the table and giving this a go, I just swung a few wiffle balls in my yard with the principles in mind and it seems like a natural and powerful move thats inviting me to give it my all…. Keep me posted!

      D

  6. adam

    Nov 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    before the stack and tilt golf swing, I was scoring above 100. I could never hit my irons perfect all the time. since using the s&t, I hit all shots pure. I now shoot b/w 87-92. if I improve more on my putting I know that I will shoots in the 80’s all of the time. I recommend the book and/or dvd’s. people say you can’t hit the driver with this swing, which in nonsense. my driver shots are now better that ever. there is just a slight adjustment for the driver, like your hips slide more to the target and remembering to tuck your bottom during the follow through.

  7. Ron M

    Oct 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I cant thank you enough for this article. I was in a slump and struggling with my ball striking when I came across this article. I thought what the hell and gave S&T a serious try. Im never going back! S&T has completely saved my golf game. My ball striking has greatly improved with every club in the bag. On those occasions i do hit one fat i go back to the fundamentals learned from the book and im rivht back on track. Thank you for this article

  8. Pete Murphy

    Oct 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Although I dont use S&T, when things go wrong with my swing I over exaggerate a movement, ie, shoulder down when not swinging on plane, not transferring I practice not shifting back and other moves that resemble S&T. This article has got me thinking, maybe I should switch to this method,

    Thx
    Pete murphy

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jul 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Pete,

      Whether you “switch” to this method or not isn’t a huge deal, just simply adding a few of the pieces and continuing to make improvement is a huge bonus. Lots of people get crazy when you say the term “Stack & Tilt” but lets be honest, I’m a golf professional, in the business of making you a better golfer. If Stack and Tilt helps you and others, I want to learn as much as I can about it!

      Since this article was published I am now S&T Certified and realized just how great and simple this system really is.

      Cheers,

      Scott Yurgalevicz

  9. jaybo4@mac.com

    Jun 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    I’m 41 and just attended the 5 day camp at Ironhorse Golf and Country Club in West Palm Beach Florida and it was for sure THE BEST THING I HAVE DONE!
    The instructors that we worked with couldn’t have been better, Dave, Melainey and Steve are so easy to work with and really seam to know their stuff. Also had the chance to meet Mike Bennett and he is exactly like the way he is one of the nicest guys I have met. Thanks to these guys my ball striking is better than ever before and I now know for sure what I’m working on at the range/course is the right way. My only regret is not doing this sooner!!!

    Thanks Again Stack and Tilt
    Jay Black

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jul 22, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      Jay Black,

      Very happy you found the article informative and your S&T experience has been a positive one. It is a great system which helps many golfers see great results.

      Cheers,
      Scott

  10. yo!

    Apr 11, 2013 at 2:08 am

    P&B S&T book is the most insightful book with regard to the golfswing since Homer Kelley’s TGM. Dante’s 4 magic moves is a classic as well. Every other golf instruction book have been less than satisfactory.

  11. Jack

    Apr 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I actually didn’t know these were different than normal. Other than the weight forward, and the arms in ones. I am going to try the arms in. Looks like something I haven’t incorporated into my swing. Arms straight too. I often struggle with that as it feels stiff and robotic. I think tiger brings his arms pretty close to his body on the backswing too.

    • Ben Pittman

      Apr 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Jack, make sure that if you plan on incorporating the “arms in” that you also get the left shoulder down component . . . otherwise you risk rolling the clubface open on the takeaway. Keeping the clubface square in s&t will feel like it is hooded.

      regards

  12. Blanco

    Apr 3, 2013 at 1:49 am

    I like many/most of the tenants of stack and tilt… however, if anyone wants to throw blame around regarding “how did S&T get such a connotation…” look no further than the “OGs” Plummer and Bennett. From what I’ve researched, these guys are so fire and brimstone about their “method…” that they’ve officially crossed the line into clueless self-absorption. Questionable advertising and using the official web site to publicly insult former students? It’s at best childish and not worthy of my time or money.

  13. Travis Mathews

    Apr 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Could someone comment on ball position? Does the traditional ball position thoughts still apply for S&T?

    • Matt Newby, PGA

      Apr 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Pending all other things equal…yes

  14. G

    Apr 1, 2013 at 2:36 am

    It works great for mid and short irons, or if you are tall guy, even with the longer clubs as you can really strike down at the ball. But if you’re on the short side, say below 5’7″, it’s harder to get at the ball with the longer clubs, to be so on top, that it doesn’t quite work.
    And then you get stuck (hahaha) trying to hit draw all the time. Great if you never have to play courses that require to hit more fades, or are playing on soft greens that hold, as your ball most likely is going to have draw/hooking spin as it gets to the green, and you have no chance to get at the pins that are tucked into the right side of greens over bunkers and water, etc – try to hit a floating cut shot with backspin with stack, it’s really difficult. Try hitting a major fade ball around trees and the corner because you have to, you would find it really difficult.

