Best golf swing tip? Release your hip flexors

Whether you’re a professional golfer or someone who loves to get out on the course to play with friends, we’re all looking to improve our golf swing mechanics so we can play well and have fun.

Nothing is more frustrating than shanking your drive from the tee box or lipping out an easy birdie putt — well, perhaps with the exception of experiencing pain in your lower back, hips, or knees after each and every swing. That’s no fun either!

As experts on the hip and the hip flexor muscle group, the best golf swing tip that we can share with you for increased performance and less pain is to release your hip flexor muscles (more specifically, the iliopsoas).

After all, the hips are one of the most important joints in the body as it relates to a golf swing!

The most efficient biomechanics of a golf swing requires the upper and lower halves of the body to be working together and be without restriction. Interestingly enough, the anatomy of the iliopsoas makes it the only muscle in the entire body that connects to both the upper body and lower body.

The iliopsoas muscles (made up of both the iliacus and the psoas) are situated very deep within the core of your body, where they are responsible for supporting the lumbar spine, pelvis, and hip joints in the proper position and in their ideal alignment in everything that you do...including your golf swing!

Perhaps the biggest role of the iliopsoas during a golf swing is its influence on the rotational movements that must occur in your body throughout the entirety of the motion. Lack of hip flexibility in golf due to tight hip flexors limits your ability to create rotational force, and this poor hip rotation reduces power generated from your golf swing.

Additionally, tight hips cause compensations to occur in your golf swing, which can lead to inconsistency with the timing and accuracy of your ball striking ability. If you are noticing any of the following during your golf swing, it may be a sign that you have tight hips!

  • Improper weight shift to the front foot during your backswing (called a reverse pivot)
  • Moving the pelvis towards the ball too early (called early extension)
  • Excessive foot movement to get into more range of motion
  • Having an abbreviated (or shortened) swing path, on the backswing and follow-through
  • Feeling like you are swinging too much with the upper body

Sorry Chuck, there’s a lot more wrong with your swing here than just tight hip flexors. We’re afraid that we can’t help you out with that piece of the puzzle.

Tight hip flexors and golf injuries

Golf injuries are much more common than you may think for a non-contact and low-impact sport. As we’ve already discussed, a golf swing requires the use of many different muscles and joints working together.

When there is something that throws off the proper mechanics in the kinetic chain (such as tight hip flexors causing immobile hips), compensations begin to occur within the body that can later develop into pain, tightness, and injury over time.

As it relates to golf injuries caused by tight hip flexors, common areas of the body that are likely to be impacted are the hips, lower back, and knees.

Hip injuries in golf caused by tight hip flexors

The hip is designed to be a very mobile joint in the human body. It is especially important, as we’ve already discussed above, in the rotational capabilities and forces generated throughout an efficient and powerful golf swing.

When the iliopsoas is tight, the alignment of the hip joint relative to the pelvis is affected. This impacts how well the head of the femur fits into the acetabulum, restricting the free movement of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip.

If left unaddressed over time, this can cause gradual wear and tear of the structures and soft tissues in the hip joint and lead to pain and injuries. Common golf hip injuries may include (but are not limited to) hip impingement, hip labrum tears, hip bursitis, hip arthritis, and more.

Lower back injuries in golf caused by tight hip flexors

Unlike the hip joint, the lower back (or lumbar spine) is designed to be stable. That means there should be relatively little motion occurring in these joints during a golf swing. However, when the hips are not mobile enough to move within their full range of motion, the most common area that the body looks to make up for this movement is the lower back.

As more and more motion comes from the lumbar spine, the core muscles will have more difficulty controlling the rotational forces that the golf swing has on the body, which leads to more stress being placed on the joints and discs of the lumbar spine. Common golf back injuries may include (but are not limited to) muscle strains, disc injuries, arthritis, and more.

Knee injuries in golf caused by tight hip flexors

Just like the joints in the lower back, the knee joint is designed to be stable. When a lack of hip mobility causes poor hip turn in a golf swing, the body may compensate by twisting more from the knee joint.

Similarly, this creates more torque within the knee joint than it is designed to handle and causes strain in the area. Common golf knee injuries may include (but are not limited to) tendonitis, arthritis, or other soft tissue injuries to the meniscus or other ligaments (like the ACL, MCL, PCL, or LCL), or more.

Hip mobility for golfers

Hip flexor tightness in golfers (and all people for that matter) is very common and is likely caused in part by the excessive amount of sitting we do, the overuse of these muscles in our various activities, among other reasons.

As a golfer, maybe you’ve already been told that you have tight hips and need to work on improving your hip mobility. If so, there’s a good chance that you’ve done various hip flexor stretches before and may have felt a bit better afterwards, but then the pain and tightness comes back.

Why is that? What are the missing pieces to getting an effective hip flexor stretch?

When a muscle is holding tension (such as with a muscle knot in the hip flexors), that tension will continue to remain in the muscle even after you’ve stretched it. The temporary feeling of relief comes from the increase in blood flow going through the stretched muscle, but does nothing to actually address the muscle knot to effectively release the muscle tension. 

Hip flexor muscle release for golfers

To most effectively release the tension being held in a muscle (like the iliopsoas), it takes the application of prolonged pressure (of at least 30 to 90 seconds) directly to the sensitive areas along the length of the muscle.

Due to its location deeper within the core of the body, the psoas and iliacus muscles can be a bit challenging to get to on your own. Releasing these muscles may require an in-person visit to a practitioner or using a specialized iliopsoas release tool such as the Hip Hook (designed by a physical therapist).

The Hip Hook’s unique design presses into the psoas muscle when you first lay over the tool. By reaching back and using the handle, the tool begins to rotate and the tip now presses more directly into the iliacus muscle. The Hip Hook can be much more effective at releasing tension in the iliopsoas than other tools or massage therapy balls, which typically only address the psoas muscle (and not the iliacus).

Frequently asked questions on tight hip flexors and your golf swing

Why do I get lower back pain from my golf swing?

Lower back pain for golfers typically develops as a result of poor hip mobility, which causes too much motion in the golf swing to come from the lower back. This places extra strain on the muscles, joints, and discs in the lower back and can lead to pain or injury over time.

Is golf bad for your back?

While back injuries are common in golf, the cause of injury is typically due to a lack of range of motion and mobility in one area of the body (primarily the hips, but maybe also the thoracic spine) that causes compensation to happen at the lower back to complete each and every golf swing.

Therefore, golfing with muscular tension in specific areas may be bad for your back and increase your risk of injury. By addressing tightness and mobility restrictions in these areas, pressure is taken off of the lower back and you may reduce your risk of injury.

How can I improve my hip rotation in golf?

To improve your hip rotation and generate more power with your golf swing, you must first address tension in the muscles around your hips, such as the iliopsoas. This hip flexor muscle, made up of the psoas and iliacus muscles, lies deeper within the core of the body which makes it a tougher muscle to access to release the tightness. Getting these two muscles worked on by a manual therapist or doing it yourself by using a hip flexor muscle release tool like the Hip Hook can be great options to help reduce tension in these muscles to help improve your hip rotation in your golf swing.