Golf Shaft Lean – What Is It and How to Use It

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Let’s be honest – there are a lot of details to keep track of in the golf swing.  One of the things that is challenging about this great game is clearing your mind of clutter and focusing in on only the elements of the swing which are important for your performance.

If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself thinking about your grip, stance, swing plane, swing path, club face angle, wrist set, shoulder turn, hip rotation, and more – all during the same swing!  Needless to say, overloading your mind with mechanical thoughts is not going to be an effective way to play golf.

So, knowing that there are already a lot of points to keep in mind while you play, why would we add another to the list?  Well, we need to touch on this point because of the importance of shaft lean.

For many amateur golfers, golf shaft lean is not something that they have thought about previously.  However, this element of your game is quite important, and it plays a role in your performance from the full swing on down into your chipping and putting.  Understanding what shaft lean is, and what is says about your game, is essential to performing at a high level.

What is Shaft Lean?

Before going any further, we need to clearly define shaft lean.

When you hear this term used in golf circles, it is referring to the angle of the club shaft at impact.  If the shaft of the club is leaning toward the target when the ball is struck, your swing is said to have forward shaft lean.  Of course, the opposite is true as well, meaning you will have reverse (or backward) shaft lean when the club is leaning away from the target at impact.

As the swing happens extremely quickly through the hitting area, using video may be the only way to accurately assess the shaft lean in your game.

Generally speaking, you want to have the shaft leaning toward the target slightly at impact when making a full swing.  This is especially true with your irons, where you need to be hitting down through the ball in order to achieve solid contact and impart plenty of backspin.

Placing your hands in front of the ball at impact – the only way to achieve forward shaft lean – will give you a great chance to make a solid strike.

There is some debate as to whether or not you want forward shaft lean with your driver, but you certainly don’t want to have reverse shaft lean at impact.  If anything, you may want to have the shaft in a vertical position with the driver at the moment of impact.

Avoiding the Dreaded ‘Flip’

One of the best reasons to monitor your shaft lean is to make sure you are avoiding the dreaded ‘flip’ of the club in the downswing.

Good players are able to hold their lag well into the downswing, creating a nice shaft lean angle at impact.  Less-capable golfers, on the other hand, tend to allow the club head to pass the hands at some point on the way down.  This creates backward shaft lean, and it robs you of any power that you may have had in your swing.

Players who flip the club in the downswing not only fail to generate any notable power, but they also tend to fight a slice.  If your shots are often weak and out to the right (for a right-handed golfer), it will be necessary to work on improving your shaft lean.

Playing Great Wedge Shots

Forward shaft lean may be more important in the wedge game than anywhere else on the course.  When hitting wedge shots, you need to be sure to have plenty of forward shaft lean to achieve the sharply downward impact necessary to spin the ball at a high rate.  You want to put plenty of backspin on your wedge shots in order to control the ball once it lands on the green – and leaning your shaft toward the target is the best option for ramping up the spin.

Even if you are unable to record your swing on video, simply watching the divots that you take out of the ground should be enough to tell you about your performance with regard to shaft lean.

Are you taking long divots after making contact with the ball, or does your wedge barely hit the ground?  Big, long divots are usually a good sign in the wedge game, so use the damage you do to the turf as evidence of positive shaft lean.

Shaft Lean and the Short Game

You should never work on something in your full swing without stopping to think about how it might affect your short game as well.  In this case, shaft lean is something that does play into the short game, both when chipping and when putting.

With regard to chipping, you want to set your hands in front of the ball to create forward shaft lean before even starting your swing.  Unless you are trying to loft the ball high into the air – in which case you would actually want reverse shaft lean – you should set up with forward shaft lean to hit down on your chip shots aggressively.

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Stepping onto the green, you are still going to want to have your hands in front of the ball, but just barely.  For most people, the ideal setup when putting is going to see just a tiny amount of forward shaft lean.  Set up with your hands slightly in front of the ball and then maintain that same shaft angle throughout the entire putting stroke.

Yes, shaft lean is yet another small detail that you need to consider when putting together your game.  However, it doesn’t need to dominate your thoughts out on the course.

Take some time to review and work on this point in practice, and then forget all about it when you step to the first tee. Now get out there, have fun, and play well!

Cover Photo via Flickr

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