    And then there’s the driver………. as one Stack N Tilt teacher ADMITTED: “Yeah, the driver swing…. IT IS different.”

    Don’t do it for all your shots. Learn it for short clubs as it works great for full wedge shots. Learn to use another swing for you driver. Or never play courses that have trees on both sides and lots of dog-leg rights.

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Apr 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

      G,

      Although I do agree with you that it is very simple and easy for short/mid clubs, I have to respectfully disagree with your fade & driver comments. In regards to hitting a fade or a cut, take a look at someone who utilizes some of these motions in their swing (although not labeled s&t tiger woods swing comes to mind as he stays center, turns his shoulders on a steeper angle, etc) and he manages to hit a fade & cut very well.

      In terms of driver I find that most students, ESP with a driver turn there shoulders much too flat (a lot almost parallel to the ground) so feeling like your left shoulder turns down with a driver “feels” incredibly radical. What’s funny is I find it just as easy to cut the ball as it is to draw it when done correctly. Breaking through that crazy feel of the left shoulder turning down is tough achieve and takes some time and practice.

      Thanks for the input though it sounds like you have some experience with s&t and some of the principles, I understand that everyone doesn’t have the same swing and that’s perfectly fine but kudos for not being afraid to implement some aspects into your game!

      Cheers

  15. Alex Pisano

    Mar 30, 2013 at 12:35 am

    “Signs that indicate your extension may be lacking are large divots, seeing the club over your shoulder on the back swing, and the club hitting or resting on your shoulders at the top of your back swing.”

    Love the article, however wouldn’t a student lacking arm extension be more likely to not hit the turf at all rather than take large divots? I would see a student lacking in side bend and spine extension at impact taking larger divots.

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Mar 30, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Alex, I think you’re also correct, but for simplicity I left out side bend, spine extension, etc to keep it easy to understand. There are a variety of reasons for fat shots. I notice a fair amount of clients who struggle with extension actually fold their arms at the elbow during the backs swing and then on the down swing extend them causing the club to strike well behind the golf ball. Thanks for the input!

      • Alex Pisano

        Mar 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm

        Ah now I understand the point you were getting at, nice to see the good word spread!

  16. AJ Ellis

    Mar 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    true Scott, feel and real are so different. Video feedback is so helpful in realizing the difference. most everyone needs to exaggerate a “feel” to get into better positions. I think closed mindedness is a reflection of what people hear from the announcers on TV (not really the most up to date if you know what i mean.)

  17. Pingback: Love it or hate it, Stack and Tilt might help your swing – GolfWRX | Golf Grip Instruction

  18. Scott Yurgalevicz

    Mar 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Hey Aj, What I find is most students who move off the ball with an iron do it even more with the longer clubs. Not only do you have to exaggerate the weight forward move with iron but all the clubs including driver and fw woods. Most students actually feel like they are falling/leaning too far towards the target, but when I show them video of their swing they are actually directly over the ball with zero lateral motion. My golf coach always says “feel isn’t real” and that’s a tough thing for students to understand when making this move.

    • kygolfer81

      Mar 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      This is exactly the feeling I had to get. It felt like I was going to tip over at the top (toward the target) but on video I was perfect at the top. Of course, when you’re using to swaying a foot off the ball, staying centered will definitely feel like you’re tipping the other way.

  19. Matt Newby, PGA

    Mar 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Scott,

    Well said. I think too often S&T gets a bad wrap in the media for a lot of wrong reasons. That being said I think your title says it the best, S&T “MIGHT” help your swing. I find too many people come in to a golf lesson very closed minded about what they think should happen during the golf swing.

  20. AJ Ellis

    Mar 29, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    All great for solid, consistent impact and hitting down making good divots. but i think the driver swing should follow a more traditional weigt shift. Do you? (Easily done with the wider stance of the driver swing)

    • Ken McAnally

      Oct 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Really Scott, another S&T promotion where a) a short iron is used and b) where really dubious pictures are used to represent the ” problems with traditional swings”…Arms straight pictures supposedlybrepresenting trdaitional method…really ?. The straightening of the right leg, does increase shoulder turn BUT completely ignores the fact that torque has to be built up by “static” hips. If there is no torque build-up, it would be like having a catapult without one end fixed…great shoulder turn, lousy torque. This S&T method does not work with longer clubs, such as driver where the ball is hit with a flat or up trajectory and because the weight is so far left (for RH players) and put further left by S&T, the “angle of attack” of the driver is made ludicrously large. OK S&T people say to “jump up/lift/rotate” to fix that just before impact. Really ? How do the eyes cope with that change at the last moment ?. The “in-to-out” emphasis of S&T is good BUT does encourage conditions which create shanks, by the clubhead moving out, and makes a fade with backspin difficult with shorter irons….try S&T to a tight pin over a bunker. one last point: making a golfer not have weight transfer is like telling a baseball pitcher to keep his leading foot on the ground all the time…..good luck with that. Sure weight transfer can be “overdone” but, keep it inside the trailing foot line…as all great golfers have always done and that is a control.

