Proper Posture

Proper PostureBy Jim Irvin, Director of Instruction Belfair Country Club

Editor's Note: The following is the first in a continuing series of bi-weekly instruction articles and is collaboration between Mr. Irvin and Golfer's Guide's Online Editor, Brandon Underwood.

Proper posture is an essential element if you are to have success becoming a consistent ball striker. Many swing problems are just a result of poor posture. Yet, most golfers will pick on their golf swing when things go awry versus assessing their posture at address and how it contributes to their position at impact.

The reason posture is such an important fundamental element is that it sets you up for success. The simple reality is that your arms need room to swing freely with no interference from the torso. We need to ensure good balance throughout the arc the club is making during the swing and we need to simulate a shallow/sweeping type motion with our club through the strike. Deviations from good posture will require adaptations or manipulations to achieve success which could help explain the word "inconsistency" that we often hear as golf instructors.

When I discuss posture with students, I explain there is a bend, an unlock and a tilt. In the order they occur, with the feet slightly wider than the shoulders (this creates the base from which you will swing on) and from an upright posture, bend from the hip sockets forward (this clears the arms from the torso).

How to set your feet

Photo: As a reference, let your arms hang freely from your sides and point your index fingers straight down. Spread your feet to match the position of the index fingers and this will give you a base that is actually shoulder width apart.

Begin at an upright positionBend forward from the hips









Photo: Always begin your address of the ball from an upright posture as pictured above. Then from that upright position, bend forward from the hips but keep your knees locked or straight.

Next, unlock the knees for balance. Notice, I did not use the word "bend", as the interpretation of bend can cause too much flexion which affects your spine angle and balance.

Unlock the knees

Photo: Notice how the posture is kept in tack but now the knees are slightly "flexed" or unlocked. A common mistake is to bend too much, creating a squatting set-up closer to how a baseball catcher would position himself.

Lastly, because your hands connect to the club at different levels (for right-handed golfers your right hand is attached to the club lower than the left hand), the spine should be tilted away from the target.

Right shoulder and right hip are lower than the left

Photo: Notice how the right shoulder and right hip are lower than their left counterparts. Especially on our drives, this setup will allow us to meet the ball on an upswing rather than swinging down or "topping" the ball.

To confirm these facts, pull out one of your latest golf magazines or watch the next tour event and reference any one of the top players at address and impact. You will see these effects play themselves out with all of the examples.

I often hear folks that are very well intentioned offering advice such as bend the knees, level the shoulders, etc...We have to be very careful in how we communicate to our body as it will take you literally! If you say "bend the knees" to yourself, you'll typically overdo it and cause serious problems with the weight distribution in the feet as well as creating problems with the spine angle. Leveling the shoulders at address will make you very steep in the back and down swing, causing all sorts of contact and directional problems.

Remember that practice makes PERMANENT not perfect! Look for our next article which will cover "Ball Positions."

All the Best,

Jim Irvin, PGA

Director of Instruction
Belfair GC
Hilton Head, SC

2000 & 2005 PGA "Teacher of the Year"

Editor's Analysis

It's important to remember that our golf swing should be considered one fluid motion and not a series of positions. If we can put all of the fundamentals (grip, aim and posture) into place before we ever set our swing in motion, it will allow us to closely mirror our desired position at impact during our initial address of the golf ball.

"The more we can duplicate impact at address, the easier the process will be," said Irvin.

The proper posture gives our arms, wrists and hands room to operate and after all, those three body parts most closely connect us to the golf club and have the greatest impact on our success. Something else to think about is how our spine and the plane we're swinging the golf club on is almost perpendicular. So allow those arms to swing freely and get them away from your body.

What if you'd like to achieve this posture but your age, health or shape won't allow you to do so. Well, while those factors can be limiting it's still possible to achieve a workable posture. It all comes back to the core of arms, wrists and hands. It's all about range of motion and balance, so if you feel constrained during your swing go back and follow these guidelines closer.

As we've watched golfers such as Tiger Woods, Camillo Villegas and even Phil Mickelson finely tune their bodies, it's important to note what effect strength and flexibility can have on your posture and your overall swing. Spend time on the range but also give yourself a chance to maintain your posture throughout your swing by strengthening your thighs, glutes and lower back.

About Jim Irvin

Mr. Irvin is in his first year as Director of Instruction at Belfair Country Club. He has been a PGA member since 1993 and studied under renowned instructor Jim Flick for a number of years. Flick coached notables such as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Lehman. Irvin was named "Teacher of the Year" for the Southern Ohio Section of the PGA in 2000 and 2005. He has been a participant on the NIKE and Tours. Irvin is a 4-time winner of the Northern Ohio PGA Match Play tournament ('89, '91-'93) and has won 15 PGA Section events. At Ohio Wesleyan University, he was a two-time All-American and was named NCAC Conference Player of the Year in 1987. He was also selected to the conference's All-Decade Team (1984-1993).

If you're interested in receiving a lesson or instruction from Mr. Irvin, he may be reached by telephone at (843) 757-0726 or by e-mail at

About Belfair Country Club

Along with the magnificent half-mile oak-lined drive, Belfair is home to both prehistoric and historic sites, dramatic marsh and river views, secluded wetlands and Hidden Lake, a 42-acre freshwater chain of lakes. Approximately 1100 acres in size, Belfair is located on the mainland in Bluffton, SC five (5) miles from Hilton Head Island, SC on Highway 278. Its waterfront side faces the marshes of the Colleton River. Belfair is 25 miles north of Savannah, GA, 32 miles south of Beaufort, SC, and 110 miles south of Charleston, SC.


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