Mind & Body

There are many moving parts within a golf swing, and lots of variations of a swing (which you would see if you spent any amount of time at your local golf club), but the one very important physical element that is key to creating a golf swing is rotation.

Rotation forms the core movement of any golf swing, whether you are a Tour professional or an absolute beginner. The big question is, where do I need to rotate, or perhaps why do I need to rotate?

Rotation, as it relates to the golf swing, is the movement of the body around a central axis, which involves moving certain sections of the body to generate power and control of the golf club. This rotational movement allows the golfer to strike the golf ball effectively. Rotation in the backswing creates torque (load) which is then translated into speed in the downswing.

Rotation occurs in the hips, as well as the torso (upper body) and the shoulders. The hip rotation is a combination of internal and external rotation of the femur inside the hip joint. The co-ordination of the left and right hip joints around a central axis allows you to rotate your hips in the backswing, and downswing. If there are restrictions in hip rotation, we will often see lateral hip movement (sway or slide) and perhaps even an overload of the lower back.

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Here is a link to an exercise I have used in the past to help golfers create better hip rotation:

Rotation of the torso can be referred to as thoracic rotation, or T-spine rotation, which is the rotation of the section of the spine between the lower back and neck. This gives the golfer the ability to turn the shoulders in the backswing and downswing. The backswing rotation allows the arms to extend and push the clubhead away from the ball, giving the clubhead time in the downswing to generate speed and ultimately distance.

Restrictions in T-spine rotation can cause a multitude of swing patterns, from a “C-posture set-up”, loss of posture, breakdown of the lead elbow in the backswing, reverse spine pattern and potentially even lower back pain.

The challenge with most recreational golfers is that rotation does not form part of our day-to-day activities. We tend to move either forwards, backwards or sideways, but rarely do we rotate. It is for this reason that many of the golfers I assess for the first time have rotation restrictions. Luckily for us, these restrictions can be addressed and remedied, and along with a PGA golf coach, transitioned into your golf swing.

Try this test on yourself to see what your torso rotation mobility looks like:

If you have a restriction in your thoracic rotation, here is a very simple, yet effective exercise to do at home to help open up that T-spine:

Changing the body for the better is always a good thing, but simply doing rotational mobility work will not necessarily change how you swing the golf club. When you combine the physical changes in the gym with sound coaching from a qualified PGA professional, you set yourself up for realistic change on the golf course.

Good luck with those tests and exercises, and as always please feel free to reach out to me if you would like any more information or help.


About the author

Gavin Groves graduated with honours in biokinetics from the University of Pretoria in 2007 after completing his undergraduate degree in human movement sciences. He started at the World of Golf in 2007 as a golf fitness professional, working with beginners, elite amateurs and professionals. A year later, he started at the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) and completed all three levels by 2012. He is also an AA-member of the PGA of South Africa. Gavin joined the University of Pretoria's High Performance golf programme in 2013, and in 2018 he moved full time to the DP World Tour, where he has worked with players including Brandon Stone, Andy Sullivan and Darren Fichardt. He also counts numerous past and present Sunshine Tour professionals as clients. In a career spanning over 16 years, Gavin has worked with over 50 South African professionals and continues to grow the fitness aspect of golf internationally and locally. He has been the full-time fitness consultant of the GolfRSA National Squad since 2017 and has worked with some of the best SA amateur golfers, including Jovan Rebula, Aldrich Potgieter and Christo Lamprecht.