How to Keep Your Head Behind the Ball in the Golf Swing at Impact

By Chuck Quinton, Master RST InstructorFULL BIO

Watch this video to see one simple drill that will help you keep your head behind the ball right now!

For golfers who miss shots frequently in both directions, one of the very first things I check is the position of their head throughout the golf swing. In doing so, I'm looking for something very specific that I see in about 75% of all amateur golfers.

STEP 1: MAKE SURE YOU'RE SETUP CORRECTLY BEHIND THE BALL


That is that their head is both too far in front of the ball at address and ends up even further ahead at impact. It is critical in any golf swing that your head stay behind the ball throughout the entire swing and especially at impact.

In the swing sequence below, you can see just how well Adrian Wadey demonstrates keeping his head behind the ball at impact. Hitting a 6 iron here, Adrian exhibits a perfect ball position at address with the left side of his head setup directly on the back of the ball.

At impact, his head stays well behind the ball and he is in a world class impact position.

keeping head behind ball at impact

Now, contrast that with an amateur's golf swing who exhibits the "flip" discussed in the video. Can you spot the differences?

head in front of ball at impact

The amateur golfer sets up with the ball too far back in his stance in relation to his head. In his effort to "stay centered" over the ball, he never gets behind the ball at the top of his backswing.

During the transition, his head naturally moves forward with the weight shift to the left side and his head gets further out in front of the ball by the time he arrives at impact. This forces him to release the club early just to make contact.

STEP 2: DON'T PUSH FROM THE RIGHT SIDE


This is where most golfers go severely off path with their golf swings and end up with their heads well out in front of the ball at impact. The feeling of pushing off the right leg aggressively or "pushing" from the right side of the torso are very powerful feelings that take work to overcome, but it is critical that you learn to not be overly dominant with the right side of the body.

Learning how to rotate correctly and stay centered in the golf swing starts right from the takeaway. If you want to keep your head behind the ball at impact, you need to learn how to use the correct muscles that keep you centered during the takeaway. Take a look at the picture of Tiger Woods backswing below and note how his head stays behind the ball throughout the backswing.

tiger woods head behind ball impact Note how Tiger's head stays centered due to the pulling motion created by the right side of torso and the rotary motion of the obliques during the backswing.

Tiger's head doesn't move an inch in the above swing sequence. Why do most golfers' heads move off the ball during the backswing? Because they push from the right side. If you don't understand this concept, check out the push vs. pull video here.

Now, as the downswing begins, you have to reverse the process to unwind while keeping your head behind the ball. The main reason golfers move their heads in front of the ball at impact is pushing from the right side. They do this in an effort to try and get too much power from the body because they don't have enough lag or don't know how to use lag properly for club head speed.

STEP 3: USE THE RIGHT ARM TO KEEP THE HEAD BEHIND THE BALL


It may seem strange to focus on the right arm while discussing keeping your head behind the ball, but it is the key. Take a look at Tiger keeping his head behind the golf ball at impact in the swing sequence below.

tiger woods head behind ball impactAt impact, Tiger Woods' head is still behind the golf ball.

Note how Tiger stays very centered. If you're pushing from the right leg or right side of the body, it will be nearly impossible for you to keep your head positioned behind the golf ball.

DOES THE HEAD EVER MOVE IN FRONT OF THE BALL?


One tiny detail that shouldn't be overlooked is the position of Tiger Woods' head in the frame on the left. You should note that it has in fact moved slightly in front of the line it was on at address. This is actually an important fundamental of the golf swing - your head DOES move in front of the ball, but then it moves back.

The head position should change and move forward during the weight shift phase of the golf swing. If it doesn't and you just move your hips forward, your head will fall away from that line and create a lot of secondary axis tilt. This tends to shift the horizontal swing plane to the right, and leads to big blocks and hooks.

You will note, however, that as Tiger begins to fire the right arm after he has shifted his weight the head moves back. I discuss this further in the video.

WHERE CLUB HEAD SPEED COMES FROM


You may not realize that 60% of the club head speed in the golf swing actually comes from the release of the right wrist. In fact, the golf club accelerates from around 25 mph to over 90 mph with a mid-iron in better golfers in only the last three feet of the golf swing. Clearly, your body is not speeding the club up that much in such a short span of time and so late in the downswing. In fact, most professional golfers' bodies are actually slowing down during this phase in the swing.

This isn't always the case with amateurs because they lack lag in the downswing. So, they must try and make up for the speed somewhere and the body and pushing from the dominant right side is usually the place they seek power. The professional knows he only needs to focus on swinging the right arm correctly and he won't have the need to overuse the body for power. He will be able to use his right arm and wrist which will allow him to stay behind the ball at impact.

tiger woods head behind ball impactAs you use lag in your golf swing to build club head speed, you can easily keep your head behind the ball like you see here.

If you want to know how to use lag in the golf swing to help you stay behind the golf ball, check out this article. Otherwise, click the link below to watch this video on how to keep your head behind the ball.

 

Checkpoints for Practice

  • "Keeping the head centered" is a visual - a feeling of turning around your spine
  • Your head does not literally stay fixed in one spot, but it should always stay behind the ball
  • Many amateur golfers set up with the ball far back in their stance, with the head over the ball instead of behind it
  • Ideally, the left ear should start out just behind the ball
  • It will move slightly farther behind the ball in the backswing, then return to the line in the downswing
  • The head may move back again through impact, only crossing the line when pulled through by momentum in the finish

Related RS1 Articles & Videos:

Video Transcription: Keeping Your Head Behind the Ball

Get Your FREE Membership Instantly!

  • 25 Videos to learn the Rotary Swing Tour Basics
  • Improve Faster with our slow motion swing analyzer
  • 60+ pro golfer analyses, including Tiger and Lefty

Other Golf Instruction Articles

Now it's time to watch the video...