When the hips lose flexibility, it becomes more difficult to rotate smoothly and powerfully through impact and into the follow-through.
Not only does our distance suffer, we may “block” shots the the right or overuse the hands and flip the club, causing the ball to veer left. Limited hip rotation also throws off our weight shift, balance and rhythm.
There's a very easy way to improve your ability to get through the golf ball: At address, just point your left foot (right foot for lefties) a bit more toward the target. Flaring the foot 10-15° -- about 5° more than a younger golfer needs -- opens the left hip and promotes a more fluid turn. This will allow your weight to smoothly shift from right to left on the downswing, eliminating the “reverse pivot” and improving your power and balance.
The right foot, meanwhile, should be perpendicular to the target line at address, or slightly flared to the right to help the hips rotate on the backswing. In many ways, this swing adjustment is something you simply have to try for yourself before you can appreciate how it works. It is hard to believe that such a minor change could make such a major difference, but it can. Golf is all about experimentation to find the moves and techniques that work best for your own personal game, so keep an open mind and try this adjustment out for yourself to see what kind of results you achieve.
Flare Lead Foot for Better Move Through Ball
To generate power in your golf swing, you need to make a great move through the ball. Sure, there is a little bit more to it than that, but all great golf swings start with an excellent move through the hitting area. If you have that piece of the puzzle in place, the other fundamentals that you need should be relatively easy to put together. One way to quickly improve your move through the golf ball is to flare your lead foot open toward the target. This minor adjustment will encourage your hips to work more aggressively in the downswing, and you will have an easier time arriving at a full, balanced finish.
Unfortunately, the average amateur golfer does a poor job of moving his or her lower body through the hitting area. Instead of firing the hips, the average golfer simply swings their arms down toward impact, dragging the club along for the ride. As you can imagine, this is not a particularly powerful way to swing the club. Very little speed is developed when the lower body is not used actively, which is why the average golfer usually lacks distance compared to their professional counterparts. While power and speed aren't everything in golf, they sure to do a long way toward helping you shoot lower scores. It is worth pursuing any avenue of mechanical improvement that offers added speed, especially when the change is something as simple as flaring open your lead foot.
In this article, we are going to discuss why opening your lead foot can help to create power, and how you can go about making this change in your own game. Although this change can be seen as one that is relatively simple and straightforward, it should still not be taken for granted. Any change to your golf swing is going to require practice to master, and that is certainly true here. Without practice, you would be lost on the course if you simply tried to flare open your foot when you reached the first tee. Don't take anything to the course that you haven't first tried, and mastered, on the driving range. Thanks to the advice that will be found below, you should be able to incorporate the flared lead foot into your technique after a relatively short amount of time spent practicing this point.
Before we get started, it should be noted that this point is not all about power. Yes, you do stand to gain some club head speed by making this adjustment, but you also stand to gain consistency and rhythm through the shot. Improving your move through the ball will make it easier to achieve solid contact swing after swing, and that is critical to your overall performance on course. With the possibility of improving both your power and your ability to strike the ball solidly, the flared lead foot is an idea that you can't afford to ignore.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. Of course, that means the 'lead' foot is going to be the left foot for the purposes of this article. If you happen to play golf left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
The Many Benefits
You should always know what you stand to gain, specifically, from making any kind of change in your golf swing. Changes are often difficult in golf, even the minor ones. By taking time to understand what it is you can gain, you will be providing yourself with the motivation needed to see the change on through to the end. Without these benefits rolling around in the back of your mind, it would be easy to give up and move on to something else.
The list below contains several benefits that you are likely to enjoy once you add the flared lead foot position to your swing.
- Added power. As was mentioned in the introduction, you do stand to create more power when you open your toes to the target line slightly at address. This power is going to come from the freedom that you will be adding to the movement of your lower body. It is the lower body that is going to develop most of your power, so using that half of your body efficiently is one of the fastest ways to gain speed with each of your clubs. The power benefits will be seen throughout the bag as well, so you should be a longer hitter with your short irons all the way up to your driver.
- Cleaner strike. There is nothing in golf quite as important as a clean strike. When you catch the ball solidly at impact, especially with your irons, you will have an easier time controlling both the distance and direction of your shots. Consistent golfers are always golfers who made solid contact, and you certainly see that fact in play when you watch a professional tournament. Pro golfers work hard to make contact on the sweet spot of the club face as often as possible, and you should strive to do the same. Adding freedom to your move through the ball is going to make it easier to time everything up just right, which will result in a better strike when all is said and done.
