No matter what your golf setup procedure is, you need some element that GROUNDS you. GROUNDING refers to the ability to stay glued to the ground as you swing this weight (up and) around your body. For most pro golfers, their CORE muscles act as the grounding element – their cores are strong enough to support an aggressive backswing and an even more aggressive downswing – without losing either footing or balance. For most amateurs, developing such a strong core may not be an option (takes a lot of time and commitment).
However, there are other muscle groups that are equally capable of helping with this aspect of the golf swing. The most notable one, IMO, is the lower back. A strong lower back can serve the same purpose as a strong core – keep the swing grounded – and keep the golfer from swaying or losing his/her balance.
Fortunately, building lower back strength, is a little easier (again, based on my own experience) than building a strong core. The key exercise for the golfer’s lower back is the SQUAT. With roughly 5 minutes of squats every day, you can be on your way to a strong lower back.
Now that you have identified an appropriate grounding ELEMENT (the lower back), how exactly do you incorporate that into your setup and swing?
INCORPORATING the LOWER back into your SETUP
The final backswing position should be the lateral wrist break. How you get to this wrist break will depend upon you – some people break their wrists early (Johnny Miller was a huge proponent of this), others break it late. Regardless of an early or late wrist break, two fundamentals about the wrist break :
- It is an effect, not a direct goal – in other words , do not TRY to break your wrists, LET your wrists break due to the arms being carried up by the body.
- The wrist break HAS to be lateral. There is not a single good golfer who gets away with an overly ‘un-flat’ wrist break. Right at the top of their backswings, their left forearm is parallel to the golf clubface. This is a lateral wrist break – also sometimes known as a ‘flat’ wrist on top.
Again, regardless of an early or late wrist break, the end result (at the top of the backswing) is the same for all pro golfers.
Now that we have identified WHAT we need our backswing to do (end in a flat wrist), how exactly do we get there?
Start by supporting your stance on your lower back muscle. Bend slightly from the ‘lower back part of your hips’ – if that makes sense. After this bend, the rest of your back stays flat (in line with the bend). Watch Rory’s golf setup position to get an idea of what this looks like.
Once you have this GROUNDING element in place, you are ready to use your upper body to SWING your arms. You do not directly SWING your arms – you let the upper body muscles carry the arms and throw them back. The feeling is analogous to throwing a sack of flour backwards (you would use your upper body strength to throw the sack back, the arms would just go along for the ride).
If you can attain this SWINGING of the arms with the support of the upper body, your wrists will break automatically. You will not need to force a break. This is the natural wrist hinge in golf – and is central to generating any kind of power in the hitting zone. No wrist break (hinge), no power! It is the RELEASE of the wrists (through impact) that sends the golf ball flying. All this while, your swing is being supported by your lower back. It is your lower back that keeps you from losing your balance.
Most amateurs sway or lose their balance – either on the backswing, the downswing or both. To keep your balance in check, your swing needs a GROUNDING element – a group of muscles that keeps the body grounded while you swing your club back. The lower back can serve as this grounding element.