Every one of us wants a more powerful golf swing. Right?
To generate your maximum power, you need to have a quiet lower body during the backswing.
Lateral movement during the swing reduces power & distance.
When the lower body moves away from the target during the backswing, it’s called Sway.
One or more physical limitations may cause this swing characteristic.
The limitations can be corrected by increasing mobility in the hips, shoulders, and strengthing the glutes.
In this article, I will define sway and discuss the causes, how to identify it, and address corrections that can reduce or eliminate sway from the golf swing.
As a bonus, I have also created a Free Guide that lists exercises you can perform to correct the physical limitations that cause sway.
The exercises included in the guide are linked to the Titleist Performance Insitute (TPI) video library so you can see how to perform each exercise.
You can download the guide by clicking the button below and enter your name and e-mail.
Sway causes several issues in your swing. To play better golf and get rid of the sway swing characteristic download this guide that will provide you with exercises to eliminate movement in your backswing.
Click the button below and the guide will be delivered to your inbox.
An Efficient Golf Swing
An essential characteristic of all good golf swings is an efficient kinematic sequencing of body parts.
Let’s focus on the downswing; the hips need to start the swing by moving forward slightly then rotating using a solid back leg as leverage.
This is important because whatever happens in the swing after this point is affected by the transfer of energy between the legs and the hips.
If the lower portion of the body moves, or sways, away from the ball during the backswing the back leg will not be a stable leverage point and power will be lost during the downswing. Because either the lower body will stay back and not be in a position of power, or it will need to move forward and not be stable.
Movement of the lower body will also cause swing timing issues making the golf swing even more inefficient.
Inefficient golf swings reduce power and cause loss of distance.
What is Sway?
Sway is an excessive lateral movement of the lower body away from the target during the backswing.
So if you sway during your backswing, it is hard to form a stable platform to transfer power and drive weight from the back leg to the front leg in the downswing.
Without a firm anchor point, it’s impossible to transfer energy efficiently – and you lose power.
Golfers with the sway swing characteristic have to develop speed from an inefficient swing sequence.
This can cause other swing issues.
The mind realizes that more speed is needed, so the brain puts out a distress call to other body segments to generate speed.
Here is what those body segments tell the brain: Click Here to listen.
How Prevalent is Sway?
A little over one-third of amateur golfers have the sway swing characteristic while very few if any professional golfers sway.
That should tell you how important it is to keep the lower body stable during the backswing.
Often players sway and do not even realize it.
In this case, sway can be corrected by proper instruction.
But usually there are physical limitations that hinder the proper swing, and these limitations need to be addressed to eliminate sway.
But before we talk about physical limitations, I need to discuss how to identify sway in the golf swing.
Percentage of Amateur Golfers that Sway
How to Tell if You Sway
The best way to determine if you sway is to take a video of your swing from the front-on view.
In my post How to Video Your Golf Swing, I describe the best way to take video with your smartphone.
Remember to use a tripod so the camera doesn’t move. Also, make sure to aim the camera at your hands.
Below you will see a photograph of me at my address position.
I have drawn a red line from the middle of my foot, up my leg to my hips.
I have software that will do this. There are some freeware versions on the internet, but they are not as functional as the commercial software.
My Golf Swing Analysis service is also available. You send me the frontal view, and down-the-line view video, and I will mark it up for you.
The purpose is to see if you have any of the 12 most common swing characteristics.
The next step is to run the video to the top of the backswing.
The diagnosis is simple.
If the red line stays on your back leg, you don’t sway.
If your body moves away from the target, and the red line is now in the middle of your body, then you do sway.
As you can see in the picture below, I swayed during the swing.
In the image below there are two stop-action photographs.
The left photo is my normal swing at the top of my backswing. Notice the red line is still over my leg, and I didn’t sway.
In the picture to the right, I forced myself to sway.
You can notice how much my lower body has moved from my original address position. The trail leg should remain in one place during the backswing.
As a side note, I wish I could turn my shoulders that far and stay behind the ball without my lower body moving away from the target.
This may be a reason that some people sway; they feel as if they need to have a larger backswing turn.
So to summarize, in the left photo, no sway, and in the picture to the right, I have the sway swing characteristic.
I’m sure you would rather see a photograph of a professional golfer instead of me, so here is a stop-action shot from a video of Rory McIlory.
