Golf tip no 1 - basic shoulder turn geometry

The classic golf tip series:

1 – Shoulder turn
2 – One-piece takeaway
3 – Downswing
4 – Weight transfer
5 – Golf club release
6 – Backspin
7 – Chipping and pitching


Shoulder turn is a term and golf tip I bet you’ve heard a thousand times before, but what does it really mean – and why is it important? In essence, this golf tip is a mathematical way of explaining how golfers should wind up the body like a spring at the top of the backswing and then unleash all that stored-up power on the downswing.

One of the most famous versions of this was American teacher Jim McLean’s ‘X-Factor’ concept ( As with any classic golf tip, however, putting theory into practice requires a proper understanding of the concept – so pull out your old protractor and let’s get you into the right angles…


Golf tip no 1: Basic shoulder turn geometry

Imagine a line drawn from the middle of your feet to the ball in the middle of your stance – ie a line that’s perpendicular to your footline. When we say you should that ‘your shoulder turn should be 90 degrees’, it’s with respect to that line.

Now, if you can get into a position at the top of the backswing where shoulder turn is 90 degrees and the hips have turned 45 degrees (relative to that line), it means you’ve made a full and coiled backswing.

If you can get into this position, illustrated in image 1, you will have created resistance and tension between the upper and lower body – and this golf tip results in very powerful position for a number of reasons:

■ The tension creates the ‘coiled spring’ effect that stores up power on the backswing.
■ It allows the weight to move correctly into the right side.
■ It allows you to make a full swing arc.
■ On the downswing, it enhances your chances of being able to sweep the ball away on the correct path with maximum power.



Golf tip no 2: The right and wrong way of a shoulder turn

A lot of people get into trouble because they take the ‘90/45’ thing too literally. The golf tip is really about understanding that a good shoulder turn will naturally pull the hips along – if you try too hard, two particularly nasty things can happen:

■ You’ve heard that the position results in a ‘coil’ and ‘resistance’, so you make a 90-degree shoulder turn, but then you don’t turn the hips because you’re trying to ‘feel’ like you’re creating the required resistance. The problem is you end up restricting the shoulder turn, not transferring weight – and the result is a steep downswing. Sure, you’ll feel tension between the upper and lower halves of your body, but it’s the wrong tension – it’s tension without power.

■ You are overly aware of the fact that your hips aren’t turning enough, so in an effort to rotate them to 45 degrees, you allow the weight to move too far outside the right foot and for the lower body to become overactive. This is a terrible position, resulting in a long and ungainly overswing – with a loss of balance and control. And, ironically, there’s almost no resistance.

Basically, through a simple lack of understanding of the basic principle behind the ‘90/45’ golf tip, these two faults have a completely opposite effect of the good coil position that is intended. The simplest way to get a feel for what’s really supposed to be going on is a standing drill.


Golf tip no 3: The 90/45 shoulder turn drill

OK, let’s get it straight: with the obvious exception of a small percentage of people who are different from the rest, your body is naturally designed so that if your shoulder turn is 90 degrees, your hips will naturally turn about 45. Here, let me prove it!

Stand up straight, place a club across your shoulders as shown and turn your shoulders 90 degrees to the right. Now stay there. Without moving your shoulders, move the club to your hips and you’ll see that they have turned 45 degrees. Magic.

The main reason people get the whole idea wrong is because they don’t understand that the hips and shoulders move together naturally – and they do so in such a way that the hips will always turn less than the shoulders in a ratio of about 2:1.


Golf tip no 4: The shoulder turn drill extended

Now have a look at the second series of drill images – and perhaps the most important part of this whole exercise to understand.

If you aren’t flexible or supple enough to make your shoulder turn more than, say, 60 degrees, don’t worry. All that will happen is that your hips will turn 30 – and at least you are using the body’s natural geometry to create a coil between the upper and lower halves of your body – the tension will take care of itself.

Here’s another way of thinking about it: imagine a good golfer playing a ‘half shot’ or taking a ‘three-quarter swing’. His shoulder turn will certainly not be 90 degrees and the hips won’t move to 45 degrees, but they will surely turn proportionally and create the right amount of coiled power to execute the shot.

If the 90/45 golf tip is a mathematical problem – consider it solved!