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How do the little guys hit the golf ball so far? Hip rotation

By Brett Gorney,
PGA Director of Instruction, GolfTEC

Part 1 of a two-part series: Hip Rotation in the Golf Swing

Here's the scenario. You are hitting golf balls at the local driving range. Slowly you start to realize that your attention is drawn to the deafening sound of a titanium explosion coming from two stalls down.

You turn to take a look at the gorilla that is consistently pounding the ball 280 yards straight in to the fence at the end of the range. To your amazement, the guy is 5'10" and weighs 155 pounds soaking wet! Standing there completely awestruck, you ask yourself, "How in the world does he hit it so far?"

When I ask a student "What areas of improvement are most important to you?" Nearly all of them say, "Consistency, Lower Scores, and DISTANCE."

Golf drill: Increase hip rotation for more distance

One of the most common faults I see as a golf instructor, is the degree of hip rotation at the top of the backswing. Most golfers think, "Bigger Swing = More Distance." At GolfTEC, the data we record on our motion analysis computer shows us how far the hips rotate in degrees.

Based on our testing of over 150 touring professionals, we know that the average hip rotation at the top of the backswing is 45 degrees. The majority of golfers I teach for the first time usually rotate their hips 55 to 60 degrees. The extra 10 to 15 degrees of hip rotation on the backswing is now an extra 10 to 15 degrees that the golfer has to rotate to get back to the ball on the downswing. This creates more room for inconsistency and loss of power.

Power in the golfswing comes from the difference in hip turn versus shoulder turn - otherwise known as the "X-Factor." Our data shows that the PGA Tour players average a shoulder turn of 90 degrees at the top of the backswing.

Subtract the average hip turn of 45 degrees and we get an X-Factor on 45 degrees. The greater the X-Factor, the greater amount of stretch or "coil" in the golf swing.

So how do you keep your hips from rotating too far back? There are a couple of key checkpoints to see if you are over-rotating. Set up to a ball, take a backswing and hold it at the top. If your right knee (left knee for lefties) is straight, then your hips and belt buckle are probably facing the wall behind you and your left knee has probably caved in toward your right knee. You have over-rotated on your backswing.

To correct this, think of keeping your knees in place and your hips facing the ball when you make your backswing. Make sure your right foot is square to the target line and the knees are flexed at address. When you look down at your right knee, it should appear to be slightly inside of your right foot. Try taking the club away and keeping both of your knees in place.

At the top of your swing, you should feel that your hips have hardly turned and you will feel a stretch in your left side. Your left shoulder should be over the right knee with 80-85% of your weight on your right side.

Practice this in front of a mirror. You will see that your knees haven't moved, they're still flexed, your hips are no longer facing the wall behind you, and your left shoulder is over your right knee. One word of caution with this drill.

Do not get in the habit of swaying back to the right in order to keep the hips facing the ball. If you do, you will notice two things. Your right knee will be outside of your right foot and your right foot will most likely be rolled over on it's outside edge.

By practicing this drill, and eliminating any excess hip rotation, you will create more coil in your backswing. This will result in greater clubhead speed and more distance. Stop by a GolfTEC location to get your hip rotation numbers checked.

If you have any questions, please contact the store location nearest you or call 1-877-4GOLFTEC. Golftec is also on the web at www.golftec.com.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Hip rotation

    Tom Walsh wrote on: Aug 11, 2014

    I was always taught that in the downswing you start with the "Hips Toward Target" but I do not know the exact hip rotation position where you actually hit the ball. Do you hit the ball after your hips turn, or during the hip slide? I hit pulls kneck shots, hooks, shanks, some slices.
    How far should your right shoulder go under? I come over the top on some shots but not all trying to get right shoulder under so I don't come over the top which causes shanks and pulls.


  • Thanks

    Kevin wrote on: Jul 16, 2013

    Thanks, Brett!
    Read your article- got the "whip" and power back in my swing. I knew the hips were getting away but couldn't seem to fix it. Had to also adjust the take away when I got the "coil" back. I used to "drive into the right knee" to try to fix this issue but your advice is more specific and works better w a little practice and timing.