You won’t be surprised to hear that your shoulders play a crucial role in the downswing in golf. Depending on the shot you’re hoping to play, you might open or close your shoulders as you address the ball.
This piece looks at some of the differences between opening and closing your shoulders and offers some top tips on how to correctly address the ball.
By the end, you will have all the information you need to address the golf ball correctly and be fully aware of the benefits associated with keeping the shoulders closed in the downswing.
- Should Shoulders Be Closed or Open on the Downswing?
- What Muscles are Used in The Downswing?
- How Do I Stop My Shoulders from Spinning in the Downswing?
- How Do You Keep Your Shoulders Back?
- Should Shoulders Be Closed at Impact?
- Should I Keep My Shoulders Square at Impact?
- How Do I Keep My Front Shoulder Closed when Swinging?
- How Does the Left Shoulder Work in the Golf Swing?
Should Shoulders Be Closed or Open on the Downswing?
Your shoulders should be open in the downswing in order to play a fade shot (right hander) or closed in the downswing if you wanted to play a more powerful straight shot or a draw (hook).
Closed shoulders for: The positioning of your shoulders in the downswing is important as it determines the power of your ball striking, as well as the type of shot you can play. Keeping your shoulders closed results in more powerful shots and is akin to a baseball swing. It’s also the necessary setup if you’re planning to hit a draw.
Open shoulders for: Allows you to hit a fade (left to right shot for right-handers), but you will likely compromise some distance. To answer the question directly, it depends on what type of shot you’re planning to hit. If you’re only interested in power, then keeping your shoulders closed on the downswing is your best option.
We take a look at the important role your shoulders play in the downswing in the following sections.
What Muscles are Used in The Downswing?
The muscles in your shoulders and back play a huge part in the downswing. Flexibility and strength of the muscles in your upper back are key, as it allows a much broader range of motion.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the golf swing brings a whole range of other muscles into play.
You also rely on the strength of your core when hitting through the ball. If you strengthen your core, you will add extra torque to your swing, which can increase ball speed and achieve much faster clubhead speeds.
Equally, your leg muscles are crucial in maintaining balance in the downswing, and they provide stability throughout your approach. Your quads will contract as you play through the ball, so tightening things up will help with your overall balance.
The fact of the matter is that swinging the golf club activates muscles throughout your body, so working out and keeping in shape is important if you’re hoping to get the most out of your ball striking.
How Do I Stop My Shoulders from Spinning in the Downswing?
The easiest way to stop your shoulders from spinning is to tighten everything on your left side (assuming you’re right-handed), including your hip, hand, wrist, and shoulder. Ensuring everything moves through the ball in unison will prevent the steepening of your swing.
This will allow you to play through the ball without your shoulders spinning.
When you’re executing your downswing, you need to remember that the key role of your shoulders is rotation. Keeping your shoulders flexible ensures they facilitate sufficient movement through the ball, as stiffening up will limit the transition of power through your swing.
However, it’s important that you don’t let your shoulders spin too much, as this will result in wayward shots that will fly too far left or right, depending on your setup.
Also, when your shoulders spin too soon, you will steepen your approach, which makes it much more difficult to achieve the desired trajectory.
This is something that should be practiced out on the range, and you might need to consult a teaching pro to correct the spinning of your shoulders. While it’s a small tweak, it will take a while for you to rectify this aspect of the downswing.
How Do You Keep Your Shoulders Back?
To keep your shoulders back in the downswing, you need to adapt your setup. Begin by tilting your spine back and standing more upright. If you have bad posture and are leaning too far over the golf ball, it will lead you to cut down on the ball, which often results in a slice.
Equally as problematic as spinning your shoulders is your leading shoulder moving out over the ball. Pushing your shoulder too far out will almost certainly result in a slice, something that all recreational golfers can resonate with!
Another important thing to consider is the flex of your knees. When you lead with your shoulder and come over the top, it’s all too easy to straighten your legs.
