Maintaining Your Spine Angle – Why it is So Important and How You Can Control It
Maintaining your spine angle from takeaway, to backswing, into your downswing, through impact and as far as physically possible into your follow through is a key fundamental for improving golf swing consistency and solid hits. It is, without a doubt, one of the non-arguable aspects of a consistent and good golf swing. In one of my previously written Ezine articles, I summarized comments about spine angle from the golf experts who authored the top 12 all time best selling golf instruction books.
Today, it seems that more and more attention is finally being given to this important aspect of the golf swing. Hank Haney, swing instructor for Tiger Woods, constantly refers to it as he tries to correct the swing of Charles Barkley on the Golf Channel’s recently aired, Barkley Project. Peter Kostis, golf analyst for CBS and Contributing Editor to Golf Magazine, refers to spine angle control as one of the key fundamentals for improving golf swing consistency. Kostis offers an excellent portrayal of the golf swing spine angle in a two minute video that can be viewed at Golf.com’s web site. And somewhat in a jocular vein, Tom Watson stated in a YouTube video that exactly at 3:15 pm at the Heritage Golf Classic in 19992, he found the secret to the golf swing and it was the spine angle.
From a physical point of view, spine angle is the angle created by the back relative to the hips and legs. The back should be flat and the arms should hang comfortably, as they grip the club. Obviously, the angle will change slightly with each club. From an importance point of view, it is easy to see that if this angle changes only slightly, a mishit will occur. If the angle increases, i.e. the back or head come up, a topped shot will occur. If the angle decreases, i.e. the head or back move closer to the ball, one will hit behind the ball and a fat shot will occur. The longer it can be held throughout the swing, the better the chance of a solid hit. And the more often it can be maintained, the more often will shots be consistent.
To develop the required muscle memory needed to maintain one’s spine angle, the golfer must first get a message to the brain of how it feels to keep the back, head, legs and hips in the same position from address to and through impact. Here are four tips to try.
1. Have a buddy hold steady, the grip head of any club on the top of your head as you take several slow and full swings with your driver, until you get that feel. The longer the club and the faster you swing, the more difficult it is to maintain the angle. Once you get the feel, you will have to repeat the exercise and replicate that feel until it becomes an unconscious movement.
2. Stand in a door way with your feet in a line perpendicular to the door opening. Lean over as if you were addressing a ball and place your head on the door jamb. Holding your head steady, try to take your normal golf swing back and through an imaginary ball on the floor.
3. Take a wire hanger and straighten it out. Close the hook end so that it makes a circle, about the diameter of a golf ball. Place a quarter on the ground as if it were a ball. Address the coin with your driver. Now take the other end of the wire hangar and stick it into the ground, away from the coin, so that when you look down at the coin, as if you are addressing it, the circle end of the hangar, frames the coin. Now try to keep the wire circle framing the coin and in line with the target as you swing. It is OK if the coin appears to move sideways, to the right (if right handed) of the circle frame, along the target line on your backswing. But make certain that it returns to the center at impact. It is not OK if the coin moves up or down out of the center of the circle. That means you are changing your spine angle. After a few tries, you can replace the coin with a wiffle ball or real ball, if your backyard is sufficiently spacious.
4. Review the available training aids that focus on maintaining spine angle and find one with which you are comfortable and able to use frequently. If you have been playing golf for several years, you may have to practice and repeat any or all of the above exercises until the new muscle memory is achieved.
Acquiring new muscle memory takes time. But with perseverance in developing the proper muscle memory to maintain your spine angle, your end result will be a much improved and consistent golf swing, leading to lower scores and a greater enjoyment for golf.