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The difference between pressure and weight in the golf swing

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Understanding the difference between pressure and weight in your golf swing is an absolute must for golfers of all skill levels, and it’s something I cover in almost all my lessons. It’s not only crucial to a proper setup, but vital to making a powerful pivot and hitting longer, straighter shots.

weight vs. pressure

Before we get into golf terms, let’s look at the terms pressure and weight in general. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say.

  • Pressure: The weight or force that is produced when something presses or pushes against something else.
  • Weight: A body’s relative mass, or the quantity of matter contained by it. The heaviness of a person or thing.

So how do these two concepts transfer to our golf swing? Usually, students feel pressure in their feet and believe that’s where their weight is, but this is a common misconception. To get my players to better understand the difference between the two, I like to break the body into two halves, both of which have weight and mass.

  1. Your upper half (torso and head)
  2. Your lower half (glutes, hips, and legs)

I like to have my students stand straight up from their golf posture, and then have them put their weight onto their lead foot, which is the left foot for a right-handed golfer. While maintaining what they feel as pressure and weight on their lead foot, I have them tilt their upper body back toward their opposite foot and hold that position. They now have pressure on their lead foot, but weight behind the ball.

weight vs. pressure

Now, let’s examine the set-up position from the face-on view. How we address the ball in our set-up position dictates where both our pressure and weight are located, and where it will move when we pivot. One of the most important keys to the correct setup position is having a slight tilt to our upper body, so the right shoulder is below the left for a right-handed golfer and our head is behind the ball. This will put our mass behind the ball, even though we feel pressure in our feet. This makes it easier to return to our impact position and maintain our spine angle without any extra movement.

With irons, studies show the most efficient set-up position has roughly 55-to-60 percent pressure on our lead foot. That pressure will then shift to the inside of our right foot on the backswing.

photo-3

How we pivot or turn during our backswing is the engine of our golf swing and critical to hitting straight shots. This is where being able to feel the difference between pressure and weight is vital to making a good pivot and maintaining our spine angle. Too many times, I see players try to shift their weight onto their trail foot, only to have their upper half fall back toward the target.

Players feel pressure loading up on their trail foot, but in fact, their mass and weight are moving in front of the ball.

A correct pivot and turn has pressure loading into our trail foot, while we maintain our spine angle. And the upper body stays back behind the ball.

To practice, check your set-up position in front of a mirror, or video your golf swing from the face-on position. Take notice of the relationship between your upper half and lower half, and make sure you have some tilt to your upper body. When you make a turn, make sure the angle from your upper half to your lower is maintained throughout the backswing, and your torso and head stay back behind the ball. Do this, and you will be hitting great shots in no time.

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Kelvin is a Class A PGA golf professional in San Francisco, California. He teaches and has taught at some of the top golf clubs in the Bay Area, including the Olympic Club and Sonoma Golf Club. He is TPI certified, and a certified Callaway and Titleist club fitter. Kelvin has sought advice and learned under several of the top instructors in the game, including Alex Murray and Scott Hamilton. To schedule a lesson, please call 818.359.0352 Online lessons also available at www.kelleygolf.com

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Tyler

    May 15, 2016 at 11:19 am

    This is my kind of instruction! Something with scientific substance rather than blind tips to follow. Thanks! Can’t wait to give this a try.

  2. N.

    May 14, 2016 at 10:44 am

    As some have stated it seems to me that this theory confuses terminology.

    Weight is different to mass and that in turn is confusing the theory of ‘centre of mass’ and balance

    In response to somebody’s comment the author wrote ”For example, shift all your pressure on your trail foot on your backswing, 100 percent of it, even lifting your left foot off the ground (right handed player) now tilt your upper half back to the left, in front of the ball. You can easily do both.”

    This is just irrelevant as there is no other place for pressure to be located other than your right foot if only 1 is on the ground. If you do the same with both feet on the ground and shift 70% of your mass to the left, you move the centre of mass left also. You will feel pressure shift to the left to balance this mass.

