Many players are confused about how their hips and shoulders should move during their golf swing. Different swing theories seem contradictory, and often teachers do not make themselves clear. Ironically, most players would make a good swing with no problem whatsoever if they did not call what they did a “golf swing.” The shoulders and hips will move naturally if you just let them.
Sequence on the Backswing
When we address the ball, we set up with our shoulders and hips parallel to our aim line--that is, our shoulders and hips are both aimed in the same direction. When we begin our backswing, our shoulders move first while our hips try to remain in their address position for as long as possible without causing undue muscle tension. Finally, the hips begin to turn so we can finish our backswing. The hips turn about half as much as the shoulders.
The shoulders begin the backswing by turning away from the ball until the hands are at waist high. This movement is called a “one-piece takeaway” and, because the shoulders move so early in the backswing, the arms are able to remain straight without tensing up until the hands reach that waist-high position. The shoulders may have turned as much as 60 to 75 degrees from the ball, and the hips begin their turn away from the ball at this point to finish the backswing.
Sequence on the Downswing
When we start down, the sequence is just the opposite: The hips move first, pulling the shoulders behind them. Your hips continue to lead all the way through the downswing, turning past the ball and pulling the shoulder back into the same position they had at address at the moment you strike the ball. At this point, the hips basically stop and the shoulders continue to turn past the hips to reach our finish position.
Although we want the hips to “lead” the shoulders on the downswing--Ben Hogan simply wrote that the hips initiate the downswing--the truth is that it is nearly impossible to start the downswing with your shoulders. If you find it difficult to hold your posture when you start your hips first--some people tilt away from the target too much--you can simply try to feel as if you are starting your hips and shoulders down together.
Coming Over the Top
You may have been told that an over-the-top swing is started by your shoulders, but this is not quite true. The real problem in an over-the-top swing is that the arms are not moving properly and, as a result, they never really stopped moving in the first place. The arms and hands are moving straight up, typically because of a poor takeaway, and make a loop higher than the shoulders. Learning to make a correct one-piece takeaway will often solve this problem.