Rigid Shoulders – Pivot Killer

It may seem counter intuitive but the more relaxed you are, the better you will swing.  Stiffness, especially in the upper back and shoulders, is  a pivot killer.

One of the more common things I see in the golf address stance is the stiffness.

People are standing as if someone inserted a rod down their backs, shoulders are pulled back and everything about this screams “Way too tight!”

You may have been told that you must have a straight spine angle, and this is the worst thing you can do if trying to swing.

I received an email many, many moons ago that still comes to mind whenever I’m looking at my stance down-the-line.

The sender had wanted to compliment me on my swing yet had a “flaw” that he suggested I should fix: I was slouching over the ball.

Slouching Over The Ball?

No, sir – I was just standing relaxed.  No, that’s slouching, he had said, and even pointed out the angle in my upper back and that’s all I remember from the email.

Above is my stance and my back position has remained largely unchanged since I began to swing, aside from all the other position changes, and you’ll see it’s not very different from the Classic Golf Swing era greats:

I know what my years-ago emailer would have said to the above stance – still a big “slouch” in the back.

This is how one should stand over the ball, according to modern swing principles:

And this is why they have so many back and other issues.

It’s because you can’t swing properly with your back and shoulders all tightened up like that.

Funny how the old guys could knock it as far as the young guys today, with far inferior equipment, and some of the notoriously long hitters regularly did so after a night out carousing and drinking.

Many of the old time pros going back to pre-War were still drunk when they teed off the next morning.  And they swung that way into their senior years.

I’ll bet you they were relaxed

Sometimes you just have to look at the greatest swingers you want to choose.

They didn’t “slouch,” they knew that one has to be relaxed over the ball, and that’s what they did.


10 thoughts on “Rigid Shoulders – Pivot Killer

  1. turd ferguson

    Turd was just at the range for the first time since the deep freeze showed up. It actually got to -6 here in Vancouver. Thats cold. Whew.
    Once I finally MADE myself relax and just think about throwing,,,, bam. Gotta relax. Your tip on shoulders was spot on Big Papa.
    Oh and Old Jack who i believe ived mentioned before (he thinks im an idiot for using the ten fingered maitai grip) stopped by to ask why i thought ive gained 30 yards in three months. Showed him the swing stick, he gave me the nod and said “that is the best idea ive seen in a long while” and proceeded to argue with me on everything concerning golf from that moment on. When i last left he was in the driving range workshop with a roll of tape and a broke shaft.
    all hail BIG PAPA

  2. jch3200

    something else to notice is how the “old timers” always stood a little more upright over the ball, where the modern swing has them bending over more, some almost more than 45 degrees. This is what I’ve noticed about Tiger’s, and Michelle Wie’s address. MA looks more bent over in the pic because he is swinging a short iron, I think. And all of the above (except Hogan) were long drivers of the ball in their time.

    1. DJ Watts Post author

      Correct. And MA still had the same attitude over the ball with driver, just not as much as with the iron. I’ll dig up a pic, shouldn’t be too hard.

  3. jch3200

    DJ, A technical question. Do you think that due to your stance that this causes you to swing the club in at the 45 angle. I’ve noticed that when I take a natural stance, which is fairly square both shoulders and feet, that I have more of a 25 or 30 degree angle in my back swing? This may be because I move my left shoulder more down under my chin and I feel if I go for the 45 I have more of an around turn in the shoulders. What do you think? Maybe I need to work on this some more? Thanks, Jim

    1. DJ Watts Post author

      Jim, I see the angle on a 45 degree visual, and I’m actually not the only one. The angle, whatever it is, is simply the angle on which you take your hands back, and then return them on the same path. I’ll be going into this in greater detail soon. Cheers, DJ

  4. Seb

    Totally agree with that Deej,
    I tried to stand like they did once, it felt very uncoomfortable. It’s all down to that misconception of turning the shoulders around the spine and keeping the spine straight.
    If you tried to perform a T-Bar row or bent over row doing that you’d damage your lower back!
    What I find funny is how everyone talks about Hogan’s book being the swing bible, and yet they completely ignore what he said in five lessons, he talks at length about how to be in athletic motion you have to be relaxed (page 52 for those interested), and on page 53 he states:
    “When he assumes the “semi-sitting position,” the upper part of the trunk remains relatively erect as he bends at the knees.
    Note that he doesn’t say try and straighten the natural curvature of your spine.

    I don’t see how you can hit a ball if you draw your shoulders back, you’ll be too low and hit a fat shot, or maybe a thin one if you subconsciously correct the motion (which would then cause muscle tearing in the arms and shoulders I’d imagine trying to fight against the centripetal force generated by the swing).



  5. Brandon

    Truth be told you have everyone trying to copy Hogan’s swing and he stood taller and with less knee flex than anyone. His driver stance he is just standing there looking down with his hands on the club even his short irons he stood tall but everyone trying to teach his swing are crounched and bent over with straight backs.

    1. DJ Watts Post author

      Yup, and that’s the whole point of listening to people who don’t know what they’re teaching, unfortunately. I love Hogan’s motion, I just don’t recommend it as it was a floating pivot. It’s too easy for lesser swingers to lose the center or come over the top. Still, he had a great swing, I studied it for a long time.

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