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How changing your stance can unlock more distance

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Ground Reaction Forces (GRF) continue to be a hot topic in golf instruction. We know that many of the longest hitters in the game use the ground more dynamically than the regular weekend golfer to create more distance. So can something as simple as how you address the golf ball going to influence how dynamic your GRFs are and how much distance you can create? The simple answer, absolutely, and maybe it is a less disruptive way of trying to unlock more distance.

I think we’ve all had the question of how far away should we be standing away from the golf ball. With measuring devices like BodiTrak and Swing Catalyst, there are some fun patterns for golfers consider and potentially apply to add power to their golf swings. So let’s take a look at some of these findings and discuss how they might help you create more power in your game.

For this article. I identified GRF data about the three different distances that a golfer can stand away from the golf ball:

  1. Stock stance: This is the instinctive distance golfers use to stand next to the golf ball and successfully hit it.
  2. Standing farther away from the ball: I have measured all of my students for this research when the golf ball is placed a distance of approximately two golf balls farther away from their body. This posture has them tending to tilt more from their hips and become more toe-oriented in their setup.
  3. Standing closer to the ball: I have measured all of my students for this research when the golf ball is placed a distance of approximately two balls closer to their body. This posture has them tending to stand a little taller and becoming more heel-oriented for their setup.

What I found was that no matter what their swing style was, most golfers saw a significant bump in their GRFs (how much harder they press off the ground) when they stood either closer to or farther away from the golf ball.    

So why does this happen? Let’s start off with standing farther away from the golf ball. 

When golfers are farther away from the golf ball, most of them use more hip hinge to be able to reach the golf ball. More hip hinge means that their swing circle (the arc that they swing the golf club upon) just got closer to the ground. Almost every athlete that I measure resolves the problem of being closer to the ground with their swing circle by jumping away from the golf ball and ground, or trying to raise their swing circle so they do not hit the turf before they hit the golf ball. This is an extremely athletic motion that takes place in the downswing that has golfers pressing harder off the ground earlier than normal in their downswing sequence to better ensure they hit the golf ball first.

Let’s look now at the golfers that are standing closer to the golf ball at address. These golfers also tend to press harder off the ground earlier in the downswing sequence. The reason is similar. When golfers stand closer to the golf ball, their swing circle gets closer to the golf ball. When their swing circle is closer than normal to the golf ball, they naturally try to find a dynamic way to get farther away from the golf ball (instinctively, golfers want to ensure ensure that their hosel does not hit a…. well, we won’t grace that evil word in this article)

So let’s take a look at three different golfers and note how differently they respond to the task of hitting a golf ball from different setup positions.

Golfer 1

If you want a deeper look into our first golfer’s Swing DNA, like Center of Pressure, GRF’s and lateral playing characteristics click here. Or if you want the simple version, note that this golfer is right-handed, tall, skinny and wants to hit the golf ball farther.   

Left photo is Stock Ball Position. Center Photo is 2-Balls Away. Right Photo is 2-Balls Closer. Note how the different ball positions change the amount of hip hinge the player must use to address the ball. Also, note how the player’s feet always start from the same position on the BodiTrak Mat.

We measured this specific position, which is close to where most hitters maximize GRFs. Note how the GRFs for this golfer’s stock ball position is 94 percent of his body weight. That percentage increases to 105 percent with the ball farther away from his body and to 106 percent with the ball closer to his body. That’s an increase of more than 10 percent of this golfer’s body weight.

Golfer 2

If you want a deeper look into our second golfer’s Swing DNA, click here. Or if you want the simplified version, this golfer is left handed and slightly thicker than Player 1. He plays golf for a living on multiple professional tours around the world.

Left photo is Stock Ball Position. Center Photo is 2-Balls Away, and Right Photo is 2-Balls Closer. Note how the different ball positions change the amount of hip hinge the player must use to address the ball. Also, note how the player’s feet always start from the same position on the BodiTrak Mat.

We measured this specific position of our golfer’s motion, which is close to where most hitters maximize GRFs. Note how the GRF’s for this golfer’s stock ball position are 72 percent of his body weight. That percentage increases to 144 percent with the ball farther away and 112 percent with the ball closer to his body. That’s an increase of 72 percent of this golfer’s body weight when the ball is farther away, and an increase of 40 percent when the golf ball is closer to his body.

