You may well have heard of the stack and tilt golf swing - the “new tour swing” as it is sometimes called. But you’re perhaps still unsure what it is.
And this shouldn’t be surprising. To the naked eye it can be difficult to distinguish between stack and tilt and more traditional methods – particularly at the speed of a tour player’s swing.
Treat “Stack and Tilt” Instruction with Caution if You're a Senior
But it’s important to be aware of the differences, and to be able to consider the respective merits and disadvantages of any swing method when a teacher or media source is recommending that you make changes.
Stack and tilt, for example, presents particular challenges for seniors and other golfers of restricted mobility or athleticism.
In my own personal experience, when I was the teaching and playing professional at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado, we had a Stack and Tilt clinic by the founders at our club. 13 members signed up, and within 2 weeks, 9 of them were experiencing pain or injury as a result of trying to implement what they learned.
Now, that's completely anecdotal, so you decide what to do with that information. But if you want to know the great lengths that I have gone to make RotarySwing as safe on the body as possible, click here.
The Key Elements of the Stack and Tilt Swing
1. The Stack
The stack is set up at address. The golfer imagines two points (the “swing centers”), one midway between the shoulders; the other midway between the hips. For a correct setup, these two points should be on a notional vertical line, perpendicular to the ground.
This puts the spine in a neutral or vertical position. The player’s weight, however, is biased towards the lead (left for a right-hander) foot – perhaps 60:40 when hitting a mid-iron.
Depending on the club, the ball position will vary between the center of the stance and the left heel.
2. The Tilt
The tilt is formed during the backswing when more weight is retained on the lead foot than in more traditional methods and the spine is leaned (tilted) slightly towards the target.
This creates a steep shoulder turn which in turn causes the right hip to move upwards and backwards, creating a so-called reverse pivot at the top of the backswing.
Advocates of the method claim that this position loads the spine with powerful torque - felt as a stretching of the back muscles - ready to be released into the ball on the downswing.
3. The Downswing
The aim of the downswing is to get the swing centers ahead of the ball at impact and the unwinding movement begins with the lead foot being pressed hard into the ground to transfer all remaining weight.
The resulting upward thrust of the hips releases all the stored spinal torque in a powerful rotation through the ball.
The Drawbacks of the Stack and Tilt Swing
Stack and tilt has its devotees and it’s worked very well for some leading tour players.
But for the average weekend player, it presents some significant challenges.
Perhaps most importantly, the stack and tilt method often plays the further back in the stance than more conventional swings.
- Low Ball Flight
This isn’t too much of an issue with the shorter irons, but mid-high handicap players will find it almost impossible to get the ball sufficiently airborne with the longer clubs and drive - a problem compounded by the very steep angle of clubhead path that stack and tilt requires.
Secondly, the transfer of weight and loading of the trail (usually the right) side is common to all athletic throwing actions - think of a top baseball pitcher – and has been a golfing fundamental for as long as the game has been played.
- Power Loss
But stack and tilt involves little or no such weight transfer during the backswing and thereby robs the golfer of much of the power that could be provided by his largest muscles – notably those of the trail leg and glutes.
Last but not least, the additional and arguably unnecessary movements required by the stack and tilt method make balance difficult and may place undue stress on muscles and joints.
Do any pros use Stack and Tilt?
Aaron Baddeley and Mike Weir were just a couple of PGA Tour players known to use Stack and Tilt in the past but have since abandoned the method.
What is the Stack and Tilt golf swing?
Stack and Tilt is a teaching method where the golf swing is more central in the weight shift with a more impact position preset at address.
Is Stack and Tilt a good golf swing?
Some concepts of the swing are valuable but overall it leads to driver swings and irons having too low of a trajectory.
Is Stack and Tilt good for seniors?
Senior golfers already suffer from a lower trajectory due to lower swing speeds and the Stack and Tilt can easily compound this.
Stack and Tilt vs. Rotary Golf Swing
Many of my golf students have been asking me what the difference is between the "Stack and Tilt" swing taught by Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett and the "Rotary Swing" that I teach from my book, "The Rotary Swing Certification Manual" and my website for the Rotary Swing Tour golf swing at www.RotarySwing.com.
For those of you who like many of the concepts of the Stack and Tilt swing, but are unsure about the more questionable aspects of the golf swing, you are in luck.
The Rotary Swing shares some similar principals with the Stack and Tilt swing, but balances out the less desirable traits that are either too difficult for the average golfer to perform or potentially stressful on the lower back, hip and knee joints, especially for those who are less flexible or don't perform the movements exactly as prescribed by the creators of the swing.
