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Modern versus Classic Golf Swing

Classic vs Modern Golf Swing -- Dr. Brian Lee, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, TPI Certified

Although each golfer’s swing is unique, there are generally 2 predominant swing patterns that are talked about today: the classic swing and the modern swing. The modern swing evolved from player development, new fitness routines, technological advances in equipment, and the necessity of adapting to more challenging golf courses.

The modern golf swing is now the more popular of the two. It is believed that Jack Nicklaus was the first to popularize this style in the 1960s. Players such as Tiger Woods and Adam Scott now deploy this style. It has been proposed that the modern golf swing allows for greater control with a higher ball flight and increased distance. 

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Proposed Benefits of the Modern Golf Swing

Higher ball flight: with the finishing position of the modern golf swing, it has been proposed that it leads to higher ball flight and softer landing (increasing control)
Longer Distance: by creating more torque with the X-factor, it is believed that the elastic energy stored up can be more efficiently released (like a spring/coil action)

What are the differences between the classic and modern golf swings?

See the picture and chart below for more information on differences between the two swings


Modern Golf Swing and Low Back Pain

There are two notable phases in the modern swing that differ from the classic swing that have been identified as potential contributing factors to low back pain: the backswing and follow through. In the backswing, the classic golf swing involved a large amount of hip rotation accompanying torso rotation, whereas the modern golf swing restricts the amount of hip rotation with the same amount of torso rotation, creating more torque (X-factor). This has been proposed to put more axial rotational forces on the lumbar spine, potentially putting increased stress on the lumbar discs, ligaments, and facet joints.

Classic Backswing Position -- note the flexed lead leg, increased pelvis rotation (belt buckle facing away from target), less separation between hips and torso (less X-Factor)

Modern Backswing Position -- note less flexed lead leg, less pelvis rotation, increased separation between hips and torso (Increased X-factor)

Increased X-factor is believed to put axial rotation forces on the lumbar spine, affecting disc, ligaments, and facet joints.

Furthermore in the followthrough, the classic golf swing had a forward momentum (where a player would be taught to “step through” the shot like chasing after the ball), whereas the modern golf swing has hyperextended spine (more upright posture) at follow through (reverse C), which is believed to help facilitate a higher ball flight.. This has been proposed to put more load through the facet joints in the lumbar spine.

Classic Finish Position -- note less of the upright posture, momentum is carried more lateral than vertical

Modern Finish Position -- note the the reverse C, more upright, extended lumbar spine (low back)

In this more upright finish, it is believed that it may put more compressive forces through the joints in the low back, creating irritation.

Which Swing is Right for Me?

At the end of the day, every golf swing is unique. For each individual, it is always a balance between maximizing performance while minimizing the risk for injury. Your local teaching professional and TPI certified medical professional can help you determine what swing style best suits you by evaluating your flexibility, strength, movement patterns, and also your goals.

Want to learn more? Schedule an appointment with us today at Reischl Physical Therapy located in Long Beach, or visit our golf page!


Walker, C. T., Uribe, J. S., & Porter, R. W. (2019, February 5). Golf: a contact sport. Repetitive traumatic discopathy may be the driver of early lumbar degeneration in modern-era golfers. Retrieved from https://thejns.org/spine/view/journals/j-neurosurg-spine/31/6/article-p914.xml