      • ed

        Jun 21, 2015 at 7:38 am

        Hitting a golf ball is nothing like a pitcher throwing a ball.
        It’s more like a hockey player winding up for a slap shot or a baseball player winding up for a powerful hit.Both can be accomplished with the weight staying forward or weight staying back.In golf weight staying back is bad for all clubs except the driver but it certainly can be accomplished with weight forward.
        Speed,spin (left or right),and contact are much more important that moving back and forth.Moving back and forth almost always creates poor contact and way less coil.

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Instruction

WATCH: How to stop swaying during your golf swing

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In this video, I share with you how to stop swaying for good. I demonstrate how to use PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) to create the correct movements in your backswing. This video is part of a series on PNF drills.

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A shockingly simple drill to hit the golf ball farther

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One of the biggest requests I get on the lesson tee is for more distance. Everyone wants to hit the golf ball farther. Obviously. That being said, there’s many things that go into producing distance, such as…

  • Swing Length — how long is the swing or how long does the club stay in the air before hitting the ball?
  • Swing Width — are you at full extension at during the swing or do you get soft arms?
  • Impact Point — the horizontal and vertical point of contact that influences gear effect, launch, and spin rate.
  • Spin Rate — how much backspin does the ball have?
  • Height — how high is the ball in the air?
  • Launch Angle — what is the angle of the ball off the face during impact?
  • Ball Speed — how fast does the ball leave the blade?

But one thing remains true: if you want more distance, then you must swing faster with all of the above being maximized for your current swing speed. So how do you create more speed? Simple — set up the drill as shown below.

Use between 6-to-10 balls and swing 100 percent all out with no regard for where the ball lands. Then repeat the drill and make your normal speed swing and you will find that your clubhead speed will slightly increase. Do this drill 5 to 10 times per practice session and you will train yourself to swing faster.

However, it’s up to you to figure out how fast you can swing yet maximize the qualities listed above so you can maintain consistent contact.

Remember, you don’t have to get complex to solve your distance problem. Try this first and see what happens!

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Your Body Is Your Most Important Piece Of Equipment; It’s Time For An Upgrade

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Clubs, balls, shoes, mental training, lessons. Golfers are always searching for the next thing that is going to transform their game. If a product has promise, golfers are like addicts; they must have it… regardless of the price. What’s usually ignored, however, is the most important piece of equipment for all golfers: their body, and how their physical conditioning pertains to golf.

Everything becomes easier by getting in better “golf shape.” You will likely hit the ball farther, have better energy and focus, fewer aches and pains, improved ability to actually implement swing changes and the durability to practice more.

When trying to improve your physical conditioning for golf, it would shortsighted not to mention the following requirements:

  1. Discipline: There will be times you don’t want to train, but should.
  2. Patience: Small, incremental progress adds up to big improvement over time.
  3. A Path: Make sure you use your time and effort efficiently by having a training plan that matches your goals.

If you can adopt these principles, I am confident you will be very happy with the return — even more so than the latest driver, putter or practice aid.

I like to compare having a well functioning body to a painter’s blank canvas. By ensuring you have adequate coordination, motor control, mobility, stability, strength and speed, you have the basic tools necessary for a high-performance golf swing. Of course, you will still need to develop a functional technique and specific skill level that matches your goals. On the flip side, if you are deficient in these areas, you are like a dirty canvas; your options are limited and you will need to make compensations to achieve anything close to the desired outcome. In simpler terms, movements that are universally desirable in the golf swing may be very difficult or impossible for you based on your current physical state.

Earlier, I mentioned the term “appropriate training,” and now I am going to discuss one of the ways to identify what this means for you as a golfer trying to use physical training to support a better golf game. The TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Movement Screen is a great start for everyone. It is a combination of 16 exercises that are used to assess your current movement capabilities, identify limitations and provide you with your “Body-Swing” connection. The “Body-Swing” connection is a term coined by TPI that illustrates the link between physical deficiencies and potential swing tendencies based on its “Big 12” model. The Big 12 swing characteristics that TPI has identified are as follows:

  1. S-Posture
  2. C-Posture
  3. Loss of Posture
  4. Flat Shoulder Plane
  5. Early Extension
  6. Over The Top
  7. Sway
  8. Slide
  9. Hanging Back
  10. Reverse Spine Angle
  11. Casting
  12. Chicken Winging

It’s important to note these as tendencies rather than flaws, as great ball strikers have demonstrated some of them. When done excessively, they make high functioning swings more difficult and may make potential injury more likely. Rather than going through all 16 screening exercises (which would be a very long read), I have selected five that I feel provide a lot of useful information. They can often broadly differentiate the playing level of golfers.

