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Sunday, October 6, 2019

How Your Lead Shoulder Helps Control Slicing (Video)

Okay Ryan, let's see if we can't help you understand the role of your lead shoulder in your swing.

For those of you who haven't been following along, a few days back I did a post about a drill from David Ogrin, in which I tried to explain a way to use it that would help eliminate slicing. Ryan had a little trouble wrapping his mind around exactly what I was saying, so I promised to do a post this weekend that would hopefully make it clearer.

This is that post.

I've written about this topic in the past and so I'm going to refer back to some of those posts, in hopes that they may help flesh out what I'm saying a little better.

The first thing you need to understand is that your shoulder bone is shaped more like an upside-down L than an I. Most people don't really understand this and how it affects shoulder movement.

If you take a look at the picture below (which I originally used in this post), I think you'll get a better idea of what I mean.

Diagram of left shoulder

As you can see, your shoulder bone actually bends a little at the top, like an L. And this bend means that, when you raise your arm across your chest as you do at the top of your backswing, the main part of your arm actually swings out toward the ball as well as up towards the sky.

In other words, if you imagine a straight line running from one shoulder to the other, the line gets 'kinked' or bent at your lead shoulder as you make your backswing.

Of course, the movement seems very slight if you're just looking at it. And because you make this movement all the time, it's so natural that you don't notice it anyway. But it does affect the way your hands move when you swing down to impact in your golf swing.

In the diagram below I have done two series of drawings. Both series start at the top of your backswing and follow the movement down to impact. However, the top series includes the shoulder turn, which I have shown by allowing the head to turn with the shoulders. Underneath that series I have drawn the same positions but without the rotation of the shoulders. See how the head is in the same position all the way through?

The important thing for you to note in each of these drawings is that at the top of your backswing, your shoulder has moved toward the ball and created an angle (that little 'kink' I mentioned) between your shoulder line and your lead arm. Then on the way down, your lead shoulder MUST move back into a straight line with your shoulders. (I call this movement 'opening up your lead shoulder'.) If you don't, you haven't returned to your address position and the clubface will not be aimed where was at address.

When you actually make this movement, this 'opening of your lead shoulder', your lead elbow will have to move closer to the side of your ribcage as the clubhead nears the ball.

Also, on each of these drawings I have placed a small X on the lead arm to show where the elbow is. In these drawings the elbow has not bent. In fact, if you allowed your elbow to bend in an effort to keep it pointing toward the ball or down the line at the target, your elbow would actually move farther away from your body and create a chicken wing, which almost always creates a slice.

Swing sequences

At no point in any of this motion does your lead forearm have to twist. In fact, to get your hands from your address position up to the top of your backswing, your lead forearm does not have to twist at all. All of the apparent rotation is created by the bending of your trailing forearm and the shoulder rotation that I've been writing about in this entire post.

In fact, here's a video from KJ Choi's coach Steven Bann that demonstrates how your hands and arms move during your backswing without the shoulder rotation. (It came from this post, although I think I've used it in others as well.)  I know you've probably seen instructors demonstrate this before; you simply lift your hands up to the position they would normally be at when they reach the top of your backswing, and then you make your normal shoulder turn.

Combine what Bann said in the video with what I've been writing about in this post, and you'll eventually realize that neither your hands nor your forearms rotate during your swing. Your wrists are cocked as your trailing elbow bends upward during your backswing, and your lead shoulder actually moves out toward the ball a bit as that happens (because bending your trailing elbow pulls your lead arm across your chest).

To get the clubface back to square at impact, you have to get that lead shoulder back in line with your whole shoulder girdle -- in other words, 'open your lead shoulder up' -- in the position it originally was in at address. When you do this, your lead elbow will move in close to the side of your ribcage and physically pull your hands back into their address position. (That's the move that pros are practicing when you see them tuck a glove under their lead armpit.) If you do that, your hands will square up the clubface and you won't slice the ball.

Ryan, I know I covered a lot of material in this post. I hope it makes sense to you but, if it still has you a little confused, feel free to ask me questions in the comments and I'll try to answer them the best I can. This really isn't that difficult to understand once you can visualize the motion, and I suspect that's what's been giving you the difficulties so far. Hopefully what I've written in this post will allow you to duplicate the motion and from that, understand what's really happening here.

And once you do, you'll have a good start on getting rid of that slice.


  1. Thanks! Somehow missed this when you first posted it. That video helps a lot. I think I swing my arms sideways without much turn. Will have to try out this feel and see how it goes. A lot less clubface manipulation than what I am currently doing for sure.

    1. Glad this helped, Ryan. Let me know how it goes and, if you find that you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask.