Fact - if your shoulders are open to the target prior to impact, you are going to hit a poor shot.

Fact - if you initiate the downswing with your shoulders, you are going to hit a poor shot.

Fact - if your shoulders spin early on the downswing, it's going to get ugly.

dustin johnson shoulders golf swing

Your shoulders have a big impact on whether you are going to hit the ball solidly and where the ball is going to go.  Jack Nicklaus understood just how important it is to limit early shoulder rotation in the downswing, and writes about it in his book "Golf My Way".  To paraphrase the Golden Bear -

I had two downswing thoughts in my career... downswing thought number 1, left shoulder up.  And if that wasn't working, downswing thought number 2, right shoulder down   

- and Jack was most definitely correct.  Arguably the worst move in the golfswing is the right shoulder moving toward the target line to start the downswing.  It's the death move, and there is very little you can do to save the swing once you have started spinning the shoulders.

Here is a simple way to think of the role of the shoulders at impact...

  • if your shoulders are closed to the target at impact - you will generate lag and draw the ball
  • if your shoulders are square at impact - you will maintain lag and hit the ball straight
  • if your shoulders are open at impact - you will lose your lag and pull or slice the ball

Most golfers have opened their shoulders on the downswing well before impact!

The ideal movement into impact in the golfswing is the same as throwing a ball, or executing a punch.  You lead with your lower body, accelerate your arm, then your hand.  Your shoulders provide stability and the final acceleration.

To hit the ball solidly everytime and to design a swing where the ball goes straighter and farther more often, make your focus a square or slightly closed shoulder position at impact.

Here's a great drill...

Take a pitching wedge and address the ball as if you are going to hit the ball 50 yards.  Now spin your shoulders slightly closed.  Hit the ball and try to keep your shoulders closed to the target line at impact.   And repeat.  Groove this move until you feel confident that your shoulders are in fact slightly closed at impact.  Then gradually start hitting some full pitching wedges, then move on to short irons, mid-irons and your driver.  Square shoulders at impact will help you hit every club more consistently.

Continue to groove that move until you understand how your shoulder position at impact affects ball flight.

Keep it up and you will hit the ball farther, straighter and more solidly - just like a tour pro!

Lee Tamburano