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The Lower Body: Focus on three areas for a better backswing

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Your lower body action is important for many reasons within the golf swing. It can influence things like power, attack angle, balance and swing plane, to name a few.

What most people do not know is that there are three areas of in the lower body that you should be mindful of in order for you to gain the maximum efficiency on the backswing. In this article, I would like to explain these areas and why they are so important.

If you look at your lower body and its parts, you can split it up into a few components for the rear leg only:

  • Foot Action
  • Knee Action
  • Hip Action

It’s vital for you to control each of these components in order to store the most potential energy and use it in your downswing. Losing control of one of these actions will cause you to have a “power leak” in your backswing, which will result in your lower body not work correctly during the downswing. Thus if you are having trouble with your forward swing, I bet you can link it back to your lower body actions to the top!

The Setup

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.58.09 AM

In the photo above, you can see that the right foot, right knee and right hip are all lined up and ready for the backswing to begin. It’s these components that will govern the amount of backswing hip rotation you have and where your weight goes on your right foot to the top. It will also provide a stable platform for your pivot to work from during the transition. If you have a tendency to set up incorrectly — getting these “dots” out of line — you are only asking for trouble.

The Top (GOOD)

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.57.50 AM

As you get to the top, the body should be “on the dots” once again, within reason, and at this point we are striving to achieve foundational stability. It’s NOT about immobilizing the lower body, because as you can see I am still twisting and turning, displacing weight to the top. These foundational points allow me to load up on the inside of the rear foot and be poised and ready to explode forward with the lower body leading and powering the pivot train through the ball.

The Top (BAD)

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.57.30 AM

Anytime you slide off these dots, you will tend to see a “bowing” of the right side of your body at the top. This causes the weight to move to the outside of your right foot at the top and reduces the amount of torso lean over your right leg at the top as seen earlier. This will reduce width at the top as well. 

As we know, whenever you slide on the backswing it is much tougher to use the lower body to begin the downswing and thus the shoulders and arms take over and an over-the-top path tends to happen. If you are having trouble starting your downswing from the ground up, I’d venture to say that your lower body work is sloppy to the top. 

How can you work on your lower body issues and control your lower body more effectively to the top? Use my simple foot-in drill with practice swings and you will feel how to better control the lower body during your backswing. From there, try to find the same feeling with your normal right foot position in your full swing.

First, Turn in Your Right Foot at Address

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.57.16 AM

Then, Take Your Swing to the Top

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.57.05 AM

You will feel pressure on the inside portion of your right side when you do this drill correctly. This is the feeling you will look for when you return back to normal swings to the top. 

A word of caution: I would not hit balls with this drill, as it tends to put too much pressure on your right knee, but it’s a great drill for you to work on in slow motion during your backswing.

If you can achieve this feeling to the top of your swing, you will be loaded and ready to hit the ball longer than ever before! 

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. LY

    Mar 6, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Many,many years ago I heard Ken Venturi giving a golf lesson and he said that one of the most important swing thoughts for most amateurs was to maintain the flex in the right knee. He said you will see a lot of amateurs straightening out their right knee on the takeaway which changes their spine angle, and causes their head to move up. (if you are a right handed player). He said that if you could maintain the same flex in the right knee throughout your backswing you had a better chance of making solid contact. This is the only swing thought that I use. When someone at my club wants me to look at their swing, the first thing I look at is the right knee. And about 98% of the time they either straighten the right knee or it moves way off the ball to the point that the inside part of their right foot is coming up slightly off of the ground. Naturally when I mention this to them they immediately start hitting the ball better and I look like I really know what I’m talking about!
    This was a great article and I will be forwarding this to a few of my high handicap friends.

  2. Shaun

    Mar 4, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    I have a bad swaying problem and my instructor told me you want to have the feel of turning and looking over your right shoulder at something behind you so I could feel the turn in my torso and hip. It’s helped a great bit and I’m looking forward to trying this as well. Anything to help get rid of this darn swaying. Thanks for the tip Tom.

    • Barry S.

