Is your footwork keeping you from better scores? Golfers spend a lot of time working on swing plane, but footwork is one of the most critical parts of the swing. It starts the downswing, so if it’s done improperly can lead to numerous swing flaws.
Improper footwork can cause loss of spine angle, reverse weight shifts, hooks and slices just to name a few. One of the problems with golf is we don’t play the game facing our target and our minds function far better dealing with anything facing its target — it’s the way the human brain developed. So what do the best players in the world do that a large amount of golfers don’t do with their feet?
Stability is important when swing at a stationary ball, where as in baseball we see the ball and react. This allows movement or a dynamic use of the feet. One of the most common mistakes made with footwork is not keeping the right foot (for right-handed golfers) planted in the ground during the downswing. This happens for a few different reasons, the first is due to the fact we are trying to hit something with a considerable amount of force. The second which I had never thought about, is our toes and how our brains work when trying to do something athletic. You see our toes are used like claws, this fact was pointed out to me by Eric Johnson, director of golf instruction at Oakmont Country Club and Top-100 Teacher.
Johnson believes improper footwork leads to numerous misses in the golf swing. No matter how good a player you are, if you are using your feet incorrectly, it is hurting your golf game. Any number of swing flaws can be attributed to poor footwork. How do you know if your footwork is poor? The stats you generate playing can give you a clue, if you evenly miss right or left, fat and thin, it may be your footwork causing these inconsistencies.
I little while back, I booked a lesson with Johnson to work on my swing flaw, a rise up during the downswing, which is a problem I’ve had for most of my golfing life. Johnson went into detail about the causes and the answer was a surprise to me. It was my toes!
How do your toes — such a small appendages — effect your golf swing? Johnson went in to detail, saying:
“In an effort to generate speed, clear hips and gain traction we grasp at the ground with our toes of the right foot. This can cause one of the death moves in the golf swing. As the toes grasp for the ground like claws, commonly the right heel rises causing the right knee to move forward, perpendicular to your target. In this position commonly the golfer will rise up because the right knee is now partially blocking the path of the club returning to the ball. From this position we can hit the ball everywhere!”
Below are two examples of footwork. The first pictured is improper footwork with the right foot, knee and spine rising up. As Eric explained, from this position the golfer has to reach for the ball. Reaching for the ball as illustrated can cause every mishit, fat, thin, hook or slice. By adding this extra hinge, the golfer is making a more complicated swing that requires even more timing. Timing under pressure is not a good thing.
The proper footwork is instead a roll to the instep of the right foot, performed by arguably the best ball striker that has played the game, Tiger Woods. The difference in this picture compared to the one above is night and day. With this move the entire force of the swing is directed into the ball, with no wasted movement up and away from the ball. This is also a much simpler move with one less hinge, making ball contact and direction far more consistent.
“This swing has the feeling of far less going on in it, the golfer will feel a firm left side,” Johnson said.
The drill I work on to do this, which might help you, is the “right toes in the air” drill, which I had never done before meeting and working with Eric Johnson.
In Part 1 of this drill, take a stance that is as wide as your shoulders. Then raise the toes of your right foot into the air about 2 or 3 inches. Make swings at about 40 percent to start and keep the toes elevated during the swing.
This might feel very strange, as you will be trying to shift to your left leg down and through the ball. But this drill will not allow you to rise up if done properly.
Once you have mastered this part of the drill move onto Part 2, which is much simpler. This time, take the same stance and elevate just the big toe of the right foot. Start at 40 percent and build to full speed swings. This drill will give a feeling of the swing being very constricted, but what it teaches is hitting into a firm left side instead of a spun out and pulled up position.
If your swing looks like the first photo above, try this drill and see if it helps. If you can master this move, you will be surprised at the ball pattern that will appear on the face of your irons. There will be less moving parts in the swing and that is never a bad thing!
To Mr. Whan: Make Walker Cup Trophy Club a one-and-done
I’ll be brief: the United States Golf Association should make the $500 Trophy Club ticket a one-and-done for the Walker Cup. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a lead-in to its limited-spectator policy, the May 2021 edition will eliminate free access to the event. In lieu of the open-arms policy of every other playing of this team competition, the USGA has announced that only those with $500 to spare will pass through the gates of Seminole Golf Club, in Juno Beach, Florida.
