Ok, the difference between amateur and professionals isn’t necessarily in the ground. It’s more about how you use it.

We all enjoy watching the beautiful swings of the best players in the world and often wonder, “Why can’t I swing it like that?” They swing with great tempo, sequence and power, allowing them to hit the ball a long way with a high level of accuracy. Most professionals swing differently, but they all do one thing similar. They use the ground properly throughout their swing, providing great balance and sequencing.

I can tell you this because it has been proven through recent technology in the form of force or balance plates. These plates provide between 400 and 3000 high-resolution sensors that measure a player’s Center of Pressure (COP), Center of Pressure Trace (motion of pressure during swing) and foot pressure (where weight is).

At one point or another, all golfers have been told to set-up to the golf ball at address with their weight distributed 50/50, but technology has showed us that it’s virtually impossible. Everyone will have more weight on either their left or right foot at address, even if they feel like they are evenly distributed. Here’s what has been discovered by using force plate technology.

Average Amateur Set-Up

Photo 1

PGA Tour Player Set-Up

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Above is a visual comparing the average amateur golfer set-up compared to the touring professional. You can see the percentages under each foot and the colors represent where the pressure is located. The red would indicate the most pressure.

On average, the amateur player does two things at setup with their pressure. They have more pressure on the trail foot with the weight back in the heels. Tour players do the opposite. They have more weight on the front foot with the pressure between the ball of the foot and the toe at address.

The white dot represents where the center of pressure (COP) starts at setup. A tour players COP starts centered between the two feet, and because of their pressure the amateur is typically closer to the trail foot. This has a large effect on the efficiency of the backswing. When watching PGA Tour coverage, you will see the players don’t move much off of the golf ball in the backswing. If you go to the local range and watch players hit balls you will see the opposite.

The great thing that has been found through this technology is that it doesn’t matter what swing theory or method a player uses. The pressure from each player is very similar. To the human eye it may not look close, but that’s why this technology is so powerful.

Once the tour player reaches the top of the backswing, they will have between 70 and 80 percent of their pressure in the trail leg. This holds true for players that practice a one-post or stack-and-tilt move as well. What gives the professional a big advantage over the amateur golfer is what they do immediately into their transition or start of the downswing. Below you will see another graph comparing a professional and amateur from the start of the transition.

PGA Tour Player (left) and Average Amateur Golfer (right)

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The tour player shows an immediate transition in pressure moving forward. This player went from close to 80 percent pressure to 52 percent pressure on the trail leg in the first move in the downswing. You can see the pressure is moving forward and towards the ball of the front foot. You can see the amateur on the right still has too much weight on the trail foot. This affects a player’s balance, sequencing and power, which transfers into inconsistent face and path alignments at impact.

What you will also notice when looking at these pictures is the COP trace line. The tour player on the left has a smooth line that started centered at set-up, then smoothly moved into the back foot. As the player is moving closer to impact, the trace is smooth running towards the ball of the front foot. The amateur player on the right has a trace line that is all over the place. This means the pressure has inconsistent movement and the pressure has moved both back and forward in their feet.

Due to what the amateur golfer has done with their pressure at this point, they are going to have a very difficult time creating the proper impact angles. We call impact the “moment of truth,” because it’s really all that matters. The only problem is if the player is doing things poorly from the start it makes it that much more difficult to put the club into the impact position they are looking for.

The best players in the world have been found to all deliver the club into the impact position very similarly no matter what their swing may look like. It has been found through these force plates that at impact these professionals have between 75 and 90 percent of their pressure on their front foot. That number goes to 98-to-100 percent into their finish position. Below is another comparison between the tour player (left) and the amateur golfer (right). These number represent where the player is at just after impact.

PGA Tour Player (left) and Amatuer Golfer (right)

Photo 5

Right after impact, the professional already has 87 percent of pressure on their front foot with the weight between the ball of the foot and toe. When looking at the average amateur golfer on the right, you can see a big discrepancy. This golfer still has more weight on the back foot and you can continue to see the issue with the player’s COP Trace moving all over the place.

Tour players will have a simple, clear pattern and amateur golfers will not. They will show unnecessary movements and abrupt changes in direction. Every player will have their own “fingerprint,” however, because no one swings exactly alike. But ball flight is hugely influenced by what your COP is doing during your golf swing.

That being said, there are a few drills I prescribe to help amateur golfers improve their COP, COP Trace and foot pressure. This can help the player improve their balance, sequencing and overall power. These three things have a large effect on a player ball flight and overall consistency.

The first drill I recommend will help the player with their COP and foot pressure at the set-up position. It will also help with the COP Trace throughout the player’s swing. You will need to find a downhill lie with the ball slightly below your feet. This drill should be done using half-swings (click on the photos to enlarge them).

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This lie will force the COP to be centered with the pressure moving between the ball of the foot and toe at set-up. It will then help the player improve their initial move in the transition to begin the downswing. It improves the kinematic sequence and provides more pressure earlier, setting up the impact position.

