Tuesday, June 1, 2004
4 Critical Angles
Cure the majority of your flaws by adopting a rock-solid setup
4. Knee Flex
The last critical angle is knee flex. The bend at the knees is more important than you might think. The key is to realize that the knee flex you establish at address should be retained during the course of the backswing and into a portion of the forwardswing.
The desired amount of knee bend should again favor slight over drastic. The reason for this is simple: The greater the amount of knee bend at address, the more the knees will have to “unflex” to create a posted left leg at impact. The move from deep to tall is tough even for the most coordinated of players. Similarly tough is the task of holding a deep knee flex throughout the downswing. From a deep-knee bend start, most golfers will wildly move the knees. Contrast this scenario to what you see on TV. Today’s great players employ simple knee and hip movements so it becomes much easier to return to impact consistently.
Don’t fall into the trap that says strong leg and knee action in the swing creates power and leverage. Sure, we use the lower body, but only to assist our upper body to deliver the clubhead into the back of the golf ball on the proper path. In my opinion, standing taller is better, and learning how to coordinate a taller body is a much simpler task than one that is bent, cramped and flexed at address.
Practicing The Four Angles
To practice a postured, well-balanced start position, begin with a fully erect standing position, then bend your knees—slightly. Next, place your forefingers in your hip joint and find the crease where your hip and pelvis intersect. This is called the inguinal ligament area (I also refer to it as the pelvic triangle). With your forefingers still in place, bend forward from the inguinal ligament area. Feel your pelvis bending, not your stomach. As you do, refrain from rounding the upper back. Bend forward approximately 25 degrees, making sure to keep your spine intact. If you find this position uncomfortable, it’s a sign that you’ve been bending incorrectly for quite some time.
Next, tilt your spine slightly to the right (for right-handers). Remember, tilt your entire spine, not just the upper half. As you tilt, feel your weight move toward the balls of your feet. You also should feel balanced. A helpful drill for checking balance is to rock back and forth without changing any of the angles until you find a centered, balanced position. I check my students’ balance by gently pushing them from all directions to see if I can move them out of their setup positions. If they’re balanced, they’ll remain rock-solid, whether they’re seven or 75 years old.
Practice this new posture without a club daily for a few minutes. I recommend checking yourself in a mirror on occasion. It takes a commitment for a week or two to capture this taller and properly tilted position, but once you capture it, you’ll find it much easier to maintain during the swing compared to one that features deep knees, too much hip bend and a rounded back. When hitting shots from your new posture, start small. Begin with 40-yard wedge shots and move incrementally into full swings, then into your longer irons and woods. Within a short time, you’ll be hitting shots with the power and precision previously reserved for the world’s best players.
Joe Thiel, a veteran teacher and PGA Master professional, instructs at World Wide Golf Schools in Olympia, Wash.
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