It’s all in the hips” is a funny line from the movie “Happy Gilmore.” Happy’s teacher, Chubbs, tells him this line while helping with his golf swing. The line has some truth to it. The hip movement is important for many reasons. The number one reason is that hip rotation affects pelvic rotation and footwork. If a golfer’s hips move properly, the correct balance and footwork can be achieved. Many of us have limitation in our hip rotation. When the hips are limited in the golf swing, compensations are made with other body movements. Compensation for poor hip mobility causes bad balance in the swing.
On the backswing, the pelvis rotates. Face a golfer while they are taking a backswing, we should see the pelvis work around. There should be no movement to the right on the backswing for a right-handed golfer. Many golfers have limitation in their hips that makes this impossible. A golfer will take half of a backswing, and the hips are already at their maximum rotation. The body slides to the right because the body can no longer rotate. A playing companion might tell the golfer they are swaying off the ball. The playing companion may not know that the golfer has no choice; the golfer has body limitations.
When the sway occurs on the backswing, the weight goes 100 percent on the trail foot. The stability in the feet lose connection to the ground, and the center of mass (the body) moves to the right for a right-handed golfer. From this position, at the top of the backswing, there is no chance to drive the legs and the body mass threw impact. All of this causes a lack of power and poor contact.
A new teaching tool that has become very popular in the teaching world is called BodiTrak. BodiTrak is a device that measures COP, or center of pressure. Other than the clubface, there is nothing more important than for a student to understand where their weight is during the golf swing. BodiTrak has set standards which many golf instructors have been teaching for years, but now we have confirmation. There are no perfect numbers when it comes to center of pressure, but there are some standards that instructors use based on their teaching ideals.
Golfers should rotate on their backswing with their body over the ball, inside the barrel as seen in the picture. Even though the body does not move laterally, the weight, or center, of pressure moves from 50/50 at address to 80 percent on the golfer’s trail foot — right foot for right-handed golfer at the top of the backswing. To be more specific, if the pelvic rotation moves properly, there will be more pressure on the heel of the trail foot.
The transition from the backswing to the downswing starts with no pelvic rotation but a weight shift to the front foot. The weight will go from an 80 percent on the trail foot to 80 percent on the lead or front foot before any rotation starts to occur. Many golfers start to rotate before the shift in weight occurs. When this happens, there is no room for the club handle to approach the golf ball. This causes the club handle and shaft to work away from the body, also known as over the top.
After the transfer of weight, the rotation of the pelvis and torso can start. The weight will stay 80-90 percent on the left leg during the rotation on the downswing. If the pelvis rotates correctly, the weight will move towards the heel of the lead foot. The main reason the weight goes to the heels during rotation is the pelvis being an elliptic shape.
The correct rotation should see the pelvis rotating outside the heel of the lead foot. This means the glute will be beyond the heel of the lead foot at impact. This is an important movement for maintaining the spine angle through impact. If the pelvis moves towards the golf ball on the downswing instead of rotationally, the torso and head will move up and away from the golf ball. Many golfers will say, “I lifted my head”. No, actually the pelvis did not rotate properly. The pelvis moved closer to the ball, making the torso and head move upward.
How the pelvis and footwork should function in the golf swing is irrelevant if a golfer’s hip rotation is limited. I encourage every golfer to get physically evaluated, and then, if needed, work on the inward and outward rotation of the hips with a local fitness instructor or physical therapist.
I have built a team of my favorite local instructors and therapists for my students. I can tell my students until I am blue in the face how to move their body, but if they are not physically capable I am wasting their time. Getting students to progress includes me telling them how to move and a fitness trainer or physical therapist helping their body function correctly.
Go see your local PGA Professional to see if you have the correct hip and pelvic movement, footwork and balance in your swing.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Awards on “Growing the Game.”