I added a red line up his leg at the address position and advanced the video to the top of his backswing.
Notice he doesn’t sway, and his right leg is as stable as a tree.
This is a power position.
Swing Results Due to Sway
The biggest problem with sway is the loss of power.
In an efficient downswing, the hips need to move first and start to rotate. This action pulls the torso towards the target, followed by the arms, and then the club.
This is a simplified version of the kinematic swing sequence as that could be a whole blog post in itself.
But for this article, as long as you realize that sway upsets an efficient kinematic sequence the explanation should suffice.
Listen to the Experts
Coincidentally, I was reading the October 2015 Golf Digest today, and Butch Harmon was talking about Greg Norman and sway.
Butch said that Norman’s swing thought before his backswing was “Right Pocket Back.” In other words, make sure the hip turns.
Butch says that the right “pocket back” swing thought gave Greg an added bonus:
“For Greg, it allowed him to maximize his range of motion going back, but it has the added benefit of preventing a sway to the right – a common amateur fault. The sway not only reduces power, it makes it tough to get back in position to hit the ball.”
This is what I was saying earlier in the post; a sway can lead to a whole lot of other issues when the lower body is out of position.
When the lower body isn’t stable, it’s hard to bring the club face back to the ball square.
Although sway only causes a couple of swing issues, they are big ones, such as loss of distance and spraying the ball all over the course.
Both result in bad things for golfers.
Below are the physical screens that can be used to determine if you have the sway swing characteristic.
People who fail any of the tests below may Sway or Slide during their swing.
These limitations should be corrected if you want to eliminate Sway from your swing.
Lower Quarter Rotation Test
For a right-handed golfer, you need to have internal rotation of the right hip; then your body can turn around your hip and not force the lower body to move away from the target to turn.
Look at the picture of me at the top of the backswing when I sway (blue shirt).
See how much further my shoulders have turned and my back is facing the target.
Look at the photo where I don’t sway; I can’t make as large a turn.
I know, however, that I have to keep my right leg stable, or I will most likely lose the shot somewhere.
Ideally, like Rory, if my right hip were able to internally rotate more, then I could increase my shoulder turn while having a stable back leg.
From that position, I would be able to produce more power. Hip rotation is best evaluated using the lower quarter rotation test.
Lat – Torso – Seated Truck Rotation Tests
Being able to separate rotation of the upper & lower body is important to allow the torso to rotate while the lower body is stable.
Limited torso-to-pelvis separation is usually caused by reduced spinal mobility and shortened Lat flexibility.
The Lat test and the Torso & Seated Rotation tests will check for these limitations.
Bridge Extension Tests
The lower body needs to be stable to stop it from moving away from the target.
The muscles that stabilize the pelvis are the glute muscles.
You need a strong butt to stabilize the lower body and allow the torso to rotated around the lower body without swaying away from the target.
The glutes are King in the golf swing.
The single leg bridge with leg extension test can be used to evaluate the stability of the lower body.
The Lower Quarter Rotation Test is used to assess the glute medius, which aids in internal rotation of the hip.
The Single Leg Balance Test is also an used to evaluate the strength of the glutes.
Other Possible Causes Leading to a Sway
There are some non-physical issues that may cause sway. These are:
- Lack of understanding the proper swing technique; and
- If the ball is too far back in the stance.
If you sway during your swing, don’t worry.
There are exercises that will strengthen your glutes & lats, and increase the mobility of your hips and torso to provide more separation.
I’ve prepared a free guide with those exercises for you!
The guide lists the exercises that will help you correct limitations causing you to sway away from the target.
Each exercise is linked to a video to show you the proper way to do the exercise correctly.
Click the button below and enter your first name and e-mail address so I can e-mail you the free Sway Guide!
Swing Assessment Program
Are you slicing or hooking the golf ball? Do you think your swing is costing you distance? Are the common swing faults, like early extension, over the top, and loss of posture costing you frustration and strokes?
Did you know that your golf swing can provide clues to swing faults?
Using two videos of your golf swing recorded with your smartphone, I can identify which of the swing characteristics you may possess.
I have developed a Swing Assessment Program to assist in determining swing faults. Correct swing faults with simple corrective exercises.
Use the buttons below to learn more.
The "Learn More" button will take you to a page on this website that describes the program in detail.
The "Visit Course Website" button will take you to the area of my website where I host my golf conditioning programs.