The Twelve Most Common Swing Faults
Nearly every amateur golfer has a fault in their swing. These faults are caused by physical limitations in your body creating an improper or inefficient swing pattern. Even the most simple swing fault can cause a loss of distance and consistency as well as put you at risk for injury.
If you’re thinking well what if I have physical limitations causing swing faults but I hit the ball just fine? Many golfers are very good at compensating for the faults in their swing. Therefore the limitations might not be preventing you from hitting the ball well but they are most certainly putting you at risk for injury. Its not matter of will you get injured its when will you sustain an injury. Determining your faults and physical limitations are essential for your strength coach to develop a proper training program and to meet your specific individual needs.
S-Posture is a swing characteristic caused by the player creating too much arch in their lower back while in the set up position. This excessive curvature in the low back puts a tremendous amount of stress on the muscles in the lower back and causes the abdominal muscles to relax. The relaxation of the core muscles can cause a loss of posture or a reverse spine angle during the backswing. As a result the lower body is put out of position on the downswing and will affect the swings sequence of motion.
Sometimes the S-Posture is caused by a series of muscle imbalances called a Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS). LCS is simply a grouping of weak muscles combined with overactive or tight muscles that create a predictable movement pattern in the lower back. This pattern can lead to injury.
C-Posture occurs when the shoulders are slumped forward at address and there is a definitive roundness to the back from the tailbone to the back and neck. This will force a player to keep their backswing short and wide or they will find it difficult to maintain posture.
C-Posture can simply be a result of poor set up position and can be corrected by physically adjusting the posture to a more neutral spine. The majority of C-Postures are caused by a series of muscle imbalances and joint restrictions that are developed over many years. The most significant restriction this causes is the lack of thoracic spine extension (limited backward bend or arching of the upper back). This can lead to a severe loss of spinal rotation, which in turn limits the ability to create a good backswing.
Loss of Posture
Loss of posture is any significant alteration from the body’s original set up angles during the golf swing. This can affect all aspects of the golf swing namely timing, balance, and rhythm. Altering posture usually causes two typical mis-hits, the block to the right and the hook to the left. As the body changes angles the player is forced to rely on their hand motion to square the face. This becomes a timing driven swing that can be inconsistent.
Research has shown that generalized stiffness and asymmetry in the musculature and joints of the lower body are the main causes. This can alter good set up posture and force players to change their spinal posture throughout the golf swing. Other causes include reduced spinal mobility, poor lat flexibility, weak core and gluteus muscles, and poor flexibility in the shoulders and hips.
63.4% of amateur golfers have a loss of posture.
Flat Shoulder Plane (Part of Loss of Posture)
Flat shoulder plane or turn describes the angle of the shoulders as the golfer turns to the top of the backswing. When the golfer addresses the ball the spine is tilted due to the forward bend of the hips to allow you to get into the correct setup position. The ideal swing requires the shoulders to move perpendicular to the tilt of the spine on the backswing. A flat shoulder plane is when the shoulders turn on a more horizontal plane than the axis of the original spine angle. This causes the club to be out of position on the backswing and changes the original spine angles on the downswing reducing efficiency of the motion. As a result the golfer usually compensates by on the downswing with the body or hands to square the club face. This can also cause a loss of power in the swing as well as inconsistent ball striking.
There are several physical causes that force a golfer to have a flat shoulder plane. Poor range of motion in the shoulders and lats. A lack of forward pelvic tilt at the address, forcing the arms to move away from the body on the backswing. Finally limited separation between your upper body and lower body (poor mobility in the thoracic spine or poor technique).
Early Extension (Part of Loss of Posture)
Early extension occurs when the hips and spine of a golfer start to go into extension or straighten up too early on the downswing. This occurs when the hips and pelvis move closer to the ball on the downswing. Early extension causes the upper body to lift up allowing the golfer to maintain their balance. The lower body does not easily rotate through impact, instead it pushes forward and the person stands up. This will cause players to often complain of being stuck or trapped with their arms on the downswing. The result can be a block or hook as the hands and arms desperately try to deliver the club to the ball. If golfers do not do anything with their hands through impact they may actually shank some shots because they are closer to the ball than they were at the address.
Poor internal rotation of the lead hip is a major physical cause of early extension. The lower body needs to be able to fully rotate without forward thrust toward the golf ball. If the pelvis is unable to rotate around the lead hip due to joint or muscular restrictions then forward or lateral movement will dominate the golf swing. Poor mobility or the inability to separate the lower body from the upper body does not allow the golfer to maintain and a proper sequence of motion during the swing. This is usually caused by reduced spinal mobility (flexibility) and lat flexibility. Finally poor gluteal and abdominal strength cause the inability to stabilize the lower body. A stable neutral pelvic posture helps prevent the lower body from thrusting forward toward the golf ball during the swing.
64.3% of amateur golfers early extend
Over the Top
Over the top is seen as the most common swing fault among high handicap golfers. It usually occurs because of the over-dominance of the upper body during the downswing. As a result the club is thrown outside of the intended swing plane, with the club head approaching the ball in and out-to-in motion. This creates a pull if the clubface is square or a slice if the clubface is open. This swing fault can cause a tremendous loss of power and limit the ability to control the ball flight.
