You might have heard the golfspeak term "staying behind the ball." What it means is that the golfer's torso stays farther away from the target than the ball throughout the swing. The lower body can, and often does, shift slightly ahead of the ball, but the upper body should stay back. This is crucial not only to providing more power to the shot—you're essentially applying your body's mass to the hit—but it also ensures you get the ball adequately airborne and on target.
Golfers who let their upper body drift ahead of the ball's position during the downswing typically hit it low and right, says Golf Digest Teaching Professional Josh Zander. The angle of attack into the ball steepens with this forward lean, which produces a lower shot. And squaring the clubface with the target becomes a real challenge. Keeping the upper body behind the ball allows for a shallower angle, which makes the ball go higher, and gives the swinger more time to get the clubface aligned with where they want the ball to go.
If you tend to sway or slide forward, Zander has a great practice drill to help fix the problem. However, before you try it, you should also get in the gym and correct what might be the underlying cause of your drift. Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson, a former trainer on the PGA Tour, says one culprit is weak/inactive gluteal muscles—namely the gluteus medius.
"The glute med works to control femoral (thigh bone) rotation as well as pelvic stability in all activities where one is weight bearing," Simpson says. "For golfers, a weak glute med could be responsible for excessive slide or sway." Simpson's fix is a simple activation exercise you can do at home or before a round. Click on the video below to watch. And once you've awakened this muscle and strengthened it, now you're ready for Zander's swing tip.
"Practice hitting shots from an uphill lie—not a lie where the ball is above both your feet—a slope where your lead foot is higher than the other," he says. "If you sway or slide from this lie, the club will crash into the ground. You have to stay back to hit the ball solidly. Just make sure to set up to the ball so your spine is perpendicular to the slope."