“Keep your head still!”
How many times have you heard this expression as a golfer?
But is it possible to keep your head completely still when you swing the club and if so is it beneficial to do so?
Keeping your head still is one of those classic lines used to help prevent head movement in the golf swing that has been around for ages, but it is misleading.
There are a few other sayings and tips which on the surface aren’t meant to be bad advice but ultimately don’t help.
The head, as well as the spine, acts as a fulcrum that the body swings around.
If the head moves unnecessarily in the swing, it can create problems with consistency and ball striking.
So, how do we eradicate unwanted head movement in the golf Swing?
The purpose of this article is to explain why we think it’s better to think of how to eradicate unwanted head movement in the golf swing as opposed to “just keep your head still” – there is a subtle but important difference!!
We’ll give you a better understanding by looking at the following:
- Why keeping your head still isn’t good advice
- What would be classed as unwanted head movement in the golf swing?
- What is correct when it comes to head movement in the golf swing
Why keeping your head still isn’t good advice
So let’s deal with this one straight off the bat.
Why would this not be deemed the best advice to follow if you are looking to improve your golf swing?
Taking that advice literally, it’s actually nigh on impossible to make an effective full swing with a golf club – try it and see for yourself!!
While it doesn’t create too many problems in the backswing, it’s in the downswing and through impact where the real problems arise.
Given the speed and momentum created in the downswing, once you’ve hit the ball and you’re moving into the follow-through, your head will naturally move and face your target as you complete your swing.
If your head didn’t move you would end up with a downswing where your body stops turning and you would “flick” at the ball with your hands to generate any meaningful power which makes for a very inconsistent motion and ball striking.
What would be classed as unwanted head movement in the golf swing?
As mentioned, the head and spine act as a fulcrum that the body moves around in the swing.
Keeping both head and spine in a consistent position in the swing will help to create a consistent and repeatable action.
The following unwanted head movements can be caused by other things happening with the upper body in the swing.
- Losing head height
- Keeping your head “down”
- Unwanted head movement in the backswing
- Unwanted head movement in the downswing
- Losing head height
Even at the height of his powers, this was a constant problem for Tiger Woods.
Looking at where Woods’ head was at address compared to where it was at impact there was a definite ‘dipping’ of his head – this could be as much as a couple of inches at its most noticeable.
So why did this happen?
A big reason for this was how Tiger used the ground to gain his power in the downswing. Shifting his weight aggressively into his left side and left foot created a “squatting” action which led to his head being lower at impact than at address.
Even for a player of Woods’ calibre, this could lead to him hitting wayward shots most noticeably with the driver.
As Woods started to improve his driving, it was noticeable that he maintained his head height throughout the swing.
Keeping your head “down”
This can be sometimes mixed up with keeping the head still as the golfer concentrates so hard on making good contact with the ball.
The problem with keeping your head down is that it affects your ability to make a full-shoulder turn so the backswing can end up being very short and won’t generate any significant amount of power.
Unwanted head movement in the backswing
So, can unwanted head movement in the backswing cause any problems?
The simple answer is yes it can.
How does this happen?
In an attempt to create a powerful backswing, some golfers will sway off the ball.
This means that their legs aren’t countering the turning of the upper body and their weight and body move on to their trail foot in the swing (right foot if you are right-handed).
What happens with the head is it can move back away from its address position as your centre of gravity moves.
Unwanted head movement in the downswing
Once this backswing is completed, two things can happen in the downswing.
- Your weight and head don’t move back towards their original positions and you “scoop” at the ball
- You overcompensate and your head moves back forward with the body following which can leave the club with little room to swing making the hands overactive at impact
Either way, this leads to very inconsistent ball striking and poor directional control.
5 Tips For Correct head positioning
We’ve covered the unwanted head movement in the golf swing but what should you do?
Below are some key movements which will work for your swing and give you a better feeling of how your head should move and be positioned in the swing.
- Keeping your head “behind” the ball
- Chin up!
- “Covering” the ball with your chest
- Allowing your head to move after impact
- Keeping your head “behind” the ball
If you look at the best drivers of the golf ball in the world at address, you’ll notice one thing they all have in common.
They set up with their head slightly behind the ball.
What does this mean?
For right-handed golfers, if you look at their address position face-on their head will be slightly aimed towards their right foot.
It’s almost as if they are looking down at the golf ball with their left eye.
With the driver especially, having your head angled slightly behind the ball will help promote an upward strike on the ball through impact.
One other idea you can utilise to help achieve this is when you tee your ball up, have the manufacturer’s title positioned at the back of the ball and feel like your left eye is focused on that (if you are a right-handed golfer)
This simple little trick can also help you feel like your head is positioned more behind the ball.
With irons, we don’t want this feeling to be too pronounced as it can lead to topping the ball so feel like your head is a little more centred.
#1: Chin Up!
In this instance not related to being positive about things!
In this context keeping your chin raised and avoiding the feeling of almost resting your chin on your chest will help promote a better turn in your backswing.
The ideal feeling in completing your backswing is feeling like your left shoulder (if you are a right-handed golfer) moves under your chin.
This means you’ve also made a good weight transfer and your back is facing the target.
#2: “Covering” the ball with your chest
One way to feel like you don’t have much lateral movement/unwanted head movement in the golf swing is to put a tennis ball under the outside edge of your trail foot (right foot for right-handed golfers).
When you make a backswing you won’t be able to sway off or away from the ball because of the position of the tennis ball.
You’ll be able to make a really powerful backswing and as you transition you’ll feel like your chest remains over the ball at impact – “covering” the ball.
Doing this exercise means that your head can’t move around much either creating a nice stable position for your head until it naturally moves as you transition into the follow-through.
#3: Allowing your head to move after impact
This is aimed at the “head down” and “head still” advice.
Once you’ve made contact with the ball your chest and arms’ momentum will keep on rotating towards your target.
Allow your head to follow this momentum and move as well.
In its most extreme examples, Annika Sorenstam and David Duval didn’t actually look at the ball at impact – their heads were already moving towards the target into their follow-throughs
The ideal position when you complete your follow-through is that your chest will be pointed at your intended target along with your head.
So many golfers after hitting the ball badly have heard the phrases “Keep your head down” or “keep your head still” but as we’ve demonstrated, this is not the best advice.
As much as this advice is given with the best of intent it will actually create more problems in the swing leading to more inconsistent shots that lack power and direction.
We’ve spoken about how the head as with the spine acts as a fulcrum which the body rotates around.
Moving the head backwards and forwards or up and down in the swing throws that fulcrum out and consistency becomes impossible.
So now we understand what is good and bad head movement in the golf swing.
Some head movement in the golf swing is acceptable and in the case of the follow-through, inevitable.
With the tips and drills we’ve provided you can start to gain more consistency in your swing improving your ball striking, power and accuracy which will lead to a much better experience out on the course.