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Fact Check: A Downward Attack Angle With Your Driver Is More Accurate?

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A recent hotly debated topic has been, as golf instructors, should we encourage golfers to hit up or down on the ball with their driver? While there have been many points of views and arguments, I wanted to take a stab at trying to explain this conversation from a scientific perspective with a real-world application.

The difficult part about this conversation is the mutual exclusivity people try to apply to it. In short, hitting up or down is a preference, but each scenario has causality on ball flight.

Here are the biggest points of contention when this debate is discussed:

  • Hitting down with a driver is easier to control and therefore straighter.
  • What do the best players in the world do?
  • Hitting up is optimal.
  • The best drivers of the golf ball hit down.
  • Hitting down causes more spin and therefore more control.

With recent advancements in golf technology, we now have the ability to track this information. The common term used to refer to the vertical movement of the center of mass of the golf club at impact is called “attack angle.” Although we’ve only recently been able to easily and accurately measure attack angle, the concept has been around for a very long time. In fact, some of the greatest golfers in the history of the game had a conceptualization of attack angle before it was coined in that phrase.

In an excerpt from the Jack Nicklaus book, “Golf My Way,” he states, “I tee the ball fairly high for a normal drive, usually so that center of the ball is about opposite the top edge of the club face. This helps me to hit the ball high by catching it either exactly at the bottom of the swing arc or very slightly on the upswing. I believe teeing the ball low can easily rob you of distance by making you ‘hit down’ on the ball rather than sweeping through it.”

Ben Hogan, although famous for his comments about hitting down on the ball with irons, also gave some inclination of trying to hit drives with a level attack angle or slightly on the upswing with the driver from his ball/stance position outline as seen below.

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With the driver, you can see the right foot is placed further back to move the ball position forward and slightly close the stance. At the time, he could not measure club path, but with what we now know about D-Plane and the relationship between club path and attack angle, we safely assume that his normal ball flight of a fade required a slightly upward attack angle. I cannot by any means say this as a fact, but with what we know about his shot shape and set up, you can make a reasonable assumption.

Hitting Down Is Easier to Control and Therefore Straighter?

This is something we hear quite a bit from average amateurs, golf analysts, and even tour professionals. I can remember having this exact conversation with tour professionals on the range and it can lead down a deep, dark rabbit hole. The cause for confusion is that hitting down in and of itself does not allow more control. Hitting down by itself has no direct influence on spin, ball speed, or curvature. One can create the exact same conditions of spin, ball speed, and curvature hitting up or down. The reason for this belief is that when hitting optimal drives with a downward angle of attack, we also have to deliver a higher dynamic loft (loft at impact). The difference in attack angle and dynamic loft in a 3D relationship is compression (now known as spin loft). With greater spin loft (less compression), physics tells us the ball will curve less for a given face-to-path ratio, assuming all other factors are the same. That’s why it’s easier to curve a driver than a sand wedge.

The Hard Facts

Fredrik Tuxen, the inventor and CTO of TrackMan, once shared a scenario with me on this exact subject. Here are the numbers and results. Note that both are set to optimize distance based on club speed and attack angle.

Player A

  • Club Head Speed: 100 mph
  • Attack Angle: +5 degrees (up)
  • Face-to-Path: 3 degrees

Player B

  • Club Head Speed: 100 mph
  • Attack Angle: -5 degrees (down)
  • Face-to-Path: 3 degrees

Results: Player A hits a drive that carries about 25 yards farther and has 6 yards more curve.

So hitting down while optimized does give golfers less curve. The question then becomes, “Is hitting it straighter the only goal when trying to shoot lower scores?” Golf statistician Mark Broadie has delved deep into this topic with his book, “Every Shot Counts,” and he has also shared some Strokes Gained data on this scenario. Strokes Gained is a statistic that aims to define the ways in which golfers pick up and lose strokes against the field. Unlike traditional statistics such as fairways hit, driving distance, and greens in regulation, Strokes Gained takes into account where the shot began from and the outcome compared to the average PGA Tour Professional. He says 25 more yards of carry distance adds 1.4 Strokes Gained, and missing fairway costs 0.7 Strokes Gained for a net gain of 0.7 Strokes Gained. So the worst-case scenario here between the two players is that Player A (hitting 5-degrees up) gains 0.7 strokes per round.

