When it comes to consistency and power generation, there are specific angles that are visible in every player on the tours today. These fundamentals are universal and are imperative to incorporate into your swing before you can take your game to the next level. If you employ these moves, I can assure you, you will develop more power and spin, your contact will be more solid, and your shot making will improve.
The four angles are spine angle, spine tilt, knee flex and lag angle. As you might have guessed, three of these angles can be setup before you even start your backswing. I cannot stress enough how important a solid setup position is to create consistency, power and accuracy. These angles are crucial to creating a balanced setup capable of making a powerful swing. You'll be amazed at how simple the golf swing gets once these elements are incorporated into your golf game…
This is one of the most important…the reason for this is twofold, because the littlest of changes can negatively affect your shot outcome…
Your spine angle is best shown in the image to the right, it’s simply your spine and it’s positioning throughout your swing. I see quite a variation of spine angles through my years of teaching, but most commonly, a player tends to bend over too much. Bending over tends to curve your spine, which makes returning to impact a challenge.
I like to see my players standing tall, with a straight spine and bending over at their hips. I’m not too picky about the actual “number” of degrees you are bent over, however, I like to see your hands hanging loosely from your shoulders. They should be hanging pretty close to straight down. This ensures your shoulders, knees and the balls of your feet are all in alignment vertically; in the industry we call this being “stacked”.
A poor or curved spine angle will rob your swing of a lot of potential. If you’re too bent over, you won’t be able to create a powerful turn and will likely hit the ball heavy. Too upright and you’re arms are too close to your body or too far away. Too close and your body will get in the way of your swing, causing your swing path to move off-line. Too far and your likely to whiffs, top or skull. Lastly, a curved spine is no help either, as it’s too inconsistent to build a solid swing on.
This angle is more or less set by your shoulders based on your ball position and your grip. You want your trailing shoulder lower than your lead shoulder. When viewed from straight on, this leans your spine to the left (right-handers) as shown. Your grip tends to cause this simply because your right hand is lower on the grip than your left (for you cross-handed players out there – this is your most common fault).
Your spine tilt dictates where your club will bottom out (assuming your spine angle remains stable). As you can see with the image to the right, my spine tilt is set so the club will be bottoming out just after the ball. This will encourage me to hit the ball with a descending blow, pinching it, as my swing continues and makes a divot after the ball.
When watching a professional or better player swinging from front on, you’ll notice that their spine tilt remains quite stationary until well after impact. This consistency is what sets them apart from mid-handicappers.
As simple as it may seem, your knee flex has a large affect on your balance and consistency. This is because your knees must remain flexed until well after impact. Please ignore those players that tell you to bend your knees, having them simply unlocked is enough flex to support your upper body's motions.
The reason for this is twofold. As you swing into impact, your left leg should straighten slightly. This forces your body to be a little more upright. But the more your knees need to straighten, the further you will be from your address position at impact. So, in short, a deeper knee flex will force you to make a more drastic up and down motion. Furthermore, bent knees are unstable throughout the swing motion. Consider squatting and then trying to perform a golf swing, not only is it difficult to perform and create power; but also physically it's quite demanding on your hamstrings. The result is unwanted movement.
I see poor knee flex commonly in player’s who have not been properly fit for their clubs, especially with taller people. Remember, your lower body helps the upper body to perform the golf swing by providing a smooth weight shift, ensuring the club arrives to impact on path and as a base of support. You don’t need to drive your legs and knees towards the target to get those extra yards. This will only destabilize your swing.
So far we have only talked about pre-swing angles… these three angles really help out with the final one: lag. Lag is crucial in creating swing speed and solid contact. It’s known as the "secret move" among many golf publications because only the better player’s can get a grasp of how to perform it properly.
Lag involves retaining your wrist in a cocked position well into the downswing, before releasing and snapping through impact. As seen from the picture to the right, my wrists are still fully cocked, even though the club is below the 9:00 mark. Amateurs and beginners tend to release from this position prematurely, which will drastically reduce the amount of power you can create. Ever wondered why the swings of the pros look so effortless and smooth? Or how about watching the guy who swings so hard you'd expect the ball to go into orbit, but instead it barely flies 220 yards? The answer to these questions has to do with lag.
Proper lag creation can only happen if you swing is in balance and on path. The more acute the angle you create and the longer you can retain it, generally results in more distance and power. I say “generally” because you can retain your lag position for too long, which limits your ability to finish the rest of your downswing in sequence. This lag position is also crucial to creating backspin with your irons. Your spine’s tilt helps to make your swing steeper into impact, whereas your lag produces the clubhead speed to really get the ball spinning.
You can find plenty of tips and drills relating to creating and retaining lag in my How to get more distance section.
I hope you enjoyed this look into golf’s essential angles!