The second drill will help the player establish a better relationship with their feet and the ground. You want to do this drill in your bare feet. The player should feel almost as if they are in a sand bunker feeling like they grab the ground with their feet. This helps create friction with the ground, allowing the player to create ground reaction forces. This can help the player with the sequencing and acceleration and deceleration of the kinematic sequence.

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Hitting balls barefoot will give the player a great sense of balance and help them understand how their body should move in the golf swing. If done improperly, the player will lose balance and not create the right amount of pressure. The great Sam Snead practiced much of his young life in his bare feet, this provided a great action later in his life providing a very powerful golf swing.

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Bill Schmedes III is an award-winning PGA Class A member and Director of Instruction at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, the largest golf facility in New Jersey.

He has been named a "Top-25 Golf Instructor," and has been nominated for PGA Teacher of the Year and Golf Professional of the Year at both the PGA chapter and section levels.

Bill was most recently nominated for Golf Digest's "Best Young Teachers in America" list, and has been privileged to work and study under several of the top golf coaches in the world. These coaches can all be found on the Top 100 & Top 50 lists. Bill has also worked with a handful of Top-20 Teachers under 40. He spent the last 2+ years working directly under Gary Gilchrist at his academy in Orlando, Fla. Bill was a Head Instructor/Coach and assisted Gary will his tour players on the PGA, LPGA, and European tours.

Bill's eBook, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf, can now be purchased on Amazon. It's unlike any golf instruction book you have ever read, and uncovers the TRUE fundamentals of golf using the tour player as the model.

58 COMMENTS

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  1. This is good advice for amateur golfers BUT when the weight transfer starts from the hips first the head MUST remain back otherwsie amateur golfers simply move their heads forward and lose all aspects of their swing!

    Pros must teach amateurs this! Look at any pro golfer and their head remains back as the hips and lower body drive forward.

  2. Hi Bill
    Given the important role that the intrinsic muscles of the foot play in dynamic balancing tasks such as the golf swing I wondered whether professional golfers use specific exercises to strengthen these muscles ?
    Gerry

  3. Weight shift is talked about often and understood little. This goes a long way in explaining it.

    I am not sure why this disturbs anyone… Every pro I have ever listened to or worked w/ acknowledges the importance of weight shift being correct. This article and the tech just puts it in a very friendly manner and easy to understand.

    Kudos!

  4. Hi Bill
    Very interesting article .
    How big a role do you think the muscles of the foot ,and the intrinsic foot muscles in particular , play in producing a consistent golf swing .

    Gerry

  5. This a great article. I’m a big fan of Knudson and it seems like the technology verifies the points he wrote about in 1987. A balanced* weight transfer is essential to control and consistency. Please keep up the good work.

    • Thank you! Technology is ever evolving helping us as coaches give our students fact and no longer just opinion. I didn’t read that George Knudson book, but some coaches are ahead of there time!

  6. Great article! I (and hope others) very much appreciate reading this highly important but rarely addressed component of the golf swing. Even before reading this article, footwork has come to be my main area of focus during my practice sessions, so this information and data provided in the article could not have come at a better time personally. Im sure you know how satisfying it is to be able to practice w/confidence, knowing the methods you choose has data proven that substantiates it.

    Grip, Alignment, and posture has always been the foundation for me in hitting the ball to my intended distance/target, but the timing of the motion can sometimes fall thru the cracks and forgotten in the circus of swing thoughts, that aren’t supposed to be thought of….

    So I included tempo and rhythm into my foundation, but believed that consistent tempo can only be achieved and maintained with proper footwork.

    The Golf swing is such an athletic move, and thinking every athlete in any sport they play, proper footwork is vital for success in what they try to accomplish. From boxers to offensive lineman to middle infielders, individuals who achieved the most success would all have great footwork.

    Such is the same in a highly efficient golf swing, and one I believe is the main factor in providing that “effortless” effect in many of the golf swings we see from skilled players.

    The data provided in your research has not only strengthen my belief that what I’m working on will result in improving, but also provide new areas to focus on to help achieve my goals and possibly enhance my swing overall.

    The info about the weight during setup favoring a bit left, and the smooth line during transition are two bits of information Im excited to implement during my practice soon. I really hope others will see the info in this article and value it’s worth, value it enough to make a conscious effort to work into or, like myself, improve on within their own golf swings. Sometimes too much information can be harmful, especially in this game that’s drove all who’ve played it mental at one time or another, but in this instance, it is in my opinion that this knowledge is power.

  7. I could not agree more with this article. I also agree that this is not particular to any type of swinging method. I cannot believe how much horrible “professional” instruction that I see taking place all over the country. This should be every professional’s first item given and reviewed with every student. Proper weight shift should happen naturally without ANY discussion about getting your weight from one side to the other. Every weight shift discussion I have ever been involved in is overly complicated and incorrect. Thank you for the article.

  8. Nice article Bill. Thanks. As a Stack and Tilt student, it’s interesting to me that you found the pressure being as high as 80 percent on the trail leg for the SnT golfer. I would have expected much less than that. But the overall point about favoring left side is right on.

  9. Great article…You’ve answered questions for me that I didn’t even know how to ask. I’d love to know if I could find access to a more detailed set of results.

