The modern swing is very different to the swing of yesteryear. It is much more rotatory and is more stable in the legs which puts much less pressure on the lower back than the 'old fashioned' style of swing.
Through the more modern style of golf swing, the legs provide the power, and these exercises show how.
The modern swing is much more driven by rotation of the legs and the hips than it ever used to be. Understanding how the legs work through the backswing and forward swing will gain more power and relieve pressure on the lower back.
Backswing - During the backswing the legs stay very still with very little movement in the knees which promotes a strong coil where the upper body turns against the lower body. This creates huge stretching in the muscles of the hips and lower back creating and storing power that can then be released into the golf ball. Also, because the legs stay very still during this movement, this means that the swing can remain stable and balanced allowing the power to be delivered to the golf ball very consistently.
Backswing Exercise - To limit the amount of movement in the legs during the backswing, hit golf balls while holding a driving range basket or football in-between the knees. Holding an object in-between the legs maintains the stability of the lower body as the inside muscles of the legs will tighten to hold the object and keep the legs from moving.
Forward Swing - The legs during the forward swing are very dynamic through the impact area. In a powerful golf swing, the hips rotate early and accelerate through the ball leading the rest of the body. The early rotation of the hips drags the rest of the body to the golf ball creating a very fast movement while also opening the lower body up and creating room for the shoulders and golf club to attack through the impact area. At impact, the left leg straightens and the right knee drives into the ball at the same time as the right hand. This means that the whole right hand side of the body drives into the golf ball all at the same time to produce huge speed.
Forward Swing Exercise - To practice driving the legs forward through the golf ball, walk through the shot. Set up for some practice swings as normal and while swinging, as the golf club makes contact with the ball, lift the back foot off the floor completely and take one step forward. Time the step so that the back leg moves through the ball with the club as one movement. After some practice shots, stick with the same feeling and just move the back knee through with the golf club, leaving the foot where it was to complete a more classic finish position in the golf swing. Here the legs are still being driven through the ball but the foot remains on it's toe end maintaining balance for control. This is a great way of driving the legs into the ball and as the timing becomes better with practice, more distance will be gained.
Use a more modern movement of the legs to gain more power and stability and improve your golf.
How Should the Legs Work in Today's Modern Swing?
The golf swing has changed a lot over the years. With advances in technology, the ideal way to swing the club has evolved along with the equipment we use to play this great game. If you watch any old video of professional golf tournaments you will quickly notice that the swings of the top players look radically different from the way they look today - and the clothes are a bit different, as well. One of the biggest differences in the golf swing of today as compared to the popular swing style of days gone by is the way the lower body is used to move the club through the hitting area.
In previous generations, it was common for the lower body to 'give' considerably during the backswing. In other words, the player would allow the heel of the left foot (for a right handed golfer) to come up off the ground as they swung back. There was some slide in the swing, and the lower body was very soft both back and through. The hips were still used to turn through the downswing, but the player often finished in a 'reverse C' position with their upper body leaning back over their rear leg.
The picture today, of course, is much different. The modern golf swing looks nothing like what was described above, as most players strive to keep their lower body as stable and stationary as possible in the backswing. When backswing turns to downswing, the hips lead the way and the goal is to get as much weight as possible onto the lead leg while moving up into the finish. Today, most players wind up stacked over their front foot, with almost no weight hanging back away from the target.
So, what changed? For one thing, changes in equipment allowed for players to swing the club in a more-powerful style. It was impossible to swing the club so aggressively in days gone by because the shafts of that era simply would not keep up with such a powerful move. Also, even if the club could keep up, the ball was too soft and not ready to deal with the incredible speeds that are generated in the modern game. For a number of various reasons, it was better to swing with a smooth, even tempo rather than with an aggressive lash through impact.
Thanks to the equipment available to golfers today, there is nothing wrong with swinging hard and using your entire body to power the club. In fact, that is exactly what most golfers do, from beginners all the way up to the best players in the world. In this article, we are going to take a closer look at how the lower body should work in the golf swing. If you are able to put this advice into practice in your own game, there is a good chance that you will be able to add both power and ball striking control to your on-course performance.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
It Starts with the Stance
If you are going to use your lower body correctly during the golf swing, you will need to first position your lower body properly in the stance. Without a good stance, it will be nearly impossible to use your legs to their full capacity – and your swing will always fall short of its potential. Unfortunately, it is extremely common for amateur golfers to make mistakes in the stance. Golf is a hard enough game even if you are playing from a proper stance, so don't make it even harder by setting up incorrectly.
