An unbalanced finish betrays an unbalanced swing.

No endeavour will succeed unless you follow through – the golf swing isn’t finished until it’s finished

Noticed how the pros hold their finish on most of their shots, but occasionally they don’t and when that happens, it’s usually on a poor shot? Well, it’s not that they like to watch a good shot all the way, but quickly want to dismiss a bad one. It’s likely to be that on the bad shot they were not completely balanced and holding their finish proved too difficult.

Athletic BalanceWhether on the driving range or out on the course, every golfer should swing through into a full finish and, if possible hold it until the ball has landed. How well you finish a shot is a reflection of how good a shot it was and you can learn a lot about a shot from your follow through (e.g. if you start toppling backward, there’s every chance that you muscled the club through with your arms and shoulders rather than initiating the downswing with your lower body).

As we know, in a good golf shot you don’t try to hit the ball, you just make a good golf swing and the ball is ‘collected’ along the way, but sadly for many higher handicap golfers the prime objective is exactly that. All too often, they swing as if little else matters once they have hit the ball and so give minimal attention to their follow through. However, in reality, the follow through is a crucial factor in driving the ball to the target. Your hands, arms, shoulders hips and legs need to come through the shot together or you won’t consistently hit the ball as best you can. There is a lot of talk about the clubhead moving on an arc and squaring up through impact, but not a lot is written about the fact that it should be square to the body pretty much throughout the shot, which means continuing to turn your hips and shoulders through with the clubhead.

[29] Rory McIlroyWhereas the larger muscles in the legs and trunk have concentrically driven the downswing, post impact they must work eccentrically in the follow-through to decelerate the arms and clubhead and slow down the body’s rotation. This phase is very taxing, because the effective weight of the average club when swung >100 mph is roughly equivalent to that of a bag of cement! The golfer’s entire core works to decelerate the body. The latissimus dorsi and the muscles that stabilize the shoulder blade to the spine and rib cage (serratus anterior, rhomboids, levator scapulae) as well as the rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis) help to prevent the shoulder joint from approaching its end range of motion at high speed.

There are two very distinct phases in the follow through. In the early follow through, immediately after impact, the trail arm is fully extended as the trail side continues to fire through, so the pectoralis major muscles stay very active, continuing their action of the acceleration phase. Also active at this point are the trail side trunk external rotators and lead side internal rotators, with similar paired activity occurring in the shoulder, where the trail subscapularis and lead infraspinatus are firing to power a “rolling” of the forearms (external rotation of the lead arm and internal rotation of the trail arm) with the rotator cuff muscles controlling this movement.

Leg ActoionThe lead leg has now posted up and the knee, along with the lead hip, is extended, but not locked. This requires good strength in the quads and glutes. As the shearing forces exerted by the rotational movement impact on the lead ankle and knee, significant strength is needed in the biceps femoris, vastus lateralis and peroneus longus to maintain stability. Also, the lead hip must internally rotate and adduct in order to accommodate the resisting lead foot and knee as the lead side continues to rotate. This demands significant strength in the lead leg’s hamstrings. The need for pelvic stability as weight moves exclusively over the lead leg remains paramount and places further demands on the glute medius.

[It is perhaps worth briefly mentioning at this point that a lack of trunk rotation may cause compensatory excessive activation of the much smaller shoulder rotators (initially to drive and subsequently decelerate momentum), which can lead to shoulder dysfunction and instability. Inadvertently, a golfer with lumbar problems, in an attempt to reduce the loads on a painful lower back, may thus induce an additional shoulder problem.]

 As the follow through proceeds, the lead arm flexes at the elbow and ‘folds away’ to accommodate the finite length of the trail arm. There is an accompanying external rotation in the lead shoulder and a continuing adduction of the lead shoulder scapula.

Luke DonaldThe trail shoulder blade continues to abduct, but now quickly elevates, as the transverse plane of the shoulders almost levels out at the end of the follow through. This combination of scapular protraction, rotation and elevation in the trail side means a lot of activity in both the trail upper and lower serratus anterior. The trail arm has continued pronating and the palm of the trail hand is now almost fully pronated, hence there is continued activity (but slightly lessened as the speed of rotation slows a little) in the trail side subscapularis.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in the follow through and if the body hasn’t the requisite strength and flexibility in the relevant muscle groups, it will not only lead to improper movement through the impact zone and consequent ball flight issues, but also, over time, dramatically increase the risk of injury.

To screen your body for any physical limitations that might be having an adverse impact on your swing, click on the link below to access our 2 FREE self-assessment programmes for the upper and lower body. If you identify any issues, you can then easily find the relevant conditioning module(s) to address them: