Clarifying the misunderstandings about hip sway during the golf swing

Tour player sway in the swing as much as their competitors do — and it isn’t a lot.

Mark Newcombe/Visions in Golf

It’s not often that that “The Hokey Pokey” works its way into a lesson, but let’s stick our left leg in, shall we? However, once you obey the lyrical call to “shake it all about,” you’re committing a huge mistake that separates players who struggle with this game from those who make it look easy. 

What I’m really talking about is sway — the movement of your body toward or away from the target during your swing. I’ll get right to the point: Tour players do very little of it in the backswing. 

That’s contrary to advice you’ve probably heard in your golf lifetime. That sort of encouragement — to “load” into your trail leg or to “move back” with your backswing, etc. — is encouraging you to sway in a manner the game’s best players simply don’t. It’s unfortunate that the stories golfers and golf teachers often tell aren’t rooted in the analytics of motion measurement. It’s fortunate that those passed on by GOLFTEC are, based on a galaxy-size collection of data points from the 1.5 million lessons our coaches have taught — and it drives a crucial story about sway. 

At address, the average Tour pro (demonstrated by six-time PGA Tour winner Marc Leishman in the photos above) is static. The sway measure of his hips and shoulders — taken at the center of each — is zero inches (1). When the shaft reaches parallel to the ground in the backswing, he has 0.3 inches of movement away from the target in his hips and 0.1 inches of movement away from the target in his shoulders (2). While both measurements do read “away,” that pattern quickly shifts. From parallel to the top of the backswing, a Tour player’s hips move about a half inch closer to the target and his shoulders 0.3 inches on average (3). 

Analysis: During the backswing, elite players move very little and ultimately end it with both their hips and shoulders slightly closer to the target than they were at address. 

Who cares about such minuscule numbers? You! Let that be your first lesson about sway: There’s no need to shift the center of your hips or shoulders on the way to the top. 

What happens next? From top to impact, Tour players, on average, shift the center of their hips about three inches toward the target (4). That’s a significant amount, all things considered, and considerably more than what average golfers do. 

 Can this information alone change your game? Maybe, especially if you’re someone who’s been unknowingly off-kilter in your backswing. Until a professional can see your swing, it’s very difficult to know what your issues are or how to fix them. Without a coach, you’re just guessing … and, trust me, that’s not what it’s all about. Your best bet to sway the odds in your favor: Find the GOLFTEC coach closest to you. 

Nick Clearwater is based at GOLFTEC’s headquarters in Denver, Colo.

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