The Role of the Hips in the Golf Swing

This weeks tip is about the hips and the coiling of the body in the backswing.  Why?  Well, I was talking to a fellow teaching pro a couple of weeks ago about Swing Machine Golf (he saw my method online and was really excited about the 3 elements of Iron Byron and how I incorporate them into my teaching).  One of the main things he got out of it was how I teach the circular rotation of the body throughout the swing.  Knowing this, he figured he would start the backswing by rotating his right hip going back even though this is NOT what I teach.

Then, I had another gentleman send me some video of his swing a while back.  After checking it out, I mentioned to him to slow down the rotation of his hips in the backswing.  After working on it, he sent me more video last week.  Unfortunately, there was absolutely no change in his hip rotation.

Because of these 2 gentleman and the thousands of other people I have taught who overdo this movement, I figured I would write a tip about it.  So here we go …

The Right Ratio

As you make it to the top of the backswing, you have to create the correct ratio between the shoulders, hips, knees and feet.  This correct ratio is what is going to allow you to be incredibly consistent as you hit your shots.  With a 90 degree shoulder rotation the ratio will  be: shoulders 90 degrees, hips 45 degrees, knees 22.5 degrees and feet zero.  If you’re a tight person and can only turn back 80 degrees your ratio would be: shoulders 80 degrees, hips 40 degrees, knees 20 degrees and feet zero.  Although the shoulder rotation in both of these examples is different, the ratio is the same.  Therefore, each of these examples will create torque which will create a consistent golf swing.

The Wrong Ratio

Why I’m so concerned about starting the golf swing with the hips as opposed to the shoulders is that the hips DO NOT move the most in the backswing.  They only move 45 degrees which is half the amount of the shoulders.  Why would you move something that does not move the most?  If you think about it logically, the hips will move into position if you move the shoulders.  To see what I mean, stand up and place a club on the back of your neck and hold on to both ends.  Now, WITHOUT MOVING HIPS AT ALL turn back ONLY the club in a circular motion.  As you do, you will find that the club will only make it to approx. 45 degrees rotation with absolutely NO hip rotation.  This means that you cannot get the club to 80 or 90 degrees rotation without the hips moving.  So, continuing the rotation of the club will move the shoulders and hips into position.

Now, try the same thing but this time do so by only turning the hips.  To do this, place the club on the back of your neck again and turn your hips back to 45 degrees.  As you do, you will see that your shoulders did not move into the fully coiled 90 degree position.  This means that turning the hips to start the backswing will not allow you to create the necessary torque in the swing.


The creation of torque is vital to a great golf swing.  I say this because torque is something that repeats 100% of the time in life.  If you coil something up, it will uncoil 100% of the time. It’s this consistency that we want in our swings.  With no torque, it’s going to be up to you to bring the club back down and try to square it each and every time.  Basically, you will be only using hand eye co-ordination.  With only a few degrees room for error through impact I don’t see how this is possible.

The Pros

When you look at the pros do you see them with an overactive lower body or do you see them with their lower body fairly still?  Pro after pro has a quiet lower body while their shoulders are fully turned.  This gives them the coiled up position that I described above.  To see what I mean, flip to any golf magazine and take a look at any pro at the top of the backswing.  As you do, you will see their shirt has creases in it indicating this coiled up position (look for them).  This is the tell-tale sign that they are using torque in the backswing.  If their hips were to turn along with their shoulders, there is no way those creases would appear as they do.


What does it feel like?

As I say throughout my book and DVDs, the backswing should feel very tightly coiled in your left side and shoulder area (lat muscle).  This is not to say that it hurts and it’s not to say that you are going to feel it for longer than a split second.  This is because the golf swing only lasts a very short time and the time you’re actually at the very top of only a fraction of a second.  So, look for this tightness as you coil back and use it to your advantage as opposed to avoiding it.

How to Work on It

Over the years, I’ve received a few emails from people asking how they work on stabilizing the lower body in the backswing.  Of the 10′s of thousands of people I have taught, very few people  have the lower body stable enough to in their backswing to create the torque I’m describing.   This means that you should probably work on it especially if you are unsure as to whether you develop torque in your backswing or not.

Here’s how to work on it:

1.  You have to understand why you are to be tightly coiled in the backswing (I describe this above and in all my products)  HINT: You should be basing your swing on the creation of torque because it repeats in life 100% of the time.

2.  You have to understand how much the hips are actually moving.  To do this, stand up.  Look down at your belt buckle.  Once you see it, turn it to the right about 3 inches.  As you do you will see that you hips just moved about 45 degrees.  The purpose of doing this is to show you how little the hips actually move in the backswing.  If you are purposely trying to move them or not trying to resist their movement, they will move too much.  Keep this in mind when you do swings until you have this mastered.


3.  Do the drill I mentioned above where you place the club on your shoulders.  Then, WITHOUT MOVING LOWER BODY AT ALL, turn back ONLY the club/shoulders in a circular motion. The best way to do this would be to set up towards a mirror.  Once in position, turn back while watching your belt buckle.  As you are watching it, make sure you try to keep it pointing at the mirror as long as you can.  If done correctly, you will be able to turn the club on your shoulders back about 45 degrees with NO movement of your belt buckle.  Once the club keeps turning, your hips will be pulled to 45 degrees automatically.

4.  Start off with baby steps.  What I mean is, do practice swings and hit shots thinking only of keep your feet solidly planted in the backswing.  This means the soles of your shoes are not wiggling or twisting AT ALL in the backswing.  Once you get them stable,  focus only on your knees.  Remember, with a 90 degree shoulder rotation they will only turn 22.5 degrees.  You can get this be watching them from the down the line view in a mirror making sure you right knee does not move.  Finally, work on not moving the hips (especially in the early stages of the backswing).  Work the club to the top feeling the tightness in the left shoulder area from the torque you are creating and make sure the hips are not turning back more than 45 degrees.

5.  The thought that I used when I played golf and hitting balls was to to think about my belt buckle facing the ball all the way to the top of the backswing. In doing so, I knew my belt buckle would move but to me it felt like it was still pointing at the ball as I made it to the top of the backswing.  This makes sense after you understand point #2 above and how little the hips actually move to get to 45 degrees.


Why did I write this tip?  I guess I’m just sick of people being inconsistent.  By basing your swing on the on the creation of torque, you will finally be basing your swing on something in life that repeats instead of trying to manually bring the club back to the ball with your hands and arms each time.

Until next time,

Paul Wilson
Creator – Swing Machine Golf

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