The Spine Is the Most Integral Part of the Golf Swing Set Up
When it comes to breaking down the golf swing, I will admit that the concept of 'watching paint dry' just might be more fun
That said it is necessary if you expect to be able to swing the club more effectively, have more fun playing the game and lower your scores.
I often quote the saying given to me by a friend that sums up my feeling about the set up and the golf swing; "If you choose a path with no obstacles, it generally doesn't lead anywhere."
The most integral part of the SET UP is the SPINE
It is my firm belief if you can achieve a good spine angle, the rest of the pieces of the set up will come more naturally if you allow it.
When it comes to the swing, your spine impacts literally every part of your set up and swing from your grip, stance, weight distribution and alignment, to your ability to transfer your weight effectively through the swing. It also can enable you to achieve maximum club head speed. The Drive Shaft, as I call the spine is the one part of the set up you need to get correct as far as physically possible.
A good example is the engine of a car which is built around the drive shaft. The other parts perform well unless the drive shaft is bent. When this happens it impacts negitively the overall performance and operation of the engine.
No matter what method you use to swing the club, the one thing all methods have in common is the spine needs to be straight as possible to insure an unencumbered and balanced swing motion much like the drive shaft of a car.
As Dr. Jamie Enos and I discussed on my radio show last week, one of the major keys to a free and fluid golf swing is the ability to have a spine, or drive shaft, that is straight as straight as possible.
If the spine is bent or curved, as Dr. Enos indicated, back problems due to additional stress placed on the spine and muscles around the spine are likely over time. In fact, did you know that the impact of the golf swing on your body is similar to the stress put on the body while playing hockey, football and martial arts to name a few? This is, among other things, the reason most teaching professionals spend so much time encouraging golfers to understand and achieve correct spine position at set up. It is also why we encourage students to warm up effectively prior to practice or play.
How to achieve a straight spine at address:
Set up in front of a mirror so your left side only is facing the mirror. Try not to look into the mirror until you are in your normal set up position.
When you do look, try to ignore everything but your spine. If your spine is curved at any point from the tip of your tail bone to where the spine meets the skull, make your spine straight.
Well, Instead of trying to do something specific, simply tell yourself as you are looking in the mirror, (only at your spine); "I will do whatever it takes to make my spine straight." NOT, "What do I have to do to make my spine straight?"
If you can not see anything on the right side of your body except perhaps the bottom of your right forarm underneath your left arm, chances are good your spine just may be straight. Check it out and if you can see anything on the right side of the body in the mirror, see what you might do to make your right side disappear from view without 'turning' your body.
Relax the muscles of the neck, shoulders and right arm at the wrist and elbow. This will not only help the right side of the body disappear from view but also help you achieve a straight spine.
You will find and see that in order to achieve a straight spine, you are going to have to relax most all the muscles across the upper back and shoulders as well as the small of your back which. By the way, this exercies just might cause your lower back to tighten up until you get used to the new position. Using a mirror for feedback is the fastest way to relieve this tension.
Once you have achieved a straight spine, turn so you are facing the mirror head on. Try not to look into the mirror.
Before you look at this ugly, almost perverted feeling mess I have asked you to create, (as your brain is telling you), close your eyes and feel all the 'weirdness' that has resulted from a straight spine. If you back hurts, hang on, it is almost over.
Now, open your eyes and look into the mirror. You are about to find out why I am constantly talking about mirrors and the lies your mind tells you about the set up not to mention the swing whenever you make a change.
The set up you now have, including a straight spine, is NOTHING like it felt is it?
Not even close! It probably looks like it is supposed to, and you realize just how relaxed the muscles of your shoulders, upper back, forearms and neck are or could be with a little work.
In fact, looking at your new set up in the mirror you realize your elbows are not attached to the side of your chest, your chest is not stuck out as far as you thought and your derriere is not stuck so high in the air that it feels like it was between your shoulder blades. Again, it just might look like it is supposed to!
This little exercise, while helping you achieve a straight drive shaft, or spine, also gives you an idea of how much frustration and chaos your brain can cause when trying to dictate to the 'system' or body how to complete a 'task' which is more of a mental exercise than a physical one.
The mirror is the most effective training aid you could ever have because it provides instant feedback.
Remember, make a request of the system and use a mirror for reinforcement of what you are trying to achieve.
Now, enjoy that new found freedom of motion and understand that your drive shaft is now ready to operate effectively.
About the Author
Steve Riggs is a retired golf teaching professional of over 30 years working with countless clients in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Now retired, Steve is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and regular contriubtor to Par Excellence Magazine, New England Golf Monthly magazine and mynegm.com. Steve is the host/producer of a weekly Radio/Internet golf program, THE myNEGM LESSON TEE which airs Wednesdays 10:05-11am ET. Listen live at WNRI 1380 AM radio or online at: mynegm.com and www.wnri.com . The show is followed around the country and Canada in it's second year on air.