How you address the ball in golf can often be the difference between a good or bad swing – and bending at the hips correctly is a crucial part of this.
Not enough hinge can lead to a too upright stance and negatively impact things like balance, while too much hinge can cause a too-hunched-over position that will ultimately cause you to stand up out of your posture as you swing the club.
The latter, which plagues many amateurs, is by far the worse of the two and can lead to issues such as early extension, flipping of the hands towards the ball (causing poor compression and quality of strike) and even an over-the-top swing path.
If you haven’t given much thought to how you should bend at the hips in your golf swing, it’s time to start paying more attention – as the effect it can have on your ball-striking ability cannot be overstated.
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How should you bend your hips in golf?
In golf, your hips will have the correct amount of bend so long as your armpits, knee caps and balls of your feet are all aligned on top of each other. If you can ensure these three checkpoints are lined up, then your hips will have the ideal amount of hinge for a balanced and powerful swing.
A lot of amateurs will focus on keeping a flat back while bending over towards the golf ball, and will often try and practice this feeling by keeping their buttocks pressed up against a chair, alignment stick or golf bag while making swings at home on their practice net or at the driving range.
While this drill and swing thought can help eliminate early extension, unless you’re a world-class athlete with world-class flexibility like Rory McIlroy then it’s likely as an amateur you may find this type of address position and posture difficult to maintain.
Instead, a better way to bend your hips as you address the golf ball is to forget about them altogether and instead focus on getting the centre of your armpits positioned over your kneecaps and the balls of your feet (as renowned golf guru George Gankas demonstrates perfectly using an alignment stick in the screenshot below).
Gankas, who coaches PGA young gun Matt Wolff, explains that by keeping your hips and buttocks tucked in more under your spine – rather than sticking out – and allowing your back to round out more (think Jack Nicklaus at address) it gives you better balance.
Not only that, it allows you to clear your hips easier as you turn through the impact position, and also maintain your spine angle and tilt while doing so.
A great way to envisage this address position is pretending that you’re resting on a bar stool, while keeping your feet flat on the floor.
You can check out the full video from Gankas below. It’s well worth a watch.
Should you bend from the waist or hips in golf?
A perfect address position in the golf swing will combine bend in both the waist and the hip. Your hip should be tucked under your buttocks – rather than sticking out – and your back should be allowed to round slightly at the waist to enable your armpits, knee caps and balls of your feet to be aligned.
As mentioned earlier, the amount of hinge you have in your hips, but also how much bend you have in your waist, will largely be determined by ensuring those three checkpoints – armpits, kneecaps, feet – are all stacked up on top of each other.
The resultant hinge in your hips and waist will therefore be different for every player, depending on their physical characteristics.
For example, taller players may have to bend more in the knees and at the hips in order to get the three checkpoints to line up, while a shorter player – or someone with slightly longer arms – may be able to achieve that position without as much hinge in their joints.
The most important factor to remember is not your hips, but the alignment of your armpits, kneecaps and feet.
How do you use your hips in the golf swing?
In the golf swing, your hips should start level at address. During the backswing, your trail hip should become higher than your lead hip. This should then reverse in the downswing, with your lead hip being higher than your trail hip at impact. Your hips should be around 45 degrees open in the backswing, and 40 degrees open as you strike the ball.
I’ve written extensively on how the hips should move throughout the golf swing in another article here, which I would definitely recommend you read.
But in a nutshell, your hips should be square at address, open at the top of your backswing and then open again at impact.
Getting your hips into this open position as your strike the ball enables you to control the clubface better – keeping it stable and preventing flipping of the hands – as it creates more room for your arms to swing through the impact zone, while allowing you to maintain proper side bend and spine tilt.
If you arrive at impact with your hips square to the ball, rather than open, you’re more likely to throw the clubhead at the ball, and stand up out of your posture, as there is not enough room for your hands and arms.
This swing flaw is a killer for consistency and can be eradicated by correct hip movement.
How do you get your hips out of the way in the golf swing?
When rotating your hips in the golf swing, it’s important they don’t become disconnected from your arms and chest. Firing your hips open too early can cause the club to lag too far behind you and get ‘stuck’, which can lead to nasty hooks or blocks.
For a long time, I was someone who suffered from this swing flaw.
Thinking I needed to get my hips open as quickly as possible, I would aggressively fire my hips from the top of the backswing and leave my arms and hands behind – sometimes also sliding my pelvis towards the target, rather than rotating it.
All this achieved was an out-of-sync swing that relied on precise timing of my hands in order to square the clubface at impact – and, naturally, I didn’t always get it right, leading to roping duck hooks or booming blocks.
To get your hips properly out of the way in the golf swing, you need to ensure you are rotating them and not sliding them – and doing so in unison with your arms and chest.
Best drill for hip rotation in golf
A drill that I like to use to practice rotating and not sliding my hips is with a simple alignment stick.
Whether you’re at home or on a driving range, set-up over the golf ball and then drive an alignment stick into the ground around 1-2 inches from your lead hip bone.
Ensure the stick is pushed far enough into the turf so that it’s no higher than waist height.
Next, make some half/three-quarter swings using nothing more than a 7-iron, each time doing your best not to bump the alignment stick with your hips.
If you can make solid strikes without touching the stick, it means you’re rotating your hips correctly.
If you’re someone who struggles to stop your hips sliding, this drill will feel very unnatural and uncomfortable at first – but practicing it regularly will slowly ingrain the proper hip movement and improve your golf swing significantly.
How do I make my hips more flexible for golf?
To make your hips more flexible for golf, you need to adhere to a routine of stretching exercises, regular foam rolling and also massage. Stretching your hips flexors – but also the muscles connecting to your pelvis, such as your lower back, glutes and hamstrings – will improve hip mobility significantly.
Naturally, if your muscles are tight then you’re not going to move with much freedom in your golf swing.
Strength coach Mike Boyle, in a video with Golf Digest a few years ago, put together a fantastic routine that combines foam rolling with stretching in order to loosen and strengthen your hips.
You can check it out below:
In essence, Boyle says before you even think about stretching, it’s important to jump on a foam roller to start getting rid of those ‘kinks and knots’ as a priority.
If you don’t own a foam roller, you can get a basic one like the ProSource model really cheaply from Amazon, or one with some better ridges and grooves for deeper massage – for a slightly higher price – like the 321 Strong model.
Boyle then goes on to demonstrate some excellent stretches for your glutes, lower back, hamstrings and also hip flexors using a really cool device called a Flex Cushion – the Sports Safely model from Amazon will do the job just fine.
In summary, if you want better hip flexibility, you need to spend more time on the foam roller, and more time stretching. No ifs or buts.
Correct posture in your golf swing is crucial to setting you up for success, and the way your hips bend at address is a big part of this.
Focus on aligning your armpits, knee caps and balls of your feet over the top of one another and your hips will naturally find their way into the proper position.
From there, it’s only a matter of rotating them open and watching the ball sail down the fairway.