Shoulder Tilt: The Secret Power Move of the Pros

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Shoulder Tilt In Golf Swing

The right amount of shoulder tilt in your golf swing can make the difference between a slice and a straight shot. Or, a well struck shot in the center of the face vs. a thin or fat shot.

Everyone knows that shoulder rotation is needed in the golf swing. However, most people forget that shoulder tilt is also needed (aka turn and tilt). 

If you turn with flat shoulders, you’ll likely hit a massive slice that leaves you feeling hopeless off the tee. Or, hit irons that sail over the green and make scoring low nearly impossible. 

Keep reading to learn the importance of shoulder rotation and shoulder tilt to hit the ball more consistently. 

Shoulder Tilt in Golf 

The shoulders play a pivotal role in the golf swing. You need the right amount of tilt and rotation to hit solid golf shots and become a consistent ball striker.
Before getting into the tilt of your shoulders, let’s first start with the amount of rotation needed. So, how much should your shoulders turn in golf?

About 90 degrees, but great players can get nearly 110 degrees of rotation while the hips only rotate 45 degrees. That’s right, the hips only rotate about half as much as the shoulders. 

If you struggle with enough shoulder rotation, has the answer – reduce the flex in your trail knee. As mentioned in the article, the instructor said, “I’ve yet to meet a golfer who can’t turn their shoulders 90 degrees. Ever. By simply decreasing the flex in his trail knee on the way to the top, this high-handicapper tacked on 41 percent more shoulder turn to his swing.”

This is something I’ve struggled with myself. I used to have way too much knee flex, which hurt my shoulder rotation and ability to use the ground properly on the downswing. You want your knees slightly flexed in an athletic position, but don’t over do it. 

Shoulder Tilt Basics  

Getting the right shoulder rotation and lower body movement is the first checkpoint to consider in your golf swing. Now we can get into part two, which is all about how the shoulders tilt in the golf swing. 

Shoulder tilt is a position in golf as well as a movement that happens. Let’s first start with the setup position.

So many golfers wonder, Should my shoulders be flat? Does my back shoulder need to be below my front shoulder? 

These are good questions to ask. The shoulders should change based on the shot you’re hitting.

For example, when you’re hitting a shot from the fairway, such as an iron or wedge, you want shoulders pretty level. Meaning, one shoulder isn’t way above the other if you looked at the swing from a face on angle. This is because you want to hit with a downward angle of attack to create a thin divot and compress the golf ball.

However, you do want shoulder tilt at the address position when hitting the driver

Since you don’t hit down on a driver – otherwise you’ll hit that nasty pop up shot – your back shoulder needs to be lower than your lead shoulder slightly. This will help you make the proper swing arc and release the club properly at impact. 

This Golf Digest article sums up how the right driver shoulder tilt can lead to more distance. “A lot of amateurs tend to move the ball too far forward in their stance when they hit driver. Instead, Breed says, put the focus on your shoulders. 

Tilt your shoulders to a slightly upward angle, so that the lead shoulder is slightly higher than the trail. Even this slight change will help you hit up on the ball and increase your launch angle.” 

Spine Angle and Shoulder Tilt Relationship 

As mentioned above, the shoulders rotate about 90 degrees to make a full backswing. But it’s important to rotate with your spine angle and not level out your shoulders mid-swing. 

The average PGA Tour player has their shoulders at a 28-degree tilt when the club is parallel to the ground. From the parallel position to the top of the swing, tilt increases to 36 degrees. In fact, instructors have said that it’s hard to overdo this motion, as some can get to 45 degrees. 

Eric Cogorno – a low handicap golfer and popular YouTube instructor – discusses how pros tilt their shoulders properly in the below video.

Here’s how the shoulders should move throughout the swing for an average approach shot (assuming you’re a right-handed golfer):

  • The left shoulder has two noticeable motions to start the takeaway – it goes down and actually away from the target. 
  • This makes the right shoulder do the opposite motion and works up and towards the target for a slight amount of extension. 
  • When pros and elite ball strikers make this motion, it allows them to maintain spine angle throughout the swing. Which helps them “keep their head in the circle” and not move it during the backswing. Amateur golfers tend to change their spine angle, which changes the bottom point of the swing and leads to a lot of thin or fat shots. 
  • On the downswing, the left shoulder moves down and forward until the left arm is parallel. 
  • Finally, at impact, the left shoulder moves up and away from the target when hitting irons. With a driver, the left shoulder won’t dip as much as the ball is teed up. 

Shoulders tilted level is a good swing thought to help you play better golf.

2 Simple Ways to Improve Shoulder Tilt

With any golf drill, repetition is the biggest factor.

When you’re trying to make swing or grip changes, even the best golfers want instant results. While I understand the need to want to fix things asap, it’s important to remember that more reps equal faster results.

