Swaying in the golf swing can be a killer for both distance and consistency – trust me, I know.
When I first took up golf many years ago, I fell into the trap that many amateur players do of trying to hit the ball as far as I could, without really worrying about what movements I was making, or producing a repeatable action.
To try and launch the ball down the fairway, I would make a huge move into my trail side – much like a baseball pitcher coiling up before release, except usually with less balance – before making another huge lunge back towards the ball and target.
But while this move will feel powerful to mid-to-high handicappers (it certainly did for me), it actually ruins any chance of creating consistency in your swing – and will, more often than not, cost you distance as well.
It wasn’t until I started doing more research and getting regular lessons with a qualified golf instructor that I realised I had been hindering my pursuit of power and consistency, rather than helping it.
To develop a golf swing that has effortless power and repeatability, you have to stop swaying.
And in this article, I’ll explain exactly how to do that.
What is swaying in the golf swing?
Swaying in the golf swing is when a player makes excessive lateral movements away from the ball during their backswing and downswing, often due to trying to hit the ball farther or trying to swing the club up and down the target line – rather than on a rotary plane. This severe shifting of weight can cause inconsistent ball-striking.
But why is swaying such a bad thing, you might ask?
One of the most common, and often detrimental, symptoms of swaying in the golf swing is hitting too far behind the ball (known as a ‘fat’ strike).
Because you are not staying centred, and instead moving laterally, it makes it extremely hard to find the low-point of your swing, which is the key to consistent, solid ball-striking.
As popular YouTube golf instructor Rick Shiels put it:
It’s a killer, really, because if you sway one way then to get a good strike you’ve got to sway the other way.
So, if you, for example, in the backswing sway to the right, you’ve got to sway to the left to get any kind of decent connection – because if you don’t sway back the other way, you’re going to fat it.
In addition to hitting the ball fat from time to time, swaying can produce other undesirable faults such as:
- Thin strikes, as a result of being unable to control the low-point of your swing
- Complete whiffs (air swings) due to your head and eyes moving too much
- Weak ball flight, as swaying prevents rotation will can lead to early extension and ‘flipping’ of the hands through impact, which adds more loft
- Poor compression, also caused by an inability to rotate properly due to excessive lateral shift
So, it’s fair to say the consensus is overwhelming: swaying in the golf swing is definitely bad for you.
But simply telling you to ‘stop swaying’ is no good because if you knew why you were swaying, and how to fix it, you’d already have done it by now.
Let’s look a little deeper into why some golfers sway in their swing, and how the fault can be corrected.
What causes swaying in the golf swing?
In short, swaying in the golf swing can be caused by a number of factors including an incorrect posture at address, poor takeaway, failing to maintain spine angle in the backswing and downswing, or physical limitations such as a weak core, back and leg muscles. Swaying is easily identifiable as the lower body moving excessively away from the target during the backswing.
To better understand each of these causes, and how they contribute to swaying, we need to look at them in more detail.
Incorrect posture at address
One of the most common causes for swaying during your swing is a poor set-up position over the golf ball.
Players who have their feet too narrow at address are prone to excessive lateral movement during their swing compared to those with wider feet, as they have a less stable base to support them.
To prevent swaying, it’s essential to create a stable base upon which you can rotate efficiently (more on that shortly).
This is without doubt one of the biggest reasons mid-to-high handicap golfers sway during their golf swing – and can often be attributed to a misunderstanding of how the golf club is meant to move through the backswing and downswing.
Many players – especially those who are new to the game – often try to swing their club along their target line as they attempt to hit the ball, rather than let it rotate around their body on a circular plane (check out a great explanation here – don’t let the video quality detract from the information).
Golfers who do this fail to turn into their trail hip effectively – which in doing so would keep them centred – meaning the only way get the club to the top of their backswing is to create more room by swaying away from the ball.
Failure to maintain spine angle
Maintaining your spine angle, and thus stopping early extension, is essential to creating a consistent golf swing, and failing to do so is another factor that can lead to swaying.
Players who are too hunched over at address are more likely to stand up and shift their weight off the golf ball compared to those who stand taller – with their armpits positioned over the balls of their feet.
Having a flexible, strong core is crucial to become a low-handicap golfer – specifically, the ability to rotate internally into your trail hip during the backswing.
Loading into you hip prevents swaying and creates effortless power, however golfers who have physical restrictions stopping them from turning can lead to them moving away from the ball in order to generate said power (albeit, far less effectively).
How can you stop swaying in the golf swing?
The best way to stop swaying during the golf swing is to address the causes of it: which, as mentioned above, are incorrect posture at address, a poor takeaway, failing to maintain spine angle and physical limitations.
How do you do that, you ask?
Below are some basics on posture and takeaway which will lay the foundations for a good golf swing (and once you’ve got those sorted, you can start doing some drills to really help you get rid of that sway for good).