    For now, though, I’m really wondering 1) if all those studied were holding the same club 2)was the ball teed up and 3)Wouldn’t 1 & 2 have a small but important impact on the results.

    • Great question. The two examples I used both the pro and amateur were hitting mid-irons. As the club gets longer and the swing arc increases the pressure may change a bit but wouldn’t be too far apart. We swing from the ground up so the proper kinematic sequence if done properly should always be the same with full-swing. Throw finesse wedges out the window.

  10. What’s an “average amateur?” Professional golfer is a pretty narrow field while everyone below professional is extremely broad group – too vast to present anything meaningful in terms of “average.” Perhaps this would be better narrowed down to that this is indicative of your “average 18-handicapper?”

  11. Great article Bill. As I have taught myself into being a high single digit handicap now, I have noticed that on my good ball striking days my weight is always finishing on my front foot, and on my bad days I’m hanging on the back foot. If you watch the Pro’s you will see a variety of backswings and swing paths, but one thing is always consistent: they finish balanced with their weight forward (even Bubba who doesn’t look like he does).

    I have really been working on exaggerating transferring my weight to my front foot on the range, but have been struggling with shoving my weight forward too fast and just chunking the ball like crazy. I know this has a lot to do with the tempo of my transition. Do you have any tips or drills that could help me make my transition more consistent? Thanks.

  12. The observations on amateur vs. pro on the weight distribution must be relevant, but what do recon is the reason for such a difference?

    As a hacker I find this information little bit disturbing, as so many of us pay lots of money to our club pros to become better in swinging the club.

    • Thanks Pete. Hopefully these club pro’s are knowledgeable enough to understand how the body effects the club throughout the swing. The proper body mechanics control the club and the correct sequencing of events is crucial to a players success. The average golfer slices the golf ball. Someone could try and fix that slice all day but until you improve the sequencing, especially in the downswing, it will be very difficult to do. The TPI website is very good explaining a large amount of this. I would check them out!

    • For most players yes, especially in the transition to begin the downswing, if you can get more pressure moving forward and outward it can help improve the sequence. Most players trying to create power start with both the upper and lower halves at the same time (sequencing issue) this spin move places too much weight back at impact. If it does get forward its typically too much in the heel effecting the players impact alignment and ability to create power.

  13. Awesome article – I have noticed a similar thing with myself as my setup and swing have been moving from hacker swing to golf swing. I get a crisper hit if I keep a bit more weight on my front foot and it is easier to make the weight transfer.

    Question – does the logic apply to all clubs, including hybrids, woods and drivers?

  14. I ‘m happy you showed thèse graphe ,Bill:they exemplifie why the “STACK AND TILT”swing works ,or methods closely related ,such as MARTIN CHUCK ‘s TOUR STRIKER méthod .
    Though you have to put your Weight on the right leg to BUILD up power ,you have to get as Quick as you CAN on the left leg :see how BEN HOGAN did it !Impressive !

    • Happy to help. I have seen graphs of stack and tilt players compared to the “traditional” players and the pressure is all very similar. It may look different to the eye but there are many things we can’t read without the help of certain technologies. Thanks!

  15. Bill,

    This is a great and for me, timely article…so thanks for posting.

    I am struggling with this move. I fake finish with my right foot (Im a righty) because I get stuck on my back foot. When I move to the left, my head seems to get too forward and I hit the ball low. I find it exceedingly difficult to swing, get weight on left as you have described, while keeping the head back? Any suggestions? I keep watching on my V1 App how still tour players are with their heads…while their bodies are swinging low and left, which supports your article. I just don’t know how to hit the ball high and move forward…without the heading wanting to tilt down…or follow the feet when I know it should stay back. I’m a 3 handicap currently so I do some things right…but have struggled with this move for some time.

    Thanks

    Joe

    • Dear Joe ,Go on REVOLUTION GOF’s site ,and Watch how MARTIN CHUCK swings :hé does exactly what BIll demonstrated hère .I would suggest you buy a TOUR STRIKER club ,and train with it .Also buy the STACK AND TILT Golf instruction manuel by MICHAEL BENNET and ANDY PLUMMER .You’ll quicky understand why you should keep your Weight on the left,leg throughout most of the swing ,the sole momentbthe Weight gets on the right foot is at the top of the backswing ,very briefly!

      • There are many different way to swing the golf club effectively. I’m not advocating any style or method, just trying to improve the average players pressure mostly in the downswing and into impact. The stack and tilt golfer still has plenty of pressure in their trail side at the top of the backswing, but you wouldn’t be able to see that with the naked eye.

      • I can’t believe you numpties are still advocating Stack and Tilt, it’s been around for a decade now and there isn’t a decent player on tour who uses it.

        It’s a failed theory, stop peddling it.

    • Joe Thanks for the comments! If your already a 3 handicap you are obviously a good player. It’s tough to make any suggestion without seeing your swing but I would advocate increasing your spine angle just a bit at set-up. Above in the downhill lie photo (address position) you can see my spine is still tilted away from the target even though there is more pressure in my lead leg due to the slope.

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