I attended the 2009 playing at Merion, and the 2013 matches at National Golf Links of America. I wanted to be at Los Angeles Country Club in 2019, but the odds were not in my favor. Even though I was granted press credentials for both 2009 and 2013, I was gratified to see hundreds, if not thousands, of my fellow golf aficionados in attendance. These were lasses and lads without connections, without memberships, without any other means of access than the largesse of the governing body of golf in this country.
In 2025, the Walker Cup will return to our country, and will be held at storied Cypress Point Club, in Carmel, California. You see the trend here? These are the most historic (and most private) clubs in America. Access to the common man is unavailable, except for events like the Walker and Curtis Cups.
Mr. Whan, you and your association have pledged to expand the game of golf, to welcome people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, and identities. Here is one small but important opportunity to put your mouth where your money isn’t. The USGA makes a lot of money at its annual Open championship. Leave the other kids alone, especially the amateur events. Free and easy access ensures that the game outlives us all, just as our foremothers and forefathers envisioned.
When Bryson lit up the Masters as an amateur (Masters 2016 WITB)
When a young amateur named Bryson DeChambeau turned up at Augusta National Golf Club in 2016, there was a magnetism of curiosity attached to the 22-year-old.
After all, this was not your typical amateur golfer.
He donned a Ben Hogan style cap, was known to test his golf balls in epsom salts to check whether their centre of gravity was off and played a unique set of clubs with every iron and wedge cut to the same length as his favoured 7 iron.
In a world with so much conformity, unusualness becomes a force of its own.
That was certainly the case with Bryson at the 2016 Masters, who even had notable names for his 37.5-inch wedges and irons, which were otherwise only distinguishable from their differing lofts.
- 60-degree wedge – ‘King’ after Arnold Palmer’s 1960 Masters win
- 55-degree wedge – ‘Mr. Ward’ after the Masters Low-Am 1995 winner
- 50-degree wedge – ‘Jimmy’ after the 1950 Masters champ Jimmy Demaret
- 46-degree wedge – ‘Keiser’ after the 1946 Masters winner Herman Keiser
- 9 iron (42 degrees) – ‘Jackie’ after Jackie Robinson’s famous number 42 (same loft)
- 8 iron (38 degrees) – ‘8 ball’
- 7 iron (34 degrees) – ‘Tin Cup’ in honor of the film: 3+4=7
- 6 iron – ‘Juniper’ after the 6th hole at Augusta
- 5 iron – ‘Azalea’ after his favorite par 5 (13th hole)
- 3 iron – ‘Gamma’, which is the third letter in the Greek alphabet
DeChambeau took the trip down Magnolia Lane having, just a year previously, become only the fifth man in history to win the US Amateur Championship and the NCAA Division 1 Championship in the same year.
He had joined Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Ryan Moore in doing so.
Inspired by Homer Kelly’s ‘The Golfing Machine’, DeChambeau also revealed on the week of the Masters in 2016 that he had a fascination with Bobby Jones. Jones, who had famously won the Grand Slam in 1930 and had, like Bryson, altered many of his clubs so that they were also the same length.
When DeChambeau spoke about Jones and his achievements in his pre-Masters press conference, the 22-year-old suggested the possibility of doing something special.
For the opening two rounds of the event, DeChambeau was grouped with defending champion Jordan Spieth and Paul Casey – and something special was certainly abound.
While Spieth stormed into the lead with a round of 66, DeChambeau held his own against the course, opening with a level par 72, which would keep him within sight of the lead. But it was in round two where Bryson showed not just his talent but how, even as an amateur, little could faze him.
On Friday, having flown the opening green at one, DeChambeau faced a delicate chip back down the green. He poured it into the back of the cup, and a magical day was underway.
A bogey at the third followed as the scoring became increasingly difficult in the windy conditions, but as his competitors stuttered, Bryson became inspired.
Using his one plane swing, the 22-year-old birdied the seventh before spinning a wedge back to a few feet on the ninth to move to 2-under par for the event.