The first thing you need to know about your stance is that your legs needs to be flexed at address. There needs to be a comfortable amount of bend in your knees in order for your lower body to be engaged and supportive right from the start. It is a common mistake to stand straight-legged over the ball, but that position is going to do nothing but give you trouble during the swing. While you don't need to be in a deep squat or anything like that in order to hit good shots, you do need to have enough flex in your knees to allow your legs to do their job properly later on.
Once you have found a comfortable amount of knee flex for your stance, the next thing to check on is the position of your back. Of course, your back is not part of your lower body, but you do need it to be in the right spot if you are going to use your legs correctly. At address, your back should be relatively flat all the way from your waist up into your neck. If you hunch over the ball by curving your spine, you will have a hard time making a full turn away from the target during the backswing – and without a full turn, your legs aren't going to be able to work in the right way going forward. You should feel like you are 'sitting' into your stance at address, with your backside sticking out behind you, your back straight, and your legs engaged.
One final point that needs to be made with regard to your stance relates to the position of your chin at address. When preparing to swing, it is imperative that your chin stays up and away from your chest. Why? Because you need to allow your shoulders room to turn. If your chin is down, your left shoulder is going to be blocked on its path in the backswing, and you will have to make some sort of adjustment on-the-fly as a result. Obviously, that kind of adjustment is less than ideal, and will usually only result in negative outcomes. While it is desirable to have your eyes down on the ball, you should still have your chin up and safely away from your chest at address. Also, keeping your chin up is going to help you maintain good overall posture, which is a key fundamental in golf.
Without a good stance, you are going to have a great deal of difficulty using your legs the right way during the golf swing. Fortunately, you don't even have to be at the golf course to work on your stance. Find a mirror at home and practice taking your stance without even holding a club. By watching yourself in the mirror, you can check on your positions – specifically, the flex in your knees and the posture of your upper body – and make corrections as needed. With enough at-home practice to fine tune your stance, this point should be an easy one to handle when you head back out to the course.
Holding Steady Going Back
With your stance mastered, you can now move on to learning how to complete the backswing with your lower body being used as a platform and stable base. The lower body isn't going to be active at all during the backswing, but that doesn't mean that it isn't important. In fact, the lower body is extremely important during the backswing, as it is what will allow your upper body to make a great turn. If the lower body doesn't do its job, there is no way that your upper body can move into the right position for a powerful strike.
One of the key areas of your lower body to watch during the backswing is the right knee. As you turn away from the target, focus on keeping your right knee as steady as possible against the turning of your upper body. It might be tempting to allow that right knee to sway out to the right as your shoulders turn, but giving up your right knee position is a sure way to lose your balance. It is okay to allow that right knee to give up a bit of its flex if necessary – you might need to do this in order to complete your turn – but you don't want to allow it to sway away from the target. By keeping your right knee under control to the best of your ability, it will become much easier to hold your balance throughout the backswing, and balance (as you should already know) is one of the biggest keys to quality ball striking.
In addition to watching for movement in your right knee, you should also be aware of keeping the tilt in your spine throughout the backswing. It is incredibly common for amateur golfers to 'stand up' out of their stance going back – meaning they lose the tilt in their hips that they established at address. When you stand over the ball at address, it is natural to tilt from your hips in order to let your arms hang down freely. However, as the swing progresses, you might feel compelled to give up on that tilt in order to make an even bigger turn. This is a major mistake. Giving up on the tilt of your upper body over the ball will cause a number of problems, and you may have trouble even making solid contact at the bottom of the swing.
The combination of maintaining both the position of your right knee and the tilt in your hips is almost certainly going to lead you to an excellent position at the top of your backswing. When you manage to hit on just those two points, your lower body will be well-prepared for the task that it has in front of it when the downswing begins. Many people worry about the position of their left leg at the top of the swing, but that point is not as important as how your right leg is doing. If you want to let your left heel come off the ground a bit near the top, that is no big deal. Or, if you prefer to keep it down flat, that works too. Pay more attention to your right leg, along with the tilt in your hips, to make sure your lower body is ready to jump into action as the club starts down.
The Engine of the Downswing
It is your shoulder rotation that can be considered the 'engine' of the backswing. While swinging the club back, a good shoulder turn enables you to move the club into position while storing up energy that is going to be unleashed into the ball. Without a good shoulder turn, it is hard to imagine how you would be able to strike the ball with any kind of authority.
