Golf Swing

Frame The Body for a More Effective Golf Swing

If the frame is strong, it can support everything that follows. However, if it is weak, no amount of expensive finishes will conceal the flaws. This is also an excellent description of how posture affects the golf swing at address and throughout. When attempting to master a skill with so many moving parts as a golf swing, one of the most effective ways to achieve better, more consistent results is to get the body “framed up” at address and then only allow the posture to change as much as necessary to produce solid, powerful, and accurate shots.

The first step in this process is to establish a strong, athletic posture at address. In general, a beginner will set up with the spine too vertical and knees that are either too stiff or too bent and squatty. Standing up with an almost vertical spine not only looks unathletic in comparison to advanced players, but it usually results in the hands being too close to the body (when the knees are squatty) or too far away from the body at address. Poor spine angles during setup not only get the hands out of position, but they also set the stage for swing planes that are likely to result in a variety of unsavory golf shots.

There’s a reason why martial arts emphasize stances and body positions, and most golfers would benefit from paying more attention to these fundamentals. The setup prepares the body’s center of gravity to deal with the forces of the swing, and posture is the first step in determining whether a golfer resembles a Jedi or Jar Jar Binks when in motion.

Golf Swing

For those who do not have significant physical issues (such as extremely tight hamstrings or a lower back that objects more than the attorneys on “Law & Order”), a good address posture typically includes a forward flex of the spine from the hips to the point where the sternum is slightly further forward than the knees. This shifts the weight slightly forward of center, toward the balls of the feet, and allows the arms to hang down so that the hands have some space (perhaps a fist-width or more) from the legs. The straighter the spine remains when it flexes forward (rather than slumping or bending), the better the body is prepared to perform a full, powerful shoulder turn.

I also like to see a “secondary angle” of the spine for most golfers, which means a slight tilt of the spine away from the target at address. This makes sense because the lead hand is higher on the grip, causing the lead shoulder to rise slightly higher than the trailing shoulder. Furthermore, when the lead leg straightens during the downswing, the spine tends to tilt away from the target, which can alter the swing path and clubface unless the golfer has “framed” the body with a slight tilt from the start.

Golf Swing

There isn’t much discussion about this tip, but many golfers benefit from applying the secondary angle to the hips and pelvis as well, keeping the front knee and hip slightly taller at address than the trailing knee. This keeps the spine in sync with the lower body and can be especially beneficial for golfers who struggle with reverse tilt, which occurs when the spine leans toward the target at the top of the swing. One of my clients found this postural tip so helpful that he began signing his emails to me as “Secondary Angle”.

Once a golfer has established an athletic posture at address, it is critical to keep the body as “framed up” as possible throughout the golf swing. Granted, houses are designed to prevent movement, whereas golf’s address position is designed to prepare for movement, but the goal is to make as few movements as possible while producing powerful and accurate shots. A 2,000-piece puzzle is difficult to assemble and keep together.

Relaxing is one way to stay more focused on the backswing. Many golfers over-activate the muscles in their upper arms and upper back when taking the club away, as if it were made of lead. These muscles work against the frame, causing the spine to drop, lean toward the ball, or begin tilting toward the target. Sometimes I remind clients that we want the tree’s limbs to swing, not the other way around; and that allowing the turn of the body to swing the arms and club away helps them maintain their posture during the backswing.

Many golfers benefit from learning to avoid the “lawn mower move,” which occurs when they pull the club away with the (usually dominant) trail arm, similar to pulling the cord on an old lawn mower. Tension in the arms and shoulder blades puts pressure on the spine, causing the frame to suffer. Relaxed arms also tend to swing more quickly.

Another common way for golfers to lose their frame during the backswing is to drastically drop the front knee and hip. People who have more lower-body movement than Elvis benefit from the secondary angle I mentioned earlier; if they raise the lead hip higher at address and learn to keep it pinned in that “tall” position during the backswing, they will be more stable throughout the swing. It’s fine for the hip to rotate back as needed, and for the lead knee to move closer to the trail knee, but minimizing any “sag” of the lead side of the body toward the ground makes it much easier to return the club on a good path and strike solidly.

Many of the other posture changes golfers make during the transition and downswing are instinctive adjustments they use to compensate for poor balance and difficult swing planes. For example, a player who is too on his toes or golf swing too steeply will most likely “come up” out of posture just before impact in a last-ditch effort to avoid digging a ditch. A player, on the other hand, who becomes too flat with his planes may drop his trail shoulder and bend his spine during impact in an attempt to generate better contact than his planes would otherwise.

It’s too much to go over in detail in this article, but a player who understands effective weight movement and swing planes will find it easier to keep his body in position throughout the swing. The opposite is also true. When the swing’s frame moves, so do the planes, and when the planes shift, so must the frame; otherwise, contact and ball flight suffer. However, solid planes and a solid frame complement each other like wine and cheese, as evidenced by most great players’ fluid, seemingly effortless, and clearly efficient swings.

Some movements are definitely desirable and/or unavoidable when making an athletic and powerful golf swing (it would take a true Jedi to smash the ball just by taking a good stance). Obviously, rotation is the primary power source during the swing; however, the arms and club move at a fast rate, creating counter-forces on the body that are difficult to resist. Most advanced players will drop their heads during the swing and shift their bodies laterally toward the target prior to impact. Even our feet, which connect us to the earth, are likely to move. The trick is to strike a balance between athleticism and efficiency.

I know a golfer who used to mark a mirror with a bar of soap, creating a line that represented his spine, and then practice swinging while minimizing the movement of his spine in the mirror. This type of practice gave him valuable feedback on what it felt like to make a stable turn during the swing.

Each golfer’s strength and flexibility have a significant impact on his ability to stay framed up. A golfer with large arms but weak legs and core will struggle to maintain balance throughout the swing compared to someone with smaller arms and a strong leg/core combination. Similarly, a player with significant mobility/flexibility issues (a stiff neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, etc.) will struggle to generate length and speed in the swing without first losing stability. This is why proper fitness training is practically required if a golfer wishes to compete at the elite level these days.

In an ideal world, any player serious about improving would devote significant time to both the fitness and mechanical aspects of their game; however, for those of us who spend more time thinking about working out than actually working out. If we can get on the range and learn to frame up the body with an athletic address posture and then minimize the excess spine and body movements during the swing, the effort will pay off. So good luck getting framed and playing better golf!

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