Shoulder Tilt & How It Affects You

By Mark Russo
April 2, 2015


In teaching over 800 lessons every year, it’s really interesting the patterns that you see in golfers and what you learn about their tendencies.  One of the big aspects of the swing that I have seen issues with is the role of the shoulders and how they should remain tilted in the swing.

Driving Series

Recently, I have had some students come in and struggle with ball flight and contact due to not maintaining the proper tilt of their shoulders at the top of the backswing.

It’s important to understand that this inclination at the top of the swing is easily viewed on video by looking at the shoulders, but is created by the bend at the hips.  If that bend is lost, then the shoulders turn too flat (horizontal) at the top of the backswing, while adding bend at the waist makes the shoulders get too steep (vertical) at the top.

You certainly hear people say “maintain your spine angle” at the top of the swing, and while that isn’t totally accurate (the spine moves a lot in the motion but it’s difficult to see), it’s not a bad way to get someone to keep the proper amount of shoulder tilt for them.

The reason this can wreak havoc on your golf swing is that, in my experience, the arms move as an answer to this change in shoulder tilt.

Screenshot 2015-04-01 12.01.37

For example, I had a student bend more at the waist, so that the left shoulder moved way down, which threw his arms way too low and inside going back, resulting in an out to in club path and some wicked slices.

On the flip side, I have had students get flatter with their shoulders and then drop the club way too much in to out on the way down because their shoulders could only tilt and not turn from this position.  There’s no one thing that happens with each issue, but needless to say it isn’t good!

In order to combat this issue, it’s important to first understand how much bend is best for you in your golf swing at address, and then understand how best to take the club back for your body.  An ideal way to do this is go through the BioSwing Dynamics process, created by Mike Adams and E.A. Tischler, and get measured for your biomechanical tendencies.

In this system, I’m able to take some simple measurements and create a set up that is geared around what your body WANTS to do, so that you are not putting yourself in positions that just are not physically compatible with your make up.

If your arms are very long, then your bend at the waist may be less than a person with short arms, which certainly can affect your ability to maintain your bend at the waist and put your arms in a position going back that allows you to return the club to the ball for maximum compression and power.

I will also say that trying to make the club do something your body can’t do going back can also make you lose the bend at the waist.  If you think you should move the club like Matt Kuchar but a J.B. Holmes-like swing is better for you, the results will never be very good.

So take the time to understand the role of the shoulders, get measured, and find a happy place in your golf swing where freedom of movement is the goal and the ball striking will take care of itself.

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