False Turn: Losing Tilt or Tilting Towards the Target in the Backswing (2023)


Many golferslose tilt behind the ball when attempting to make a “full turn” in the backswing. The issue arises mostly because many golfers have a desire to make a turn in the backswing that they are not actually capable of making, due to physical limitations. When golfers try to make backswing turns they can’t properly manage, then end up losing their tilt or even tilting towards the target. Like many aspects of this game, “more” of something good is too often seen as desirable, even if trying to get “more” or “as much as possible” ends up compromising the swing. I have written at length about this issue here.


I refer to losing tilt in the backswing, or tilting towards the target, as “false turn”. Take this golfer on the RIGHT, for example:

False Turn: Losing Tilt or Tilting Towards the Target in the Backswing (1)

On first glance, it might appear to some that he has managed to make a 110 degree shoulder turn in the backswing. But in actuality, he actually only turned his shoulders 75-80 degrees. The remaining 30-35 degrees of “false turn” are a result of him tilting towards the target and losing some of the tilt he had at address. Compare that with yours truly on the LEFT. You’ll notice that I have maintained my tilt while completing my turn.


The common teaching concept of “turning your back to the target” is notorious for creating false turn. Losing tilt in the backswing by tilting towards the target is extremely detrimental to the downswing, because maintaining tilt away from the target:

  1. shallows out the angle of attack
  2. creates shaft lean at impact
  3. encourages lag in the downswing


In a previous article, I posted the comparison image above and asked readers for comments about the difference between the two positions. One astute reader responded:

The golfer on the right has no tilt behind the ball. He has turned in a way so that his front shoulder is turned towards his front foot instead of his rear. It seems like to me in an effort to make a full turn and get his club to parallel at the top, he has turned so far as to pull himself target-wards. From this spot he would have to make a massive move with his lower body to get himself unstuck from this position. All of the speed and power in his swing would be gone before he got anywhere near the ball. I would also venture a guess that this golfer would start to run out of room to turn by the time he gets near impact since he has to unwind a lot just to get to a spot where he can swing freely.
Monte on the other hand has turned in a way to keep his secondary tilt, notice the spine angle away from the target and has turned his lead shoulder over the rear foot. This would allow space for his arms to fall and as he leads with the lower body he creates more room without losing speed. Like monte says, do nothing to slow down the arms.

This is exactly correct. Let me unpack it a little more:


If you have false turn in your backswing and tilt toward the target, chances are high that your arms with also move past your turn. In other words, “false turn” with the arms, where the body isn’t actually turning but the arms continue to move back in a futile effort to get to parallel at the top. This problem, plus the steep angle of attack that tilting toward the target creates, makes producing lag impossible. From the top, the subconscious brain/body, has two choices:

  1. throw away all the lag and cast
  2. produce a gravedigger divot and possibly shank the ball

I don’t think I need to explain why neither of those are particularly desirable. Most people who do this move have learned to do #1, because that allows them to hit the ball and actually play golf. But guess what happens when many of them see their swing on video?

“Oh, I’m casting. I better hold the lag.”

This is the sort of disastrous thinking that leads to outcome #2: trenches, shanks, massive divots. All in a misplaced attempt to force lag into a golf swing that cannot naturally produce lag because of false shoulder turn. Fixing the shoulder turn is the actual solution to this problem. Fix that, and the lag and shaft lean will come automatically as a result.


Here is a secret to fixing this:

Try to get the right shoulder closer to the back foot in the backswing.

Lots of people are told to get their left shoulder over their back foot in the backswing. That can be a helpful key for some, but not for those with false shoulder turn. In fact, those with false shoulder turn are already overdoing the left shoulder over the back foot. That can actually be the cause of this problem in the first place.

In the picture above, the vertical lines are actually making the right shoulder. Look at mine in relationship to the back foot (left) vs. the golfer on the right. See the difference?

Even Stack and Tilt guys don’t get their right shoulder as close to the left foot as the reverse tilters do.Getting the right shoulder over the right foot (left and left for lefties) keeps your tilt behind the ball. And that allows you to produce a shallow AoA in the downswing. It also makes it almost impossible for the arms to overrun the turn at the top of the backswing. Do this, and you will create plenty of lag.

False Turn: Losing Tilt or Tilting Towards the Target in the Backswing (2)


Look at is picture of Tiger above. Look how his swing, body tilt, arm, and right shoulder positions at the top are like mine: Balanced and powerful. Especially look at similar arm positions and how the right shoulder is much closer to right foot than the left. This is him practicing a “centered pivot” swing and yet his right shoulder is behind the center of his feet.

