When Independence is not a Good Thing

by Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

TJ Tomasi

There are two important facts about the shoulders in the golf swing:

(1) It’s obvious that the shoulders are connected to the arms, but what is not so obvious is that the arms naturally swing along the shoulder line.

(2) The shoulders do not turn around the spine; they turn with the spine.

And I’ll throw in (3) as a bonus: the shoulders don’t dip and rise during the swing on their own – it happens because the shoulders swing on the spine incline – the more your spine is inclined, the greater the teeter-totter effect appears.

Rotator vs. Deltoid 

The deltoid, the muscle on the top of your shoulder, gets a lot of work in everyday life, as well as in exercises such as weightlifting, where the arms’ elbows abduct away from the body; unless care is taken, overdeveloping the deltoid causes it to override the rotator cuff.

In the correct golf swing, your delts are quiet, while the rotator cuffs do their thing.

When your delts run the show, the club is torn off its swing arc.

Dr. Frank Jobe’s research, published in his book “30 Exercises for Better Golf,” shows that in the good golf swing, the deltoids should be quiet.

“Our research showed that if you swing correctly, the deltoids contribute relatively little output on either side, while the rotator cuff does considerable work.

In all the expert golfers we studied, the deltoid was virtually inactive throughout the swing.”

To ensure that the correct muscles are used in your golf swing, Job says, “the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder need to be stretched and strengthened separately, with special exercises that are different from those done for the rest of the arm.”

I’d also recommend doing spinal rotator exercises.

The shoulders do not rotate around the spine; they rotate with it, because they are attached to it.

Because the shoulders are rotating with the spine, they simply reverse on the arc from the top through impact.

Just as your car stays on the road when you drive it, the clubhead stays on the swing arc with a two-shoulder turn – swing after swing.

Use the shoulders separately, and your game ends up in the ditch.


There is a wrong way and a right way to get your club in position at the top of your swing.

The wrong way is to just lift your arms with minimal spine rotation, a mistake that results in a major loss of distance and accuracy.

The correct move is to turn your back to the target so your shoulders/spine rotate against your hips.

To be sure your shoulders turn properly, you’ll need to keep them moving at a 90 degree angle to your spine.

Stand in front of a mirror, and you’ll notice your shoulders form a T with your spine when they are level to the ground.

The idea is to keep your shoulders perpendicular to your spine as the T-spine tilts.

If you enjoyed this golf tip, here’s how you can get even more.

Contact Keiser University College of Golf about the first steps to a career in golf.