Fitness Friday: A fix for those fat and thin shots
Note how Gary Woodland's right shoulder moves down toward the ball.
A simple way to explain how the upper body should rotate during the swing is to imagine you've got your head inside a life-preserver ring that is resting on your shoulders as you set up to the golf ball. When you turn back and through during the swing, the life preserver would be tilted, with the part of the circle closest to the ball lower than the part of the preserver that's behind your head. The amount of that tilt varies depending on the length of the club you're using.
If you're hitting the ground behind the ball (a fat shot) or making contact with it on the bottom portion of the clubhead (a thin shot), there's a good chance you're not maintaining the tilt of that life preserver, says golf instructor Jeff Ritter (@mttgolf), who runs the Make the Turn Performance center at Poppy Hills Golf Club in Pebble Beach. On the practice range, Ritter suggests two drills. The first is to move your left shoulder down toward the ball during the backswing. Then, once you become comfortable with that, work on the second half of the swing by moving the right shoulder toward the ball during the downswing. The lower body should rotate toward the target ahead of this shoulder move. You'll eventually want to blend these two drills into one fluid motion. And pay attention to your weight and body orientation, he says. You don't want your weight moving too far into your toes or heels.
Related: Watch Make The Turn video series with Jeff Ritter
If you're struggling with these moves, the problem might be weak oblique muscles. The obliques are part of the core-muscle family and reside of the sides of your torso. They are key to thoracic (mid spine) rotation and, if they are weak, you'll struggle to turn back and through with the proper tilt of your upper body.
To train them, first work on improving their stability. Side planks are great.
Hold this position for as long as you can. Just make sure your arm stays stacked under your shoulder joint when you do them and don't let your body sag at the hips. Remember to do both sides. If you're able to hold the plank easily for over a minute, you're ready for a more advanced exercise that helps train the correct upper body tilt and rotation while improving lower-body stability. This one comes from PGA Tour trainer Joey Diosalvi (@coachjoeyd).
Rotate your upper body in both directions while maintaining your balance. Strive to do two sets of five turns in each direction and then switch leg positions to improve muscular symmetry.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.
Gary Woodland: Photo by Stephen Szurlej