Correct set-up position
To address the ball correctly, follow these steps:
- Stand with your feet around shoulder width apart
- Let your feet slightly flare out (don’t keep them completely square)
- Grip the golf club and let it fall naturally until it hits the ground
- You should be close enough to the golf ball that your armpits line-up over the balls of your feet (this will prevent you reaching too far)
- Tilt your shoulders so that your right shoulder (for right-handed players) is slightly lower than your left should
Following these steps will get you into a relatively neutral set-up position.
The Graves Golf Alignment And Ball Position Trainer is also a great aid you can use to check your feet position. Simply place it on the ground when you’re practicing, and match your feet up to the correct spot for each club.
This will ensure you have the perfect width in your swing from driver through to wedge.
For a visual guide on set-up position, Chris Ryan Golf has done a great video on this that I recommend you watch:
Now that you’ve got your address position sorted, the next step is to perfect your takeaway – as a bad takeaway can easily lead to swaying during the golf swing.
For the correct takeaway, follow these steps:
- Take your normal set-up
- To start the takeaway, begin moving the club away from the ball along your target line while keeping your arms relaxed, but straight (this will be initiated by the shoulders starting to turn, with your chest and hips also turning slightly)
- There should be no wrist hinge yet
- By the time the club reaches parallel to the ground, the club face should be pointing slightly towards the ground (at the same angle as your spine)
- From here, you can begin to hinge your wrists, while continuing to turn into your right hip and letting to club work its way up towards the top of the backswing
- At the top of the backswing, your lead wrist should be flat and your elbow tucked (not flared out like a ‘chicken wing’)
For a good visual on how to complete these steps, check out another video from Chris Ryan Golf.
If you’re someone who struggles with making a smooth, one-piece takeaway, it may be worth looking at trying the Swing Correcting Arm Band. This simple aid only costs a few bucks and wraps around your arms to ensure you stay connected in your backswing, which can help keep the club on plane.
Best drills to prevent swaying in the golf swing
While it’s easy for me to tell you how to stop swaying in the golf swing, the only way to improve – and get fast results – is to practice using the right drills.
During my search for answers to my swaying problem, I watched a lot of YouTube videos to try and find the best drills that would work for me.
After combing through dozens of tutorials, these are the drills I found to be most useful.
Alignment stick drill
One of the best ways to train your mind and body to understand new movements is through using objects that offer instant, physical feedback.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Take an alignment stick and place it in the ground around an inch outside your right hip (for a right-handed golfer)
- As you move into your backswing, feel as though your right hip turns back and inwards, creating more space between it and the alignment stick
- If you sway, rather than turn into your hip, you will connect with the alignment stick, which means you’re turning incorrectly
- Practice a few times without a ball first, and once you’re comfortable take some gentle swings with a ball and concentrate on turning without touching the stick
This video from Me and My Golf demonstrates this drill perfectly (and starts at around the 6.10min mark):
Testing your turn drill
As I mentioned earlier, physical limitations can be a big factor in causing golfers to sway – sometimes they can only rotate so far into their trail hip, and to try and reach the top of their backswing they begin to move their whole body and head away from the ball.
This drill from Rick Shiels on YouTube is fantastic because it gives you a great idea on how far you are physically able to turn without swaying, and then train yourself to train within those parameters.
- Grab a driving range basket and place an alignment stick through one of the holes so that the tip of it is positioned directly over the top of the golf ball (around a foot in the air)
- Reposition the golf ball so that it is just to the front side of the stick
- Take a 9-iron or wedge and set-up as you normally would to the ball
- Take the club to the top of your backswing: if you have done it correctly without swaying, you should not have lost sight of the ball regardless of how far you turn
- If at any time the stick appeared to cover the ball during your backswing, or if the ball looked as if it had moved to the other side of the stick, it means you have swayed
- Keep practicing your backswing while keeping sight of the ball at all times while hitting shots (even if it means taking a shorter swing)
Doing this drill every time you’re at the range will soon teach your mind and body to work within your own physical capabilities – and if that means taking a shorter backswing, then that is completely fine.
It will help you produce better consistency and natural power in your swing due to the correct loading of the hips in the backswing.
If you really want to master the turn in your swing, I’d recommend trying the DownUnder Board. This simple training aid – which is used by over 100 Tour pros – will train your legs to use the ground properly, improve your rotation and eliminate sway.
Check out the drill from Rick Shiels in the video below:
Swaying in the golf swing can easily be fixed once you’ve identified that you are doing it, establish the correct posture at address, and learn how to rotate properly into your right hip in unison with a good takeaway.
Following the advice above, and regularly practicing those two great drills from some of the world’s top golf instructors, will stop the swaying in your golf swing for good and have you hitting straight, powerful shots in no time.
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