One of the biggest differences between the swings of a high-handicapper and a better player is the way the shoulders rotate. Poorer players tend to rotate their shoulders back and through level with the ground. This leads to a host of problems with the golf swing—most notably poor contact and sliced or pulled shots.
While it might feel natural for the shoulders to rotate level with the ground—the way they do in sports such as baseball or tennis—you have to remember that a golf club is NOT swung on a plane parallel with the ground. The plane is tilted. In order to swing on the proper path and make solid, center-face contact, the shoulders need to rotate on a tilted axis. That's how better players swing. The left shoulder moves down and the right shoulder moves up during the backswing and the reverse happens during the follow-through. Here is Tom Watson demonstrating a bad and good backswing. Note the shoulders.
*Photos by Stephen Szurlej
Golf-and-fitness instructor Karen Palacios-Jansen (@KPJgolf) further explains:
"The shoulders turn perpendicular to the spine," she says, "so from the forward-tilted position you create bending from the hips at address, the shoulders should tilt when you turn. A lot of higher-handicap players lift their arms to get the club to the top. The front shoulder never tilts downward nor does it get behind the ball."
To fix this issue, Palacios-Jansen has a swing drill and an exercise to get the shoulders to turn properly. Click on the video to see them.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.