To Tilt or Not to Tilt?
By Erika Larkin on 3/27/14
"Spine tilt" is the angle of our spine right and left; so, if you are standing straight and your spine is perpendicular to the ground you would have zero degrees of spine tilt — regardless of being bent over in a golf posture (called "spine angle").

In my experience, golfers have never thought about spine tilt, or don't know if (or how much) they have in their setup. And if they are aware of it, sometimes they are tilted when they shouldn't be, or more/less than they intend.

So, to tilt or not to tilt? That is the question!

The answer: It depends on which club you are hitting and what you are trying to do. It is important to understand the effects of different spine tilt — and then you can decide what will work for you.
  • By adding tilt to the right (for a right-handed golfer), you are tilting your spine away from the target and putting yourself in a position to hit up on the ball. This would be good for hitting driver off a tee or shots off an uphill lie, or if you wanted to add loft on a shot.

    But, if you overdo this position, you risk hanging back in your swing, missing to the right, or hitting fat or thin shots unintentionally. 5-10° of tilt (from vertical) in most cases is usually enough.

  • No spine tilt would mean your shoulders are almost perfectly level to the ground. We grip the club with our right hand lower than the left, so this in turn will pull the right shoulder down slightly, and that is normal. A neutral spine is good for hitting full-swing irons and hybrids off relatively flat lies. It allows us to hit down on the ball with ideal an angle of attack to make flush contact and make that perfect divot in front of the ball.

  • Negative spine tilt (toward the target) would really set you up to hit down on the ball. Shoulders may appear to be truly level at setup or even angled down to the left. This would be helpful on a downhill lie or for short chip shots around the green, or hitting out of a divot / extreme punch shots.

The overall idea I want you to consider is that our setup greatly influences our impact positions. It is not foolproof, but it is a good start — and much better than fighting a poor setup or having to compensate for the wrong spine tilt before you even begin the swing!

Have a friend take a picture of you in your setup position and check your angles so you can start the season off with good intention.

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine — and she is oobgolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics — including instruction — so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, e-mail her at Enjoy!

[ comments ]
GolfSmith7 says:
Can you also talk about spine angle in a future post?
GBogey says:
That was very informative for something I really didn't understand before. Thanks.
Torleif Sorenson says:
GolfSmith7, you're going to get your wish. Erika will address spine angle in her next column.
GolfSmith7 says:
Awesome. I've been experimenting with different angles. I'll be looking forward to what she has to say.
joe jones says:
Wonderful explanation. Perhaps she could expand the discussion to show what effect tilt has on high cut shots, knockdown shots and punch shots.
Nojdemo2 says:
Now I'm confused. Isn't the correct spine angle crucial to getting the correct pivot and therefore avoiding nasty out-to-in swing planes? For example, doesn't angling the spine too far to the left result in the dreaded 'reverse pivot'?
accarson3 says:
The "no spine tilt" explanation will definitely help with my iron and hybrid/wood shots. Plus these tips could be useful in pinball too!
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