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Golf IQ

It's a common backswing mistake—how to stop it wrecking your downswing

January 16, 2024
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I'm Luke Kerr-Dineen, Senior Editor for Game Improvement here at Golf Digest and resident golf swing nerd. Golf IQ is my new, weekly newsletter where I’ll provide new insight into how we can play better, smarter golf.

This is one of our (special!) free editions of the Golf IQ newsletter, but you can sign up via Golf Digest+ right here to make sure you get it regularly. You can also listen to the free Golf IQ podcast right here.

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My mum always used to tell me to stand up straight, but being a moody teenager at the time, I mostly didn’t listen. I wish I had.

Years of being an awkward teenager who slumped his shoulders followed by years of sitting at a desk behind a computer created a big headache in my golf swing. It’s the same problem that wrecks most amateur golfers’ swings, whether they realize it or not.

The Mistake

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The problem with bad, slouching posture off the course is that it affects your ability to make good swing on it. Specifically, it limits your ability to move both your shoulders well. And that’s a problem, especially when it comes to your trail shoulder (which is your right shoulder if you’re a right-handed golfer).

The reason why is because as hilarious-psycho-genius viral Instagram golf coach Speed Golf Rob is quick to remind us, golf is actually a throwing sport. Pitchers throw a baseball towards the strike zone. Quarterbacks throw a football to a receiver downfield. Golfers throw the clubhead at the golf ball on the ground.

That’s the mindset you should be taking to your golf swing, as Golf Digest No. 3-ranked coach Sean Foley explains:

“The goal of the backswing is to give yourself enough time and space to throw the golf club at the golf ball.”

So what’s the best way to throw the golf club at the ball? Well, it’s the thing we all intuitively know to do before we start thinking about it too much. We open our upper body by stretching our right arm far away from our body, and externally rotate our arm so the back of our right hand stretches more behind us.

Which brings us back to where we started: When you’re sitting and slumping at a desk all day, stretching and rotating to get your right shoulder into a good position becomes a lot more difficult.

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With not enough rotation and too much bend in your right arm and shoulder, it can create a power-killing chicken wing. Or cause golfers to get steep and hit chunks or pulls. Or they’ll start compensating by getting their right hand too on top of the club at setup, which can open up a whole other can of worms, as Tony Finau told Golf Digest last year.

The good news there are some things you can do to help with this…

6 ways to fix it

  • I’ve also been hitting a lot of golf balls clasping my right bicep with my left hand, which gets my right arm into the position I need to make a good throw.
  • Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher Cameron McCormick has a good video where he explains why rotating your right hand more under your grip can help your right shoulder rotate and release more effectively during your swing.
  • If you’re just generally interested in learning more about this topic, Golf Digest Best in State teachers, Shaun Webb and Mike Granato, get nerdy with it in this really great Athletic Motion Golf video.

And if you want to avoid all of this in the first place, the next time your parent or spouse or whoever tells you to sit up straight, you should probably just do it.