It’s all about the shoulder turn.

(There are always exceptions, but exceptions are not what learning is about)

After having studied pros, the worst beginners and everyone in between for the better part of a year…I have found a common issue.

There is almost a one on one correlation with the shoulder turn and the quality of golfer. A good shoulder turn promotes the body to work in sync, which leads to good balance, good rhythm and a good release.

Here is a basic system I developed just now, for fun, to judge the quality of shoulder turn. I may add and modify…especially if you guys have some good suggestions.

+1 Does the shoulder turn control the lifting of the arms in the backswing
-1 Does the lifting of the arms control the shoulder turn

+2 Do the shoulders turn 90* to the spine in the backswing
+2 In the downswing
-2 Do they turn too level to the ground (horizontally/flat) in the backswing
-2 Do they turn too vertically on the downswing

+3 Does the end of the shoulder turn signal the end of the backswing
-1 For each frame on a slow-mo the arms continue after the shoulders stop turning.

Most PGA Tour players would be +4 to +8. In addition they are talented, flexible and practice enough to get away with a score that is not so high. Actually, you would probably find most low handicap golfers would score just as high or higher than PGA Tour players. I bet you could find some 2 and 3 handicaps, who don’t play much, would score +4 to +8 and that is what allows them to play so well, while playing so little.

You would find most high handicappers would score a -6 to -8.

14 Responses to “ “It’s all about the shoulder turn.”

  1. SteelyDan says:

    Wow. Monte, I’d be great if you could support your hypothesis with a couple of youtube videos.

    “-1 For each frame on a slow-mo the arms continue after the shoulders stop turning.”

    Damn, hopefully were are not talking about a 60 fps video here…

    • HisAirness says:

      For a 210fps video you will get frequency discount. ;-)

    • par_struggle says:

      >>I bet you could find some 2 and 3 handicaps, who don’t play much, would score +4 to +8 and that is what allows them to play so well, while playing so little.<<

      Good grief. That's about as succinct a boiling down of my game as I've ever seen. Going by the scoring, I'm guessing myself at +5 – leaking a frame, maybe two, on the backswing. I'm a 3.1 playing less than 50 rounds a year (I don't think I've ever topped 65), NEVER practice at the range, and my friends all hate me. :)

      Not totally true. They hate how straight I hit it with consistency. Mine is a very Stricker-esque motion, though he's slightly more "dead" through his motions – he does a better job at stopping the arms with the shoulder turn, for example. My ballstriking tends to get very solid very quickly when I play more frequently.

      I, for one, approve this method of appraisal. :)

  2. s says:

    The question is…is shoulder turn a swing thought, or a checkpoint?

    My experience is that the turn must start lower than the shoulders in order to create space for the shoulders to turn.

    Plus, turning shoulders is not something that the body is equipped to do quickly. I would say that the actual engine of the turn is elsewhere, and that trying to turn shoulders might short-circuit the complete move.

    On the backswing, you also see every pro get his hips get turned about 45º when the shoulders are turning 90º for a full shot. For me, getting the lower turn on the backswing is a better swing thought than shoulders, which seem to follow automatically.

    • Someone on Golfwrx made the correct point here. The inside part of spinning object is always moving slower. Like a Merry Go round, the inner workings spin slower than the outside. The shoulder turn and the clubhead work much the same.

      If you need to start with the lower body to make room for the shoulders, it is likely your shoulders are turning too flat and not 90* to your spine.

      If you are talking about the shoulders not being equipped to turn quickly…the hips are even less equipped in that regard.

      If your shoulder turn creates hip turn, they can transition in sync. If the hip turn starts the shoulder turn, it will be very difficult for that “in sync” downsiwng to occur.

  3. bobinpa says:

    If I learned one thing from Monte – simple is as simple does. A smooth shoulder turn (90* to spine angle) will bring the hips around just fine – to the right degree and in sequence with the rest of the body. If the hips lead back they must lead forward and that gives me 1 too many things to time in my swing.

  4. s says:

    Interesting reply regarding hips/shoulders. Actually, I think that as far as speed is concerned the answer is neither–because the swing involves using your muscles rather than pointing your joints. The joints are just checkpoints.

    Technically speaking, hips don’t turn, they get turned.

    Before, you have mentioned strengthening core muscles. When it comes to speed, that’s where I think it is. The 90º shoulder turn is just an indication that your core got wound-up.

  5. JD says:

    Monte,

    Great blog. Just started reading it a few weeks ago. Your thoughts on the shoulder turn interest me because I’ve always been taught that the right shoulder needs to work down more on the downswing, while the left shoulder goes up, leading to axis tilt. Those who advocate this point to photos like this one where it looks like DLIII’s right shoulder is lower at impact than it was at address. http://www.lagpressure.com/lagpressure/davis.jpg

    I’m curious what your thoughts are on axis tilt.

    • My acid toned rhetorical question is not at you, it is at the person(s) who advocate this.

      So basically what you are saying is that you are telling people to change their spine angle by adding tilt during the swing??????

      It doesn’t surprise me that this theory came from a website called “lag pressure.”

      Any tilt that might be added is by the movement of the lower body, not the dropping of the right shoulder.

      Davis also has an arc that gets wider on the way back and narrower on the way down. He is a phenomenal talent and practices for hours a day. These are not positions and movements the average golfer can master…or even use.

      Add in the fact that he has very little tilt at address and you get the conclusion that if he has some tilt at address, his right shoulder would return to the same spot.

      Let me attack this from a different perspective. If your right shoulder is lower at impact than it is at address, that may increase your lag, but you are hitting up on the ball. That may be fine for hitting a longer drive, but bad for everything else. IMO, ideally irons are a descending blow, hybrids and woods are hit on a level path and a driver is only slightly on the upswing because it it teed up and so far forward in your stance.

      Wait till you read tomorrow’s post. It is just on this subject of the golf media and golf instruction abandoning everything to get everyone a few more yards off the tee.

      In case I wasn’t blunt enough, dropping the right shoulder is bad. If the shoulders are working 90* to the spine, and you have a good setup, the right shoulder should return to the same spot, or close to it.

      Please understand none of my nasty attitude is directed at you, but at all of the awful information that is out there.

  6. JD says:

    Thanks for your response Monte. I wasn’t saying you were wrong–just trying to learn and resolve in my mind the different things I always seem to hear about this issue. Following that advice might explain why I’ve been hitting my driver, hybrid, and woods fine, but struggling with my irons. Also, as far as golf blogs/boards go, your attitude wasn’t even that “nasty”!

    • JD, I knew you weren’t saying I was wrong. None of my irritation was directed at you. I am just frustrated with what’s out there and trying to do my little part to make things easier.

  7. ChrisNH says:

    Monte-
    I know a lot of the monthly golf magazine instruction isn’t very worthwhile (or is downright off-base) but one tip recently caught my attention, and it relates to this turn. The tip was pretty simple. Turn your right shoulder back behind your right ear.

    Living in NH, I haven’t had a chance to try this, other than trying to see what it feels like in my basement. But I’m looking forward to trying this tip out. It meets IMO with the K.I.S.S. principle, and has a “right feel” to it.

    Have you heard this tip before and, if so, do you have any opinions on it?

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