This article was co-authored with Chris Gibson, an Australian AAA-rated golf professional. His teaching philosophy centers on simplicity and longevity in the game, providing help for golfers at all levels. He focuses on interpreting information from technology and applying it in the simplest way possible to help his students.
The shoulder blade (scapula) is a strange bone, quite unlike any other in the body. It seems to float in a sea of 17 different muscles that attach to it without possessing any tangibly useful function. Not many people know why it’s there or really what to do with it.
Despite its odd appearance and awkward location, the scapula actually has a really important job to do, that of attaching the upper arm to the rest of the body. The muscles that run from the scapula to the upper arm essentially control movement at the shoulder, so the scapula has a pretty crucial role as far as most sporting actions are concerned, especially golf.
We (Chris and I) like to think of the relationship between the scapula and the clubface from a top-down, chain reaction perspective:
SCAPULA – GLENO HUMERAL JOINT (SHOULDER) – UPPER ARM – ELBOW – FOREARM – WRIST – GRIP/SHAFT – CLUBFACE
If you change something at the scapula, then this will have a chain reaction down the line. For instance, in the photo below, Chris is downwardly rotating his right scapula, which internally rotates the shoulder. That pronates the elbow and wrist and shuts the clubface. He demonstrates what this often looks like at address and also what commonly happens as a result in a golfer’s first move, especially with better players.
Common First Move
A re-routing of the club needs to happen at some point during the swing to produce workable conditions from here — think Ryan Moore as an extreme example. This will usually result in a club being delivered from the inside (see the data on the left in the image below).
Yes, it’s possible to manipulate any of the segments down the chain from the the scapula (and/or other parts of the body) in order to produce a different result at the clubface, but if we are chasing consistency of action and repeatability of strike, plus avoidance of injury, we believe that the less manipulation that occurs the better. We would prefer to see something more like the data on the right in the image below (apologies for the poor quality).
Common Questions, Queries, Arguments
- What does clubface positioning have to do with anything??
It will come as no surprise that the position of the clubface at impact will have a very big influence on where your golf ball goes. In fact, the revised ball flight laws state that with the driver — provided there is no interference from off center strikes (a.k.a gear effect) — 75 percent of starting direction is dictated by clubface.
- So what if my clubface isn’t perfect position. Can’t I just rely on skill and timing to square the clubface up at impact?
Some people do a great job of manipulating their body through impact to recover from less than ideal clubface control, but they tend to be the really talented ones. The majority of the population simply doesn’t have the skill/timing to do this repeatedly or they don’t practice nearly enough to make it habitual. An analogy I like is that of the highly talented race car driver being able to handle a car going into a 100 mph chicane from the wrong position. They will keep it on the track 9 out of 10 times. Most of us mere mortals could really benefit from being on the correct racing line, otherwise, we are going straight into the tires 9 out of 10 times!
The basic premise is this: control your shoulder blades better and you will find it much easier to control your shoulder, arm, wrist, shaft and ultimately your clubface, which will help you produce more consistent and repeatable shots.
In Part 2 of this article (coming soon), Chris and I will show you how you can develop better stability and control of your shoulder blades.