Did you know there's a great golf teacher living under your very own roof?
If your home is equipped with a tall mirror or sliding glass door, you've got a fine resource for checking out your swing. Use your reflective friend to conduct the following drills and improve your lower-body stability:
Right knee movement
- Assume your golf setup facing the mirror.
- With or without a club, swing slowly back to the top while watching your reflection.
- Your right knee should never cross over the shoelaces on your right foot. If it does, you're either sliding laterally rather than rotating, or you're over-rotating the hips.
- Practice turning while keeping the right knee steady, your weight never moving past the center of your right foot.
- Follow the steps above, then swing through to just past the impact position.
- Your left knee should not cross the left shoelaces. Should it do so, you're either sliding or over-rotating the left hip on the downswing.
- The left leg should appear relatively straight when you reach impact.
- Take your stance with the mirror to your right (left for lefties).
- Watch your knees as you make a backswing. If a gap of more than an inch or two appears between them, your lower body is too active.
- Practice swinging back without letting a gap show between the knees. It's OK if you can see half or all of your left knee in the mirror.
Left knee movement
Master these drills to restrict your hip turn, improve your
balance and drive the ball long and straight.
All About Stable Legs
Stability is a great thing in the golf swing. Every golfer wants to be more consistent, and consistency starts with providing yourself a stable base on which to swing. When your legs are stable throughout the backswing as well as the downswing, delivering the club accurately to the back of the ball becomes much easier. Many golfers ignore the role of their legs in the swing, instead focusing only on how they use their arms and shoulders to move the club. This is a mistake. If you can dedicate time and effort to understanding how your legs should work in your golf swing, you will become a far better player.
It might be helpful to think of your legs as an extension of the ground that you are standing on during the swing. Would you hit good shots if the ground was moving while you were trying to swing the club? Probably not. In much the same way, you aren't going to hit good shots if your legs are moving around unnecessarily. Of course, your legs will have to move at some point, especially in the downswing, but that movement should be controlled and limited. By removing excess movement from your lower body during the golf swing you can simplify the whole process.
When you watch golf on TV, you can't help but notice how easy the pros make it look. Their swings seem to be so simple, yet they are callable of launching the ball hundreds of yards down the fairway time after time. How do they do it? It all starts with a stable lower body. Professional golfers understand how important their legs are in the golf swing, and they spent countless hours making their base as stable as possible. Their swings look simple because they aren't moving their legs from side to side or up and down for no reason – every movement has a purpose, and it all leads to a powerful and accurate strike.
Even if you are nowhere near the level of a professional golfer, you can still use stable legs to make great progress with your game. In order to lower your scores, you need to improve on consistency above all else. No golfer hits perfect shots all day long, but consistently striking the ball cleanly will help you stay out of trouble and avoid penalty shots. Put in the time on the practice range to improve the stability of your lower body and better results are sure to follow out on the course.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
What Does It Mean to Have Stable Legs?
The phrase 'stable legs' can be a little bit confusing when it comes to the golf swing. After all, your legs have to move in order to make a swing, so how can they be stable? It is important to understand what is meant by this term before you head to the driving range to work on your game. While your legs need to be stable underneath your swing, you don't want to be a statue, either – the right movements, combined with a steady stance, can lead you to a well-balanced golf swing.
Following are a few elements that are seen in golf swings which use stable legs –
- Flexed knees at address. This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. As you address the golf ball, you want to flex your knees so that all of the big muscles in your legs are fully engaged prior to starting the swing. Specifically, you want to feel your hamstrings and your quads really take control over your lower body. If you aren't sure how to reach this position, try feeling like you are sitting down into a chair when you take your stance. Your backside should be pushed out behind you, and your feet should stay flat on the ground. You will know when you have the stance just right because you will feel like you are in an athletic position that could work in just about any sport. To test your stance, have a friend walk up and gently push on your shoulders from each side – are you easy to push off balance, or are you stable? If your stance feels stable even when pushed, you have gotten it correct.
- Very little movement in the backswing. That great stance that you have built at address shouldn't change much as you take the club up to the top. Your knees should remain flexed during the backswing, and you shouldn't be swaying from side to side. It might be necessary to straighten your right leg some during your turn away from the ball, and that is okay. However, make sure you maintain the flex in your left leg all the way through to the top of the swing. The position of your lower body at the top of the swing should look very similar to the position that you used at address.
