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The magic of the left heel



Let’s begin with a question: What is the definition of a pivot? In this article I’m using this word to describe the action of the hips throughout the entire swing. I’m also using the phrase “death of the pivot,” because in contrast to the past, today’s players restrict the turning of their left hip.

Why do they do this? Because they have been told that first, the left heel should remain on the ground for two reasons. First, the instructors opinion that the maneuver is too complicated for the average player to execute. And second, that keeping the left heel down will create a higher degree of torsion between the upper and lower body potentially allowing the player to drive the ball further.

On the second point, the presumed increase in distance being based on the differential between the upper body and lower body coil. And the greater the difference between those two numbers, in theory, the more powerful the swing.

Further, the last point does not address the potential for injury or whether accuracy is considered as part of the equation.

In earlier years, most of the great players had a liberal left hip turn allowing their left heel to leave the ground, including Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, and several other great players from that era.

In today’s world, the list of those players who allow their left heel to leave the ground is considerably shorter then in earlier days. Those that immediately come to mind are Jack Nicklaus, John Daly, Bubba Watson, Tom Watson, and the late Payne Stewart. In the case of these players the elevation of the left heel was not a separate movement but an integrated part of their coil.

Jack Grout

Jack Nicklaus allowed his left heel to leave the ground by several inches as he coiled his hips in the backswing. This was something that he was taught to him by his teacher, Jack Grout.

In his earlier years, Grout had tried his hand at playing the game while traveling with Ben Hogan but In the end he decided that he would rather teach the game than play it.
His first position as an instructor was at a Glen Garden G.C., where his brother, Dick Grout, was the Head Professional. This was coincidently the same course where both Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson grew-up caddying.

Grout was later offered the teaching position at Scioto Country Club in Ohio which was Jack Nicklaus’ home course. And that is where he first began working with the young boy.

Alex Morrison

As he was learning the game himself, Grout worked with Alex Morrison who was a highly-respected teacher in his day. Morrison believed that there were two basic motions that drove the swing. The first was a focus on the position of the chin at address and throughout the swing. The second was good footwork which he concluded was achieved by rolling the feet and the ankles inward during both the backswing and the downswing.

Jack Nicklaus

This was directly counter to the way Nicklaus used his feet. In his backswing, his left heel went out towards the target at the very begining of his backswing, rather than inward as advocated by Morrison.

Nicklaus had discovered, perhaps inadvertently, that the outward motion of his left heel was the secret to engaging his left hip coil at the beginning of the backswing.

The question then is why was Nicklaus’ footwork different than what Morrison had taught Grout? That is question that will go unanswered but the possible explanation is that Nicklaus naturally developed the footwork on his own and Grout choose to not try and change it.

A second possibility is that Grout rejected Morrison’s technique and developed his own which he then taught to his young protégé. Whatever the case Nicklaus’ footwork allowed him to develop one of the best pivots in the history of the game.

Golf Digest

The left heel also plays a secondary role in the downswing. Golf Digest ran a cover story several years ago featuring the action of Nicklaus’ left heel on the downswing. They touted this as a new discovery and one of the many secrets of his swing.

What they had noticed when studying his footwork was that his left heel came down CLOSER TO THE TARGET than it was at the beginning. This was a move once again that Nicklaus was likely not aware of until it was pointed out to him, but the movement served to set up a STRONG POST of the left foot, ankle and knee at impact.

What is the message? That the way you move your left heel in the swing is critical to developing a sound pivot.

Experience the feel

You can experience these movement yourself by following these step-by-step directions

  • Step 1: First, stand in front of a mirror with your feet shoulder width apart and your weight even on both feet and your shoulders level.
  • Step 2: Second, assume your set-up WITHOUT using a club. And then while making a mock swing allow your left foot to leave the ground but not more than three inches. You can check this in the mirror. Note: The ideal motion is one in which your left heel moves slightly outward initiating the movement of your hip coil.
  • Step 3: As you your left heel is rising, turn your left heel slightly OUTWARD. You will notice as you look in the mirror that this very slight movement at the beginning of the backswing causes your left hip to move OUTWARD. This is the beginning of a proper
  • Step 4: On the downswing plant your left heel SLIGHTLY CLOSER TO THE TARGET than it was at address in the same manner as Nicklaus. As you watch in the mirror you will notice that this movement will cause your left hip to MOVE OUTWARD FIRST before turning back to the left.

In summary then, the left heel controls the initial movement of the hips in both the backswing and the downswing. Do you want to improve your ball-striking? You can start that process right now by mastering the magic of the left heel.


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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.



  1. you know

    Feb 11, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Weight shift.. Ground directional forces? Just hit the damn ball..

  2. Rick Wilmoth

    Feb 11, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    I am sorry to say that most coaches, teachers, and instructors do not know the basic fundamentals of their sport based on the laws of physics, and bio-mechanics. That is a fact. Track and Field has taken the lead in this area and done most of the homework in applying how science should be applied to sport’s instruction. Track and Field events cover most of the athletic motions, or movements of jumping, throwing, and running that cross over to just about every sport. Extensive research is available on these subjects if one wants to study them.
    How many times do you watch so called expert golf instruction where the instructor resorts to describing, or having the pro explain HOW they perform a specific shot, or technique, but rarely if ever explain the WHY? Using,” this is how I do it,” is not advanced instruction and means little.

