Building a solid golf swing isn't all about your body's movements. Its also about the parts that don't move (or move very little).
Take the legs, for instance. Without a stable, quiet lower body, you'll lose balance and fail to build resistance in your torso on the backswing. By restricting the motion of your knees and hips, you allow the upper body to coil against the lower body, then unleash the built-up tension into the ball.
Many amateurs are guilty of overusing their legs. Some rotate the hips too far going back. Others slide laterally off the ball instead of turning around the body. Still others bend the knees during the swing, bobbing up and down and throwing off the clubs path to the ball.
Maintaining a stable lower body isn't the most natural act in golf, but its certainly attainable. The drills in this series will help you keep the legs steady to boost your power and consistency.One of the reasons that so many amateur golfers are unable to reach their goals is they spend too much time working on the wrong things. Specifically, they work on the mechanics of their arm swing without paying any attention at all to how the lower body functions during both the backswing and forward swing. Even if they are able to get their upper body mechanics working nicely, it wont do much good as long as the legs aren't doing their job. If you wish to actually make progress in your game, it is extremely important that you work hard on the motion of your legs during the swing. Stability in the backswing and aggressive rotation in the downswing can lead you to dramatic improvements.
Spend time on the driving range to learn these new movements in your lower body prior to trying out the changes on the course. Even when you feel comfortable with your improved swing on the driving range, try to complete a few more practice sessions before your next round just to engrain the technique as much as possible. The golf course has a way of exposing any flaws in your game quite quickly, so you need to have your fundamentals as well-prepared as possible to meet that challenge. There are a number of important fundamentals in golf, but few are as crucial to your success as stable legs during the swing.
Stable Legs Are the Foundation of Your Golf Swing
A good golf swing is built from the ground up. While the hands, arms, and shoulders might get most of the attention in the swing for the role that they play, it is really your legs that have to do a majority of the hard work. When they are functioning properly to support your swing and rotate your body through the hitting area, everything else becomes much easier. However, when your legs fail to get their job done correctly, making a good golf swing goes from difficult to nearly impossible.
Think about your legs as the platform for your golf swing. You certainly need to have quality arm and shoulders movements in your swing to hit good shots, but those parts alone will mean nothing without a good platform. Most people don't think about golf as being an athletic sport, but it certainly requires a degree of athleticism when trying to use your legs in the right way during the swing. Your lower half should be engaged and active, supporting the backswing and then initiating the downswing. When watching the top golf pros on television, you will notice that all of them use their legs effectively to both balance their swings and to create speed through impact.
Unfortunately, many amateur golfers struggle greatly with the use of their legs in the swing. Hitting a slice is one of the most-common mistakes of an amateur golfer, and it is typically a result of poor lower body action. Many amateur players simply stand up next to the ball with their legs mostly straight and attempt to make a swing using all arms and hands. The results of this kind of swing are always disappointing. Only when the average golfer is able to engage their lower body in the swinging motion will they really be able to expect dramatically improved results. Not only can improving your leg action help you to eliminate the slice, but it can also add distance to your shots that you may not have thought was possible for you to achieve.
You don't need to be a powerful athlete to use your legs properly in the downswing. It can help to have strong legs, but even more important is simply knowing when and how to use them in the swing. There is a time for the legs to be quiet and stable, and then there is a time for them to jump into action and create power that can be transferred into the club during the downswing. The sequence of events is crucial to your success, so learn the proper leg technique first and then work on putting it into action.
All of the instruction contained below has been written based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Stability from the Start
If your legs are going to be stable during the golf swing, they certainly need to be stable before the golf swing. Taking a good stance is crucial for a number of reasons, but none are more important than establishing the base of the swing that will carry you all the way through to the finish. Without a stable base, none of your other mechanics are going to do you any good. Focus on getting your legs in a great position at address and the rest of the swing should start to fall into place.
The first step in building your stance is getting your feet in the right position. For most shots, you will want to have your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. For the average golfer, this is a good position that will provide balance and also flexibility during the rotational part of the swing. If you stand with your feet too close together, balance will be lost. When your feet are too far apart, you will have better balance but will lose the ability to make a full turn in the backswing. Start with your feet around shoulder width apart and experiment from there until you find a stance width that is comfortable for you personally.