- Improved rhythm. One of the biggest difference between amateur and professional golfers is the fact that most pros possess far better rhythm than their amateur counterparts. Rhythm is useful in golf because it leads to greater consistency – the club swings through the hitting area at the same time each swing, meaning the ball will leave on a similar path shot after shot. Rhythm is also tremendously helpful under pressure, as a swing with poor rhythm usually falls apart when the heat is on. Rhythm can be a difficult thing to teach because it is unique from golfer to golfer, but flaring open your left foot can help you locate a rhythm that is just right for you.
- Reduced pressure on the back. This last benefit on our list is not related to your ball flight, but rather to your body instead. As you already know, golf can be particularly tough on your back as the rounds and years go by. Opening up your left foot to the target line isn't going to completely take away the pressure that this game puts on your back, but it is a start. Keeping your lead foot it that flared position will allow you to get into a full finish easier, without having to put so much torque on your lower back. Again this is not any kind of 'cure all' trick, but it can help to relieve a little bit of the wear and tear that takes place as you play this game.
You may experience even more benefits beyond the four listed above when you try this move out for yourself. However, even if only the points listed above are manifested in your game – or even if you only enjoy two or three of those points – that should still be more than enough to make this worth your time. Any kind of improvement you can find in your golf game is worth pursuing, as it is the accumulation of small improvements that can make you a dramatically better golfer in time.
Why It Works
Now that we have discussed what you stand to gain from making this change, we need to turn our attention to understanding why it is that this tweak can make it easier to hit powerful, accurate shots. After all, on the surface, it certainly doesn't seem like it could make that much difference. Rotating your left foot open slightly relatively to the target line isn't a big change, so how could it have such an impact on your game? Well, small changes to technique can lead to big changes in results on the golf course – that's just the nature of the game.
The points listed below will highlight why this subtle change stands to make a substantial impact on your golf game.
- Easier rotation. It is improved rotation that is at the heart of this adjustment. As you should already know, rotation is critical in the golf swing. It is rotation that supplies you with your power, so anything you can do to take a step forward in this area is something worth considering carefully. It is easier to rotate through the ball when your left foot is open to the target line because there will be less resistance from your knee as you turn. Your lower body will naturally want to turn in that direction when your foot is flared open, making your rotation to the left during the downswing easy and repeatable. If you usually struggle to rotate through your shots properly, making this one adjustment could open up a whole new world for you on the golf course.
- Start the downswing with your hips. From the top of your backswing, it should be the hips that initiate action and get the downswing moving in the proper fashion. Unfortunately, many golfers simply fail on this point. Instead of letting the hips get things started, it is the hands that start the action down, and things fall apart from there. Opening up your left foot can help you to avoid that mistake, however, as your hips will be free to move more easily toward the target. It will take some time and practice to master this move, but the flared lead foot position is going to make it easier to accomplish.
- Stay down through the shot. You should be staying down through your shots until well after the ball is gone, no matter what club you happen to be swinging. That is a tough task, however, if you lack the flexibility in your legs and lower body to stay down while turning to the left at the same time. To make that task easier, players with slightly limited flexibility may benefit greatly from using a flared left foot. This simple change will reduce the pressure on your entire left side during the downswing, making it easier for you to stay right down through the shot until impact has been achieved.
In many ways, this swing adjustment is something you simply have to try for yourself before you can appreciate how it works. It is hard to believe that such a minor change could make such a major difference, but it can. Golf is all about experimentation to find the moves and techniques that work best for your own personal game, so keep an open mind and try this adjustment out for yourself to see what kind of results you achieve.
Giving It a Try
This is the kind of adjustment to your golf swing that you can put into action without much trouble on the driving range. That doesn't mean the results are going to be satisfactory right from the start, of course, but it should be easy to at least try this out for yourself. Unlike with other swing changes, where you want to start small and work your way up to the big clubs, we are going to do things in reverse with this change to your stance. Right from the start, go ahead and take your driver from the bag to hit some practice shots. By starting with the longest club in your set, you will be able to feel the change that flaring your lead foot brings into your game. It is harder to feel the change when only hitting something like a pitching wedge, so go right after it with the driver and then work on your other clubs as you have time.