- Quiet feet. Footwork might not be something you think about very often in your golf swing, but it is important nonetheless. To keep a stable lower body throughout your swing, you want to keep your feet as quiet as possible. Some players have a habit of standing up onto their toes as the club swings down toward impact, but this move will only cause trouble. Focus on keeping your feet flat on the ground as you use your lower body to turn toward the target. Keeping your feet flat will help you to rotate faster, as there won't be any vertical movement to interrupt the swing. It is okay if your right heel begins to come off of the ground by the time you reach impact, but that should be a passive move that is the result of your rotational force.
- No swaying! If there is one move that can quickly ruin an otherwise good golf swing, it is swaying side to side with your lower body. The golf swing should be all about rotation, and a lateral sway or slide is only going to get in the way of turning with maximum speed. Make an effort to keep your legs directly beneath your upper body throughout the swing, as that is a sure sign that you are not swaying in either direction.
When you get down to it, the concept of stable legs in the golf swing is really pretty simple. You should have your knees flexed at address, your legs should remain quiet in the backswing, and your lower body should drive the downswing while your feet are flat on the ground. If you can hit on those key points, you will be well on your way to hitting quality golf shots.
The Role of Your Upper Body
What does your upper body have to do with the performance of your lower body in the golf swing? More than you might think. If your upper body is getting out of position, it can lead to problems with your lower body stability. The points above should be more than enough to help you improve the stability of your lower body during your practice sessions, but you will need to make sure your upper body isn't doing anything to compromise that progress.
A long backswing is one of the main problems that your upper body can create in the golf swing. When you make a backswing that is too long, your shoulder rotation will begin to pull your lower body out of position. As your shoulders keep turning right, your lower body may be pulled to the right as well – causing your upper body to then lean back to the left. This is a bad position to reach at the top of your swing, and one that will lead to disappointing results at impact. When you watch this kind of swing on video, you might be led to believe that the lower body is causing problems, when it is actually the long backswing at the root of the issue. Make a tighter backswing that stops when the club reaches parallel to the ground and you shouldn't have to worry about your legs being pulled to the right and out of position.
Another problem that may be caused by your upper body is the straightening of your overall posture during the swing. As mentioned above, it is important to maintain the flex in your knees during the swing, but that can be difficult if your upper body is pulling you out of that stance. As the backswing begins, some golfers make the mistake of straightening up at the waist while moving the club back away from the ball. Not only will this put the club out of position, but it will also have the side effect of straightening out your legs at the same time. When you reach the top of the backswing, you will be standing straight up and down and you will have very little chance of returning to impact in a good position. Your posture is crucial to the success of your golf swing, so make it easier to stay down in your stance by remaining bent over slightly from the waist. It may take some practice to get comfortable with swinging this way if you are used to standing up in your backswing, but it will be worth the effort to get it right.
It is important when you are working on your golf swing to identify the root cause of any problems that you spot. For example, even if your lower body looks like it is getting out of position, that issue may in fact be caused by your upper body making a technical mistake. Don't automatically blame your lower body when you see one or both of your legs getting out of position – take the time to review your swing carefully until you can figure out exactly where you are going wrong.
Your Lower Body at Impact
It is great to have a stable lower body throughout your golf swing, but that of that work will mean nothing if your legs aren't where they need to be at impact. The split second when your golf club strikes the back of the ball is known as the 'moment of truth' because that is when all of your swing mechanics are put to the test. If you have made a quality swing, the club will send the ball flying toward your target. If not, the results of your shot will speak for themselves. Everything that you do in your golf game should be geared toward creating quality impact positions with all of your clubs.
So what should your legs be doing at the moment of impact? Review the following points to gain a better understanding of the role your lower body plays in the impact position.
- Posted up on your left leg. When the club contacts the ball, your left leg should look like a post that is running up into your left hip. The leg should be straight, and your foot should be flat on the ground. When you are able to get your left leg into a 'posted up' position, you will be hitting into your left side – which is exactly what you want to be doing. Many golfers get into trouble by sliding their lower body toward the target in the downswing. If you slide, you will be left with a soft left side market by a left knee that is still significantly bent. Work on posting up on your left leg by the time you reach impact to create a powerful move through the ball.
