Gimme Three Strokes: Pushing The Right Shoulder

My quest to a single-digit handicap continues this week as we refocus on proper impact position and how your right shoulder can make all the difference in your golf swing.

We’ve all seen the photos and slow-motion camera shots of PGA Tour pros bringing their club back to parallel on the backswing. My swing has always been longer in comparison, which obviously contributes to inconsistency in my game. I never quite understood the concept of “shortening” my swing. Does that mean I should take my hands back shorter during the backswing? If so, how do I generate power through impact?

The answer to the first question is a resounding “yes,” at least to a point. In order to shorten your backswing, you have to limit the action of your arms. As my golf instructor Greg Baresel pointed out to me last week, however, I was not aware of how little the arms have to do with a proper backswing. In fact, the secret is all in your shoulders.

During last week’s lesson, Greg told me to feel like I was barely moving my arms at all. As I discussed in last week’s column, tilting your shoulders down toward the golf ball naturally raises your arms to waist-height. Greg stressed that I did not have to take my arms any higher. Needless to say, I had a few questions.

“How do I generate power?”

“This feels like I am going to hit the ball 20 yards. What gives?”

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

Greg reminded me that from this position, my next move should be rotating my torso, or “the Turn” that I described last week. I didn’t have to do a single thing with my arms; my torso and shoulders would take the club back to the correct height. As you can see in the video above, my swing shortened dramatically and it was now slightly less-than-parallel at the top. Perfect!

After practicing my backswing for a few minutes it was time to finally hit a golf ball. Right away I noticed that I was hitting behind the ball — a “fat shot” — and hooking the ball severely to the left. A peak at the TV monitor showed that I was still unhinging my wrists too early on the downswing, causing a “flippy” action. This is a common problem among amateur players and is a result of trying to “hit” the ball instead of swinging the club.

Greg explained that the best way to remedy this issue is to drive my right shoulder past the golf ball. In other words, while looking down at the ball you want to turn your shoulders enough to force your right shoulder in front of the ball before making contact. Sound difficult? Believe me, it is.

I knew these golf lessons would cause me some heartache at one point or another. Trying to turn my right shoulder through impact was a concept I had a hard time grasping at first; however, I began making solid contact with the ball after a few minutes of half-swings.

The result of pushing your right shoulder through impact is a ball-first-ground-second impact position that compresses the golf ball. When done correctly, I felt a popping sensation off my clubhead. This feeling meant crisp contact on the ball with enough power in the swing to drive that sucker toward my target. I was amazed at how much power I could generate by taking what felt like a half-swing and reaching the proper impact position. Yay physics!

Greg cautioned me that I would likely begin to block a few shots out to the right while working on this part of my swing. When you push your right shoulder through impact and focus on extending your arms down the target line, two things will happen: Your wrists will roll over much later in your swing, your clubface will be open to the target. That’s a perfect recipe for a push or block out to the right; however, it also means I am hitting the correct positions in my swing.

A good drill to get this feeling of “holding off” on your wrist rotation and extending down the target line involves laying a club down in front of you. Position the club on the ground so it is directly on your target line a few feet ahead of your ball. Focus on driving your right shoulder through impact while watching your clubhead extend down the line created by that club. You’ll be hitting crisp shots in no time.