    Unless im completely wrong……Ideally it would be useful if somebody with pressure mats etc weighed in

  3. Someone

    May 9, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    Sorry, an easier way to think of it is like a sprinter at setup on the start line. All their weight and mass is forward, but their feet have pressure on the toes despite being behind the mass/weight.

  4. heman

    May 9, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    good article if you understand the terminology as used by the author.

  5. Jeff

    May 9, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Interesting article.
    What I often see is a golfer actually lifting his left shoulder at address which partially tilts there torso.
    I was taught to have level shoulders and slightly lower the right shoulder which can create a tilt.
    Suited me and very easy to do.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      May 9, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      Jeff,

      Glad you enjoyed the article. Having tilt to your upper body at address putting your head behind the ball is crucial to a good setup and making the proper pivot. A great drill to feel this is put your hands together (palms together) while in your golf posture and simply slide your right hand below your left, and let your upper half tilt.

  6. larrybud

    May 9, 2016 at 8:43 am

    There is NO difference between weight and pressure in a STATIC position. IMPOSSIBLE. Our left and right feet have the same area pressing against the ground.

    Pressure per sq in=Weight / Area.

  7. dapadre

    May 9, 2016 at 4:28 am

    Very good article as this is a key element which is forgotten especially for beginning golfers. One question/TIP, why not also show a picture of a CORRECT backswing along with the incorrect you have.

    thanks

  8. LimpingBassoon

    May 9, 2016 at 1:03 am

    …?

  9. LimpingBassoon

    May 9, 2016 at 12:30 am

    This article could have been great if the author focused more on the dynamic aspect of the golf swing.(movement and acceleration) However, he instead kept explaining only about the positional change during the swing(the static part), and regretfully, got it completely wrong.

    The article went fine until this point,

    “They now have pressure on their lead foot, but weight behind the ball.”

    Nope. They still have both pressure and weight on their lead foot. Cold hard fact.

    They might have the weight of the uppermost part of their torso behind the ball, but if you meant this you should have written more accurately. The total weight of the body is always distributed in exactly the same way the pressure is distributed, UNLESS there is some acceleration going on.

    • larrybud

      May 9, 2016 at 8:39 am

      @LimpingBassoon
      [“They now have pressure on their lead foot, but weight behind the ball.”
      Nope. They still have both pressure and weight on their lead foot. Cold hard fact.]

      Exactly. If the position is static, you cannot have more pressure on the lead foot yet have the majority of weight on the trail foot, since presumably, our left and right feet are the same size, hence same area on the ground with each foot.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      May 9, 2016 at 9:46 am

      LimpingBassoon,

      Thanks for the comment. You have obviously studied boditrak and pressure matts thoroughly and those are great teaching tools. Examining linear traces of pressure is always a benefit. How we take that information provided and teach it to students is more important, otherwise you just read numbers at your home computer. The point of the article is to maintain your spine angle throughout the swing and to get students to understand there is mass/weight to your upper body. For example, shift all your pressure on your trail foot on your backswing, 100 percent of it, even lifting your left foot off the ground (right handed player) now tilt your upper half back to the left, in front of the ball. You can easily do both. This would be an example of not properly using your pressure matt data, as we are now in an incorrect body position as the “incorrect” picture shows.

      • LimpingBassoon

        May 9, 2016 at 6:36 pm

        Mr. Kelly thanks for the reply, I also think that the main point you emphasized is hugely important, and every reader will benefit from the idea of ‘maintaining the spine tilt’! (regardless of how the explanation reaches the conclusion)
        However, physics is physics and wrong is wrong. The basic concept of weight and pressure shift is incompletely/incorrectly represented in the article. Actually, I have no experience with boditrak or pressure matt(though I’d absolutely love to). But it doesn’t take serious experiments to know if the weight and pressure go together or not. They ALWAYS go together if there is no acceleration. It was simply wrong to say otherwise.
        It is important to note that during the golf swing, the pressure DOES shift even if the weight does not. But it is not because of spine tilt. It is because the body and the club get accelerated during the swing.