The reason I say worst-case scenario? We can’t be sure that 26 yards more carry and 6 yards more curve directly relate to lack of accuracy.

What do the Best Players in the World Do?

The PGA Tour average attack angle with a driver is -1.3 degrees (down). Does this mean hitting down is better because the best players in the world are slightly negative? The problem with this assumption is that it is excluding club head speed from the conversation. The PGA Tour average club head speed with a driver is 113 mph. At that speed distance comes naturally, and as we learned above, hitting down optimally can be slightly more controllable. The other issue is that averages can be misleading; it would be very interesting to see median data on attack angles instead of averages to counteract the outliers.

The LPGA Tour average attack angle with a driver is 3 degrees (up). It is curious to see such a big difference between the two tours with the best players in the world. Why is that? This simple answer is the length of the golf course relative to the speed of the players. Here is a little further investigation of that point:

PGA Tour Average Golfer

  • Club Speed: 113 mph
  • Attack Angle: -1.3 degrees (down)
  • Total Distance: 290 yards
  • Total Efficiency: 2.56 (distance/club speed)

LPGA Tour Average Golfer

  • Club Speed: 94 mph
  • Attack Angle: 3 degrees (up)
  • Total Distance: 250 yards
  • Total Efficiency: 2.65 (distance/club speed)

The average course length PGA Tour is about 7200 yards

  • This means the average of each hole is 400 yards.
  • With the average drive traveling a total of 290 yards, PGA Tour players are left with about 110 yards into the green on average.

The average course length on LPGA Tour is about 6600 yards

  • This means the average of each hole is about 367 yards.
  • With the average drive totaling 250 yards, LPGA Tour players are left with about 117 yards into the green on average.

LPGA Tour players are playing much longer golf courses relative to their speed. They are already more efficient driving the golf ball, but are still playing longer golf courses. If the average LPGA player had an attack angle of 0 degrees, it would make golf courses even longer for her. In summary, LPGA players have naturally figured out that distance is a huge premium on tour and they have to hit up.

On the PGA Tour, distance is not as much of a premium, right? Let’s take a look at strokes gained driving stats from last year on the PGA Tour.

2016 Strokes Gained Driving Leaders

  1. Rory McIlroy, AoA: Up, World Ranking: No. 2
  2. Dustin Johnson, AoA: Up, World Ranking: No. 3
  3. Bubba Watson, AoA: Up, World Ranking: No. 10
  4. Sergio Garcia, AoA: Down, World Ranking: No. 13
  5. Justin Rose, AoA: Level, World Ranking: No. 15
  6. JB Holmes, AoA: Up, World Ranking: No. 29

Untitled3

Five of out the top-six PGA Tour players in Strokes Gained driving last year hit up or level on the golf ball. Sergio Garcia is the only one consistently down with the driver, but he is also swinging his driver at 123 mph on average. The other consistent here is that all of these players have a driver club speed well over the average of 113 mph.

The Takeaway: The best drivers of the golf ball in the world swing fast and hit up on the ball. They also happen to be some of the best players in the world.

Hitting Up is Optimal

If you want to hit the ball further and you are already optimized, there are only two ways to do it (unless you want to pull out the old Callaway ERC!). You have to either swing faster or hit more up! Does this mean we should all try and hit up as much as possible? The highest theoretical attack angle you can have with a normal tee is around 13 degrees. Average World Long Drive Players are in the range of 6-8 degrees. Should this be the goal?

As we have shown above, hitting it longer off the tee should be an advantage, but is there a point of diminishing returns? Here are some live scenarios of me hitting up with a driver on the practice tee. In these examples, I was trying to keep club head speed the same as the example I used above.

Level to Slightly Up

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3 Down

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3 Up

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5+ Up

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Dispersion Comparison

Untitled8Summary of Data

Attack Angle: 3-Degrees Down

  • Carry: 199.4
  • Total: 247.6
  • Dispersion: 43’9

Attack Angle: Level to Slightly Up 

  • Carry: 237.8
  • Total: 271.4
  • Dispersion: 26’1

Attack Angle: 3-Degrees Up 

  • Carry: 234.5
  • Total: 271.5
  • Dispersion: 17’2

Attack Angle: 5-Plus Degrees Up 

  • Carry: 242.3
  • Total: 268.5
  • Dispersion: 55’11

As you can see in the screen shots, there is no doubt that hitting up allows for more distance. As I expected, however, there was a point of diminishing returns in a real-world scenario.