However, when the backswing is finished, the job of producing power in the swing is going to be transferred from your shoulders down to your hips. As the club transitions from backswing to downswing, the hips are going to take on the task of propelling your entire body – and the club by extension – through the hitting area. This is where many amateur golfers see their swings go wrong. The average player completely fails on the point of engaging their lower body in the swing, and they struggle to produce any kind of power as a result. If you would like to 'unlock' power that you have yet to find within your swing, one of the best things you can do is to learn how to use your hips effectively.
The move itself is quite simple – the left hip needs to open up to the target and then continue rotating all the way through to a full finish. While making that move on its own is no challenge at all, the difficult part of the equation is timing it up to fit in with the rest of your swing. The lower body rotation that you use is only going to be effective if it is timed properly in the context of all of your other mechanics. To help you get on track with the timing of your swing as a whole, we have outlined the proper 'order of operations' for the top of the golf swing below.
- As you approach the top of your swing your lower body should be stable, as described in the previous section. If you are losing your balance or coming up out of your stance at this point, there will be no way to get things back on track in time to make a quality downswing. Before you work on learning how to use your hips going forward, make sure that your backswing technique is in great shape.
- The hips actually need to jump into action just a fraction of a second before the club reaches the end of the backswing. This timing 'overlap' is important if you are going to create a smooth, powerful swing which delivers the club to the ball accurately time and time again. Most players wait until the backswing is completely finished to use their lower body, if they ever get around to using the lower body at all. Don't put yourself in that category. There should be a bit of overlap between the backswing and downswing where the upper body is still finishing its turn back while the hips are starting to move forward. It is this overlap that allows professional golfers to make swings which look so smooth and effortless – while still hitting the ball tremendous distances.
- Now that your hips have gotten started on their rotational journey toward the target, the best thing you can do is to not get in the way. There should be no hesitation in your downswing at this point, as the only goal for your hip turn should be to move all the way into a balanced finish. It is common to see players hesitate around the point of impact with their rotation, as they try to guide the ball down the fairway or toward the green. However, those kinds of hesitations are only going to harm the quality of your swing. Instead of letting your doubts get in the way of an otherwise quality swing, set any fear aside and swing through the shot with total confidence.
- As the swing comes to a close, your hips should be completely opened up to the target, so that your belt buckle is pointing directly at the target you used for the shot. Most of your weight should be over your left leg, and your right foot should only be touching the ground via the toe of your shoe. The finish position is a great way to judge the quality of the release you achieved in your swing, as coming up short of a full finish is a sure way to tell that you were holding something back. By committing to a full release of your hips and making sure that your right heel is all the way off the ground, you will have used your lower body nicely and the results should speak for themselves.
As is really the case with the entire golf swing, the actions of your lower body in the downswing are all about timing. If you can time the swing up properly, with your hips jumping into action just before the backswing is finished, it will be relatively easy to develop power on your way down toward the ball. Of course, good timing does not come without practice, so you are going to need to work on this important point if it is going to be something you can count on in your swing.
The Legs and the Short Game
Much of the modern game of golf is obsessed with power, but the short game remains the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to low scores. If you want to lower your scores quickly, you can largely ignore the driving range while spending all of your time practicing putting, chipping, pitching, bunker play, and more. A player with a great short game will always come out on top over a player with a strong swing but poor touch on and around the greens.
So, when it comes to the short game, what do your legs need to do in order to be successful? Well, not much, as it turns out. Yes, you need to build a quality stance to support your short game, but you don't need to worry about using your legs actively as you hit putts and chip shots. In fact, keeping your legs as quiet as possible is one of the biggest keys to quality putting. If you were to allow your legs to move from side to side while putting, for example, the accuracy of your stroke would be diminished and you would have a hard time hitting the target line.
In much the same way that you focused on your right knee during the backswing earlier in this article, you can focus on both of your knees during the putting stroke. As you stand over the ball, pay attention to the position of your knee caps – and do everything you can to keep them perfectly in place while the putter swings back and through. There are a couple benefits to this strategy. First, you will be ensuring that you have a solid base for your putting stroke, which is always a good thing. Second, and perhaps just as importantly, you will be taking your mind off of the action of making the stroke. While you are busy thinking about your knees, your arms and shoulders will be able to 'automatically' do the job of swinging the putter back and through. This is a great mental trick to relax yourself and roll the ball to the best of your ability.
The lower body, despite the fact that it never actually touches the club, is extremely important in the quest to hit good golf shots. By using your lower body properly for the swing that is used in the modern game, you can add both power and control to your shots. Good luck!