Every golf instructor or YouTube video seems to focus on shoulder rotation.
But what about the hip turn in the golf swing? It’s a good question and the topic doesn’t get enough attention at times. Yet, without the right amount of hip turn, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
The hips and shoulders do not rotate the same amount in the golf swing. They act independently but both shoulder and hip turn play a big role in making a solid backswing and downswing.
Hip Turn Golf Swing
If you’ve watched Happy Gilmore (one of the best golf movies ever) you know this quote from Chubb Peterson,“Happy… it’s all in the hips.” While it’s a funny scene in the movie, it’s also very true.
The best golfers in the world use their hips perfectly to generate power and hit the golf ball consistently. Yet, most everyday amateur golfers struggle with hip rotation, have too much upper body rotation, and suffer as a result.
Today, we’ll simplify this motion and discuss how the hips move in the backswing and downswing. When you’re done reading you’ll likely understand one of the most fundamental parts of the golf swing.
- Hips rotate about half as much as your shoulders.
- Your left foot and left hip play a big role in every golf shot.
- The hips start the downswing and play a pivotal role in ball striking.
- Most amateur golfers rotate their hips too early and throw off their swing sequence according to Ben Hogan.
Keep reading to learn the role of the hips in each part of the golf swing.
Hips in the Backswing
Let’s start with the hips from the address position; they should be square to your target. A good way to check your hip alignment is to put an alignment stick in your belt loops. This will easily show if your hips are open or closed before you ever take the club away.
Once your hips are in a good starting position, it’s key to not move them too soon. As Ben Hogan said in his book, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, “Turning the hips too soon is an error countless golfers make and it’s a serious error. It destroys your chances of obtaining the power of a correctly integrated swing.”
Instead, you want to restrain your hips from moving into your shoulder and start to pull the hips around your body. This will allow a good balance between hip and shoulder rotation so your torso tightens. Which will allow you to properly unwind your left arm and upper body on the downswing.
But if you’re like a lot of golfers chances are you wonder how much you should rotate.
Proper Rotation isn’t Lateral Rotation
While you want 45 degrees of rotation on the backswing, it’s not a lateral movement only. You actually want to feel your lead hip rotating slightly down so your back hip is moving slightly up when rotating correctly. This will make it easier to use the ground force properly on your downswing.
Here’s an easy way to feel this move. Stand up and place your hands on your hips so your fingers are pointing toward the ground. Make a backswing with your hands on your hips with your fingers pointing to the ground.
You want to feel your left hand (assuming you’re a right-handed golfer) go down slightly. This will naturally pull your back hand up which should move your right hip up.
When you do this with a club and ball you’ll pull your back hip slightly up away from the ground. This will then allow you to use the ground reaction force on the downswing to unwind properly.
Hips in the Downswing
Now, the hard work is done… if you move your hips properly on the backswing, the downswing is 10X easier. The problem is that most golfers don’t turn their hips properly on the backswing which makes it harder to sequence properly on the downswing.
But if your hips are in a solid position at the top of your swing, the downswing sequence is much more effective. Here’s what Ben Hogan said about the proper downswing sequence.
“The hips initiate the downswing. They are the pivotal element in the chain action. Starting them first and moving them correctly – this one action practically makes the downswing.”
Tom Watson echoed a similar statement in a Golf Digest article. “Hip rotation in the second half of the swing happens in a flash. As you shift your weight forward by pressing down with the left heel, your hips will slide slightly, no more than a few inches toward the target. That slide happens as the hips start to undo their backswing turn.”
Don’t Forget Your Weight Shift
While I completely agree with Ben Hogan I’d like to add one point – weight shift. You don’t simply unwind your hips once the club is parallel to the ground. Otherwise, you’ll spin out of the shot too early and leave a lot of weight on your backside.
Instead, you unwind your hips and shift the weight to your lead leg. This will ensure that you get the proper amount of weight on your lead leg to transfer your energy properly to the follow through.
A good training aid to master this subtle shift is the Pressure Plate from WhyGolf. This training aid is incredibly effective for amateur golfers as you get instant feedback on the weight shift.
While standing on the board, you need to get 60% of your weight on your back foot to press it down. To start the downswing you will need to get 70% of your weight to your lead foot to press it down. Click here to learn more about the Pressure Plate training aid now.
Stop the Hip Slide
Another common golf swing mistake that players make is shifting laterally toward the target. This is typically a result of sway aka laterally moving away from the target on the backswing. If you sway on the way back, you will have to sway back toward the target on the downswing.
But this is a killer move that makes your swing rely almost entirely on timing. Instead, you want to rotate around your body so you can unwind properly and not laterally move in the direction of your target. Hip sliding vs. hip rotation typically leads to losing a lot of shots right.
Remember, the motion is to unwind, not slide on the downswing. If you struggle with swaying, make sure to click here and fix it fast.
Hip Drills for Golf
Now that you have a better understanding of the proper hip positioning in the golf swing, here are a few drills. This should help ingrain the correct hip motion so you can develop a more consistent golf swing.
Alignment Rod Drill
Eric Cogorno Golf on YouTube demonstrates a great and simple drill here. Insert the alignment rod in your belt buckle and make sure it’s all the way left (if you’re a right-handed player).
Without hitting a shot, you want to feel the alignment rod getting square to your target. It will feel like a lot of hip rotation at times but it can lead to a ton more power. Remember, you don’t need to hit balls using this drill, it’s just a good way to feel the proper clearing of the hips.
Clear Your Hips Drill
Another great drill is from Adam at Scratch Golf Academy on YouTube (watch it here). Like the previous drill you won’t need to hit any golf balls but instead can do it on the range or even in the parking lot before the round.
With your bag standing up, put your hands at the top of the head cover to keep your shoulders still. Then try to move your hips back and forth without any shoulder motion. This will improve your coordination and also identify if your hips are very tight.
The Baseball Drill
In the same video from Scratch Golf Academy he has another drill to help clear the hips. At this time stamp you can watch to get started.
Take a short iron and tee it up. Make a backswing until you’re about half the way back and pause at that moment. Then feel your weight go to your lead leg but also kick your hands back. Sort of like a baseball player before he hits a golf ball. The bat (or in this case the hands) go slightly back and operate separately than your hips.
Learning how to do this will help you sequence the swing better, improve your timing, and ultimately your ball striking too.
FAQs About When to Turn Your Hips in Golf
Do you have more questions about the proper hip motion in the golf swing? Keep reading to learn the most frequently asked question and answers below.
How much do I turn my hips in the golf swing?
The ideal amount of hip turn is about 45 degrees. The shoulders will rotate significantly more (at least 2X). So if your hips rotate 45 degrees, your shoulders and arms should rotate at least 90 degrees.
While some flexible golfers can get 100 or even 110 degrees of shoulder rotation. But remember, you want to limit hip movement or else you’ll get out of position and loser power on golf shots.
What does the right hip do?
If you’re a right-handed golfer, your right hip will move up and back in your swing. This will help get the golf club in a solid position as the lower body generates power. The left leg remains flexed as the right straightens on the backswing.
What if I have no hip turn in the golf swing?
If you don’t rotate your hips enough, you won’t have a big enough shoulder rotation. This will lead to a massive loss of power, early extension, and leave a ton of distance on the table. It’s a balancing act to rotate your hips some but not too much in your golf swing.
If you don’t have enough hip rotation it might be from tight muscles. This is why golf stretching is a good idea to keep your muscles loose and flexible. Before and after your workouts make sure to incorporate some light stretching to get the most out of your golf swing.
Your hips play a big role in sequencing your golf swing properly. The right amount of hip movement will lead to 90 degrees or more of shoulder rotation. If you’re really flexible, you can get even more than 90 degrees of shoulder turn which can lead to more distance (like Dustin Johnson).
Remember, the hips need to rotate properly on the backswing so that you have an effective downswing. The hips start the downswing in conjunction with getting 70% of your weight to your left leg.
Don’t try to spin your left hip too early. Otherwise, you’ll leave too much weight on your back foot and hit a lot of thin, pushes, or slices. Get the weight to your front foot for better golf and with a little practice, you’ll hit it better than ever.
If you’re struggling with hip rotation make sure to stretch and activate your legs in a quick warm up session before playing golf. This is even more important if you sit at your job a lot as your muscles can tighten and shorten.