Once I got to hitting more than 5-degrees up, I was way more inconsistent with accuracy and distance. Accuracy, club delivery, and strike changed from swing to swing. With a level attack angle and an attack angle of 3-degree up, I averaged more than 20 feet of consistency in dispersion compared to swings with the attack angles of 5-degree up or 3-degrees down.

The most astonishing piece of information I noticed from the data was how consistent some of the numbers from scenario to scenario were and how different others were. As you will see, ball speed, smash factor, and spin rate were all pretty similar, however, carry distance was as much as 43 yards different. This proves my statement earlier that hitting up or down has no effect in of itself on spin rate, smash factor, or ball speed.

In summary, I have found that the acceptable range of attack angle for most players should be between -2-degrees down and 4-degrees up. With that being said, it should always be applied on a case-by-case basis.

Attack angle is a balance between age, swing speed, competition, and the tees a golfer plays. If you have a senior golfer swinging 70 mph and 2-degrees down getting frustrated with golf because he doesn’t hit it very far, then his attack angle should probably be positive. If it’s a younger golfer trying to play college golf who is 6-degrees up at 115 mph club speed and hitting it all over the golf course, then a change might be made.

The answer to any question about what is a good number should always be, “It depends.” Trackman numbers are not good or bad; there is only a cause-and-effect relationship between how the golf club communicates a message to the golf ball based on the desired outcome.

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PGA Member and Golf Professional at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, NC. Former PGA Tour and Regional Representative for TrackMan Golf. Graduate of Campbell University's PGM Program with 12 years of experience in the golf industry. My passion for knowledge and application of instruction in golf is what drives me everyday.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Nuuna

    May 31, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    None of anything you say makes any sense

  2. Paul

    May 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Great feedback. I completely agree, there are numerous factors affecting how the clubface interacts with the ball, not least the path the hands take on the downswing and forward swing and the speed and efficiency of the release. It is not merely about swing geometry and club metrics, in my view it is just as much about the dynamism of the strike and its effect on spin and ball speed. This is self-evident with the way top players have always struck the ball. I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of the power fade in terms of club metrics.

  3. Joro

    May 29, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    That is why the shaft flex and torque is right for your swing.

  4. MBU

    May 29, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I for one have found it more beneficial to tee a little under 1/2 inch less than normal. Just a fraction under half a ball showing. It actually gets me more consistent length, and no more hooks.
    The slightly off the toe shot certainly works for me. If I neck it, it certainly loses more distance.
    I really liked the article, I love the technical stuff…

  5. CheckJV

    May 29, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Well written article Hunter. Thanks for your contribution to GolfWRX

  6. Sander

    May 29, 2017 at 5:25 am

    Funny how few people have knowledge about golf AND statistics. The writer of this article has taken the driving information of 6 (!) of a total of 242 PGA tour players. Then he has add a few drives from himself with different Angle of Attacks that he is not used to hit to complete the “proof”. I appreciate the effort, but if this article was sent to a scientific paper publisher it would disappear in the bin straight away.

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Thanks for the feedback and your thoughts. The real world application was never meant to be scientific. I just wanted to show a simple example of actual real world numbers and what might happen. The science in the article was in the scenario that I shared from Fredrik Tuxen, the CTO of TrackMan. He has gathered this information from the millions of shots captured by TrackMan. I am just a golf pro so I leave the science up to much smarter people than me.

      • DrRob1963

        May 30, 2017 at 3:39 am

        Could you do this experiment with the “Iron Byron” to take the human element out of the equation? That could give definitive optimal strike criteria for maxing out our drivers!

  7. H

    May 29, 2017 at 3:24 am

    Read about Inertia, you numbnuts

  8. Juaney

    May 29, 2017 at 12:43 am

    Can’t wait for the next year or two when golf club makers come up with the newest technology and market the heck out their new drivers: “Feeling down on your driver? Let the New Callaway Carrier Carry you to New Heights! Our New Face Angle Pendulum Technology detects your angle of attack and adjusts accordingly to give you the right angle at impact specifically designed for your swing!”
    And the year after they’ll include the Slice/Draw adjuster.

