Shoulder Tilt in Golf Swing

Understanding the Golf Swing: Shoulder Tilt Explained

Golf has a lot of moving parts – legs, upper body, wrists, and even head position all play a pivotal role in making solid contact. One part that doesn’t get talked about enough is shoulder tilt in the golf swing.

If your shoulder tilt (or lack thereof) isn’t correct at setup, it’s going to cause a ton of ball striking issues. But the amount of tilt isn’t the same for every swing, every lie, and every club which is why golfers can get confused.

Today, we’ll simplify the shoulders in the swing and help you improve your golf swing.

Shoulder Tilt in Golf Swing 

Key Takeaways

  • More shoulder tilt is needed when hitting the driver since it’s teed up.
  • Your shoulder tilt has a direct impact on ball striking when hitting off the fairway.
  • The amount of tilt in your shoulders changes based on the lie, club, and other factors.

Keep reading to simplify the process.

Shoulder Tilt in Irons

Let’s start by learning more about shoulder tilt when hitting irons – both off the deck or on a tee. Because with either shot it’s essential to hit the ball, then the turf with a descending blow.

This Golf.com article summed up the importance of shoulder tilt in the swing. “If I start with my shoulders level to the ground and continue to level them out, it’s really hard for me to get my hands inward enough, which is the start of me swinging the golf club from in to out,” 

I have never tested a low-handicap golfer who has had their shoulders tilted level or ever so slightly to the right. People just don’t play golf that way.” 

At address position, you want a small amount of tilt when hitting irons but not too much. According to the same article the average PGA Tour player has their shoulders at 28 degrees when the club is parallel to the ground. This means for right-handed golfers the left shoulder is slightly higher than the right shoulder. 

Golf Shoulder Turn

As you swing the club, your tilt will change and increase (Dustin Johnson gets up to 45 degrees). In general, more tilt is better as most golfers don’t have enough and tend to rotate on the incorrect axis.

Shoulder tilt isn’t something you necessarily want to think about while you swing. Instead, it’s something to assess while you’re on the driving range and/or recording your swing on video

The worst thing you can do is lift your back shoulder above your front. This will cause your axis to get off-line and move the bottom of your swing arc. The only time you want to adjust your shoulders this way is if you have a downhill slope (more on that upcoming). 

Shoulder Tilt With Woods 

As you know, there’s a big difference between hitting an iron off the deck vs. a driver that is teed up high. With drivers, you want an ascending angle, not a descending blow like you do with irons. Since the ball is teed up you want to hit up on it to increase launch angle and total distance.

When setting up to the golf ball with your driver, you want a lot more shoulder tilt; level shoulders are the enemy with your driver. On the driving range try out different amounts of tilt to see what feels comfortable and what produces the best results. 

See our article on the Reverse K setup position.

Reverse K Setup Instructions

Changing Tilt for Different Lies 

Since golf isn’t played on flat surfaces all the time, your shoulders do need to adjust at times. Whether you’re in the fairway, rough, or bunker, your shoulders need to match the slope.

For example, if you’re hitting from an uphill lie you need to drop your right shoulder down further to match the slope. This will ensure you swing with the slope and don’t bottom out at the wrong part of the swing. Plus, don’t forget to change your ball position slightly further up in your stance as well. 

With downhill lies, you actually want to drop your front shoulder down so you swing with the slope. You’ll also need to change the ball position slightly further back in your stance too. 

Keep your normal shoulder tilt with side hill lies where the ball is above or below your feel. Click here to learn more about uneven lies in golf.

Shoulder Tilt Drill 

Tom Watson, a legend of the game provided a simple drill in a 2008 Golf Digest article. Follow the steps below to feel the right shoulder motion in your swing. 

  • Stand up straight and take a club or alignment rod and put it over your shoulders. It should be across the back of your neck.
  • Next, rotate your shoulders from an upright position so the club stays horizontal on the backswing and follow through.
  • Keep your shoulder line perpendicular to the spine angel throughout the swing. 
  • After doing this 5–10 times take the same motion to your normal golf posture
Shoulder Tilt Golf Swing

FAQs About Shoulder Turn and Plane

Do you have more questions about getting your shoulders in the correct position during your swing? If so, keep reading the most frequently asked questions and answers now to play better golf. 

Should your shoulders tilt when hitting irons?

You want your back shoulder slightly lower than your front shoulder. But you don’t want to do this too much with irons as you need a descending blow at the impact zone. 

Should your shoulders be level in the golf swing?

No, shoulder tilt is needed in the golf swing. Plus, as you bend over in your stance your shoulder will then rotate on that axis during your swing.

As Tom Watson said in the same Golf Digest article from above, “Your shoulder line should remain perpendicular to your spine angle. That’s crucial. Your club will swing pretty much on the same path.”

Click here to learn more about shoulder turn in your swing or click here to learn how to maintain your spine angle during the swing.

Do pro golfers use the stack and tilt? 

Very few golfers have used this method on the PGA Tour. Some that have includes Mike Weir, Aaron Baddeley, Charlie Wi, and others. But in general, most elite golfers stick to a traditional two plane golf swing.

how to maintain spine angle in golf swing

My Experience

There are a lot of moving parts in the golf swing and the sequence depends on each part of the body moving correctly. The shoulders are a cornerstone of a good golf swing and something that you can easily monitor at setup. Make sure to adjust your shoulders based on the lie, club used, and type of shot to build a solid golf swing.

Final Thoughts 

Master your shoulder turn and proper shoulder tilt to hit solid golf shots, gain distance, hit straighter shots, and play better golf. If you need a swing thought during the round make sure to focus on getting your shoulder tilt and alignment at your intended target.

You will get the proper body rotation and play great golf once you master this fundamental. This is a habit of the best golfers in the world and will create a better downswing position. If you struggle with contact, it might be time to get some instruction as this plays a big role in your swing. For more on this same issue, I recommend your read our article on right side bend in the golf swing.