Simply put, when you address the golf ball—and because the ball is both on the ground and in front of you—you'll have to lean forward to reach it. To do this effectively, adjust the upper-body lean by hinging at the hip socket, not in the back or by excessively squatting. To get an idea of what I mean, with a straight back and neck, practice leaning forward so your arms hang straight down in front of you—remember to use your hip socket as a means to hinge—and don't hunch. Once you feel the body hinging from the hips, add some knee flex. (To judge how much lean and knee flex you need, grab your 5-iron and address the ball. With the proper upper-body lean, the 5-iron shaft and your spine should be perpendicular to one another.) Once you find your optimal spine angle, it's critical that you maintain it during the swing. One of the common reasons people come out of their optimal spine angle is that they stop swinging during the downswing and, in an_Ê attempt to inject more power into the swing, jab the upper body up and away from the ball to lift and pull the ball into the air—this is the opposite of what you should do. The correct way to retain power and hit more consistent shots is to maintain your spine angle through impact by rotating fully through the shot. Look at these photos. In the correct impact position, you can see that not only have I maintained the same spine angle at impact as I had at address, but my hips also have rotated through the shot. In the ghosted photo with the upright spine angle, you can see that my hips have barely turned at all. And when you don't turn, the body has no direction to go but up!
So if you're having trouble_Ê_Ê retaining your spine angle through impact, experiment first and find the most comfortable blend of upper-body lean and just the right amount of knee flex. Then, concentrate on finishing the swing by fully rotating through the shot.
Frank O'Connell, PGA, teaches at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in Arizona. For a lesson, visit www.wekopa.com.