  9. Richie Hunt

    May 29, 2017 at 12:28 am

    In the scenario stated, Tuxen said in 2013 that the upward strike would travel 28 yards offline compared to the downward strike of traveling 22 yards offline. If we are using a PGA Tour data where the fairways on average are 28 yards wide and a golfer is aiming at the middle of the fairway…the upward strike would travel 42 feet from the edge of the fairway. The downward strike would travel 24 feet offline.

    So using the strokes gained methodology is misleading because as we know…the further the ball is from the edge of the fairway the more likely the golfer will have a have a worse lie. Either a worse lie from the rough (taller rough), fairway bunkers, hazards, etc. There is a strong statistical correlation to Distance to Edge of Fairway and hit fairway bunker % and missed fairway – other %.

    For instance, last season a player that was 24′ from the edge of the fairway (downward strike) on average would rank 40th in Avg. Distance from the Edge of the Fairway. The 42′ from the edge of the fairway (upward strike) would rank dead last in Avg. Distance to the Edge of the Fairway. I don’t think there’s really much of a way somebody could accurately determine how much being more offline would matter given how holes are differently designed with different penalties and features.

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:25 am

      Richie I really appreciate the reply here and sharing your insight. I have much to learn from you and others. I look forward to continuing to understand more. Thanks!

    • Ohhh

      May 30, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Yeah, Richie, exactly!
      And besides – look at all the different course designs. Not every bomber likes to play places like Hilton Head or Merion because they’re too damned narrow for them. So where is THAT data?

  10. Calheel

    May 28, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Excellent article and Biltmore Forest is one of the finest courses I’ve had the pleasure of playing. You are a fortunate man!

  11. Michael

    May 28, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Great, Great article!

  12. Mat

    May 28, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Thank you Hunter. Finally, someone willing to come out and say that it’s a balance of different variables. I find it constantly funny how opinion articles on here so often state things like “this is the best way according to Trackman.” No. Never is. It’s the best way to achieve a maximum of a certain variable. Hitting up gets you more distance until hitting up gets you less accuracy than you want for that distance. Hitting up, lowering the spin… all nice things on optimal days. Until we’re all playing indoor golf on machines, we don’t need to be such absolutists. Thanks for this!

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Great stuff Mat. You bring up a lot of great points. I still haven’t ever heard TrackMan tell me something was good or bad

  13. Jeff LeFevre

    May 28, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    As an older and smaller player on a long course I used to practice hitting with the old persimmon driver (trying to hit a top spin type shot) so the driver would go a reasonable distance. We didnt have any high tech gear and even a video camera was rare, which meant that you just had to go on the course and see if you were hitting it better than you normally did. I must confess that 20+ years in the army meant that I was fairly fit which helped. We never had the option to buy a low spin club back then. We used to install fibre inlays, try different shafts, maybe add or remove some weight, install your favorite grip and that was all you could do. While my AoA was a distinct advantage this is not such of an advantage nowadays as I’ve tried the latest low spin drivers and they are spinning too low. While I used to be really long for my size most of my mates can either keep up or get it past me now.

  14. Tony Wright

    May 28, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    One of the best articles on this topic I have ever read…..thank you.

    Is not perhaps one of the areas of confusion on this related to the concept “Hitting Up” or “Hitting Down” ? If you have a negative angle of attack at impact, are you not striking the ball before Low Point? And if you have a positive angle of attack at impact, are you not striking the ball ahead of swing Low Point? I would love to hear your feedback on this question….again thanks for the article.

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:30 am

      Tony – thanks so much for the kind words. You are absolutely correct on the correlation of Attack Angle and Low Point. Generally speaking for every degree up or down you are hitting it is about 1 inch from low point.

  15. Tom Duckworth

    May 28, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    I try to have just a little forward shaft lean at impact so I know I didn’t release too soon and it feels like a more solid and controlled hit. That is offset by tilting back with my upper body to have a slight upward attack angle.

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Great point here Tom. There is definitely a difference between hitting up and hitting up compressed

  16. Bobalu

    May 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Man, your roll out is incredible! I would I love to get nearly 40 yds of roll with my 100 mph driver swing. I’m +3 on AoA with driver, but I don’t play on rock hard fairways.

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Roll out on TrackMan is a calculated number. That doesn’t by any means that is is not accurate however. Roll out is based on landing angle, ball speed(which is pretty much the same on all normal golf shots), and spin rate. The assumed variable here is average PGA Tour Fairway firmness. So probably slightly more firm than most

  17. William Baker

    May 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Nice work Brown! I liked this article a lot- even before I saw the authorship.

