A Spine Awareness Issue Of Your Takeaway Turn
Before teaching the movements and awareness of turning in posture I am going to tell you about a problem of:
Keeping your eye on the ball
- This instruction is poorly interpreted and poorly taught.
- What is seen and attempted is to KEEP OUR EYE SOCKETS on the ball.
- It is physically impossible to maintain our eye sockets directly "on the ball" while doing a full shoulder turn.
Several lessons ago you were to view your spine while standing sideways at a mirror; OR view a side photo of a spine in a book or on the internet. I pointed out that our spine is a type of 'S' shape. I also referred to 2 critical points of the spine which have to turn in place.
One of those points is between your shoulder blades. From that point your spine makes a shallow forward arc upwards until it ends in your head. Your head is almost centered on the top of your spine. Your eye sockets are a few inches forward of the top of your spine.
You learned that when your upper body turns to the right side of your spine that each vertebrae going down towards your hips turns in sequence. The same occurs in an upward direction towards the top of your spine until the vertebrae connected to your head begin to turn.
Because of the forward arc of the top area of your spine the top vertebrae must arc slightly to the right of their starting posture position (similar to how your belt buckle and tummy button move.) This moves your whole head mass towards your right side. As well, the top vertebrae will try to turn in the manner that those connected to your hips start to turn.
For most golfers this causes your head to start rotating to your right which should place your nose close to being aligned with your belt buckle when you complete the desired amount of your full upper body turn to your right. Your eye sockets will definitely NOT remain positioned over your ball.
But, there's that instruction that is so "well known" that even non-golfers know it. Here is what happens when you try to obey that command:
You "fight" the natural arcing of your eye sockets and of your neck and head mass to your right side by slowly and gradually leaning your head and neck back towards their original posture position. This causes 2 problems:
- Leaning your head back towards its starting point causes your body from your hips to shoulders to also lean slightly towards your left
- Preventing your head from natural rotation (like your hips) causes excess stress on muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your neck and shoulder area.
Are there solutions?
- Keep in mind that there are blind golfers who are very good. Keeping their "eyes on the ball" means nothing to them. But, what are they doing to achieve great hits when their helper aligns them at their golf ball?
- The instruction is: "Keep your EYE on the ball" NOT "Keep your eye sockets on the ball". You can look out of the corner of your eye sockets to continue seeing the ball as your head swivels naturally like your hips.
- You can start an exercise program to allow more flexibility in your neck. But, DO NOT do so without a doctor, or other health specialist, providing guidance. This will not solve the problem you have learned above.
I discussed this with my chiropractor who likes to golf. He knows a great deal about the structure of the spine and all movements related to it. His adherence to the "basics of golf" had him doing the wrong movements regarding his head and neck. As soon as I told him how I taught this he immediately agreed and then was able to build my understanding to a higher level.
- There are golfers who do one of two movements of their head (or both if they have poor neck flexibility).
- Allow their heads to swivel in unison with their hips arcing to the right.
- Swivel their head slightly towards their right before begining their upper body turn.
I, personally, have always allowed my head to swivel with my hips. I have very poor flexibility for any sport and just allowed my head to swivel to be able to play with this hindrance.
For those of you who have trained yourself to the feeling of your nose pointing at the ball through your swing:
You can allow your neck and head mass to arc slightly off the ball to your right AND still keep your nose pointing downward at the ground behind the ball.
I discovered that I could do this if I chose to do so. I sensed an unexpected benefit from this. My sight was focused on a part of the downward arc of the clubhead approaching impact. My eyes were looking above the ground slightly behind the ball which is where I want to feel I have reached my full power. I realized that my hip and body turns to the left where bringing me through the impact area while my line of sight enabled me to build power correctly on the downward arc.
This is an idea that some of you may be able to develop more deeply than my thoughts as I am content with allowing my head to swivel in unison with my hips.
The critical part to all of this is to make sure the point of your spine between your shoulder blades turns correctly in place. If your head goes travelling then let it do so… And… this brings me to 3 stories from my golf lessons.
- I would have new golfers hit golf balls with their eyes closed in their 3rd lesson. This forced them to get the proper feel of their body movements. Their heads then moved correctly with their upper body turns.
- One of my students had natural fusion of some of the vertebrae of his spine. This included all of his neck. To speak with someone at his side he had to turn his whole upper body to look at them. He came to some lessons because while "keeping his eye on the ball" he was forced to swing out of his shoulders with no body turn. The solution I offered was for him to allow his head to swivel with his shoulder turn until he was about to lose sight of the ball and then stop his turn. It worked so well that within a few tries he was doing a full shoulder turn where he lost sight of the ball but then saw it again early in his upper body turn back towards the ball. That was all he needed to hit great golf shots.
- One of my students had a severe upper spine, forward curvature (stooped shoulders). To keep his "eyes on the ball" meant he had to do much reverse pivoting in his golf swing. Working through the solution made me totally aware of the critical turn around the point between the shoulder blades. He had to FEEL that movement in place as his way to get good hits. His whole head and neck area would arc well away from their starting posture. This took some getting used to because even looking out of the corner of his eyes gave him a view of having swayed far to the right. He eventually began feeling comfortable with this sensation and began getting the hits he wanted.
What Do You Do?
This is where you need to discuss this head and neck activity with a health professional. Then you can decide what is good for the short-term and for the long-term.
Most golfers will be causing discomfort and eventually injury because of the faulty movements described above. I see photos of good golfers "keeping their eyes on the ball" using the standard perfect alignment of the top of their head pointing at the ball. But, I can tell they have leaned their spine towards their left foot by their full turn posture.
And that "full turn" was the front of their shoulders showing 90 degrees to the target line while their back was showing about 45 degrees to 70 degrees of a turn. (Remember the discussion I did in an earlier lesson that was part of your standing turn lessons.)
Next lesson: Making the first critical "flinch" or move of your takeaway turn in posture.
Your turning in posture training is