Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Preset Open Hips

Open hips
Open hips/open stance.

If you're struggling with solid contact, it's always best to try something different in your setup. The swing itself is best when the setup, posture, grip, and alignment (GASP) create a somewhat automatic backswing and downswing. Trying to control small muscles in the arms in an attempt to provide power and club face control (i.e., steering) is a recipe for disaster. A good setup should help you "automatize" the swing.

Here's something I've found that really helps me create consistent, solid contact. Please note that, depending on your body type and swing mistakes, trying this may cause you more problems than it solves. Try it as a drill (at the very least) before you determine whether this is of any help. Of course, I can only theorize why it's helpful, and I will get to that shortly.

First, let's get to the heart of it: Setup like you normally would with feet, knees, hips, and shoulders aligned square to the target line, as the fundamentals tell us to do. You can even setup with slightly closed feet, and the correct shoulder position should feel somewhat closed, although in reality it's square (shoulders pointing left is a major no-no). Now, before swinging back, preset your hips into a slightly open position. Yes, you can do this even though your feet are square/closed and the shoulders are square, due to the mobility available in the hips (assuming you have no restrictions in the movement of your hips). In essence, you're starting from a correct preset impact position, and your hips are "out of alignment" with the target line compared to your shoulders.

Starting my swing from this position created very powerful near-center-face hits on all clubs, so I decided to analyze potential reasons why this apparent break from the fundamentals is helpful to me, especially given that open hips are supposed to contribute to slices and pulls.

First, I think simulating the impact position before starting the swing pre-programs the brain on what the impact position should be for a particular club and lie. You're giving your brain a "pass-through" point in the swing; instead of trapping the ball between backswing and followthrough, you've added a middle waypoint to connect those dots.

Next, you'll notice that opening the hips while keeping everything else square automatically puts a little more weight on the front leg and positions the remaining weight into the right instep where it should be. In reality, your knees will move slightly to the left when opening the hips, so you should let them (don't think about moving the knees consciously); the right knee will automatically tick inward a bit, which is a solid setup tip unto itself.

Next, when you swing back and rotate your shoulders to 90 degrees, you'll notice now that your hip turn is VERY restricted and that it's difficult to stay in a fully rotated position. The shoulders instantly want to release the tension, which means more power for your downswing. You're basically presetting a greater "X-Factor" or differential between the shoulder line and hip line at the top, which is what the X-Factor calls for. This tension is a good thing because it's going to provide automatic unwinding power from your body down to your arms and club.

You'll also notice that your weight automatically concentrates into your right instep where it should be at the the top of the backswing and thus you can't really sway to the right off the ball with the hips or shoulders.

The hands and end of the club handle also move fractionally more forward of the ball, which is where they should be at impact.

Finally, when you let that automated unwinding happen, your weight gets instantly back to your left leg as it was at address, because there was no sway off the ball. You're moving left well before impact without even thinking about it.

There may be other reasons, but I believe these are probably the main reasons why presetting open hips assists me in making reliable, solid contact.

I believe that there are other versions of this same line of thinking out there. Opening the left foot while keeping the right foot perpendicular to the target line (espoused by Hogan) or using a slightly open stance with closed shoulders (like Trevino or Couples) are really designed to do the same thing. It's important to note that all of these golfers favored a fade, and open body lines at impact are associated with a left-to-right ball flight. However, you can still hit a draw using this technique; experiment with different grips, ball position, turning the club, swinging more right, concentrate on hitting the inside of the ball, etc. Trevino stated that he used the same setup for draws and fades; he pictured a row of four balls, and for fades he would try to hit all four in a row, while he would only pick off the first ball without hititng the others for a draw.

You can preset open hips for all shots, especially including the short game and even for putting (it locks the knees into place and prevents swaying), and for full shots, you may choose to use it merely as a drill.

Speaking of Hogan, I believe DTL views of his swing show that he also preset his hips slightly open, because you will notice his right knee ticked in slightly and his left foot flared out with the right foot perpendicular.

Last but not least, all three main horizontal planes, i.e. feet, hips and shoulders should never be parallel to one another. Hence the idea of increasing the diagonality of the stance in three planes - hips open in relation to feet, shoulders closed in relation to hips. Of course shoulders are used for visual aiming while feet seeks for ultimate balance and ultimate benefitting from ground forces.

Biokinetic Golf Swing Theory: Setting the Swing Motion

Pre-Set Drill: A great drill to properly train the feel of Key #2: Weight Forward is to pre-set your impact position before making a golf swing. Here's how:

1. Set up over the ball as you normally would.

2. Move your left knee and hip towards the target and open them slightly. Let your hands shift towards your left thigh as you do this. You'll feel more weight on your forward leg.

3. Make a half to three-quarter backswing leaving your left knee and hip forward.

4. From there, bump the hips even farther forward, hit the ball, and swing to an abbreviated finish.

Doing this drill properly will set you on the path to achieving Tour-quality impact.

5 Keys | GolfTipsMag.com

A common error of golfers of all levels is lining up too far to the right of the target. This forces you to come over the top on the downswing to reroute the club on line, then release the hands quickly to prevent a slice and send the ball toward the target. These corrections put too much pressure on the small muscles of the hands to release the club at precisely the right time. You may be powerful, but you'll find yourself missing the target in every direction.

If you're going to make mistakes in alignment, make them to the left of the target. An open stance presets your hips in a cleared position, as they begin slightly rotated toward the target. You don't need a quick release of the hands; instead, you can square the club with the big muscles of the shoulders and back and approach the ball from an inside path. Keep your stance square to slightly open to develop a repeating swing. Don't let yourself drift to the right.

Set up for straight shots | Golf Features | IntoTheRough.co.uk

For pitch shots and chip shots, there is a much less aggressive turning of the body through impact. This is especially true for chip shots, as the chipping motion more closely mirrors a putting stroke. To overcome the less aggressive hip turning through impact, ideally we want to set up with an open stance to the target line with our body lines. This ensures open hips through impact, and the result is our arms can swing freely without manipulation to the follow-through position.

Believe it or not, this also comes into play with putting. Although it is common for teachers to tell students that their entire body alignment should be parallel to the target line, most tour professionals set up with open feet, knees, and hips (with the shoulders remaining square to allow a proper putter path). Again, this open alignment of the lower body allows the arms to swing down the target line in a free manner.

Golf Teaching Pros: Why the Open Stance?

If that sounds familiar, here's a drill to help you start the club back straighter and shallow out your downswing. Set up in a dramatically open stance, with your feet aimed 30 or 40 degrees left of the target. Then swing back along your stance line. This will prevent you from pulling the club to the inside and will create a wider arc. You'll get into a lower, flatter position at the top (below).

Jim McLean: Open Up To Fix Your Slice: Golf Digest


  1. Hi
    I found the same thing and it really leaves me with straight laser shots ..
    But the Strange thing is only works on my long clubs 4-5-and hybrid..??
    The 9-8-7 irons I hit fat for some reason using this metod...
    Regards from Morten

    1. Morten, watch your ball position with the shorter clubs. Should be back more relative to your chest.