It also directly addresses the simple fact that the vast majority of all golfers who attempt Stack and Tilt can't hit the the driver or longer irons high enough in the air and end up losing distance.
Chuck Quinton of Rotary Swing and Aaron Baddeley, former Stack and Tilter.
Stack and Tilt Address Position vs Rotary Swing Tour
At address, it is unlikely that you would notice a lot of differences between a Rotary Swinger and a Stack and Tilter without some close observation.
One thing that is noticable once you start to analyze more in detail is the fact that Aaron Baddeley (former "poster child" for Stack and Tilt) is more on the balls of his feet at address. As you've learned from this website, true balance is through the center of your ankles.
Setting up on the balls of the feet like this moves your primary balancing joint from your hips, where it should be, to your knees. Your knees have very limited rotational freedom, so you can easily understand why this a bad way to setup given that on the downswing you're going to be rotating on your primary balancing joint.
When the weight is moved to the ankle, the hip becomes the primary balancing joint, and it is perfectly designed to handle the rotation that the golf swing requires.
Ball position in the golf swing is a constant based on the Rotary Swing Anatomical Absolutes and simple geometry. The bottom of your swing arc is always the center of the left shoulder and has absolutely nothing to do with the width of your stance.
This doesn't change from club to club because your joints don't change, and neither does the width of your hips or shoulders. Learn about the effects of bad ball position in this golf instruction video.
The Stack and Tilt swinger will tend to play the ball back in his stance, behind the left ear, as one of their swing objectives is to have what they refer to as the "Swing Centers" in front of the ball at impact. The Swing Centers basically refer to the center of the hips and upper chest/thoracic spine.
This is well suited for clubs below the 6 iron for most golfers, but anything longer than that, and the angle of attack is too steep to get the longer irons in the air high enough to hold a green and launches the driver much too low for optimum carry distance.
Baddeley has the ball much too far back in his stance which forces his left arm to sit deep across his chest at address and his left shoulder to be "hiked up" rather than sitting in neutral as mine is on the left. This high shoulder position is a common source of shoulder impingements and pain in the neck and upper trapezious muscle for golfers. If you find yourself with a sore neck or tight shoulders after a round of golf, check your setup!
The takeaway is where you will start to see some major differences in the two golf swings.
It is clear to see that Aaron has shoved his left arm across his body (a Push in RST terminology), and this has already moved the club deep behind his body, limited his shoulder turn and forced his right arm to bend - all unnecessary and extraneous movements of the Stack and Tilt takeaway.
For the Rotary Swing, all we do is glide our shoulder blade two inches and the takeaway is done (watch the FREE video on the takeaway here)!
All my angles established at address are virtually intact. My arms, hands and club are still in front of my chest just as they were at address, and my hips have just slightly begun to rotate; whereas, a Stack and Tilt golfer like Baddeley already has straightened his right leg - that's a lot of moving parts compared to moving the shoulder blade a couple inches!
Notice how the Stack and Tilt golfer on the right has moved the club well to the inside whereas the RST golfer has kept the club in front of his body.
From face on, we can see another major difference between the Rotary Golf Swing and Stack and Tilt. Notice that Aaron appears to be hanging on his left side or "stacking" as Plummer and Bennett like to call it.
While this is ok for shorter clubs, it poses SERIOUS problems for the longer irons and a major loss in distance with the driver unless you are playing on aircraft runways for fairways, as it will be nearly impossible to launch the driver high enough to get the optimum carry for maximum distance.
In 2008 at a PGA Tour event where they were using Trackman, Baddeley was launching his drives as low as 5*!!! If you don't know how bad that is for driver distance, visit our Bomb Your Driver Series page.
In the Rotary Swing, you can see that I have made a small shift into my right side for power, just as you do in every sport, every athletic hitting and throwing motion on the planet - including the golf swing! Try and throw a baseball as far as you can while never shifting back to your right leg and let us know what happens!
At the top of the swing, it's clear to see that Baddeley has his head well out in front of the ball and is hanging on his left side; whereas, I'm loading into my right side as any athlete would.
Again, try hanging on your left side and throwing a football or hitting a baseball and see which produces more power. There is no contest, as I am able to load the big muscles in the right side of my body, particularly the right glute, to help with the weight transfer that is a large part of creating power in the most efficient sequence possible in the kinetic chain.
Big muscles need to do the heavy lifting in the golf swing, and the glutes are the thickest and some of the strongest muscles in the body. If you don't shift back to your right heel, you can't engage your right glute.
In the Stack and Tilt golf swing, players actually shift FURTHER onto the ball of their left foot which activates the quadriceps rather than the muscles in the hips - again shifting the primary balancing joint away from the hips and on to the knee. The quads are not used by the body for rotation, they simply extend the lower leg away from the body which does little to assist in powering the rotary nature of the golf swing.
