I'm really proud of these pictures. The "good" positions are the result of a fairly intense rehab project I started last fall after hurting my back. I know what some of you are probably thinking: How does a 24-year-old have back problems? Talk to me when you're my age, kid. Well, if you play a lot of golf, a bad swing habit will exact a physical toll no matter your age or fitness level. In my case, I was placing extreme pressure on my lower spine from rotating my hips too much. This is a common cause of bad backs--and bad shots--for golfers of all levels. In addition to resting, I worked with my trainer, Joey Diovisalvi, on strengthening the weaker lower-body muscles that contributed to my overactive hips and back pain. Because I've spent more time fixing my swing at the gym than on the range, I'm confident the results will be lasting.
THE TOP: GOOD
That nice flex in my right knee (see photo) is an indicator that my pelvis has stayed in the same posture it was at address. When my pelvis or hips stay in position like this, they can't rotate as much. That allows me to generate my turn mainly from my shoulders and mid-back. I feel coiled, with about 60 percent of my weight in my right heel.
THE TOP: BAD
Here's the move that wreaked havoc on my back. Although it looks like I've completed a full turn, too much of it has come from my hips (see photo). My right knee is straight because the majority of my weight is stuck on my left side. This tips my torso toward the target and increases the pressure on my lower spine. Advil, please.
Notice how I've barely lifted my right heel (see photo). That tells me my hips haven't out-raced my arms. I have the sensation that my right glute is hanging back and firing as I extend the club to the ball. With my hips stable, both feet really grip the ground for maximum power.
Notice how my right heel is higher (see photo) and my right glute is closer to the club compared with my new impact. My hips have fired too early, pushing my weight onto my left toes and leaving the club behind me. When that happens, I have to flip my hands to save the shot. Belt buckle facing the target is a good thought for the finish, but not at impact.
LEG EXERCISE: SIDE LUNGE
Strong legs and glutes help restrict overactive hips. This exercise builds those muscles. As a bonus, it teaches what it feels like to let a stable lower body guide your motion. You can then transfer that same awareness to your swing. Here's the sequence: (1) Stand tall, holding light dumbbells. (2) Step your left foot to the side. (3) Drive your left glute backward as your left knee bends over your left foot. Your right leg should straighten. (4) Return to the start and then lunge the other way.
HIP EXERCISE: WALL DRILL
Butt against the wall is a swing thought I use on the course to quiet my hips. I ingrain it in the gym by taking my stance against a wall and practicing my swing, stopping just past the impact area. I also like to grip a light dumbbell to build strength. The idea is to feel pressure subtly shift from my right glute on the backswing to my left glute at impact. But neither glute should ever lose contact with the wall. If you have an air disc or small throw pillow handy, prop it behind you to get better feedback.