Role of Left Shoulder in the Golf Swing

Tiger Woods turns his left shoulder under his chin.
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The position of your front shoulder -- the left, if you’re right-handed -- provides important information throughout your golf swing. It can tell you whether you’ve taken the club back far enough during your backswing, for example, and whether you’re moving your arms correctly during your downswing. Keep your left shoulder in its proper place throughout your swing and you’ll likely hit the ball farther and straighter than ever.


    At address, some players align their feet parallel to the target line, while some shift their feet to open or close their stance. Conventional golf wisdom, however, states that a line drawn through your shoulders should typically run parallel to the target line at address, regardless of how you set your feet. The side of your lead shoulder, therefore, should point just to the left of your target. While keeping your shoulders parallel to the target line is a good idea for beginners, all-time PGA Tour great Jack Nicklaus kept his feet parallel to the target but opened his shoulders, pointing his left shoulder a bit to the left of the target line at address.


    Your shoulders should rotate about 90 degrees during your backswing. Imagine your shoulders are turning around an imaginary clock face. If the target is at 12 o’clock, your left shoulder should point there at address, then rotate to 3 o’clock during your backswing. Your left shoulder should also swing downward from its address position. In his book “How I Play Golf,” Tiger Woods says he wants his left shoulder tucked under his chin when he reaches the top of his backswing. Golf writer Steve Newell advises you to note the position of your right shoulder at address, then to try to move the left shoulder into the position occupied by the right shoulder during your backswing.


    Keep your left shoulder down as you begin your downswing. As your hips rotate and your arms extend, the lead shoulder will then rise naturally as you approach the moment of impact. If your hips are rotating properly your shoulders will follow shortly thereafter. Tom Watson told “Golf Digest” he feels as if his left shoulder travels “down and around” on the downswing, relative to his spine.

Specific Shots

    You’ll move your left shoulder differently for certain shots than you will in your normal swing. If you wish to hit the ball low when you’re hitting into the wind, for example, place your left shoulder lower at address, then keep your lead shoulder lower than usual throughout your swing. Begin from an open stance when you hit a bunker shot, pointing your left shoulder well to the left of your target line.

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