At impact it is once again clear to see a significant difference between the two swings. The severe amount of forward shaft lean that Baddeley has at impact is good for hitting your irons miles, but not good for distance control or, more importantly, directional control, and as I mentioned earlier, leads to shots that fly too low with the longer clubs.
The improper ball position at address and failing to let the weight naturally shift to the right in the backswing make the following scenario unavoidable. This is either going to be a block or a hook for most golfers as the clubhead is "late" into impact and approaching the ball too far from the inside.
No matter how good your hands and timing are, you are going to block and hook shots from here, and when you get to the longer clubs, your path will be even more severely from the inside, and the ball will fly much too low if you try and start the ball on the target line. The "cure" for this is to hit push draws from this position to help create a higher trajectory, but this obviously limits your shot making capability.
For the Rotary Swinger, impact is all about putting our joints into neutral alignment for efficiency and safety. Keeping your head behind the ball allows the club to "catch up" and return in front of the body rather than come in late as it does for the Stack and Tilt golfer, and thus, directional control requires no manipulation from the hands.
The follow through in the Stack and Tilt golf swing is one of the areas of significant interest to the Rotary Swing Medical Panel and Advisory Board.
Unfortunately, more than 80% of golfers on the PGA Tour will miss on average 6 weeks of competition due to some injury related to their golf swings, and we fear that Stack and Tilt golfers may suffer the same fate due in part to the finish position advocated by Plummer and Bennett in the article that was published in Golf Digest.
In the image below, you can see the tremendous strain placed on the back of the Stack and Tilt golfer vs. the Rotary Swinger. For the body to be in Neutral Joint Alignment (NJA), the center of the ear, center of the hip and center of the ankle must form a straight line. As you can see, the Rotary Swing places the body exactly in NJA; whereas, the Stack and Tilt golfer is compressing the vertebrae in the lumbar spine.
While the Rotary Swing team is well educated on human anatomy, you don't need to be a doctor to see this position simply LOOKS uncomfortable on the back and is potentially very harmful.
If you've experienced pain in your golf swing at any time, you need to learn more about the Rotary Golf Swing and how it can keep you playing golf safely and pain free for the rest of your life.
While I've only discussed a few of the issues with Stack and Tilt, that should be enough to convince you that there are sound medical reasons to learn to swing the golf club the way the body was designed to move, and that's what the Rotary Golf Swing is all about.
Watch the Rotary Golf Swing in Action:
Addendum on the Downswing & Follow Through
The Stack and Tilt swing puts the golfer in what would be commonly referred to as a "reverse pivot" at the top of the backswing in conventional golf lexicon.
Because of the severe angles created at the top of the backswing, the Stack and Tilter must make a compensatory move to keep from sticking the club straight down into the ground on the downswing. Plummer and Bennett refer to this move as feeling as if you are jumping up and thrusting your hips forward during the downswing.
This move is very effective at shallowing out the steep angles they've created during the backswing, but requires great athleticism, flexibility and timing to ensure solid contact.
The other significant issue of this move is that, if not performed correctly, it places undue stress on the lower back because the "thrusting" of the hips forward puts the body in the classic "Reverse C" follow through position that has ruined many golfers backs and hips as they tried to imitate the likes of Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus in their primes.
The Rotary Swing's main goal from the top of the backswing is simply to "unwind" using only the muscles in the body that are designed to create rotation - novel idea, huh?
There is no jumping or thrusting, simply an unwinding of the torso while transferring the weight to the left and putting the body in neutral joint alignment. This puts the golfer in a tall and stacked position in the follow through, with the hips undearneath the torso, which is as gentle on the back as you can get.
Even from down the line it is clear to see that the Rotary Swing follow through is placing less stress on the back than the Stack and Tilt move by Aaron Baddeley. His left hip is further from neutral and he has more side bend, which places more load on the back.
This article addressed a few of the main differences between the Rotary Golf Swing and the Stack and Tilt swing and, hopefully, helps you, the golfer, make a more informed decision when deciding which golf swing is most appropriate for you.
For more information about the Rotary Swing, visit www.RotarySwing.com. If you would like to learn how to perform the Rotary Swing and have access to over 300 instructional golf videos online, visit https://www.rotaryswing.com/golf-instruction
Chuck Quinton is a golf instructor out of Colorado who has produced two top selling golf instructional DVDs, Swing Plane Made Simple and Short Game Made Simple, and is the author of the instructional book, The Rotary Swing. He has published over 1,000 instructional golf videos and articles on his popular golf instructional website, www.RotarySwing.com.