Shoulder and hip rotation are essential components of your golf swing.
An inadequate turn reduces your clubhead speed and impacts your swing path. Rotation is required from takeaway until impact for optimal results.
Your upper body and hips should rotate through impact until they are open to your target line. Failure to reach this position decelerates your clubhead velocity and leaves the clubface open through contact. As a result, you produce fewer yards and more slices.
In this article, I break down how to clear your hips in a golf swing.
What Clearing Your Hips Means in Golf
Clearing your hips means you get your lower body and shoulders open to the target through impact and follow through. This motion gives you the space to accelerate the clubhead into contact and keep it on plane.
The ultimate goal with clearing your hips through impact is to start your ball on the intended line and generate the prerequisite velocity.
The next time you are at the driving range, try and hit a shot where your hips stop rotating when they are square. In other words, when your hips are square to the ball, cease rotating. You will notice how your arms take over and guide the clubface to the golf ball.
This reduces your clubhead speed drastically and restricts your ability to square the face up at contact. As a result, you produce a weak, inaccurate strike. Now hit another shot, clearing your hips on the downswing, and notice the difference in distance and accuracy.
How to Properly Clear Your Hips: Step-by-Step
Step 1: Alignment
I will start with the basics to ensure you employ the correct address position. This sets you up to produce optimal shoulder and hip turn for more powerful golf shots.
Identify your target, and ensure that your front foot is parallel to the intended landing zone. In addition, your clubface should point directly at the target. This setup ensures that your golf ball starts on your target line for improved accuracy.
Step 2: Ball Position
The position of a ball in the stance impacts a golfer’s angle of attack. This is the difference between striking the ball cleanly and topping it a few yards ahead of you. In addition, ball position can hamper your ability to clear your hips.
If the ball is too far back in your stance for a longer club, you are left with minimal time to clear your hips. That causes you to strike the ball when your hips are square, imploding your clubhead speed. Plus, you have limited time to get your clubface on path for an accurate strike.
Those struggling in this department should review our tips on achieving the perfect stance.
Step 3: Shallow the Club at the Top of the Backswing
Shoulder and hip turn on the backswing is a breeze for most amateurs. However, the implosion starts at the top of the backswing. Players tend to prompt the hip turn too early in their downswing, sending the club over the top. An inside path is the only route to the ball from that position.
An inside path typically causes the clubface to stay open to the target at impact, prompting left to right sidespin. The outcome is numerous and lower clubhead speed.
Top Speed Golf provides a simple exercise to overcome this challenge. If you are right-handed, they suggest that your left elbow points directly ahead at the top of the backswing. It is easy to shallow out the golf club shaft from this point to transition to your downswing:
Shallowing out the club from the top of your backswing helps keep the shaft on plane and the clubhead on path. In addition, you accelerate your swing speed with increased wrist hinge achieved from this motion.
Step 4: Shoulders and Hips Rotate In Sync
Clay Ballard explains that your shoulder and hips must work in sync to achieve maximum clubhead speed and square face at contact. However, many amateurs lose their rhythm and tempo on the downswing.
Because we are constantly reminded to clear our hips on the downswing, it is the first motion that springs to mind. This causes golfers to activate their hips immediately from the top, separating the upper and lower body.
Ballard suggests that this brings the hips square early in the downswing and keeps them there through impact. That requires your shoulders and club to try and catch up, leading to a disjointed strike.
The reason for this jerk reaction from your upper body is that the muscles are stretched compared to the lower body. Therefore, it needs to play catch up and obliterates your rhythm,
You overcome this disparity by feeling the rotation of your upper and lower body working in unison.
A trick I use when I feel the disconnect is to stop at the top of my backswing. I don’t suggest doing this on the golf course, as it will impact your clubhead speed. However, this position allows me to feel the transition and flexibility of my body. It makes it easy to determine if one part is separated from the other.
When you reach the top of your backswing, pause, then start turning your hips and shoulders.
Step 5: Open Your Hips to the Target
The previous 4 steps built up to this point. Clearing your hips on the downswing. The momentum you generate from your lower and upper body rotation thrusts the clubface down and towards your ball for a powerful strike.
Since your clubhead lags behind your hips and shoulders, you must continue rotating through the upswing. This provides sufficient momentum to keep your club on plane and accelerating through impact.
When you stop rotating and keep your hips square at contact, you rely on your arms to guide the club into the ball. Naturally, this slows down your swing speed and may cause you to leave your clubface open to the target at impact.
Clay Ballard suggests that the shoulders and rib cage of PGA Tour players are open to the target by 20 degrees through impact. Optimizing their rotation on the downswing helps them swing faster and boost the consistency of their shots:
I have a basic exercise that you can do to help you improve clearing your hips through impact. Address the golf ball with your club in hand, and set up as if you are hitting your shot.
Next, start your takeaway and step back with your trail foot. That is your right foot for right-handers and left for lefties. The movement helps you feel the rotation of your upper and lower body on your backswing. Pause in this position, and take a step forward as you follow through. Do not hit the ball yet.
Repeat this process for five repetitions, and feel how your weight transfers from front to back and back to front. You will feel increased power and control from takeaway to impact.
Finally, employ your standard swing without taking a step back. The motion of clearing your hips through the downswing should be more natural at this point, allowing you to optimize clubhead speed and square face at contact.