- Soft right leg. The position of the right leg is pretty much the opposite of the left at impact. While you want your left leg to be straightened and strong, your right leg should mostly be coming along for the right. As your hips continue to turn toward the target, your right heel may come off the ground, but that will be more of a reaction than an intentional move. Your weight should be mostly onto your left side at the moment of impact, leaving your right leg relaxed and free. When you swing up into the finish position, the toe of your right shoe should be balancing on the ground as your right leg is bent and angled in toward your left. You can probably picture the classic golfer's finish position in your mind – and that picture is exactly what you should be striving to replicate because it will indicate that you were in a great spot at impact.
- Hips open to the target. If you have done your job correctly in the downswing, your hips should be open to the target by the time the club touches the ball. This is one of the main points that most amateur golfers get wrong in the swing. As your lower body leads the way in the downswing, it should turn well past the ball before contact is made. Unfortunately, many players get this backward, instead having the club hit the ball before they are able to turn all the way through the shot. Make sure your lower body 'wins the race' through the ball so that your weight has moved left and your hips have opened prior to impact. Getting the sequencing right in this part of the swing is key to generating power that can be efficiently transferred to the ball.
- Keep everything moving. When you go to a golf teacher to review your swing, or even when you take a video of your swing on your own, the temptation is to view impact as a static position. The video will be paused right at the point where the club is contacting the ball, and you will then analyze and dissect everything that is right or wrong about your body position. There is plenty to be gained from this kind of analysis, but you need to be aware of not overlooking a key component – the motion of your swing as you move through impact. Of course, impact is not a static event, but rather a dynamic one where your body and the club are moving quite quickly to the left. Some golfers seem to forget this part of the equation, as they effectively stop turning through the shot when they reach impact. You shouldn't be viewing impact as the termination of your swing – it is simply another checkpoint along the way. Your goal should always be to swing up into a balanced finish because that finish position will indicate that you moved aggressively through impact with both your lower and upper body.
You want to get your legs into a good position at impact, but you also don't want to lose sight of the bigger picture. The swing doesn't stop at impact, so always remember that you are swinging through the ball, not at it. As long as your legs are meeting the criteria above such as a straight left leg and hips open to the target, you should be progressing toward a quality golf swing.
By this point, you should have a great picture in your mind as to what stable legs look like in the golf swing. However, there are a few other miscellaneous points that should be made which relate to how your lower body works on the golf course.
- Watch for fatigue. As the round wears on, you might notice that your legs are getting tired – especially if you are walking the course. When fatigue starts to set in, the stability of your lower body in the swing may be compromised. To fight back against this issue, try to hit softer shots later in the day that won't require as much effort from your legs. Take an extra club on approach shots and work on making a smooth swing back and through the ball. If you try to draw too much power out of your swing after your legs have started to fatigue, bad things can happen.
- Good shoes are important. The stability of your legs extends all the way to the ground, and you need a firm grip on the turf in order to keep your stance as stable as possible throughout the swing. If your golf shoes are worn out – or you aren't even wearing golf shoes – it will be more difficult to keep your feet in place while you turn aggressively through the shot. Good golf shoes are especially important if you play in damp conditions as the moisture on the grass can easily lead you to slipping during the transition from backswing to downswing. Find a comfortable pair of golf shoes and you will have a much better chance of controlling your feet during your swing.
- Warm up prior to playing a round. Since the big muscles in your legs play such an important role in the swing, it is important for them to be warmed up properly prior to heading to the first tee. If you hop out of the car and head directly to tee off, your legs will likely be a little stiff – and so will your swing. Even just taking a brisk walk around the pro shop may be enough to 'wake up' your legs and get them ready for the job they have to do.
Stability in your lower body can mean the difference between an average swing and an excellent one. While your hands and arms might be doing the job of moving the club, it is really your lower body that allows you to hit powerful shots. Use the content above to get your legs into the right positions during the swing so your upper body has a great platform on which to swing. During your practice sessions, pay attention to the stability of your lower body and make any corrections that necessary to take your ball striking performance to the next level.