False Turn: Losing Tilt or Tilting Towards the Target in the Backswing (3)


Look at the photo above of Hogan. Even with a much flatter and past parallel swing, his arms are still in same place and right shoulder closer to right foot at the top. He is still tilted away from target at top of swing.No reverse tilt, no arms behind head, and right shoulder more over right foot at top of swing than left.


Tiger, Hogan and myself produce 90 degrees or more of shoulder turn while keeping the arms left of head at top of swing in a face on view (and no, I am not comparing my game to theirs, just my right shoulder position). Lots of leverage, room to create speed, and a shallow angle of attack:Lag city with no handle yanking, float loading or holding the angle.This position should be the Holy Grail of Golf Instruction.

Now, all golfers are going to have a slightly different look at the top while doing this. Most are going to produce less turn than they would expect. This doesn’t matter. Producing a smaller degree of “true” turn as opposed to false turn is exponentially better in every possible way. No matter how short this backswing may feel to some, it puts golfers in an ideal position at the top.

For more on this subject, go HERE.


What are common backswing errors? ›

The most common error is a grip that is too weak, or turned too far to the left on top of the club. Another common error is a grip that is too strong, or turned too far to the right on top of the club. Often a grip that is too strong is the sign of a golfer trying to hit the ball too hard.

Why is tilt in backswing important? ›

That is shoulder tilt, the amount your shoulders are tilted relative to the ground, and it's really important. That combination helps the club swing from in-to-out, and allows you to hit up on the golf ball. “The more you're tilted away from the target, the faster the club can go up,” he said.

What is the most common miss in golf? ›

Slicing is the common miss for average players, and it happens because at impact the face is open relative to the path of the swing. The fastest way to change that is to feel like your body is slowing down through impact while you speed up the release of the clubhead with your hands and arms.

What happens if you don't complete your backswing? ›

What happens if you don't get all the way there? It puts the bottom of your swing arc farther back, probably behind the ball. Unless you make some other compensation in your swing, you're going to mis-hit the shot.

Do any pros stack and tilt? ›

Although some players like Aaron Baddeley, Charlie Wi, Grant Waite, and Mike Weir have distinct Stack and Tilt swings, there are plenty of other tour pros who embody some of the underlying principles of the swing philosophy.

Should the hips turn level in backswing? ›

Ideally, in the backswing, your hips should turn fairly level with the ground. You can see how the hula hoop indicates this. When this happens correctly, it allows your weight to coil on to the right side, building up and storing power.

Can you turn too much in the backswing? ›

Turning, or rotating, in your golf swing. You've probably heard about the benefits of making lots of rotation on the backswing or downswing, and indeed, the benefits are very real. But the trick is to turn at the right time, in the proper sequence. If you turn too much, too soon, things will get ugly fast.

How much should a backswing tilt? ›

This is shoulder tilt, and GOLFTEC found that the best golfers tend to have about 36 degrees of it at the top of their backswing, which helps them make a descending blow on the golf ball.

Is it OK to open clubface in backswing? ›

All full swing clubfaces open during the backswing, and once the takeaway starts, there are two ways to open the clubface: (1) body rotation, (2) forearm rotation. When your clubface starts away from the ball, it's in the process of opening (pointing to the right of target – left if you're left handed).

What is the most rare thing in golf? ›

Scoring three-under-par on a single hole is one of the rarest feats in the sport. In golf, it's known as an albatross or a double-eagle.

What is the rarest feat in golf? ›

An albatross, sometimes called a double eagle, is the rarest golf achievement anyone can make. It's accomplished when a golfer lands their ball in the hole after only two shots on a par 5—a feat that the National Hole-in-One Registry states has the odds of nearly 6 million to 1.

What is the number one golf injury? ›

1. Back Pain – An estimated 75 to 85 percent of all Americans will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime, and the numbers may be higher among golfers. The rotational stresses of the swing can place considerable pressure on the spine and muscles.

Is it better to have a slow or fast Backswing? ›

In golf, your backswing is your counter-movement, which is why it's important to get the club moving quickly away from the target. Speed accumulates throughout your swing, so the faster you move the club away on your backswing, the faster your club will be traveling as it comes into the golf ball.

Should you pause on backswing? ›

One of the best ways to improve your control is to add time to your pause at the top of the backswing. This pause will prevent you from rushing through the swing, and it will make it easier to stay on plane coming down toward impact.

