When golf instructors talk about your head game and golf, they are usually referring to the mental game. But today, I want to focus on the movement and positioning of your head and how that effects your golf consistency and power.
Most golfers allow their heads to move too much which causes a lot of inconsistency in the swing. Moving your head in golf is like trying to hit a moving golf ball. I think golf is tough enough as it is!
For golfers over 50 and senior golfers, head movement is often caused by upper back stiffness and neck stiffness. Some of these issues can be corrected with where you have your head when you initially setup to the golf ball.
Where You Should Place Your Head When You Setup to the Golf Ball
You can solve a lot of problems in your golf swing and improve your consistency by placing your head in the correct position when you first address the ball.
The biggest problem we see in golfers over 50, is that they tilt their head and chin too far down in their setup. If the head and chin are tilted too far down, they will block the shoulders from being able to rotate back in the backswing. The shoulders will literally run into the chin.
When this occurs, the shoulders will typically push and rotate your head backwards. Remember, more head movement in your golf swing equals decreased consistency and accuracy.
The easiest way to fix this problem is to slightly tilt your chin up in your setup position. This will allow your shoulders to rotate freely under your chin, keeping your head more still and your eyes focused on the golf ball.
However, if you are a golfer over 50, you probably don’t have the neck flexibility needed to achieve a full shoulder turn while keeping your head relatively still. To correct this problem you want to both tilt your chin up and rotate your head slightly back in your setup position.
This will allow you to preset your head position to minimize movement in your backswing.
(If you are limited by a stiff neck, you can refer to our stretching guide for neck flexibility for golf)
Why Golfers Over 50 Lift the Head in the Backswing
Most golfers know that lifting your head in the backswing is bad for your golf game. It is nearly impossible to consistently hit the golf ball well if you are moving up and down throughout your swing.
So why are you more likely to lift your head if you are over 50? Stiffness in your spine may be the cause.
If you are not stretching regularly, your spine will lose its ability to rotate in the backswing. However, years of golfing has programed your brain and body to have a certain length of backswing regardless if your spine is able to rotate that far or not. As a result, your natural tendency is not to stop the backswing earlier, at the limit of your spines ability to rotate, but to make compensations in your mechanics to achieve the same length of backswing.
The brain does this subconsciously! Sounds weird but its true, and we see this in physical therapy all of the time.
(For instance, if you have one leg that is naturally longer then your other leg, your body will subconsciously change the way you walk in order to keep your body even. The foot of the longer leg will flatten out its arch, which effectively shortens the leg when you walk. And you will walk own the outside of the foot of the shorter leg which effectively lengthens the leg when you walk. We have patients that will walk this way for 50 years or more without even noticing it until we show them the wear patterns on the bottom of their shoes. The body compensates its mechanics subconsciously!)
In your golf swing, the compensation that subconsciously occurs when your spine becomes too stiff to rotate is that the spine extends . Your upper back straightens up in your backswing which causes your head to lift.
The part of your back that is responsible for this is called the Thoracic Spine, your mid-back. You can read more about this and how to correct it here: Back Flexibility for Golf
The Quick Fix
The quickest way to fix this issue is to shorten your backswing to the limits of your spinal flexibility. Have a friend watch your backswing to determine if you are lifting up. If you are lifting up, you need to limit the length of your backswing to the point at which your head begins to lift.
When it is OK to Move Your Head in Your Golf Swing
In your backswing, we want you to keep your head “relatively” still. We do want some backwards slide movement in your backswing because keeping your head perfectly still may result in a poor weight shift to your back leg.
However, this lateral slide of the head should be very minimal. The best way allow this to happen is to be relaxed in your backswing. Your head will move a small amount naturally. You just want to avoid rigidly holding your head in one position.
In summary, stretching your neck and thoracic spine can help you still your head naturally. Once you remove the force that is causing your head to twist and bob, the rest should come naturally.
Have your golf partner pay close attention to your head movement in your golf swing. You may feel like your head is still, but what you feel and what is actually happen are often in disagreement.
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