What To Do With Your Shoulders In The Golf Swing: The Shoulder Turn, Explained

One of the first lessons taught in golf is that rotation is key to every successful golf swing.

You simply won’t be able to hit the ball far and reliably without turning the body properly in golf, so it’s something worth practicing!

Our shoulders are at the heart of the body’s rotation in the golf swing and should not be overlooked if we want to improve ball striking.

A good shoulder turn will add power and consistency to your game, allowing you to hit the ball further and ultimately shoot lower scores!

If you’re someone who finds the shoulder turn awkward to navigate in your swing then there’s a good chance you’ll be missing out on some valuable distance and accuracy in your shots.

But don’t worry! Correcting your shoulders in the golf swing is a straightforward process which we’ll break down for you in this guide.

Nail your shoulder turns in golf and you’ll be amazed at how much the rest of your swing falls into place!

With that said, let’s unpack the role of the shoulders through each step of the golf swing sequence to get you hitting better shots!

shoulders in the golf swing. A golfer watches his shot in the distance.

Why is The shoulder turn important?

Let’s face it, we’d all like to hit the ball further in golf.

One of the main ways to achieve this goal is by creating a proper shoulder turn in your swing.

Turning your shoulders is what creates torque in the body which is necessary for generating momentum and club speed when you come to uncoil in the downswing.

Without allowing your shoulders to turn, you’ll be limiting the amount you can rotate your body, relying on just the arms to generate the power in your swing.

This means you won’t be able to hit the ball nearly as far as you’d like!

To maximize power and consistency in your strikes, you need your whole body to work in unison throughout your swing.

Turning your shoulders allows other parts of the body to move comfortably to deliver a successful weight transfer through the shot.

Lastly, the shoulders in the golf swing are important because they allow your body to approach the golf ball at the correct angle.

Turning your shoulders will enable your body to get into a steep position to meet the golf ball from an angle that allows you to deliver power efficiently in your strike.

A golfer at the peak if his takeaway

What to do with the shoulders in the golf swing: 4 Easy steps

To clearly explain the role of our shoulders in the golf swing, we’re going to cover where they need to be in each key step of the swing sequence.

Let’s get into them!

#1. the setup

First up, we have the shoulders in our address position.

The setup is all about getting your body into the right position to give yourself the best chance at making a good strike, so you’ll want to make sure your shoulders are in the correct place to start off.

In your setup to the ball, your shoulders should be parallel with your line of aim.

The shoulders return to a similar position at setup as they do at impact with the ball so you’ll want to keep them in line with your target to hit an accurate shot.

It’s important to note that the shoulders in the golf swing rotate on a tilted plane, established by the angle of your spine at setup.

A typical golf stance sees the upper body leaning forward, placing your shoulders roughly above your toes for most shots.

In the scenario where you find your ball sitting on an uneven lie on the course, your shoulders should match the angle of the slope you stand on to play the shot.

This is so you have room to always swing with the slope, not against it.

Most golf shots require you to hit down on the ball, so having your shoulders level with each other at setup is appropriate for the majority of the time.

However, certain shots, such as a teed-up drive or fairway wood, might require players to lean away from their target slightly at address to help promote hitting up on the ball, therefore seeing the back shoulder slightly lower than the front at setup.

A golfer smiles with her club after a swing.

#2. the backswing

Next, we have the shoulders during the backswing, which is arguably where they play their biggest role.

The goal of your shoulders in the backswing is to charge up momentum by coiling the body so you’re in a position to unleash power in your transition.

In the backswing, your lead shoulder drops and both shoulders should rotate almost 90 degrees away from your target.

This points your chest in the opposite direction of your target, with your lead shoulder lower than your trail shoulder at the top of your swing.

A conventional golf swing will tend to have the angle of the shoulder plane perpendicular to the spine angle at the peak of the backswing.

This puts the angle of your body in an athletic position, pointing down towards the ball which helps you swing on plane.

Since our head position remains fixed during the backswing, a good reference to indicate you’ve made a full shoulder turn in golf is to see your lead shoulder sitting underneath your chin at the top of your swing.

#3. the downswing

Next up: The role of our shoulders in the downswing.

It is now up to our shoulders to get the upper body returning back to the same position at setup when you make contact with the ball.

To get there, this time your trail shoulder drops to initiate the downswing.

Your shoulders should be parallel once again with your target line so you can square the club face at impact and hit a straight shot.

Be aware! If your shoulders return to the parallel point too early in the downswing, then you run the risk of leaving your club face open at impact and slicing the ball.

On the other hand, if your shoulders arrive late to the parallel point then your club face has a tendency to close at impact and you’re more likely to hook the shot.

So far, the backswing and downswing have been near mirrors of each other, which can be a useful visualisation tool.

However, the angle of the shoulders at impact can change depending on the swing style.

If you watch some of the top PGA players, such as Tiger Woods or Adam Scott, you’ll notice that their shoulder plane becomes much steeper at the point of impact compared with their shoulder angle at the top of their backswings.

This shoulder movement forms that ‘reverse C’ impact position in the body which you see in players who have an aggressive weight shift in their downswing and strike the ball with huge power.

Think if you were skimming a stone you’d see that same sort of posture which puts the body in a powerful position to leverage momentum.

You often see this example in players with a two-plane swing like Tom Watson who shallow out the body on the downswing.

A golfer's swing sequence

#4. the Follow through

The final part of the shoulder turn is the follow through.

In the follow through, you’ll want to promote a strong finish to your swing by having your shoulders continue your turn all the way until they come to a stand still just beyond your target line.

It’s important to continue turning past the point of impact so you can maximize club velocity when you meet the ball without pulling out of the shot.

This sees your chest facing directly at your target at the finale of your swing, indicating you’ve got your whole body through the shot which is key to a successful strike.

The typical finish position in the follow through sees the lead shoulder just lower than the trail shoulder with the club resting behind your head.

You’ve now completed a full rotation with your shoulders in the golf swing and have hopefully hit a consistent shot!

A golfer at the peak of his backswing.

Shoulder plane swing drill

Let’s end by consolidating what we’ve learned with a simple swing drill designed to indicate whether you’ve locked in a successful shoulder rotation in golf!

Start by placing a golf club across your chest, holding it in place by crossing your arms so you have each hand on the opposite shoulder.

From here, simply simulate a normal swing rotation back and forth to get a sense of the correct shoulder motion.

To know you’re approaching the ball at the correct efficient angle, the line of your club should be pointing down towards your golf ball at the top of your swing.

This gives you a visual cue to check whether your shoulder plane is too steep or too shallow so you can get your swing on plane and hit the ball accurately.

Summary

The shoulders in the golf swing are often overlooked but carry crucial roles in granting powerful and consistent shots.

So if you can nail your shoulder rotation in golf, it’ll translate to more distance on the course – and we all want that!

Remember that the rotation on either side of the address and impact positions are near enough mirrored versions of each other, seeing one of the shoulders lower than the other.

We’d now recommend dedicating a few sessions at the range to getting your shoulder turn conquered and before long, your rotation in golf will be second nature on the course!

Now you know what to do with your shoulders, here’s how to fix a too-steep golf swing!

Photo of author
George Edgell is a freelance journalist and keen golfer based in Brighton on the South Coast of England. He inherited a set of golf clubs at an early age and has played regularly growing up. Since graduating from University in 2020, he has turned his attention to golf and has become an avid student of the game. When not playing at his local golf club, Hollingbury Park G.C. nestled in the South Downs, you can find him on a pitch and putt links with friends. George enjoys sharing his passion for golf with an audience of all abilities and seeks to simplify the game to help others improve at the sport.

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