Is it OK to straighten the right leg in the backswing? ›

Straightening your right leg during your backswing is something you SHOULD BE DOING! It is a key golf swing tip to help you hit the golf ball more consistently, get more power and distance out of your clubs AND prevent injury. It really is one of the secrets to an effortless golf swing.

What happens if backswing is too steep? ›

When the backswing gets too steep, it can create several swing flaws. These swing flaws will require compensation and timing to hit a quality golf shot. When the shaft works too steep in the backswing, it causes the player to excessively tilt their shoulder plane.

Is it OK to bend left arm in backswing? ›

Although the left arm should be straight, it's important to note that it shouldn't be tense. Fluidity and flexibility is critical to a good swing. A slight bend is ok, but your left arm should be mostly relaxed and straight. Basically, the left elbow shouldn't hinge until the follow through.

Should right armpit close or open during backswing? ›

Should the right arm be tucked in the golf swing? Yes, the right arm plays a different role than the left. On the backswing, the right arm and elbow should stay relatively close to your body. On the downswing, the right arm should tuck so that you can shallow the golf club.

What is a 3 1 backswing? ›

The right swing tempo is actually all about getting the perfect tempo of 3:1. Here's a quick video from the Golf Channel discussing the 3:1 swing tempo in full. To sum it up, your backswing should take 3X as long as you're downswing. So if your backswing takes three seconds, your downswing should take one second.

Do you rotate arms in backswing? ›

During the backswing, keep your left arm and wrist straight while your right arm bends and the forearm rotates about 45 degrees. Hold this tension in your wrists and forearms through the downswing and impact, unleashing their energy during the release.

What is a restricted hip turn in the backswing? ›

A restricted hip turn is forcibly not allowing the hips to turn from the initial takeaway, the torso won't rotate properly and the arms will create much of the backswing and will over run the turn or create a short turn/backswing.

What is a 3 1 backswing ratio? ›

Swing tempo is the ratio of your backswing time to your downswing time. A 3 to 1 ratio, or 3.0, is the ideal swing tempo based on studies of professional golfers. You can achieve the ideal 3.0 tempo using different swing timings, for example, 0.7 sec./0.23 sec. or 1.2 sec./0.4 sec.

Can you turn your hips too much early in the backswing? ›

Early hip turn on the backswing can ruin the sequence of your golf swing, when your hips turn too early it hurts your ability to create a coil between your hips and torso. If your hips and torso turn at the same rate on the backswing, you will not create any torque between them and it can rob you of power.

What is the average time for backswing golf? ›

The typical backswing takes 0.8 seconds while the downswing averages 0.2 to 0.4 seconds. In other words, the golf swing is a short and explosive movement.

Does club head move first in backswing? ›

The first thing you should move in your backswing is the clubhead.

Should your shoulder touch your chin on backswing? ›

It's a long-accepted rule that on the golfer's backswing, his shoulders should turn to form a 90° angle with the target line. But without looking into a mirror, how do you know if you've reached the magic number? Easy: Your left shoulder should be directly beneath your chin.

What swing fault can result from faulty alignment? ›

In addition, poor alignment at stance can facilitate poor movement that places unnecessary stress to our spine. There are two common alignment faults in the golf swing; S-Posture and C-Posture.

What is 2 symptom of incorrect wheel alignment? ›

One of the signs that your car may be out of alignment is if it is constantly pulling to one side or another on the straight. Your steering wheel can also give you clues that you have an alignment issue, for example, if it appears off-centre when you are driving straight or if it vibrates.

How do I know if my alignment is wrong? ›

What are the symptoms of your car being out of alignment?
  1. Uneven or rapid tire wear.
  2. Steering wheel being crooked when you are driving straight.
  3. Noisy Steering.
  4. Pulling to the right or left.
  5. Squealing tires.

What is a swing fault? ›

This swing fault is called Sway, and occurs when the lower body moves lateral away from the target during the backswing. This fault makes it very difficult to develop a proper weight shift during the transition between backswing and downswing.

What happens if you use your hands too much in golf swing? ›

Poor players often let their hands, mainly the trail hand, take over during the downswing. That instinct to use the hands slows down the arm swing and inhibits body movement (above, left). The result: less power and control.

How far should you turn in the backswing? ›

In the backswing, your shoulders ought to turn 90 degrees away from the ball and away from the target. So, your chest will, pretty much be facing directly away from your target. If you were to draw a line across your shoulders, that line would be perpendicular to your target line.


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