Golf Swing Rotation & Proper Shoulder Turn

Proper golf swing rotation, often referred to as making a shoulder turn in your golf swing, is something that many of us struggle to achieve. There are a number of misperceptions when it comes to golf swing rotation. A lot of golfers think they are doing it right, but have no good way to check without the help of an instructor. If you think poor shoulder rotation in your golf swing is draining your shots of power, if you’re not sure if you are rotating correctly, or if you think you lack flexibility to get enough rotation in your golf swing, then what follows is for you. We'll go over the do's and don'ts of rotation in the golf swing to help you get increased clubhead speed that comes with a good turn. Getting more body rotation in your golf swing will eliminate lots of inconsistencies in your ball striking by shifting control of your swing away from your arms and smaller muscles and onto your much more consistent larger muscles. In this article we will cover...

  1. Turning vs. Tilting
  2. Proper Shoulder Turn
  3. Incorrect Shoulder Turn
  4. Practicing Correct Rotation

Rotation Basics: Turning vs. Tilting

When it comes to golf swing rotation, some golfers tend to cheat by just tilting or swaging. Be it lack of flexibility, or a misunderstanding of how to rotate the shoulders and hips to achieve proper golf swing rotation, there are those who rely entirely on their arms to get to the top of their backswing. The result is a tilt in your body, or worse a collapse of your spine angle forward into what feels like a decent backswing position but which in reality has little or no rotation around your spine. A golf swing without rotation loses its greatest source of power and gets your entire body out of sync, it becomes nearly impossible to get back to a nice square impact position resulting reduced distance and shots that are wildly off target. 

To achieve the correct shoulder turn in your golf swing your rotation must include the hips. If done correctly, flexibility hardly factors into the equation. If you're a tilter, you'll be amazed how far you can rotate your shoulders without straining at all if you simply turn your hips as well. A proper shoulder turn involves turning your hips and torso. It relies on big muscles to drive the motion, and big muscles equal big power. By rotating your hips your front shoulder has room to rotate downward, allowing you to maintain your posture and stay on the proper swing plane.  If done correctly your shoulders should turn down and under your chin, not out and around. From this rotated position you can return the club back to the ball squarely with more power instead of just throwing or casting your arms to get to impact.

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Proper Shoulder Turn

Top 50 Young Golf Instructor and Golf Channel Academy Lead Instructor Devan Bonebrake's swing is perfect for demonstrating proper golf swing rotation. 
  • Both hips and shoulders are turning
  • Shoulders turning more than the hips
  • Ideally, shoulders turning 90 degrees away from the target line
  • Front shoulder turning down and under on the proper swing plane
  • Feeling tension in the big muscles due to the difference in rotation between the shoulders and hips

Even with a lack of upper body flexibility, if you can turn your hips like Devan you can get your shoulders turned much more relative to your target line creating more power in your golf swing.

Incorrect Shoulder Turn

There's a lot that can go wrong when it comes to rotation in your golf swing.  Be sure to avoid the following.
  • Hips remaining almost square to the target, or hardly rotating
  • Shoulders that don't rotate as close to 90 degrees as possible
  • The body collapses or tilts forward instead of turning around the spine
  • Front shoulder move up and around instead of down and under
  • No tension in the big muscles with all power being forced to come from the arms

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Practice Your Rotation Using Swing Align

It has always been difficult to see your own body’s rotation during your golf swing. It’s one of the more helpful things a second pair of eyes can provide, and a big reason why getting lessons from a golf instructor can help you improve. But without any help, how do you know if you’ve rotated enough in your golf swing? By using Swing Align of course!

The best and easiest way to see the amount of your body’s rotation at the top of your golf swing is the visual from the alignment rods when you wear the Swing Align device. You should also use a ground based alignment tool - like the Swing Junction that comes with our Swing Align Bundles. Swing Junction allows you to add a small alignment rod perpendicular (90 degrees) to your target line.  By turning your shoulders to match the alignment rod on your arms with the perpendicular alignment rod on the ground, it becomes easy to get immediate feedback on how much your upper body and torso has rotated. Remember to rotate your hips to help allow your upper body to rotate more freely!

Ideally, at the top of your backswing, the alignment rod you are wearing on your upper body will be perpendicular (90 degrees) to your target line. You also want the front end of the alignment rod across your arms pointing slightly downward, toward the ground. Getting the rod to be either level with the ground or with the front end pointing slightly down at the top of your swing, indicates that you have turned your shoulders down and under, maintained the proper spine angle and you are on the proper swing plane!  Helping you rotate on the proper swing plane is a strength of the Swing Align device.

man using swing align golf swing trainer to rotate correctly in his backswing

Go: At the top of your swing the rod across your chest should be perpendicular to your target line.  Note: using a rod on the ground outside your back foot placed at 90 degrees serves as a great visual target.

man using swing align golf swing trainer to rotate incorrectly in his backswing

No Go: If the rod does not approach perpendicular to your target line or points up in the air, you have failed to rotate properly.

If you are struggling to get your body fully rotated at the top of your backswing and on the proper swing plane, it could be because you are setting up with your shoulders open to your target line, or during the takeaway your shoulders, arms, or the club is getting out of position. Use the set-up and takeaway content in our Instruction section to check these key swing areas.

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See and Feel Golf Swing Rotation with Swing Align!

Using a Swing Align golf swing trainer to rehearse the correct body positions associated with golf swing rotation works as well, as long as you know what to look for. And you can do this in your house, or garage, or out on the range while you hit balls without another soul around. Seeing and feeling the correct rotation, and knowing how to check the correct amount of rotation, will create a more consistent golf swing that delivers both power and accuracy!

If you need help getting your golf swing rotation on point there's no easier way to go about it than with a Swing Align. Check out our store for all the sizing and bundle options and get training!



 Back to Instruction

The Swing Align Golf Instruction Blog is a great resource for a variety of golf swing tips and golf drills to help you improve your game. You’ll find lessons on how to hit a draw, how to eliminate a golf slice, golf chipping tips and more! Any golfer will find these golf swing lessons useful, even if you don’t own a Swing Align golf training aid. But if you do own a Swing Align, you’ll learn how to use it to improve key fundamentals including alignment, posture, rotation, swing plane and connection. The red button at the top of the page will take you to the Swing Align YouTube channel where you’ll find even more golf swing instruction.