In the 1996 classic Happy Gilmore, Chubbs Peterson famously said, “it’s all in the hips.”
Although it is wise advice, it is not completely true, as torso rotation and swing path are equally important. However, swing mechanics are complex, and so as not to overwhelm you, this article focuses on how much hip turn is best for your golf swing.
A 2019 report by Golf Digest revealed that the average PGA Tour pro rotates their pelvis up to 30-degrees by the time the shaft is parallel to the ground. Conversely, amateurs only make it to 15-degrees, which reduces power and the ability to get your club on plane for impact.
That is not to say that you can’t strike a golf ball if you don’t rotate 30-degrees, but doing so maximizes power and accuracy. In this guide, we’ll show you how to optimize your rotation. Plus we’ll discuss the impact of excessive and insufficient hip turn.
How Your Hips Should Turn in Your Swing
Step 1 – Posture
Before I take you through the optimal positioning during your swing, it is necessary to understand how to set up for maximum hip rotation. It all starts with your posture when you address the ball.
In the video below by the golf instructor at Athletic Motion Golf (AMG) they highlight the contrast between an amateur golfer’s posture vs that of a Major Champion. In their address position, the client’s shins were vertical. Compared to a professional who tilts them. The amateur’s back was also hunched over compared to the straighter spine angle of professionals.
You also notice that the superior golfers bend their knees slightly to promote the transfer of weight to the backfoot on your backswing. Then to the left leg on your downswing.
Without the correct posture at setup, it is challenging for casual golfers to encourage flawless rotation during their golf swing.
Step 2 – Takeaway
Takeaway refers to the first part of your backswing where the golf club shaft is parallel to the turf before taking it to the top. AMG showcases that a Tour Pro at this point has shifted their weight to their trailing buttocks, adding power to your back leg.
For example, if you are a right-handed golfer, you should feel the weight shift from your left Gluteus Maximus to the right.
To achieve this push off the turf with your left leg if you are a right-hander. That will help push the weight from your lead hip to the trailing on.
If your posture is incorrect from the get-go, you will feel pressure on the right and left hip, opening you to injuries and an inaccurate shot. Shifting your weight back on your backswing and forward on your downswing and follow-through enables you to get the club on plane. That produces maximum energy for increased club head speed and accuracy.
Step 3 – Top of the Backswing
The tutorial by AMG demonstrates how your weight should be firmly on your right side at the top of the backswing. Your right hip should sit higher than your left, readying itself to shift that power to your front foot on the downswing.
When your weight is not positioned optimally in your trailing hip at the top of your downswing it is difficult to transfer it. As a result, you lose power, clubhead, and ball speed, leading to a loss of distance.
Step 4 – Downswing
As you saw in the tutorial by AMG, it is imperative to shift your weight to your leading hip on the downswing, to maximize energy transfer. In the demonstration, we see how a pro transfers their weight from the right gluteus maximus.
When the shaft is parallel to the ground, most weight should be on your left leg if you are a right-hander. Only 15 to 20% of your weight should sit in the center or right of your hips.
Once your club shaft is parallel to the ground and is on the desired path, you are in a position to release the hips and ready for impact.
Step 5 – Impact Position
The final part of the hip movement occurs before impact. Once your shaft is parallel to the ground, you need to keep rotating the weight to the front. When your clubface makes contact with the ball, the weight of your lower body should be concentrated on your front leg.
Getting yourself into that position for impact enables you to generate increased club-head velocity, ball speed, and a higher coefficient of restitution (COR). These three components help you produce a better golf shot and improved distance.
When you do not shift your weight through to your front leg, you risk falling back on your shot, causing you to balloon your strike and lose distance.
What Happens When You Over Turn Your Hips
GolfTec VP Nick Clearwater explains that when you overextend your hips during your swing, it can cause you to swing over the top and induce a slice. It can also lead to you closing the clubface at impact and snap hooking your shots.
However, from my own experience, over-extension generally causes a vicious slice, as you cannot square your clubface up at impact, leaving it open.
What Happens When You Under Turn Your Hips
Insufficient hip rotation causes your arms to take control of the swing. That can reduce your swing speed and make it difficult to get the club on plane. That means that you may develop a steep angle of attack and strike the ball with an open clubface.
Therefore, you become susceptible to inconsistent strikes, such as a chunked or slice shot.
Drills to Improve Your Hip Turns Through Your Swing
Golf Ball Drill
Golf instructor Clay Ballard suggests practicing a simple drill by placing a golf ball under each foot. If you are a right-hander, position the ball under the toes of your left foot and the heel of your back foot.
Focus on shifting the weight from the front to the back on your backswing. And back to the front, on your downswing.
On your backswing, your toes push down on the ball, driving power to the opposite side of your hips.
Conversely, your heel lifts on your back foot when transitioning energy from your right hip to the left on your downswing.
This drill helps you understand the leg drive that goes into shifting your weight from side to side during your swing.
This is an even easier drill than the golf ball. Place your back up against a wall or a board and practice shifting your weight. You must remain in contact with the wall at all times.
When I was a kid, I would cover a chalkboard with the dusty substance, and after each shot, it helped me better understand whether I had shifted my weight or not.
Getting used to the motion of hip rotation and shifting weight from your lead leg to your trailing leg and back.