To get started, take your driver from the bag and set up at a spot on the range where you can hit some shots. Tee up the first ball, pick out a target, and prepare to take your stance. As you are settling into your address position, start out by orienting both of your feet perfectly square to the target line. This is likely how you would normally stand anyway, so this should be an easy step to complete. Once you are in your stance, you are then going to adjust the positioning of your left foot by flaring it open to the left. The exact amount that you want to turn your foot open is up to you, but somewhere around 10-15 degrees is a good place to start.
With your foot flared open and your target selected, go ahead and hit your first shot. What did you notice? Was this swing comfortable, or did it feel a little bit odd? If you weren't exactly comfortable on your first swing, don't worry – rarely will your golf swing feel natural when you are trying to make a change. Hit a few more balls with your foot in the exact same position as it was for the first shot. Only after you hit a few shots should you start to make minor tweaks in an effort to dial in your results just right.
It may be that you need to have your foot flared open a little bit more or a little bit less than you did on the first shot. This is where experimentation is going to come into play. After your first few shots, hit the next few with your foot turned even farther open. Then, hit a few with it turned less open – maybe only a few degrees flared open from square. As you experiment, pay attention to the ball flights that you are creating and the feelings that you are getting from the swing. Trust your own instinct and stick with the left foot position that is leading to the best results and the most confident swings.
If possible, try to visit the driving range at least a few times before you take your new stance out to the course. There is always a risk in heading to the course too soon after making a change, as you might give up on your change during the round if you begin to play poorly. Even if you have been making progress on the range with this adjusted foot position, don't assume that you are going to instantly play great golf on the course during your next round. Everything becomes more difficult when you head from the range to the course. For that reason, it is best to work through the growing pains on the range and only hit the first tee when you are highly confident in your ability to use this new stance effectively.
It is important to remember that this is not a change that you should expect to revolutionize the way you play golf. You aren't going to suddenly hit the ball 30 yards longer on your first swing, and you aren't immediately going to hit every fairway you aim for on the course. This adjustment does have the potential to help you play better golf over time, but the shot-by-shot improvements are likely to be subtle. You will hit the ball a little bit further. You should find the sweet spot a bit more frequently. And so it goes. The individual improvements will be modest, but they will be impressive when you add them all up.
No adjustment to your golf swing is perfect, so you need to understand that flaring your left foot open could lead to the development of a couple specific swing problems. There are enough positives to be gained here to make it worth the 'risk', but you do need to be aware of what could go wrong when trying this technique for yourself. Watch for signs of the following two problems during your range sessions and take action as soon as possible to correct these issues if they do pop up.
- Sliding to the left. The idea behind opening your left foot to the target is that it should become easier to rotate to the left as you swing down through the ball. Unfortunately, flaring your foot open may also make it easier to slide to the left, which is not something that you want to do during the swing. Excess lateral movement has no place in your golf game, so you need to be careful to avoid this mistake. How will you know if you are sliding left? The best way to notice this problem is to check on your finish position at the end of each swing. Ideally, your weight will be stacked up on top of your left foot at the finish, with your right heel up in the air. This is a sure sign of proper rotation and balance in the swing. If, however, you find yourself 'hanging back' on your right foot in the finish, that actually means you have been sliding left with your lower body. When your lower body slides left, your upper body has to lean to the right to compensate. In the end, your upper body never gets through the shot, and many poor outcomes become possible. If you notice that you feel like you are leaning back on your right side at the finish of your swing, it is very likely that the slide has become an issue.
- Spinning out. Too much of a good thing can quickly become a problem, and that is true when it comes to rotation in the golf swing. Yes, you want to rotate aggressively through the shot, but too much rotation can cause you to spin out of the shot completely. This may happen as a result of flaring your lead foot too far open compared to the target line. If you feel like you are constantly pulling off of the ball as you swing through impact, think about bringing that left foot a little bit back toward square. You can keep it flared open slightly if you would like, but getting closer to square will make it easier to avoid the dreaded spin out.
In the end, a flared left foot can definitely lead to a better move through the ball. Will this adjustment work for all golfers? No – probably not. It is up to you to experiment with this type of stance to see if it can benefit your game. Head to the range with the goal of working on the flared left foot and you should quickly be able to determine whether or not tweaking your stance in this way is going to benefit your game as a whole. Good luck!