The inability to separate movements of the lower body from the upper body does not allow the lower body to lead the golf swing. Usually reduced spinal and hip mobility causes limited pelvis-to-thorax separation. Poor core and thorax stability or strength does not allow the golfer to maintain proper posture. Any loss of posture can force the arms and torso to fire first in transition to help reposition the body for rotation. Poor balance especially with the lead leg can cause an improper weight shift. Limited weight shift toward the lead leg can reduce the lower body’s contribution to power generation during the swing. This will cause golfer to use excessive upper body power by chopping down or throwing the club over-the-top.
Right hip internal rotation is paramount for full rotation into the right hip without any lateral sway for a right-handed golfer. If the body is unable to rotate around the right hip due to joint or muscular restrictions, lateral movements will dominate the swing pattern. The ability to separate the upper body from the lower body allows the lower body to laterally stabilize while rotating during a large shoulder turn. Limited thorax-to-pelvis separation is usually caused by reduced spinal mobility and shortened lat flexibility. The ability to stabilize the lead leg during the backswing is directly proportional to the strength and stability of the gluteal musculature (your butt muscles). The gluteus muscles are the main stabilizers of the pelvis and lower body.
A slide is any excessive lower body lateral movement toward the target during the downswing. This makes is very difficult to stabilize your lower body during the downswing, which will eventually decrease power and speed from the upper body through impact. Once the lower body starts its forward shift into the downswing, its job is to transfer energy to the upper body and provide a stable base for the extreme rotary forces created by the torso, arms, and club.
Lead hip internal rotation is crucial for full rotation into the lead hip without any lateral sway. If the body is unable to rotate around the lead hip due to joint or muscular restrictions, then lateral movements will dominate the pattern. The ability to separate the upper body from the lower body allows the lower body to laterally stabilize while rotating the shoulders through a full finish. The ability to laterally stabilize the lead leg during the downswing is directly proportional to the strength and stability of the gluteal musculature (your butt muscles). ). The gluteus muscles are the main stabilizers of the pelvis and lower body.
Reverse Spine Angle
The #1 cause of low back pain in golfers
A Reverse Spine Angle is any excessive upper body backward bend or excessive lateral upper body bend during the backswing. This makes it difficult to start the downswing in the proper sequence, because the lower body is in a position that usually limits its ability to initiate the downswing. The upper body tends to dominate the swing when the lower body can’t start the downswing or has limited ability to initiate the movement. The upper body domination will create path problems and limit power output. Reverse spine angle puts excessive tension on the lower back due to the forced inhibition of the abdominal musculature during the backswing.
The ability to separate the upper body from the lower body allows the shoulders to rotate around the spine without going into backward bend or excessive lateral bend. Limited thorax to pelvis separation is caused by reduced spinal mobility and shortened lat flexibility. Internal rotation of the hips is crucial to prevent and lateral movement. If the body is unable to rotate around the hip due to joint or muscular restrictions then a lateral sway may occur. Any lateral sway during the backswing will force the spine to tilt into backward bend and create a reverse spine angle. Lastly the ability to stabilize the spine angle during the backswing is directly proportional to the strength and stability of the core musculature (your abs, low back, and glutes). The core is the king when it comes to spinal stabilization. These muscles help keep the upper body forward flexed throughout the golf swing.
When a golfer “hangs back” their weight does not shift correctly back onto the lead side on the downswing. Golfers tend to hang back on their training leg and spine though impact. This results in a lack of power and the inability to create a consistent strike on the golf ball. This will also usually result in a premature release of the wrists angles as the player is trying to advance the club with their arms rather than with the correct weight shift and pivot.
Poor strength or power in the trail leg can prevent proper weight shift. If there are any weaknesses in the glutes, adducotors, abdominals on the trailside, players may eliminate the weight shift all together. Limited mobility or instability in the lead hip can result in the player hanging back.
Casting, Early Release, and Scooping all refer to any premature release of the wrist angles during the downswing and through impact (like the casting of a fishing rod). The angle loss results in a weakened impact position with the lead wrist being cupped at the ball strike. This adds loft to the face of the club as a result we see as loss of power and consistency. Early release is when the club head and lead forearm are in straight line prior to making contact with the ball. Scooping is when the club head passes the hands through impact and the golfer is trying to lift the ball into the air.
Good wrist flexibility is essential for setting the club and maintaining that set during the downswing. The right wrist must have good extension for a right handed golfer, the left wrist must be able to flex, and both wrists must have ample radial deviation (hinge). Forearm and grip strength is important to set and hold the club properly. Any dysfunction in the lower body can be the root cause. In other words, if the lower body is not initiating the sequence of power, the upper body will try to compensate to make up for the missing lower body. Lower body dysfunctions include poor hip mobility, poor ankle mobility, and poor core stabilization.
A Chicken Wing is a loss of extension or breakdown of the lead elbow through the impact area. This makes it difficult to develop speed or power and tends to put excessive force on the outside of the elbow joint. If a golfer suffers from high weak shots or they tend to develop tennis elbow on the lead side, they probably have a chicken wing swing characteristic.
Lead arm strength and lead side shoulder flexibility are paramount for a strong and fully extended lead arm at impact. Chicken winging will dominate the pattern if the arm is unable to rotate around the shoulder, due to joint or muscular restrictions. If the downswing is out of sequence and the club is traveling on an over-the-top path, the lead arm is almost always forced to chicken wing due to the direction of the forces that are applied upon it.
The Titleist Performance Institute provided all of the information above. Images can be found at various golf sites on the world wide web. If you are looking for a customized golf fitness program, please Contact Us for more information.
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