You can get more than just laughs from the movie “Happy Gilmore.” Take the character Chubbs, for instance, who imparts the following words of wisdom: “It’s all in the hips, it’s all in the hips. … Just easin’ the tension, baby. Just easin’ the tension!”

Oh Chubbs, how right you are! It is always great to finish what you start, whatever it might be. Whether it is a homework assignment, the infamous honey-do list or, for the sake of this discussion, your golf swing. 

Before we actually get into the hips and, more importantly, their mobility, we need to mention their partner in crime — the core. Though they are spoken about separately, there is a tremendous exchange between the hips and the core. The body is made up of areas of mobility and stability. The mobility of the hip is predicated upon optimal functioning and the stability of the core. These core stabilizers include the abdominals (in front) and the multifidus, erector spinae (in the back), among others, as seen in the illustration below:

hip mobility side view

Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle wreaks havoc on this part of our body in the same way it does our shoulders. Prolonged sitting will cause weakness in the abdominals and glutes, and tightness in lumbar extensors and hip flexors (iliopsoas). This results in an imbalance in the core and hip musculature. It is this imbalance that can create an anterior pelvic tilt, reducing the space in the acetabulum (where the head of the femur meets with the pelvis) and limiting hip mobility. 

So, how does this affect your golf swing? Well, stand up for a moment. Too much sitting is bad for you anyway. Rotate your shoulders to the right (backswing for a right-handed golfer), and you will notice your lead hip externally rotates (Average 40 degrees in the golf swing), while the trail hip internally rotates (Average 30 degrees) (Rose 2012). On the downswing, the opposite will occur, with internal rotation on the lead hip and external rotation on the trail leg. On the downswing, the external rotation of the hips in the trail leg, though important, can be compensated for by getting off of your right side and “showing your spikes.” 

So far, the restriction in hip mobility could reduce the ability to get us into strong golf positions, but the internal rotation of the lead hip (approximately 40 degrees) tends to open us up to the greatest threat of injury and impairs the ability to finish our swing. During set-up of the golf swing, we tend to keep the back foot neutral, or perpendicular to the target line, whereas on the lead foot we will tend to “open the foot up” and externally rotate it. Not only does this help with the transfer of weight, but it also reduces the amount of internal hip rotation required. 

If you would not mind standing up again, try pointing both feet inward toward each other. Now try to rotate back and then through to the finish. You should clearly note the difficulty. All too often I notice the lead foot in a neutral position at the start of the swing, and by sheer force of the motion, the foot will rotate outward at the finish. 

Having proper hip mobility in the backswing and through to the finish is essential for creating speed and power. If you are having trouble getting to your finish in your golf swing, start with checking your set-up and be aware of how your posture can cause limitations in hip mobility. Heed the important advice from our fictional friend Chubbs: “It’s all in the hips.”

Marc Beeber
MPT, PGA
Intern, Spring 2017

Reference:

Admin. Lower Crossed Syndrome. Digital image. Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance – The Janda Approach. N.p., 26 Nov. 2011. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Rose, Greg, Dr. “Your Hips and Your Swing.” Blog post. Mytpi.com. N.p., 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Happy Gilmore. Dir. Dennis Dugan. Perf. Adam Sandler. 1996. DVD.