Golfer 3

If you want a deeper look into our third golfer’s Swing DNA, click here. Or if you want the simplified version, he is right handed, shorter than our first player and models his golf swing after Justin Thomas.

Left photo is Stock Ball Position. Center Photo is 2-Balls Away, and Right Photo is 2-Balls Closer. Note how the different ball positions change the amount of hip hinge the player must use to address the ball. Also, note how the player’s feet always start from the same position on the BodiTrak Mat.

We measured this specific position of our golfer’s motion, which is close to where most hitters maximize GRFs. Note how the GRF’s for this golfer’s stock ball position are 72 percent of his body weight. That percentage increases to 172 percent with the ball farther away and 168 percent with the ball closer to his body. That’s an increase of 100 percent of his body weight when he is farther away from the ball, and 98 percent of his body weight when the golf ball is closer to his body.

So what can we take away from this article?

Three different body types, three different skill levels and three different individuals with very different Swing DNAs increased their GRF’s by simply moving closer to or farther away from the golf ball. Therefore, experimenting with ball position might be a simpler, less disruptive key to help you unlock some undiscovered distance in your game… solely by altering your setup. Experiment with this information or go find your trusted PGA Teaching Professional to help you unlock how your golf swing can improve with this information. Good luck! 

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. engineer bob

    Jul 6, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    GRFs… I remember in the early 2000s when golf forums were all open and desperate golfers sought help for their swing problems, I asked what they felt at their feet and suggested foot loading solutions. Golf teachers dissed me and said all problems can be solved from ball flight inwards. I said from the feet upwards… and now…

    • engineer bob

      Jul 6, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      So what are GRFs and how are they generated? We have the Ground and Forces which sounds good, but Reactions are a result of the forces and torques your body generated and the ground simply reacts to them. GRFs are only a ‘signal’ of what’s happening above ground and you can’t acquire extra swing forces from the ground. No magic in GRFs, just diagnosis of your swing faults.

      • geohogan

        Jul 7, 2018 at 8:10 pm

        Humans have evolved with a subconscious ability to deal with gravity. its called balance.

        When golf instructors put us in unnatural positions , of course our subconscious makes adjustments to keep us in balance, in all planes, including coronal and sagittal planes.

        Imagine if our subconscious balance system including billions of neurons had a personality that could interact with golf instructors, listen to those instructors attempting to explain how GRF work in a golf swing. More absurd, golfers paying to hear explanations of how humans balance during dynamic movement.

        Do you need an instructor and force plates to learn to walk on an icy sidewalk? Learn to skate?
        Now you know why its absurd to study GRF from golf intructors.

        • engineer bob

          Jul 7, 2018 at 10:15 pm

          Your thinking is juvenile and 2-dimensional. Golf is now entering the era of scientific Statics and Newtonian Dynamics. All the old dog ‘teachers’ are obsolete failures as evidenced in the golf swing failure among rec golfers. Force plates are a diagnostic tool to be used by modern instructors to help analyze how the golfer applies forces.
          Btw, there is no ‘subconscious’… only conscious and non-conscious states.

          • geohogan

            Jul 8, 2018 at 6:01 pm

            So force plates over shadow the evolution of human ability to balance on two feet, in 3D. Your a joke.

            Balance is achieved and maintained by a complex set of sensorimotor control systems that include sensory input from vision (sight), proprioception (touch), and the vestibular system (motion, equilibrium, spatial orientation); integration of that sensory input; and motor output to the eye and body muscles

            • gif

              Jul 9, 2018 at 9:56 am

              You just don’t understand Statics and Newtonian Dynamics… and all you depend on is biology without the mechanics… all ‘bio’ and no ‘mechanics’. This reveals your ignorance and avoidance of using equipment that reveals the flow of forces and generation of torques in the golfswing. You are incompetent to fully analyze, diagnose and truly fix a golfswing.

              • geohogan

                Jul 9, 2018 at 8:22 pm

                Force plates measure the effect of gravity on the body during motion. Your obviously an engineer and know nothing about physiology or genetics.
                Carry on fixing golf swings with fancy bathroom scales one under each foot.
                Good BYB
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtDPbByu6q0

                • bob

                  Jul 10, 2018 at 11:15 pm

                  WRONG!!! Force plates measure static forces due to gravity AND applied forces due to thrust and torque. If you don’t understand Newtonian Physics your knowledge of physiology and genetics is useless and even misleading. Trying to define the golfswing based solely on body types and muscular enervation is half-azz science. Pfffft

                • geohogan

                  Jul 11, 2018 at 9:22 am

                  How much torque and thrust would force plates measure without gravity? Try ZERO, Mr Isaac.