With your feet in place, you will next need to engage your knees into the stance – and this is a point where many amateur golfers go wrong. Your knees should be bent to the point where you can feel the muscles in your upper legs having to support your body. If the muscles in your hamstrings and quads are not engaged at address, you will know you aren't using enough knee flex. For golfers who are used to standing straight up and down in their stance, swinging with bent knees can be quite a difficult transition. However, it is one worth making because it is the only way to truly use your lower body properly in the golf swing.
To practice getting your legs into a good position at address, consider jumping into your stance on the practice range. You probably haven't ever felt the need to jump during golf before, but this can be a helpful drill to enable you to find just the right position for your legs. To start, stand on the driving range in a position where you can make some practice swings. Holding onto a club, stand with your feet in a good position to swing the club, and jump up into the air. You don't need to jump high at all – a small hop will work just fine. You want to make sure that you land with your feet right back in the same place from where they left the ground.
When you land after your jump, you should quickly notice that your legs are in a great position to swing the golf club. Due to the force that is created when you land, you have to allow your knees to flex to absorb some of the impact. Also, you will naturally be working to balance yourself as you come down from a jump. Therefore, the position that you reach after landing is going to be ideal for golf – balanced, athletic, and ready to swing. Try this simple drill on the driving range to learn the right position for your stance. After you land, make a practice swing, and then repeat the process. Do this as often as necessary until you are comfortable with this improved address position.
Supporting the Backswing
Once you feel that you are in a good stance with your legs solidly planted beneath you, it will be time to start the club in motion. The main role of your legs in the backswing is simply to support what it happening with your upper body. Ideally, there wont be much motion at all in your lower body during the backswing, as it will jump into action once the club transitions into the downswing. However, that doesn't mean that you can just forget about your legs altogether early in the swing – it is crucial that they are doing their part to get the club in the prefect position at the top.
Following are three keys for the backswing that relate to the role of your legs.
- Maintain knee flex. This is the most important of the three keys. You need to maintain as much of your knee flex as possible throughout the backswing so that you don't change the level of your body as a whole. If you were to lose the flex in your knees during the backswing, you would be standing up taller by the time you bring the club down to the ball – making it very difficult to create solid contact. You want to establish a proper amount of knee flex right from the start of the swing, and then keep it there throughout. Specifically, focus on the flex in your left knee. Losing a little bit of flex in your right knee isn't a big deal most of the time, but standing up taller on your left leg is a recipe for trouble.
- No sway to the right. Many amateur golfers make the mistake of swaying to the right during their backswing. Rather than rotating away from the target as they should, these players will allow their left knee to slide to the right as the club moves back. This mistake takes away potential power from the swing because it limits the amount of rotation that can be achieved. Also, it will put you off balance at the top of your swing and you may not be able to recover during the downswing. If you have trouble with weak shots that fly to the right of the target, swaying in your backswing could potentially be the cause.
- Feet on the ground. For the large majority of golfers, keeping both feet flat on the ground during the backswing will be the best option. The advantage to this method is that it keeps your swing mechanics as simple as possible. As you add more and more moving parts to your swing, you make it less and less likely that you will be consistent on the course. Therefore, keeping your feet quiet throughout the backswing makes sense. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and plenty of golfers have hit beautiful shots while letting their left heel come off the ground during the backswing. Experiment on the driving range to learn what works for you.
When you are doing it right, your lower body should be a passive part of the swing during the early stages. It takes the lead when the club starts to move down toward the ball, but your swing will be best served by having your lower body to very little during the backswing phase. In your mind, think about maintaining that great stance you built in your address position. As long as you can hold your stance close to what it looked like at address, you should be in great shape when the club reaches the top of the backswing.
Powering the Downswing
The moment when the club transitions from backswing to downswing is when the lower body really gets into the action. In fact, if you don't use your legs right from the start of the downswing all the way through impact, you will have very little chance of hitting solid, powerful shots with any of the clubs in your bag. The legs really are that important.