You can’t expect to change something in your grip, setup, or swing with instant success. Oftentimes it takes hitting a lot of golf balls to make these changes feel normal and automatic as you swing. Don’t avoid the work to get the results you want in your golf game. 

Mirror Check Drill 

At home, find a full length mirror to understand how your shoulder position in the golf swing. Use the mirror to check your shoulder tilt at various stages of the swing. 

Start with the setup position and note if your shoulders are flat or there is some tilt. Cross your hands over your chest, make a golf swing, and check your shoulders throughout the swing. 

You want to feel and see:

  • Left shoulder going down to the ground while the right moves up and toward the target. If you’re recording your swing on the range, you should see the buttons on your shirt moving toward the camera.
  • On the downswing, the left shoulder goes down and toward the target. While the right shoulder does the opposite.
  • After impact, the left shoulder moves up and away from the target to an up and out position.  

If you have enough room, you can also practice with a golf club or swing trainer like the LagShot training aid. Practice one-armed swings with a focus on maintaining proper shoulder tilt. When you isolate one arm, it’s easier to hone in on the movement of your shoulders and develop muscle memory for the correct tilt.

This visual feedback can help you make real-time adjustments and develop a better understanding of the correct positions.

Try Out the Swing Align Training Aid 

There are a ton of training aids to help with different aspects of your swing, but I’m a big fan of the Swing Align. This easy to use device helps you understand the role of the shoulders and works for men, women, and junior golfers. The creators worked with Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and Henrik Stenson to develop this aid and help you get real results.

The Swing Align helps align your shoulders and forearms for every shot. It has two loops to go just above your elbows and an alignment stick that runs through them. It will also help you fully rotate your shoulders on the backswing and keep your arms connected throughout the swing. 

No more chicken wing or flying right elbow, instead you’ll have a smooth, connected swing to make the most of each practice session. Other benefits of this training aid include: 

  • Easy to use.
  • Improve alignment on every swing. 
  • See and feel a proper takeaway with the proper rotation. 
  • You can hit shots with it or use it at home to groove the right feeling. 

Click here to learn more about Swing Align now.

Top Questions

If you want to learn more about the importance of shoulder tilt in the golf swing, keep reading the top questions and answers below. 

Do you want shoulder tilt in the golf swing?

Yes, you want some shoulder tilt at address and then you need plenty of tilt in the swing. Otherwise, you’ll swing with flat shoulders, lose your spine angle, and hit a lot of fat or thin shots… not to mention some nasty slices as well. 

Related: Fade vs. Draw

How much should your shoulders turn in golf?

The shoulders should turn twice as much as your hips and lower body. 

Shoulders rotate at 90 or more degrees, while they also have tilt to match the spine. This helps keep your head in the relatively same position throughout the swing, which leads to better contact.

Unfortunately, a lot of amateur golfers rotate too flat, which leads to the head dipping and moving away from the target. This makes it easy to come out of a shot, lose balance, and miss the sweet spot. 

Can you have too much shoulder turn in golf?

Most golfers won’t have this issue, as the majority of players suffer from not enough shoulder rotation due to lack of flexibility. This is why it’s important to do different stretching and flexibility exercises in the gym for your upper and lower body. If your body is loose and tension free, it’s much easier to make a full backswing and hit every shot longer. 

Does your shoulder tilt change with different clubs in golf?

Yes, your shoulder tilt will change based on the club you’re hitting and the specific shot. 

For example, you want more tilt with a driver as you’re hitting it from a tee. Since you need to hit up on the golf ball, it’s important to start with your right shoulder lower than your left.

This will help you swing up and through the shot to hit at a positive angle of attack. You’ll want more of a downward strike with every other club in the bag, especially irons and wedges. 

The lie itself will also dictate how much shoulder tilt. 

Another example is a downhill lie, where you’ll actually want your left shoulder lower than your right. It’s important to always match your shoulder angle with the slope of the shot (uphill or downhill) so that you swing with the slope. Remember this tip for greenside bunkers as well. 

Wrapping Up

Mastering the right amount of shoulder tilt in your golf swing requires patience, practice, and attention to detail. But when you understand the significance and pay attention to it during practice, it can make a big difference.

Just remember, the spine and shoulders need to work together. You can’t simply rotate your shoulders around your body, as you’ll lose your spine angle and all the power that is generated from rotation. 

Your left shoulder moves down and away to begin your backswing while the right shoulder is doing the opposite. On the downswing, your lead shoulder will then move toward the target until you hit the golf ball.

Set up with the right tilt and focus on this move during the swing to hit it longer and straighter than ever. To learn a different swing method, check out the Stack and Tilt System.

Have you ever recorded your swing to evaluate your shoulder tilt?

Let us know in the comments below. 

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Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

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