- Audio version at the end of this post –
We have a question from Inner Circle member, Jim. Jim says, “Hi, So, I have been struggling with my ball striking and in the past have had neck and upper back aches after playing golf. I am an 8 handicapper and it is creeping up quite quickly. I stumbled across PPGS and thought I'd give it a try. I've been going to the driving range for the last few weeks. As I write this email I am suffering from excruciating lower back pain. I know it¢s really hard to figure out what I might be doing wrong without seeing my new swing in the making but any ideas what I might be doing that is clearly putting strain on my lower back. I have reduced my shoulder turn dramatically so it is at most a 3 quarter turn, but clearly I haven't quite mastered this swing to see the end to all back problems!
“Looking forward to receiving some advice, will have plenty of time to catch up with emails as I won't be able to play my usual regular round this weekend…Cheers, Jim.”
Well, Jim, I'm glad that you're at least still cheerful. I guess that's because you have a sense that the Peak Performance Golf Swing is going to work for you. We have an answer from another Inner Circle member, Bob, who wrote: “Hi Jim, Welcome to the Inner Circle.
“Although I obviously haven't seen you in action, I have a sneaking suspicion that you are not keeping your spine straight. The most probable cause is not being preloaded heavy right, but instead you might be leaning to the right in order to have your center of balance shifted aft. This causes a crooked spine, uneven tension in the muscles in your lower back and resulting inflammation and pain.
“To correct this, take a look at the updated setup videos. This setup flaw is addressed in some detail. By being properly preloaded on the right side with a straight spine, you will be able to rotate easily and avoid the stress which is causing your pain. Hit ‘em long and straight.”
Well, Bob, that's great advice to Jim because we know from experience that many golfers over do the preloaded heavy right and lean too far and are out of balance at address. This puts tremendous strain on the spine, especially when they start swinging.
But what I want to address here is that, despite the answer being very good, I'm going to go to another area. Jim said he reduced his shoulder turn dramatically and it is clear that he is at a 3/4 turn. I think he's worked on his backswing but he's not mentioning anything about his transition and finish. I'm going to look at the finish as a possible, really big cause of excruciating back pain. I think that since the advent of the rotational golf swing, more back pain is coming from the finish than it is the backswing.
Now why would that be the case? Well, for starters, the backswing is always a much slower process. You¢re turning and loading into your back side. In most, cases golfers turn too much with the rotational swing. The back leg is straightening up and it puts tremendous strain on the body. But I don't believe that strain is anywhere near as bad after you've made a huge turn, the back leg is locked, and now the golfer is deep in the Sacred Burial Ground, he snaps his legs, his hips and shoulders. I've had students tell me in lessons that no matter how fast they could turn and snap their hips and shoulders, which locks up their forward leg it was never fast enough. Faster, faster, faster. You can't turn to the forward side fast enough.
The faster we turn and pull the arms and club with it, what happens? The forward leg straightens. As soon as that leg straightens, that immediately starts tremendous stress, going into the hips and to the lower back and eventually up to the shoulders and neck.
The problem really is the rotation goes to the point now where golfers are not taught to finish square to the target. They're taught to turn as far onto the forward leg as they can, where they get the back shoulder pointing at the target. That mean their chest is now pointing 40, 50, 60, 80 or more yards beyond the target instead of square to it.
That is one unbelievable amount of twisting. A locked leg puts stress on the hips and up to the shoulders and neck because of going so far past the target and doing it is such a fast rotation and speed. The arms eventually swing the club over and, in most cases, collapse around the shoulder, which adds an extra jerk to the end.
I'm just going to say, Jim, I think that's the case where you need to look. You might not be doing it, but I think if you do check it and you are starting by rotating your hips too much and you are finishing beyond square to the target, that is your body, your nose, your belt buckle and your back knee pointing at the target or rather way left of the target, if you're a right hander or right if you're a left hander, if you're turning way past your target I would say that could be the major cause of your pain and you need to start finishing square to the target.
You worked on your backswing, let's check out your forward swing and finish and see if that's the problem. If you are going past it, I think squaring up to the target in your finish you'll see tremendously better ball striking. I think you'll see this back pain and hip pain really going away.