In my article last week, I discussed the benefits of maintaining flex in your rear knee (the right knee for right-handed players) during the backswing. This week, I’d like to provide a counter-argument, and tell you about the benefits of keeping the rear knee straight.
As I’ve previously discussed, there’s no “right” way for your rear knee to behave during the swing. I simply want to empower you with the knowledge that both behaviors can be beneficial, especially when working to solve a problem with your ball striking.
To support the “rear-knee flexed” argument, I used photos of Tiger Woods’ backswing. This week, to support “rear-knee straight” argument, I’m employing video of Tommy Armour III on the Senior Tour (above). He’s had great success with his ball striking using a mostly straight rear-knee swing. Let’s examine how straightening the rear knee can benefit your golf swing in three key ways.
1. A Better Low Point
A straight rear knee allows you to keep your head more stable, and most players tend to have their low point more forward as a result, creating better impact conditions.
Personally, I find that for players who tend to sway and/or slide off the ball and never “get back” through the ball, it is much easier for them to allow the knee to straighten. It keeps them more on top of the ball, and, subsequently, they hit the ball first more often than not. Whenever you get a player to actually feel the proper low point of the swing, and therefore the proper compression of the golf ball, it’s easier for them to replicate that. I believe straightening the rear knee is one the best ways to get golfers to compress the golf ball for the first time, and more consistently afterward, too.
2. A Better, Unrestricted Turn
A straight rear knee allows less-flexible players to make a fuller turn to the top since the hips are not restricted, and the tilting of the pelvis and shoulders will put the hands in a “higher” position, leading to more speed being generated.
Older, bigger-built, and less-flexible players just cannot generate the necessary speed they need when their rear knee stays flexed to the top; when they do so, something has to give. Usually the arms tend to lift, causing an over-the-top motion during the transition. Thus, I feel that allowing the rear knee to straighten gives them the necessary turn to get into a more playable position. Brandel Chamblee preaches this type of swing model for the average player, and I could not be in more agreement for this type of golfer. You just cannot play from a flexed position when you don’t have flexibility or speed.
3. Staying On Top
A straight rear knee allows some players to feel that it’s easier to stay “on top of the ball” using this type of knee action to the top, leading to a better weight transfer.
We all know about that the Stack-and-Tilt trend, and the now common Centered-Pivot players need to allow their rear knee to straighten in order to stay stable and over the top of the ball. When they do so, it puts them in a better and more playable position, especially with the irons. Hitting shots from 175-225 yards is the key for lower scores on the PGA Tour, according to Mark Broadie, and players employing the techniques listed above are having great success with their iron play.
For you at home, I encourage you to examine your game, your golf swing, and your general swing flaws, and then develop a plan that either incorporates either a flexed or straight rear knee. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether your knee is flexed or straight. Both styles have their own benefits, but it’s imperative that your rear-knee behavior meshes with your physical capabilities. You want to feel both comfortable and powerful in your golf swing. Experiment and make sure you are using the correct knee action for your game.