In a new instruction series, GRANT HEPBURN makes use of practical visual aids to help you better understand some key golfing concepts so that you can perform better on the course.
In this instruction piece I look at the role of the hips in the golf swing. Having proper hip movement is absolutely crucial to hitting the ball consistently, as your hip movement impacts on – positively or negatively – many other parts of the swing.
A good hip rotation can help you coil up power like a spring which you unleash as you start your golf swing. Players such as Rory McIlroy and Richard Sterne, who may not be the biggest in size, are able to hit the ball extraordinary distances because they maximise their hip – and therefore shoulder – turn.
With the aid of a hula hoop, which acts as a visual representation of the angle and the motion of the hips, I hope I can give you a better understanding of the ideal movement of your hips in order to improve consistency and power.
Getting it right
Ideally, in the backswing, your hips should turn fairly level with the ground. You can see how the hula hoop indicates this. When this happens correctly, it allows your weight to coil on to the right side, building up and storing power. It also ensures your shoulders are able to turn freely, which is essential, not only for building up power but also to help you to swing the club on the correct arc around the body. The result is a long, fluid and controllable swing.
While your hips need to turn level to the ground on the backswing, notice how, when the downswing starts, my legs drive my weight towards the target and drive the hula hoop angle upwards on the left side. As my left side ‘climbs’, my right side moves under it and this encourages my arms to swing freely and unhindered into the impact area on the correct shallow path.
Through impact, the hoop keeps turning up and around to the left, which clears the left side of my body out of the way so that my right side can turn on the power and fire towards the target unhindered. In the finish you will see that my right arm swings high over my left shoulder, as it should be in the actual golf swing.
The hip slide
A common mistake among amateur golfers is that they slide their hips away from the target rather than rotate them. In this sequence, you can see how, instead of the hoop turning level to the ground, it has simply slid to the right. As a result of this, my shoulders have barely turned and they end up in a position at the top of the backswing that is very difficult to recover from. From this position, with a high right side, players will start the downswing with the right side too high, which leads to a steep swing and a chopping motion into the ball. In many cases the result will be a pulled shot or a big slice.
Right side over left
Another of the most common mistakes amateurs make occurs despite making a good backswing. In this instance, I’ve turned with my hips level, but instead of starting the downswing by shifting my weight towards the target with my legs, my right hip spins out and over. You can see this by how the hula hoop tips downwards as I swing at the ball and through impact. The problem with this move is that it leads to an ‘over-the-top’ downswing, which means my downswing becomes too steep and on a path that swings across the ball and from out to in. That type of action tends to have terrible consequences on the course, with a loss of consistency, accuracy and power.
Grant Hepburn has been a regular face in Compleat Golfer for more than a decade. His CV includes time coaching on the European and PGA Tours, and an impressive list of top amateurs and pros. He is the CEO of Golf RSA and the South African Golf Development Board. Follow him on Twitter @granthepburn.