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How to set up your feet to minimize the risk of injury

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Earlier this week, video surfaced of Tiger Woods swinging his driver during a practice round ahead of the Hero World Challenge. In taking a quick look at his swing, one thing in particular jumped out at me that I thought I would point out for you.

Notice that during his swing, his left foot spins out a bit by the time he gets to his finish.

This observation inspired me to write this article, which is a piece I’ve actually had in mind to do for quite a while.

In modern golf instruction, it’s fairly common to see setups being taught in which the feet are perpendicular to the target line. Geometrically, this sounds fine and dandy. The problem, however, is that most people in their present physical state don’t have the mobility in their hips to be able to accommodate this type of setup… even many pros.

This includes myself.

Often times, what you’ll see is that the player will have no problems in the backswing and downswing. Then at some point in the through swing and/or on into the finish, the lead foot spins out or comes off the ground because it physically is unable to stay in the same place due in part to insufficient hip mobility. This is what you see in Tiger in the above.

Were it actually to stay in the same place, it could cause problems with the shot outcome…or worse yet, potentially lead to injury.

One way of improving the mobility of your hip is through golf fitness, particularly with something to target internal hip rotation in the lead leg.

However, aside from golf fitness or just starting that lead foot out in the first place where it finishes in the follow-through, here’s a simple four-step at-home trick to get your feet better set up.

1. Face the target parallel to your target line.

Face-Target

2. Balance yourself on what would be your trail leg and then without forcing it, turn your lead foot in as far as you can comfortably and set it back down on the ground.

Turn-Foot-In

3. While keeping that lead foot in the same place, pivot back to where you would be standing perpendicular to the target line.

Pivot

4. Get into your personal golf posture.

Setup

Voila! You are all set up in a position that accommodates your own personal body’s hip rotational capabilities.

Here’s what the finishing foot position looks like face-on for me.

Setup-Face-On

Although the lead foot may appear to turned outward quite a bit when you set up, it’s not to the point that it should limit your backswing motion. Most people can turn their feet outward farther than they can inward. So most should still be able to complete their normal back swing even with the more “open” lead foot.

As for the rear foot, to me where you put that will depend on what’s comfortable for you and/or what you want to accomplish with your backswing. For example, if you want a shorter backswing, you might make that trail foot be perpendicular to the target line. If you want a longer backswing, you could turn it outward a bit. It just depends on the person.

Anyway, in my experience, there are several common benefits I’ve observed that come from incorporating this type of lead foot setup.

  1. You might get a better sense of the target with more of your body facing in that direction.
  2. You may be able to “clear through the ball” a bit easier. Sometimes this leads to more distance because your body won’t need to slow down in anticipation of running out of room to swing due to a mobility issue.
  3. Since you won’t be needing to make some compensatory move to avert injury, you might swing and finish with better balance. This could not only lead to more distance, but potentially additional consistency and accuracy as well.
  4. You’ll probably be putting yourself at less risk for long term injury.

Give it a try! Hopefully your game (and long-term health) will thank you!

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

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WATCH: How to swing the driver “from the inside”

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In this video, I show you how to consistently deliver the driver from the inside.

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Instruction

Golf 101: How to properly grip the golf club

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I’m sure you’ve heard by now that a good grip is one of the cornerstones of a good swing. Clichés become clichés because they’re true, and putting your hands on the club is extremely important… for reasons you know, and for some reasons you probably haven’t heard before.

Let’s start with the big, obvious one you already know. Your grip establishes the default relationship between the clubface and the golf ball. If you set your grip in a way that promotes bringing the club back to impact open or closed, you’re going to have to do something else in your swing to compensate for that. In other words, a sound grip makes the job of squaring the club easier.

The less obvious reason that a good grip is important is speed. If you set the club in your hands correctly—so that the handle runs across the base of the fingers in your left hand and not across the palm—you’re giving your wrists much more freedom to move. This wrist “mobility” is what allows the final transfer of energy from the body to the club. A great swing thought is to envision that your wrist joints were just greased up. They should feel like they are unrestricted and “oily.”

Another less obvious problem caused by a bad grip is that it tends to perpetuate itself. If you have a bad grip and repeatedly make off-center contact on the clubface, the off-center hits will actually jar the face of the club more off-line, and you’ll hit it even more crooked. And the bad feeling those shots produce in your hands will cause you to continually adjust it. There’s no consistency or feel there. It’s like hitting a whole bunch of baseballs off the end of an aluminum bat on a 39-degree day. A recipe for pain.

To fix your grip, start with your left (top) hand. Set the handle along the first joints of your fingers, and hold it like you would carry a suitcase or briefcase by its handle.

When you get the grip in this position, you’re creating an angle (and a lever) between the club and your left arm, and you’re giving the wrist freedom to move. If you turned the handle so that it crossed your palm diagonally—like a putting grip—you’d immediately feel how your wrist would be much more restricted in how it could bend or turn. That’s why it’s great for putting—because it restricts how the face turns. But on a full swing, you want to take full advantage of the range of motion that comes from rotating from open to square. (this is what the club is designed to do!)

Get a firm grip on the handle with all of the fingers of your left hand and get as much of the thumbprint pushed onto the grip as you can. Now, place your right hand on the handle so that the underside of your right thumb covers the left thumb as much as possible, and get as much of the thumbprint on your right hand onto the top of the grip as possible.

Where you place your hand on the grip is more important than if you decide to interlock, overlap or play with all 10 fingers on the handle. I prefer the overlapping grip because it keeps the index finger of your left hand on the handle, and that extra finger can make a difference for many players.

If your grip isn’t great and you make these changes, it’ll definitely feel strange at first. But I’m betting that straighter and longer shots will make up for it.

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Instruction

WATCH: How to use a sledgehammer to stop swaying in your golf swing

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It is pretty much impossible to sway when swinging a sledgehammer. Take advantage of the feel you get from swinging a sledgehammer and see how easy it is to implant in your own golf swing. You were built for this move!

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