The Golf Backswing for the Senior Golfer: Part I Bad Compensations

older golfer exercises
In this 2-part article, we are going to address the key positions of the golf backswing and what senior golfers, golfers over 50, can do to improve their game with limited golf flexibility.

Golf flexibility for golfers over 50 can sometimes be a difficult topic. For the vast majority, golf flexibility is highly effective with exponential benefits to improve golf consistency, golf power, and improve golf mechanics.

However, flexibility varies from person to person and is highly related to genetics and gender. Some golfers will respond better and faster to stretches for golf than others. In addition, the older the golfer gets, the less effective stretching will be. This does not mean that stretching is not beneficial, just not dramatically so.

When golf flexibility is limiting the golf swing, there are “good compensations” and “bad compensations.” To be clear, if you have good flexibility, no compensation is beneficial. But for the golfer with poor flexibility, their are things that he/she can do to improve their golf game.

Unfortunately, the majority of these golfers resort to bad compensatory moves that decrease consistency, decrease power, and generally just ruin your fun.

BAD compensatory Moves You Should Avoid

#1. Right Knee Extension
One of the worst compensations you can make for poor hip rotation flexibility, is allowing the right knee to go straight and extend in the backswing. This swing fault is one of the key components of the dreaded reverse pivot shift which is when golfers fail to get their weight behind the ball.

Limited right hip rotation flexibility is a common issue for golfers over 50. That it is why it is one of our primary focuses of our instructional DVDs. In addition, we will cover some swing compensations in our next article which will help your game instead of hurt it.

Can you see the "bad" compensations? Elbow collapse, knee extension, sway indicated by foot rolling to the outside...

Can you see the “bad” compensations? Elbow collapse, knee extension, sway indicated by foot rolling to the outside…

#2. Swaying and the Right Knee Slide
This is another bad swing compensation for golfers who lack right hip flexibility and back flexibility. Instead of making a good, stable turn in the backswing, the golfer slides their weight to the right. A golfer that sways in the backswing, is a golfer that will be very inconsistent.

You can easily determine if you are swaying in the backswing. Stand up and take your normal backswing and hold the position. Next, feel whether your weight is more over the inside of your right foot (correct position) or if has rolled to the outside of your right foot (indicates swaying).

#3. Too Much Head Movement
Golfers over 50 tend to move their head too much in the backswing due to poor neck flexibility. As the shoulders turn in the backswing, your head needs to be relatively still. You need a lot of neck flexibility to do that: approximately 70 degrees worth.

As a result, when the senior golfer completes the first 1/2 to 3/4 of their backswing, neck flexibility is maximized and any longer of a backswing requires the head to rotate back with the backswing. You have to be incredibly talented to play consistent golf with that much head movement.

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#4. Collapsing Elbows
Our final “bad” backswing compensation occurs when golfers allow their elbows to bend too much in the backswing. This swing fault typically occurs in golfers with poor flexibility because they have a severely limited back and shoulder turn in the backswing. In order to add more length to the backswing, golfers might allow their elbows to bend to keep the club moving backwards.

This causes several problems. First, instead of adding power the golfer loses power because they sacrifice swing width. In addition, it is very difficult to have good timing when you add additional moving parts(elbows) to the golf swing.

Stay tuned for our next article in which we will cover swing compensations that you can do to improve your consistency and distance even if you have limited flexibility. AKA: The “Good” swing compensations.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist


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