  18. Cory

    May 28, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Really good summary of what can be a confusing topic. Any advice for how to hit more down with driver? I struggle getting my attack angle to numbers that are sometimes 7 or 8 degrees up.

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Thanks Cory. Hard to say without actually seeing you swing and play. But here are some general points. Ball position, lead arm/shoulder at impact, club path, and how you use the ground are all areas to look at

      • Cory

        May 29, 2017 at 5:01 pm

        Thanks Hunter, From video it definitely seems like I push off the ground and have that jumping look so might have to look at that along with what you mentioned. Appreciate the ideas, seems like lots out there on how to increase attack angle but not as much on the reverse. Thanks again!

  19. SH

    May 28, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Horrible assumption of Hogan’s set up and equipment. Was anybody able to actually and accurately measure the face angle of his driver? Everybody says it was open, and, at E8 swing weight to boot. Try swinging any of the modern drivers with a E8 swing weight, you’d be hard-pressed to turn it over, it will want to stay open and leak out, just as Hogan wanted for his preferred cut away from the left side of the fairway. And if you try hard to turn it, it will dump on you so fast it will die left and not go anywhere.
    What loft and face angle did you use for this test and do you know the weight-bias inside the head?

    • Q

      May 28, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      They will never let out the real secrets anyway

    • Jack

      May 29, 2017 at 12:54 am

      I know he is basically the father of the modern swing I guess, but why do people care about his details? He played with very different equipment and balls, not to mention courses. What’s important is his swing fundamentals. And he clearly sets up open to the ball for a fade according to the illustration. Stays that way until he gets to driver which is a draw setup. Interesting…

    • Hunter Brown

      May 29, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Assumptions are exactly that. Taking a stab at something without actually having proof. I simply wanted to use it as a way to explain that maybe this is what Hogan was doing without knowing it.

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Instruction

Stop Practicing, Start Training. Part 2: Putting

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This article is co-written with Zach Parker. Zach is the former director of golf at the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate golf academies. Zach is a golf coach, an expert in skill acquisition, and he has years of experience setting up effective training scenarios for golfers of varying abilities. 

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed in detail how and why we should shift our focus from practicing to training. Specifically, making training more “game like” by incorporating the following three principles

  • Spacing – adding time between training or learning tasks. Not hitting ball after ball with no break!
  • Variability – mixing up the tasks, combining driving with chipping for example
  • Challenge Point – making sure that you are firstly trying to achieve or complete a task, and secondly that the task is set an appropriate difficulty for you

For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

This is with the aim of avoiding the following frustrations that occur when training is performed poorly

  • Grinding on the putting green but not improving
  • Being unable to transfer performance from putting green to course
  • Finding practice boring
  • Plateaus in performance

Practice can be frustrating

In Part 1 we covered long game, and in Part 2 it’s time to address putting. Training this crucial part of the game is often overlooked and almost always performed poorly with very little intent. On course, we never hit putts from the same distance (unless you’re in the habit of missing two footers!), yet when practicing its common to repeatedly hit putts from the same place. Our length of stroke, reaction to speed and slope and time between putts are constantly changing on course, so it would make sense to replicate that in our training right?

In the practice circuit below we have incorporated spacing by leaving large gaps between putts, variability by mixing up the tasks and challenge point by introducing hurdle tasks that must be completed before moving on to the next station.

Station 1

Learning task: Three rehearsals with a specific focus, in this case, using the GravityFit TPro to bring awareness to posture and arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must make putt from 6 feet, downhill,  left to right-to-left break.

Station 2

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus; in this case posture for eye-line and using bands for arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30-40 feet, uphill. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

Station 3

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus again.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 20-30  ft, right to left break. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

You can either have a go at this circuit or create your own. There are no set rules, just make sure to include a mixture of tasks (variability) that are appropriate to your level of ability (challenge Point) with plenty of time between repetitions (spacing).

For more information on the featured GravityFit equipment, check out the website here

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Instruction

WATCH: What to do when you’re short sided

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney shows you how to avoid compounding a mistake when you’ve missed the ball on the wrong side of the green.

