“Dear The Golfing Doc. I can’t stop my hips from swaying and sliding. How can I fix this? Thanks.” – Dan K.
Let’s begin by clarifying the terms “sway” and “slide”. “Sway” refers to your lower body moving lateral and away from the ball during your backswing. I like to think of it as “sway” happens during your take away. On the other hand, “slide” refers to lateral movement towards your target during the downswing. I like to think of this as your hips “sliding” too far past the ball. Some golfers suffer from one or the other and some golfers suffer from both.
A sway or a slide is not always a bad thing. It all depends on the amount and end result. If you can hit the ball and make it do what you want it to do consistently, then fixing a sway and slide is not always necessary. If your ball is consistently not doing what you want it to do and your ball contact is not consistent, then maybe it is time to work on your sway or slide.
There are great instructors out there who can minimize or even fix these faults. But in most cases, a sway and slide is actually due to a physical limitation. This is where a physician, therapist, or even trainer may be of more use to you than a golf instructor. Let me explain.
When you are in your golf stance, your hips must be able to rotate. In technical terms, we call it internal and external rotation. If you are a right-handed golfer, when you take your backswing, your right hip goes into internal rotation and your left hip goes into external rotation at the same time. The process is reversed in the downswing. The right hip fires and goes into external rotation while the left hip goes into internal rotation as you post onto the lead leg. So what happens if you cannot rotate one or both hips freely due to injury, stiffness or tightness?
Here is a quick test you can try. Stand in front of a mirror in your golf stance. Place your arms across your chest so you can see your hips. Now without moving your top half of your body, rotate your hips. Don’t push with your knees. Your knees can move but should not be initiating your rotation. As you rotate your hips, take note if your hips are actually rotating or shifting side-to-side. If your hips are rotating correctly, then you will see your hips turning within a small space as if you are trapped in a barrel. If your hips have some limitation, you will see some sway and slide.
If you have any type of hip limitation, your brain will naturally produce a false sense of rotation by moving you side-to-side. That is why a golf lesson may not correct this swing fault. It is something that must be physically corrected. This includes treatment from a chiropractor, physical therapist, or massage therapist and working with a golf-specific trainer. The cleaner you can rotate your hips, the better for your swing and body.
Here are some exercises you can try to minimize your sway and slide. Try up to 10 repetitions per side, for 1 to 2 sets. If you experience any pain or discomfort during any of these exercises, stop immediately and consult your physician.