  3. MG

    Feb 11, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Mickelson just won at Pebble lifting his “right” heal. I assume this is more for your longer clubs? At what iron do you not lift your heal?

  4. freowho

    Feb 11, 2019 at 2:44 am

    The author talks about the left heel creating a post for impact but he then spins on his left heel so the post is turning allowing him to turn his hips towards the target. If it was a post he wouldn’t be able to follow through without scooping. Unfortunately coaches for years have taught pupils to bump their lift hip against an old golf shaft in the ground and created scoopers for decades.

  5. earlanthony

    Feb 9, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Roll the ankles and release the arms to hit it long and straight.

  6. geohogan

    Feb 8, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Muscles control movement of bones, contract and relax, they do not coil. There are no springs in the human body to coil and uncoil.

    The only way the pelvic basin, including hips move is by the lower body. ie feet, ankles, knees. There is no other means for the hips to move, so if the lower body doesnt move
    the hips dont move = restricted hip turn.

    We pivot on our rear hip on BS and early part of the DS; then pivot on our lead hip for follow through. The lead foot has to invert in order to release tension in pelvic basin and lower back. No golfers inverted their lead ankles as well as Jack N and Johnny Miller.

    Posting on lead foot flat on the ground from impact and beyond, will damage the lower spine
    and or lead knee and hip.Even Adam Scott, releases the big toe of his lead foot after impact

    • Dan

      Feb 11, 2019 at 4:46 pm

      There absolutely are “springs” so to speak that coil. Look at Nicklaus’ right leg at the top of the swing. The knee flex is maintained and creates tension up the outside of the thigh as it twists slightly above a stable lower leg. That’s the spring. Plus the muscles in the left back at the top are stretched, that tension plus the thigh are what wants to return to where they were. That creates the beginning of the speed on through impact with a throwing the ball action post impact to bring it all together ( watch a pitcher at the top of the knee/leg raise) all that twisting is the spring. If you relax the leg, it will straighten and interrupt the loading and cause the hips to turn too much back. Most amateurs do this and the arms out race the body and blow their arm speed fore impact. Just read the X factor. All good players do this for a reason, it works. Plus lifting your left heal is a road to vertical balance problems. Most amateurs aren’t coordinated enough to time it anyway.

      • geohogan

        Feb 22, 2019 at 8:19 am

        @dan; absolutely ;muscles do not spring, and do not stretch, they contract and relax
        one or the other.
        The muscles you refer to in the left bak at the top.. LOL
        Do a little research. The scapula is what protracts in the BS in a proper golf swing.
        its how Ben Hogan wore a hole in his golf shirts with his chin rubbing against his shoulder. Yes his shoulder….without stretching a muscle.LOL

        “A person’s shoulder joint is composed of the clavicle (collar bone), the scapula (shoulder blades), and the humerus (upper arm bone), along with two joints – the acromioclavicular, or AC joint; and the glenohumeral joint. AC joints exist between the clavicle and the scapula, whereas the glenohumeral joint is the classic ball-and-socket joint responsible for basic arm rotations and hinging. All these bones and joints are in turn supported by the surrounding musculature.”

      • geohogan

        Feb 22, 2019 at 9:02 am

        @ dan; Im betting that your a very good natural athlete.
        Keep it up, enjoy….dont try to think too much.


  7. Sup

    Feb 8, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    Not everybody have to do this.
    It’s whther you are flexible or not.
    Look at Adam Scott. He is so supple his whole left calf ankle can rotate around with his calf while his whole foot remains planted to the ground

  8. DB

    Feb 8, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    I just think this footwork seems more natural and athletic. I hope it makes a come back.

    • geohogan

      Feb 9, 2019 at 12:14 pm

      @DB, natural and athletic footwork has always existed. Its our genetic makeup.

      Its the misguided golf instruction eg X factor that has messed with golfers
      to cause much physical pain, permanent damage and loss of interest in the game of golf.

  9. Greg V

    Feb 8, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Good article.

    Bobby Jones was another player whose left heel came down closer to the target, like Jack.

    Anytime I see a player’s left heel come down closer to his right heel, I can generally find an over the top move.

    • geohogan

      Feb 10, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus had a great lateral move, when they planted the lead foot
      it was oriented according to their new torso position with spine lined up behind their left heels. Check pics and video from behind. At top of BS their butt hole points behind the left heel. As if they are farting behind the left heel*.

      * The Hogan Manual of Human Performance: GOLF, 1992.

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How I train tour players



There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.


I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile


From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!


The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.


Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions


Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.


My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips



In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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Clement: Hips turn in the short game too!



Having issues with short game and trying to keep everything still? Stop wasting time on being careful and manipulative with your club as your wiring and anatomy are not properly designed for this kind of doing. You are a gravity genius and when you tap into using the weight of the limbs and club as a unit to perform the right task, MAGIC HAPPENS!! Listen very closely to the following wisdom; you will be happy you did!!

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19th Hole