It isnt good enough just to make your legs active in the downswing – they have to be following a specific sequence of movements in order to truly be effective. Before you can start using your legs in the swing to the best of your ability, you need to understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish. Following is the step-by-step process that your lower body can follow from the top of the backswing all the way through to a balanced finish.
- Left hip opens up. The very first thing that should happen when you transition into your downswing is your left hip moving quickly away from the golf ball. Turning your hip out to the left so that your lower body starts to open up toward the target is the perfect way to begin a downswing. The reason that this is so important is the chain reaction that it can start in motion. Without the left hip getting everything going, you will have trouble building speed or making contact solidly with a descending blow into the ball. The turning of your left hip will help the club drop into place, along with getting your weight moving just slightly toward the target. Master this left hip motion and good golf isn't far behind.
- Rotation continues aggressively. Some golfers make the mistake of starting with the left hip correctly, only to stop their rotation partway through the downswing. Don't fall into that trap. Once you get your hips turning toward the target, they should keep on going until they reach the finish position and the ball is long gone. Most of the time, the mistake of stopping your hip rotation is caused by doubt and fear. Once the downswing starts, there is no room for those kinds of thoughts. You have to start the downswing with confidence and let your lower body take over the motion. Any hesitation is only going to hurt the outcome of the shot.
- Release the right side. The final step in the sequence of events that your lower body needs to go through is the release of your right leg up into the finish position. This is a classic golf pose that you will see from nearly every professional golfer. Your body should be rotating aggressively to the left as the ball is struck, and that rotation should continue even when the ball is gone. The momentum of your turn should pull your right heel up off the ground so that you are standing on your left foot and your right toe when the swing is finished. If you are failing to reach this finish position, it is a sure sign that you aren't turning hard enough toward the target in the downswing. Go back through your mechanics until you find that your downswing has plenty of rotational force to pull your right foot up into the perfect finished pose.
There are only three steps in this process, but each one is important to your success. It can be tempting to obsess about the mechanical specifics of the upper body portion of your swing, but the lower body is even more vital to hitting quality shots. Work hard to understand and apply these three steps and you should soon be hitting the best shots of your life.
Signs of Improvement
When working on any aspect of your golf swing, you want to be sure that you are making process along the way. After all, if the things that you are doing aren't actually making you any better, you would be well-advised to go in a different direction. So, as you are trying to make changes to the way you use your legs in the golf swing, be sure to watch for various signs of improvement to make sure your hard work is paying off.
The first thing that you want to watch for is added distance. Using your legs effectively is the best way to add speed to your swing, and more speed equals more distance with all of your clubs. As you take your improved lower body action from the driving range out to the course, watch your yardages carefully and see if you have added yards as compared to your previous swing technique. Don't expect to see massive power increases right away – it might only come in the form of an extra yard or two. However, as time goes by and you become more and more comfortable with your new mechanics, even more yards should start to be added to your shots.
Another great sign that you are moving in the right direction is an improved ability to hit quality shots from uneven lies. Playing from an uneven lie is almost always more demanding than hitting from flat ground, and stable legs are required to hold your body in place during the swing. If there is any kind of deficiency in the way you are using your lower body, it will be revealed when you have to play from an uneven lie out on the course. Pay particular attention to the quality of your ball striking on these lies, even if the results of the shots aren't great at first. As long as you are making solid contact when hitting from uneven ground, you should get better and better about landing the ball close to your target.
Hitting full shots from fairway bunkers is also a part of the game that reflects on your ability to maintain stable legs during the swing. To hit a good shot from a fairway bunker, you have to strike the ball perfectly clean. If you hit the ball just a bit heavy, the shot will lose most of its distance. On the other hand, if you hit the ball thin, it will likely hit the lip of the bunker and stay in the sand. Therefore, perfect ball striking is required. To achieve that standard, stable legs are a great benefit during your swing because they can help you stay grounded and avoid any slipping in the sand. Take notice of the next few times you find yourself in a fairway bunker – if the shots you hit are solid, take it as a great sign that your legs are working nicely.