While we know the lower body to be the golf swing's driving force, so much of the golf swing is affected by the upper body - specifically shoulder rotation (shoulder turn). Too much or too little shoulder rotation can make striking the golf ball consistently very difficult, even with perfect hip rotation. Identifying shoulder turn issues is vital to the golf swing, since the shoulders drive most of the upper body movement.
If consistency with ball-striking due to improper shoulder rotation is an issue for you, our Golf AI mobile app. will detect those problems and identify ways you can fix them. Below we will go through some of the main issues we see in shoulder rotation at critical points in the golf swing and tip to fix them.
In regards to your shoulder, there are two things you need to watch during your set up: shoulder direction (the direction your shoulders face) and shoulder tilt. Shoulder direction has massive impact on your swing path. Ensuring your lead shoulder (left shoulder for a right-handed golfer) and trail shoulder (right shoulder for a right-handed golfer) are parallel with your stance line (the line your feet make towards the target) will help you swing more consistently. Primarily, lining up your shoulders and stance in this way will improve your swing direction and help you to strike the ball using the middle of the clubface.
On the other hand, your shoulder tilt will affect the angle at which you impact the golf ball. For the driver, you want to hit up on the golf ball (shallow angle of attack), resulting in your lead shoulder. As you move down your bag from driver to wedges, the gap in height between your shoulder should decrease until it is minimal and relatively level at your lobs/sand wedge.
Your arms and hands must remain "quiet" during the backswing, thus letting your shoulders/body do most of the work. When your arms do the work, it is easy to lose consistency and start swinging "off plane." You should also pay attention to your spine angle because your spine's movement can directly impact your shoulder plane. Maintaining your spinal angle will help eliminate any other variables to your shoulder turn.
Additionally, you want to keep those ams long and let your flexibility drive the club to the top. Keeping your arms straighter and trying to bring your lead shoulder under your chin will help increase your shoulder turn during the backswing and put you at a solid position at the top.
Maintaining the angle of your spine becomes even more difficult on the downswing. Many intermediate golfers tend to have early extension meaning they are losing their spinal angle early by looking up too quickly -- subsequently causing a "flip" in the swing to correct the low point (impact position). This will cause your shoulders to be in a weak position at impact, because your shoulder tilt will increase, often resulting in a redirection of your spine path and inconsistent ball strikes. Maintaining your spinal angle will allow your shoulders to be square at impact for a better club path and will keep your tilt in a proper position so you can make proper contact with the golf ball and create good divots.
Often, what a golfer tries to do during the follow-through helps them do the right things in the impact zone. If your shoulder turn at the finish is in the wrong position, try using the Golf AI shoulder rotation measurement tool, where we will provide tips you can use that will help improve your shots. The information you'd use to correct your shoulders at the finish should be the same (just on the opposite side) to your shoulders in the backswing. For example, on the backswing, your lead shoulder will rotate under your chin and on the downswing, your trail shoulder will rotate under your chin. Along with getting your trail shoulder under your chin to maximize rotation, keeping our arms straight for as long as you can help reduce quick wrist rotations that plague an "arm swing."
As you can see, shoulder rotation is a vital part of your set-up, backswing, downswing and finish. I have highlighted how the shoulders are used at these points and how to improve. I recommend trying out these tips for yourself and if you're still having trouble, try using Golf AI's shoulder rotation measurement tool. Here we will analyze your swing and provide tips on how you can help improve your shots. If you have any questions or want to give us feedback on how the tips worked for you, please drop them below in the comment section. Until the next blog, happy golfing!