Assessing Rotation for a Better Golf Swing

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Golf is a rotational sport.

In order to have a successful golf swing, the hips and T spine must be able to rotate to both the left and right.

I think this is one of the areas where golfers struggle the most when trying to improve their game, from a movement standpoint. I also view it as an area in which fitness professionals and teaching professionals can collaborate to get the best results for their golfers.

For instance, one issue that the average golfer may experience is the inability to finish their backswing.

The teaching pro can use all of the hacks at their disposal in order to get the person to turn all the way back. If their tricks do not work, then they might not have the movement capacity to get there.

These players are leaving performance on the table because there are movement restrictions preventing them from turning into a full backswing.

I know from experience that when I take a full swing with the club, I hit it further and straighter than when I hold something back.

This ability to rotate is very important. If you want to read more about the advantages of hip rotation for the backswing and downswing click here.

T Spine and Hip

These are the two areas that need to be able to rotate for an effective swing. If these areas can move well, it will take stress off of the back and reduce the incidence of injury.

Most people live their life in a world that is right in front of them. When we drive the steering wheel is straight ahead, the computer is right in front of us at work, and the TV is most often a straight shot as well.

Think about all of the things that we do in a forward and backward plane. Because of this, we lose our ability to rotate if we do not practice it.

As we get older, rotation becomes a quality that needs to be maintained for golfers. Golf is a rotational sport but most of its players have lost effective rotation.

We are able to screen and see where our limitations are present and how to improve them, but that’s for another post.


Club across chest hip turn

To see a golf specific restriction hold a golf club across the chest. Once you are here, get into your golf stance and start your backswing. With the hips, if you are stuck then there is a limitation. Please see the following tests to try to narrow down the area to focus on.

golf turn

Internal/External Rotation

In order to see the capacity for the hips to rotate we can check the internal and external rotation of the hips. Both hips need to perform both actions so It is important that both are free to move.

Start by sitting on something high, allowing the legs to hand off the edge. Start by swiveling your whole lower leg away from the body. This is internal rotation and we are looking for ideally 30+ degrees.


On the same leg, start back at neutral and swivel the whole lower leg towards the midline of the body. This is external rotation and the number should be at least 30 degrees.


Now it is important to back this test up with a prone internal rotation check. When lying on the stomach bend the knees and let the feet fall out to the side. Internal rotation should be improved with this passive test. If not, it may be best to refer out to determine the cause of the limitation because it probably is not muscular.

prone hip IR

Thomas Test

The Thomas test helps us narrow down tight musculature of the hip flexors. Since most of us sit a ton, the hip flexors often become short.

Lying on our backs we need our knees to be on the edge of a table, allowing the feet to dangle.

From here hug a knee into the chest and the opposite hamstring should be in contact with the table. If not a tight psoas could be in play.

Next take the leg and bring it slightly away from the midline of the body and see if the hamstring touches. If it does, then the first restriction was due to a tight TFL. This test puts slack on the TFL and if the restriction is gone then that was the culprit.

Last, straighten the leg out and see if the knee touches. If it does, then the restriction was caused by the rectus femoris, a quad muscle.

thomas test

T Spine

Seated Trunk Rotation

This is a screen that I picked up from Athletic Body in Balance by Gray Cook. In this we sit on the ground or in a chair with a dowel/PVC pipe across the back.

From here we rotate the torso without moving the lower body. Rotate to the left and the right. A good score for this is 60+ degrees of rotation but I believe a golfer needs to be closer to 90.

Now this number can be assisted by the help of the hips when standing, but the more the T Spine can move freely, the better the results.

seated trunk rotation

These tests can be helpful in identifying areas of need with the golf swing.

There are a ton of others areas that will need attention but the T Spine and Hips are two big ones that cannot be overlooked.

Coming soon I will talk about how to improve rotation through these two areas to help improve performance of the swing, and prevent injury in the low back.