Fancy Footwork

A good golf swing begins from the ground up

Fancy FootworkJust how important are the feet, legs and hips? Well, some argue that they are the heart and soul of the golf swing. In fact, it was Byron Nelson who brought us the idea of “flexing the shaft with the lower body.” Jack Nicklaus also has repeatedly said that the swing begins from the ground up. Then why, despite advice from two of the best golfers who ever played, does the average golfer try to “muscle” the ball with his or her upper body?

Call it human nature or call it ego, we typically try to throw balls faster, lift things higher and push things farther by using our upper body. We haven’t trained our minds to use the lower body, which is where real strength comes from. Your legs are much stronger and more powerful than your arms and, if used properly, can produce the distance you never knew you had, accuracy like you’ve never seen and a much more consistent ballflight.

The importance of proper footwork and use of the legs is critical to a repeatable, powerful and consistent golf swing. Your lower body serves as the engine of the golf swing by pushing against the ground and creating the necessary torque, tension and momentum to make the club go faster. And more speed always equals more distance.

Backswing How The Lower Body Works
Whether it’s Ernie Els, whose feet appear to move very little during his entire swing, or Jack Nicklaus, who nearly lifts his entire left foot off the ground during his backswing, there’s a key similarity to both players: Both use the lower body as a tremendous source of power and consistency.

The Backswing

Takeaway As you take the club back, your torso begins to turn. Because your feet are planted on the ground, your legs can resist this rotation, thus creating what’s called torque between your lower and upper body. Ernie is much more flexible than Jack and doesn’t need to lift his left foot as high as Jack does, but nevertheless, both players are applying a huge amount of torque to their backswing. Lifting the left heel is a natural movement and should never be forced. It’ll happen all by itself, depending on your level of flexibility.

Mid-Backswing As your body continues to turn, 75 percent of your body weight is transferred to the back foot, thus “charging” the right leg with the desired muscle tension. Remember, torque is a good thing and results in a stronger release through the golf ball.

At The Top At the top of a proper backswing, the shoulders have turned somewhere around 90 degrees while the hips have turned only 45 degrees. The greater the difference in these two angles, the more torque the body develops between the upper and lower half of the body. This, in turn, means more power transferred to the ball. Your lower body is loaded with energy, torque and tension—just waiting to release. This is where real power comes from, and it starts from the ground up.


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