                  Force plates measure gravity acting upon a moving body.
                  Newtons Law : For every force there is an equal and opposite reaction force.

                  In other words, Newtonian physics states, that the dog wags the tail. or as dtrain stated:
                  “Ground forces are a reaction, not something that you should try to achieve”

          • dtrain

            Jul 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm

            rec golfers rarely take lessons, that is the failure.

            Ground forces are a reaction, not something that you should try to achieve. Cause and effect, people like you usually get it backwards.

            • engineer bob

              Jul 9, 2018 at 3:06 pm

              Yes, I said that in my above comments. If rec golfer took lessons, lesson #1 would likely be hit the gym to lose 50#, then strengthen and gain flexibility. Lesson #2 would likely never happen… instead decrepit rec golfer will buy new and improved golf clubs in hopeless hope. You don’t want the golf club industry to collapse… do you? 😮

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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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Instruction

WATCH: Over-the-top vs. over-and-through: 1 destroys a swing, 1 can save it

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This video is about OVER-AND-THROUGH, which is very different than being over-the-top. Over-and-through is a great recovery from a backswing that is not quite in the right position. Over-the-top is flat-out a full default to the ball. See how you can bridge the gap with getting your swing to deliver better to the target!

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Instruction

Stop Practicing, Start Training. Part 1: The long game

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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. 

Zach Parker

The act of working on your golf game is often referred to as practice. This is a problem, however, because the word “practice” infers repetition or rehearsal. But golf is a sport that has a constantly changing playing surface, varying conditions and mixed skill requirements. So, if we use the traditional practice model of hitting the same shot over and over again, then we have a complete mismatch between our training and the requirements of the sport. This can lead to the following frustrations

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

These annoyances can lead to overall disappointment at underperforming and falling short of expectations developed in practice sessions. The most likely root cause of this issue is having no structure and the wrong context to your training, mistakenly focusing on repeating the same shot over and over again. 

So let’s try shifting our approach and aim to train and not simply practice. By introducing these three key principles to your training, we can not only get better at golf, but do so a way that is more efficient and more fun too! For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

Spacing

Dr. Robert Bjorks suggests that the theory of spacing dates back centuries and simply means taking some time between training or learning tasks. By spacing things out the learner is forced to try and recall what was learned in the previous session, which makes that original learning stronger. The act of remembering strengthens the retrieval process, meaning it is more accessible in the future and easier to bring about.

Variability

Performing the same task over and over can allow you to appear to have “learned” the skill however we know that this is simply a false sense of competency (good on the range, but not on the course). Therefore if you’re truly looking to “learn” the new skill or desired movement pattern you need to introduce variability to the learning environment.

Challenge Point

Challenge point theory is a relatively new concept championed by Dr. Mark Guadagnoli and Dr. Tim Lee. The central idea of this theory is to create training sessions that are appropriate for the learner. A large emphasis is placed on matching up the difficulty of the practice task to the skill level of the golfer.

Guadagnoli and Lee present the idea that a beginner golfer with a low level of skill is better off spending time on practice tasks that are easier, and in a blocked style. Whilst golfers with a higher level of skill are better off spending time in practice tasks that are slightly harder, and in an interleaved style.

Challenge point needs to reflect the ability of the individual

Practical Example

In this example we have a college golfer aiming to incorporate a particular technical move into his golf swing. He is using a GravityFit TPro to help with feedback and learning. But instead of simply bashing balls using the TPro, he has been set up with a series of stations. The stations are divided into learning and completion tasks and incorporate the principles of Spacing, Variability and Challenge Point.

The aim is to work through three stations. If at any point the completion task is failed, then the participant must return back to the start at station one.

Station 1

Learning task: Three balls with a specific focus (in this case technical), performing two or three rehearsals to increase understanding of the desired pattern.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 35-45 feet, right-to-left break

Station 2

Learning task: Perform posture drills with the TPro, followed by one learning trial (hitting a shot) where the focus in on re-creating the feelings from the TPro exercise.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30 feet, uphill

Station 3

Learning task: Transfer previous technical feels to a target focus, aiming for two out of three balls landing inside the proximity target.

Completion task: Must make an 8-10 footer.

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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