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Instruction

Why flaring your left foot out at address could be a big mistake

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In his book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” published in 1957, Ben Hogan recommended that golfers position their right foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line, and then position their left-foot a quarter of a turn outward at a 15-degree angle (Note: He was writing for right-handed golfers). The purpose of the left-foot foot position was to assist in the “clearing of the left hip,” which Hogan believed started his downswing.

Through this Hogan instruction book and the others he wrote through the years, there four categories that defined his advice;

  1. He accurately described what was occurring in his swing.
  2. He described a phantom move that never occurred.
  3. He described something that occurred but to a lesser degree than indicated.
  4. He inaccurately described what was happening in his swing.

As evidenced by today’s modern video, Hogan did not open up his left hip immediately as he described. This piece of advice would fall into the fourth category listed above — he inaccurately described what was happening in his swing. In reality, the first move in his downswing was a 10-12 inch shift of his left hip forward toward the target before his left hip ever turned open.

SPINNING OUT

Those amateur golfers who strictly adopted his philosophy, opening the left hip immediately, ended up“spinning out” and never getting to their left foot. The spin-out was made even worse by the 15-degree angle of the left foot Hogan offered. That said, based on Hogan’s stature in the golf world, his advice regarding the positioning of the feet was treated as if it were gospel and adopted by both players and teachers. Since that time his hip action has been debated, but the positioning of the left foot has remained unquestioned — until today.

THE FLARED FOOT POSITION

The flared position of his left foot may or may not have been of assistance in helping Hogan achieve the desired outcome in his swing. That really is not the point, but rather that over a half-century there has never been a voice that argued against the flared foot position he advocated.

The rest of the golf world accepted his advice without question. In my opinion, the left foot position advocated by Hogan has harmed countless golfers who slowly saw their swings fall apart and wondered why. His well-meaning advice was a poisoned pill, and once swallowed by golfers it served to eventually erode what was left of their left side.

DEAD WRONG

The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.

As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.

FOOT FLARE ISSUES

The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:

In the backswing, the flared left foot:

  1. Discourages a full left- hip turn;
  2. Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back
  3. Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.

In the downswing, the flared left foot: 

  1. Promotes a “spinning out” of the left hip.
  2. Does not allow for a solid post at impact.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

In working with my students, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most advantageous position for the left foot at address is straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The reason is not only because it encourages a positive moment of the player’s weight forward in the downswing, but it also improves the player’s chances of making a sound backswing.

THE POWER OF THE LEFT HEEL

There is an inherent advantage to placing the left-foot at a 90-degree to the target-line. It is the strongest physical position against which to hit the ball, as it provides a powerful post at impact that serves to increase both power and consistency.

JACK NICKLAUS

A number of years ago, Jack Nicklaus appeared on the cover of Golf Digest. The byline suggested that in studying Jack’s footwork, they had discovered something that up to that point was unknown. The “secret” they were describing was that after lifting his left heel in the backswing, he replanted it in the downswing with his heel closer to the target line than his toe. The intimation was that this might be a secret source of power in his swing.  This was hardly a “secret,” and something that Nicklaus was probably unaware of until it was pointed out to him, but it’s a demonstration of the fact that his natural instinct was to turn his foot inward, rather than outward, on the downswing.

THE DISCUS THROWER

The discus thrower whirls around in a circle as he prepares to throw. On the final pass, he plants his left toe slightly inward, relative to his heel, because this is the most powerful position from which to cast the discus. This position allows the thrower to draw energy from the ground while at the same time providing a strong post position from which additional torque can be applied. The point is that as the discus thrower makes the final spin in preparation for the throw, he does not turn the lead foot outward. Why? Because if it were turned outward, the potential draw of energy from the ground would be compromised.

The same is true when it comes to swinging a golf club for power, and you can test the two positions for yourself. After turning the left foot into a position that is 90 degrees to the target line, you will immediately note the ease with which you can now turn away from the target in addition to the strength of your left side post at the point of impact. Conversely, when you turn your left foot out, you will feel how it restricts your backswing and does not allow for a strong post position on the downswing.

REPAIRING YOUR SWING

Do you have trouble cutting across the ball? You might look to the position of your left foot and the action of the left hip. The first step would be to place your left foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The second step would be to turn you left hip around in a half circle as if tracing the inside of a barrel. The third step would be to feel that you left your left hip remains in the same position as you scissor your weight towards your left toe, and then your right heel, allowing the club to travel on the same path. The combination of these changes will encourage the club to swing in-to-out, improving the path of your swing.

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