      Mar 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Shaun, I hope you don’t mind me putting something out there for your consideration. Without seeing you swing I would take an educated guess and say the reason you have a bad swaying problem is because you are taking the club back wide along the target line. Watch Sam Snead’s takeaway. He didn’t take the club wide he took it around or what people incorrectly call inside. Would like to add more but I haven’t figured out how to make paragraphs here so let’s just leave it at that.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYbiwWi_9k0&feature=youtu.be

      • Shaun

        Mar 4, 2015 at 9:45 pm

        Nail on the head Barry! I don’t mind the input and thanks for it. I’ll have to work on the inside take away and see if that helps me out. I get thru the ball great according to the instructor but I’m losing power & torque from my swaying causing an overlong backswing and reverse pivot. If you anybody else has input I more than welcome it. Thanks again

  3. Jeremy

    Mar 4, 2015 at 12:59 am

    I think a backwards sway—as opposed to a proper hip turn—also puts a lot of strain on your hip, hamstrings, and glute in the back leg. That’s what I’ve been finding after trying to return to full strength after knee surgery. Everything, including my lower back, feels better when I keep my spine straighter and really rotate at the hips instead of swaying my weight backwards.

  4. Speedy

    Mar 3, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    As the old instruction said, swing around the fence post.

  5. tom stickney

    Mar 3, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Philip– Use your mirror and watch yourself swing to the top…that’s the best drill of all

  6. tom stickney

    Mar 3, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Mike– check to see if your rear knee is straightening…sounds like a reverse hip shift to me

  7. Mike

    Mar 3, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Tom – My foot and knee stay on the dots but my hip moves toward the target. The opposite of your example. Any ideas?

  8. Philip

    Mar 3, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Tom, thank you very much for the information and your time to prepare it.

    I have done similar drills to this one, just to help my body understand the “feel” I am looking for and then allow my body to take control now that it can feel what I am targeting. I now am able to do what you describe in the above video (although I did the “bad” for WAY too long) because I learned to feel it and trust my body to repeat it.

    This winter I was finally able to see the golf swing as a swing and not a method to hit a golf ball. I improved my swing greatly with drills like above and also just making swings in slow motion (with a mirror sometimes) so that I could connect the dots between set-up and the swing. I’ve never learned so much, so fast, with so little effort.

    I am interested in any other drills you have that do not involve hitting a golf ball and focus on paying attention and discovering golf “feels”.

  9. tom stickney

    Mar 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    James– 1) that’s an ok way to do it, if you have the flexibility to do so. 2) Moves into your left toe then into your heel for most people during the downswing. No problem sir

  10. tom stickney

    Mar 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Barry– understanding the areas of concern will help those whom are having issues with their backswing. Of course you don’t think about all of these when you swing but it’s nice to understand how it’s all put together

  11. tom stickney

    Mar 3, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Barry– there are many ways to describe the backswing motion- the one you describe was popularized by Jim McLean.

  12. Barry S.

    Mar 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    The BS pivot is a shift and a turn. You step onto your right foot similar to taking a step when walking followed closely by a turn.

    Are you worried about Foot Action, Knee Action and Hip Action or their alignments when you walk? I hope not or it will take you forever just to cross the street.

  13. james

    Mar 3, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Tom: thanks for the article, as it deals with somethings i have been wondering about. Two question:

    1. I find that weight being placed at the inside of my rear foot restricts my hip turn. I’m okay with that but lately I’ve been hearing lot of pros talk about not restricting the hip. Any comment on this?

    2. Where should the weight be during the downswing and the follow through in regards to the feet? I am currently finding most of the weight being placed at the heel of my lead foot (and causing ankle pain, hence my curiosity) during the transition and finish.

    Thank you for your time in regards to these questions in advance.

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TXG: Should you carry TWO DRIVERS? // Distance, Accuracy, Draw & Fade Setups

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Some of the best players in the world have been testing a two-driver setup for their bags. Does it make sense to play two drivers if they are set up for two different shot shapes? We test one driver setup for maximum distance and draw flight and another setup for accuracy and fade flight. See whether this could be an advantage for your game—and help you get off the tee better at your course!

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Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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