1. Static Setup Posture

There is a lot of debate in golf instruction about what is the correct way to assume posture for the golf swing. Some prefer more rounded shoulders akin to what was common in years gone by: Jack and Arnie being good examples. Others prefer a more extended thoracic spine (less curved upper back): Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are good examples. I’m not a golf instructor and clearly both types can hit great golf shots. I am more concerned with the lumbar spine (the lower back, which doesn’t seem to get as much attention when the setup is being discussed).

Note the difference between the spinal curvatures of Jack and Rory. I’m OK with either as long as the lower back is in a biomechanically sound position (explained in video).

An overly extended or arched lower back (which I demonstrate in the video) creates too large a space between the alignment rod and my lower back. This is a common issue I see, and it can lead to a lack of pelvis rotation, a lack of power due to the inability to effectively use the glutes and abdominal muscles and lower back discomfort. Cueing a slight posterior tilt (tucking the tailbone underneath you) often makes a noticeable difference in pelvis mobility, power, and comfort.

 2. Pelvic Rotation

Pelvic rotation is essential for X-factor stretch, the ability to increase the amount of separation between the pelvis and torso during transition (moving from the backswing into the downswing). This is often referred to as starting the downswing with the lower body/hips (while the torso is still rotating away from the target or is paused at the end of the backswing). It is critical for effective sequencing and power production. Increasing the separation between your pelvis and torso on the downswing increases what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle” of your trunk and torso muscles, which is like adding more stretch to an elastic band and then releasing it. If you cannot separate pelvic rotation and torso rotation, it will be extremely difficult to be a good golfer.

In the video below, watch how Rickie Fowler’s pelvis rotates toward the target independently of his torso. This increases the elastic energy stored in his muscles and tendons, allowing for big power production.

 3. Lower Quarter Rotation

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test shares some similarities to the Pelvic Rotation Test, but one key difference is that it doesn’t require nearly as much motor control. Many people fail the pelvic rotation test not because of a mobility limitation, but because they can’t control the different segments of the their body and perform the action they want (motor control issue). The Lower Quarter Rotation Test, on the other hand, does not require anywhere near as much control and therefore looks more directly at the internal and external rotation mobility of the lower body. People who struggle with this test are more likely to sway, slide and have reverse spine angle.

DJ Top of backswing.jpg

I’m confident Dustin Johnson would do OK on the Lower Quarter Rotation test. Look at how well he can turn into his right hip.

 4. Seated Thoracic Rotation

This one usually resonates with golfers, as “getting a full shoulder turn” is something that golf media and players like to talk to about regularly. I think most people understand the concept of a sufficient shoulder turn being important for creating power. Restricted thoracic spine rotation can stem from a few different causes. A common one is excessive thoracic flexion (rounder upper back). To test this for yourself: 1) try the test in the video hunched over and 2) with your spine as long as possible. You should notice you can rotate farther when you sit extended.

5. 90/90 External Shoulder Rotation  

Many popular golf instruction pages on social media talk about the importance of shallowing the shaft in transition and trail arm external shoulder rotation. I understand the reasoning for this in terms of swing technique, but something that needs to be taken into consideration is whether golfers actually have the ability to externally rotate their shoulders. This is often not the case. Two interesting trends I have noticed with golfers and external shoulder rotation:

  1. A larger percentage of U.S. golfers compared to Irish golfers (the two countries I have worked in) tend to have much more trail arm external rotation available. This is mainly due to throwing baseballs and footballs in their youth, which doesn’t happen in Ireland.
  2. Shoulder external rotation, shoulder flexion, and thoracic extension really seem to reduce as golfers get older compared to other movements. Please take note of this and put some exercises into your routine that promote mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and scapula, as these are the foundation for sound shoulder mechanics. Thoracic extensions on a foam roller, relaxed hanging from a pull-up bar and wall slides with external rotation are some exercises I like to use.
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays

I think this pitcher would have enough external shoulder rotation in his golf swing.

I hope this article gave you some more understanding of how learning about your body and then working on its limitations might be beneficial for your golf game. If you have questions about the TPI Movement Screen or are interested in an online evaluation, please feel free to e-mail me.

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