One of the basic tenets of any golf swing is that your knees should be flexed, so make sure you’re not too straight in your setup.
Again, these adjustments need to be made on the range and will take a fair bit of tinkering to correct.
We recommend slowing things down a little while you’re correcting your stance, as it’s important to get a feel for the adjustments before heading out onto the course.
Should Shoulders Be Closed at Impact?
Your shoulders can either be open or closed at impact, and your decision largely depends on the type of shot that you’re trying to play. If you open your shoulders at impact, you will shape the ball in a fade (left to right for right-handers).
Fading the ball is different from slicing it, which sees the ball fly left to right much more aggressively and out of control.
Alternatively, closing your shoulders will allow you to hit a draw (right to left). Drawing the ball is helpful for dog legs and is a beautiful trajectory that many recreational golfers aspire to. Another benefit of closing your shoulders is that doing so enables you to generate more ball speed at the point of impact.
However, when you close your shoulders, you need to make sure you still allow for rotation and flexibility. If you’re too stiff, you won’t successfully play through the ball and generate the additional power that you desire.
So, you can open or close your shoulders at the point of impact; you just need to be aware that each technique will result in a different type of shot.
Should I Keep My Shoulders Square at Impact?
Keeping your shoulders square at impact is really important for accuracy. Square shoulders mean that your shoulders are parallel to the target line, helping you to hit the ball straight towards the target that you’re aiming at.
If you don’t keep your shoulders square at impact, you’re much more likely to hook or slice the ball. But remember, hooks and slices are very different from deliberate fades and draws!
High handicappers and beginners shouldn’t worry too much about shaping the ball; rather, it’s better to try and hit the ball straight down the middle.
One of the easiest ways to square things up at your address is to lie a golf club down on the floor in front of you, aiming for your target. This will help you see if your shoulders are square or if you’re leaning to the left or right.
Of course, you can’t do this during a round of golf, but it’s a good technique to use on the range, as it will help you hit the ball consistently straight and will ensure your shoulders are square at the point of impact.
How Do I Keep My Front Shoulder Closed when Swinging?
The key to keeping your front shoulder closed when swinging the golf club is to be mindful of your setup. One of the most common issues that recreational golfers face is because they rush into playing a shot.
When you address the ball, take the necessary time to stand up straight, flex your knees, and address the ball squarely. You should ensure your shoulders are square to the target and execute some practice swings, noticing the position of your shoulders.
If you find that your shoulder is open during your practice swings, force it forward slightly before taking another swing. Correcting yourself during practice swings is such an easy thing to do, but so many recreational golfers overlook it.
How Does the Left Shoulder Work in the Golf Swing?
While the left shoulder plays an important role in the golf swing, it shouldn’t be your first move. Instead, the first part of your body that should move is your hips. Your shoulder and hands should follow the movement of your hips, as this enables you to generate more power from your body’s core.
Once you have generated the power from your hips, you can use your left shoulder to drive down into the shot to generate the necessary motion. It’s also really important that you follow through with your left shoulder, continuing on an upward trajectory until your hands are out in front of you.
A common error that recreational golfers make is stopping the shoulder soon after impact and looking up to see where the ball has gone. Doing so actually prevents you from hitting a full and thorough downswing and restricts your power and accuracy.
So, while the left shoulder is an important part of the golf swing, you need to make sure it works in tandem with your hips and hands if you’re to execute a shot with the desired distance and trajectory.
The shoulders play an extremely important part in the downswing. If you’re keeping your shoulders closed, it’s vital that you remember the importance of rotation and squaring up to the shot.
But remember, a successful golf swing is a fluid motion that doesn’t rely too heavily on one part of the body over another. To swing consistently and produce shots with the desired trajectory, you need to keep your hips, hands, and wrists aligned with your shoulders.
Any changes that you make to your swing should be practiced out on the range, as you don’t want to make these kinds of adjustments while you’re playing a round!