    • TonyK

      May 9, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      Yes. Even with some acceleration. The amount of player’s torso lateral acceleration*upper body(mostly) mass relative to their body weight is small. The static weight simply dominates.

  10. Monahan

    May 8, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Good info. I like your explanation of weight and pressure, makes sense. Never thought of it that way.

  11. Normal sized Adam

    May 8, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Large Chris absolutely CRUSHING the swing thought game. Great read, thanks for the insight, kelvin.

  12. Tom Duckworth

    May 8, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    I thought at the top if the back swing that I should feel pressure on the inside of my right foot.
    Some golfers even lift their left heel off the ground a little. Then weight transfers back to the left at the start of the down swing. I must be missing something.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      May 8, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      Hey Tom,

      Thanks for the comment/question. You are absolutely correct, pressure moves into the right foot on the backswing (for right handed golfer), as the article states. More importantly, we start with tilt to our upper body in our set up and maintain that angle throughout the swing. The article is to help you understand the importance of our upper and lower half in relation to each other, and understand that even though you feel pressure moving back, it may not be your upper half as well and you could be losing your spine angle.

  13. Mike

    May 8, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Large Chris, I don’t follow u and your explanation similar to a science experiment.

  14. Joe Brenna

    May 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Had trouble with balance and his instruction makes sense and helped me out from all the chunking… Added 20 yards and made me more consistent.. Thanks Bro…

  15. Little Larry

    May 8, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Easy there Large Chris, I don’t think we need to turn this into a Math Problem, golf is hard enough already.

    • 10-8 Smizzle

      May 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Pretty basic to those of us outside of West Virginia

      • joe

        May 8, 2016 at 4:23 pm

        10-8 Smizzle — yo common core math man. YOU and WV can eat sh*t.

        • 10-8 Smizzle

          May 8, 2016 at 5:34 pm

          here’s the problem with public schools…
          Rather than going there to learn he obviously went there to help the football team go 4-6
          Since his favorite college team lost to WV he lashes out
          Note: favorite doesn’t mean alma-mater

  16. Large Chris

    May 8, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    “They now have pressure on their lead foot, but weight behind the ball.”

    I appreciate you trying to explain the difference, but this sentence is meaningless. There is a little less WEIGHT going through the lead foot and more WEIGHT transferred to the trail foot. In this (strictly speaking static system) context, pressure is just weight divided by area, Eg the area of the foot on the ground (just the toe, just the heel, or the whole foot planted).

    What the various pressure mat systems show is (at setup) static WEIGHT distribution between your feet and during the swing dynamic FORCES being directed through various parts of both feet.

    • LimpingBassoon

      May 9, 2016 at 12:36 am

      It makes me sad that this is the only person who understands correctly and everyone does not even try to put any effort to think again.

      • Large Chris

        May 9, 2016 at 7:59 am

        I assure you Limp it makes me sad as well, people muddling up simple physics terms and not seeing that it matters.

        • Cornfused...

          May 9, 2016 at 1:40 pm

          Here is the problem as it pertains to golf, and perhaps the teacher here is trying to get the student right without muddling it up with math. The proper setup for this example is a slightly tilted forward hip (there is your weight being 55% forward) but your upper body being tilted away from the target. If you tell a student that he needs to have 55% of their weight forward to create a static pressure being more on the front foot. The student will then lean their upper body over their left foot. No matter which setup philosophy you follow this will lead to disaster for a golf swing and possibly the students body. The thing here is that this is a golf problem, not a math problem.

    • Someone

      May 9, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      So for all the math/physics majors, I believe the best way to understand “weight behind the ball” is that the persons body mass is behind the ball, and to achieve that the inside of the left foot has pressure because it is supporting the mass. Think of the inside of the left foot as a support that is holding up a falling wall. All the “weight”/mass is behind the ball, but the inside left foot is the support stopping it from falling forward. So the mass (the persons body) is behind the ball whilst still having the pressure on the inside left foot. So not impossible at all.

      • Kelvin Kelley

        May 11, 2016 at 3:56 pm

        Someone,

        Thanks for the comment. Another great way to explain the difference, well said.

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