He would give that birdie back on 10, but despite the poor weather conditions, he would tame Amen corner, beginning with an approach to 9-feet on 11 (which he later admitted to pulling) – a hole which saw just six birdies on that Friday.
At the 12th, DeChambeau fared even better, knocking his tee shot to 2-feet. He was one off the lead.
He stayed within one of the lead after 35 holes before it all came unstuck on the 18th hole. DeChambeau pulled his tee-shot on the last and found an unplayable lie off the tee – he ended up making a triple bogey 7.
It was a sour finish that left him T8 on the leaderboard, four strokes back.
Speaking on the drive on 18, and the subsequent one which followed, DeChambeau said
“No, I hit two pulled drives. I don’t like the left-to-right wind on that hole and ultimately with this closed gap, I thought seeing those flags out there on 1 right where the leaderboard is blowing to the right,
I thought it was going to move it right, and subconsciously I came a little bit over the top and had a closed clubface. It was only two degrees closed. That’s what does it.”
A third round 77 took DeChambeau out of contention, but the youngster showed his metal on Sunday, hitting back with a round of level par thanks to a birdie on the 72nd hole.
The T21 finish gave Bryson the low-amateur award that year as well as the best finish from an amateur at Augusta since Ryan Moore finished 15th back in 2005.
The 22-year-old was as candid back then as he is today and revealed following the tournament that he had “messed up” his preparation for the event by practicing too much earlier in the week.
“Again, going back to preparation, the only thing I would change is how I spent my time resting, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Unfortunately messed up and, you know what, I’m 22, I’m still young and learning how to manage my time. That’s the one thing that I think I’d change.
Ultimately my body took a toll this week and my hip. Really haven’t talked about it too much, but my hip gave out the second round, on 15, and ultimately led me to pull those two shots. I wouldn’t say that’s the full reason, but at the same time, it did affect me. It was unfortunate, but again, it’s a learning experience.”
It was the week Bryson introduced himself on the world stage and showed the massive amount of potential and determination he possessed, which would ultimately see him become a major champion.
In the next few days DeChambeau will return to Augusta National and will of course draw more attention than any other player in the field.
His introduction was one of intrigue and potential, but when he takes the trip down Magnolia Lane next week, the focus will be on whether Bryson can block out the noise, pressure and expectancy, and fulfil his destiny of becoming a Masters champion.
As a 22-year-old Bryson said after his first Masters experience:
“I think people talk about how every five years, you change as a human being, and that is absolutely true. I mean, I’ve totally changed and what I would tell younger Bryson is, be patient and keep learning every day. Those are the two things that I would tell him.”
You probably don’t need reminding. It’s been 5 years since Bryson first stole the show at Augusta National.
Bryson DeChambeau 2016 Masters WITB
Driver: Cobra King F6+ Pro (7 degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Tour Limited 70X
Length: 45 inches (tipped 2.5 inches)
Weight Setting: Sliding weight removed
3 wood: Cobra King F6 (14.2 degrees actual loft)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Tour Limited 70X
Length: 43 inches (tipped 2 inches)
Lie Angle: 61.5 degrees
Utility: Cobra King Utility (18.5D)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black Hybrid 6.5X (105 grams)
Irons: Cobra Fly-Z+ (3, 5), Edel Forged Prototype (6-9)
Shafts: KBS C-Taper Lite 115X
Length, Lie: 37.5 inches, 73 degrees
Head weight: 280 grams
Lofts: 20 (3), 25 (4), 30 (5), 34 (6), 38 (7), 42 (8), 46 (9)
Putter: Edel “The Brick” prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Slim 3.0 (Blue/White)
Ball: Bridgestone B330-S
Club Junkie: Wilson Staff wedge and Bushnell Wingman review
It’s a short one this week, but I’m reviewing the new-er Wilson Staff Model wedge and the Bushnell Wingman GPS and speaker. The Staff Model is a solid forged wedge that offers good feel, spin, and turf interaction for a slightly lower price. The Bushnell Wingman is a golf GPS and a bluetooth speaker in one. It has a TON of golf stuff built into it, but can also be used off the course to listen to your favorite tracks!
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