Beginning golfers discover very quickly that they must have some "tilt" in their spines during the golf swing or they will completely miss the ball. Arnold Palmer, known as the King of Golf, had a lot of spine tilt, but Tiger Woods stands fairly tall with a minimal amount of spine tilt. The proper amount of spine tilt is the amount that allows you to hit solid, crisp golf shots with minimal divots.
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Find the Proper Tilt
To find the proper tilt for your body build, assume your grip, extend your arms and point the club handle at your belt buckle. While looking at your feet, allow your knees to flex until they cover your view of your shoe laces. Keep your spine straight and tilt downward until the club rests lightly on the ground. This procedure works with all of your clubs, but note that shorter clubs require more tilt than longer clubs.
Two Types of Spine Tilt
There are two types of spine tilt, and you need to be aware of both. The first type of spine tilt is toward the target line. This tilt determines the height of the club head at impact, and allows you to create a level, shallow divot. The second type is the tilt of the spine away from the target. To create this tilt, lean your spine away from the target until your tailbone points to the instep of your target-side foot.
Functions of Spine Tilts
You can modify both types of spine tilt for different conditions. If the ground slopes away from you, an increased amount of tilt will allow you to reach the ball. If the ball is above your feet, a reduced amount of tilt will keep you from hitting behind the ball. Increasing your tilt away from the target produces a higher trajectory for downwind shots and decreasing that tilt helps you hit it low into the wind.
Warnings About Flexibility
To play your best golf, you need to maintain the spine angle you created at address until the club has passed beyond impact with the ball. How long you hold your spine tilt depends on your flexibility level. To prevent injury, your finish position should reflect that flexibility -- or lack thereof. Young, flexible players finish with their spines still tilted in their address positions, while older players finish standing up with minimal strain on the back.
Misconceptions and Spine Tilt
Golfers are often criticized for "looking up," when the actual problem is a raising of the spine tilt during the swing. As the spine raises, so does the head and it gives the appearance of looking up. Ask a friend if your head is bobbing up and down during your swing. If it is, you know that you are losing your spine tilt. If your head stays level, it's a sure sign that you have maintained your tilt during your swing and your chances for a solid shot are good.