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How Foot Position Can Make or Break Your Golf Swing

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I have been fortunate in my experience as a golf swing coach to work with all kinds of clients with all kinds of golf swings. Through the years, however, I’ve seen that one of the major things that separates fairly consistent ball strikers from golfers who lack consistency is their ability to use the ground to move their body and generate power efficiently.

Understanding the role that the placement of your feet has in your golf swing is huge. This article is intended to inspire and intrigue your curiosity so you are willing to take the next step, which would be to stop guessing and visit a TPI Expert and/or an experienced swing coach who understands how your body moves and assists you in building a setup and golf swing that works with your body.

There is, in fact, an old saying that pretty much sums up what’s going on with the ground in our golf swing: “Good footwork = good golf.” Our feet are, after all, the only contact we have to the ground. Luckily, due to new technologies (force plates and pressure mats like Boditrak), we can measure what’s going on under our feet as our pressure shifts throughout the golf swing. We now actually have the measurable data to prove what was once very hard to prove.

You Are An Individual! 

If there’s one thing my experience as a golf instructor has taught me, it’s that we’re all individuals who move a little differently due to genetics and lifestyle. Because of this, how we place our feet on the ground can either help or hinder our ability to hit good golf shots. This video should help to shine some light on some different strategies of how you can work on finding a position to place your feet on the ground that is best suited for you.

What Does This Mean?

Suppose you were lacking the ability to rotate your hips efficiently (the hips are designed to be mobile joints). That would prevent you from having the ability to turn your hips and transfer your pressure into the ground efficiently in the backswing and/or in the forward swing. In this case, it could be an advantage to flare your feet slightly in order to assist your body in turning efficiently. The same goes for the width of your stance. The wider apart your feet are in your stance, the more stabile you will be. If you are lacking mobility and flexibility, then your joints and muscles are too stabile already, so you might benefit from having a narrower stance that creates less stability so you can move more freely in your swing.

One last pitch to visit an expert. Certain joints in your body are designed to be stable, while others are designed to be mobile (like the hips), but the body is clever. When it can’t get mobility from one part of the body, it tries to get it from another. These compensations can not only sabotage your ability to utilize the ground efficiently, leading to bad ball striking, but they set you up for pain and injury. Find a TPI Expert near you.

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Adam is a PGA Professional and TPI Certified Fitness and Medical Coach. He enjoys working with golfers of all ages and levels of expertise, and his approach is to look at every golfer as an individual to try to help them achieve their goals as effectively and efficiently as possible. He is also the author of two books: The Golfers Handbook - Save your golf game and your life! (available on iTunes and Amazon) And his new book, My Mind Body Golf Please visit the links below to find out more about Adams books. http://mymindbodygolf.weebly.com http://www.golfers-handbook.com "The golf swing may be built from the ground up, but the game of golf is built from the head down" - My Mind Body Golf Aside being an author, Adam is also a public speaker, doing workshops and lectures introducing concepts of athletic movement for golfers of all ages and levels of expertise.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. ButchT

    Oct 10, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Too long for info conveyed. Contrast was terrible. Sounded awfully nervous. I do appreciate the effort – thank you.

  2. Vegas Bullet Dodger

    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Flair the toes and bend the knees for distance…
    Don’t let anyone tell ya otherwise

    • Demar

      Oct 5, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      … and good advice for sitting on the toilet too

  3. Engineer Bob

    Oct 5, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Great introductory video on “utilizing the ground” and foot positioning.
    I sense that you have ‘experimented’ with force plates/mats to quantify the GRFs (Ground Reaction Forces) and observed how the “Center of Pressure” shifts back and forth in the golf swing.
    Of course trying to explain GRFs and CoP and even a Closed Kinetic Chain to golfers on this forum will frighten them off. They still think/hope their clubs are ‘powerful’ and their golf swing only needs some tweaking with a couple of good ‘golf tips’.
    In my view, a “TPI Expert” without force plates/mats is not really an ‘expert’ because you cannot eyeball GRFs and CoP shifts. Your thoughts?

  4. EnzoD

    Oct 4, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Most nervous video presenter ever. The information appears contradictory.

  5. Mat

    Oct 4, 2017 at 6:13 am

    This video is schizophrenic. Paid by the word?

  6. NG

    Oct 4, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Nearly broke my ankle with the toes in like that, even though it was easier to draw the ball that way

  7. Acemandrake

    Oct 3, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Open & narrow: My chiropractor suggested this stance in order to take stress off of my lower back.

    It worked.

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How the Trail Arm Should Work In Backswing

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Stop getting stuck! In this video, I demonstrate a great drill to help you move your trail arm correctly in the backswing.

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Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve

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Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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Jumping for Distance (Part 2): The One-Foot Jump

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In Part 1, I wrote about how I think this concept of jumping up with both feet for more power may have come about in part due to misinterpretation of still photography and force plate data, self-propagation, and a possible case of correlation vs causation. I also covered reasoning why these players are often airborne, and that can be from flawed setups that include overly wide stances and/or lead foot positions that are too closed at setup or a re-planted lead foot that ends up too closed during the downswing.

In Part 2, let’s look at what I feel is a better alternative, the one foot jump. To me, it’s safer, it doesn’t complicate ball striking as much, and it can still generate huge amounts of vertical ground force.

First, set up with an appropriate stance width. I like to determine how wide to stand based on the length of your lower legs. If you go to your finish position and stand on your lead leg and let your trail leg dangle down so your knees are parallel, your lower trail leg should extend only as far back as it will go while being up on the tip of your trail toe. If you roll that trail foot back down to the ground, viola, you’ll have a stance width that’s wide enough to be “athletic” and stable but not so wide you lose balance when swinging. You can go a little wider than this, but not much.

To contrast, the stance below would be too wide.

Jumping off the ground can be caused by too wide of a stance and lead foot position that is too closed at setup

Second, make sure your lead foot is open sufficiently at address. I’ve previously outlined how to do both these first two points in this article.

Third, whether you shift your weight to your trail foot or keep a more centered weight type feeling in the backswing, when you shift your weight to your lead foot, be careful of the Bubba replant, and then push up with that lead leg to push your lead shoulder up. This is the one-foot “jump” and it will take advantage of parametric acceleration (read more about that here).

But also at the same time, shift your lower spine towards the target.

From a face-on viewpoint, this can look like back bend, but in 3D space it’s side bend. It kind of feels like you are crunching the trail side of your mid-section, or maybe just bending over to the side to pick up a suitcase, for example. This move helps lower your trail shoulder, which brings down the club (whereas this is more difficult to do if you try to two-foot jump with your trail leg). It also helps you to keep from getting airborne off your lead foot. Further it doesn’t change your low point (by not changing the relative position of the C7 vertebrae in its general orb in space) and complicate ball striking like a two-foot jump does.

At this point, the club releases and you can stand up out of the shot (you don’t need to transition in to any sort of dangerous back bend) in balance on your lead foot having generates tons of vertical ground force without having jumped off the ground or putting yourself at risk for injury.

“Movember” mustache… not required!

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