Every golfer has been told to bend the knees when addressing the ball.
More specifically, instructors commonly advise students to stand similar to a baseball infielder, or basketball player in a defensive position.
To anyone who has played or watched those sports, that probably sounds a little excessive. Should you really bend your knees as much as a shortstop?
Well, no. The suggestion isn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s simply meant to get across the idea that the golf swing is a dynamic, athletic movement requiring a dynamic, athletic setup.
In other words, don’t worry about bending your knees at a specific angle, or a certain number of inches. Instead, try to set up with your knees over the balls of your feet and your backside just outside the heels. Your weight should be balanced in the center of your feet.
During the backswing, it’s important to maintain the flex in your right (back) knee to act as a brace for your hip turn. The only time it’s okay to straighten either knee is on the downswing and follow-through, when the left (lead) knee may “snap” to promote a powerful hip rotation.
There’s no definitive answer to the question, “How much should you bend at the knees?”
The goal is to find a position that’s comfortable, balances your weight properly and enables the hips to move freely back and through the swing.
Golf Stance Knee Bend
You may have heard the expression, “set up like you are sitting on a bar stool.” However, the correct golf stance with knee bend places more emphasis on creating the proper spine angle rather than bending at the knees. In fact, the entire golf swing revolves around the correct spine angle with a slight knee bend.
The putting stroke begins with an athletic set up. Position your feet approximately shoulder width and bend your knees slightly. Lean forward at your waist to create a good posture. The bend at your waist allows yours arms to fall comfortably below the shoulders. Both of your thumbs should point down the flat part of the grip. Position your eyes directly over the golf ball and the ball in the middle or slightly forward of center in your stance.
Begin by taking a narrow stance with your feet approximately 6 to 8 inches apart. Open your front foot slightly for a better view of the target and your arms can swing past your without any restrictions. Continue with an athletic golf stance with knee bend and lean forward at the waist for the correct posture. Position the majority of your weight on your front foot and leg to encourage a downward strike on the golf ball. Allow your arms to hang down tension free as you grip the club. Position your hands slightly in front of the golf ball, which will promote a downward angle of approach into the ball. A longer club can be difficult to control. Therefore, position your hands lower on the grip to make the club shorter and easier to control.
The pitch shot is similar to a chip shot. A chip is shot close to the green that travels the majority of the way rolling on the ground while a pitch shot travels the majority of the way in the air. Therefore, a pitch requires a bigger swing that utilizes a wrist hinge. The main difference involves a slightly wider stance. Similarities include a golf stance with knee bend and leaning forward at the waist. The majority of weight is positioned on the front leg and foot. Finally, the arms hang down under the shoulders with the hands positioned just in front of the ball so the shaft is leaning toward the target.
For the full swing, begin the golf stance with a slight knee bend and feet approximately shoulder width. The feet create a stable base and get wider for the longer clubs. Stick out the rear end to accomplish the correct bend at the waist and correct poster. The arms and hands should hang down comfortably and tension free below the shoulders. Since the right hand is slightly lower on the grip, create a shoulder tilt where the right shoulder is slightly lower than the left shoulder in the set up. Avoid burring the chin down into the chest, rather it should be up so the left shoulder can turn under the chin. Finally, set up with the feet, knees, hips and shoulders parallel to the target line.
Knee Bend in Golf Swing Helps Correct a Reverse Pivot
Creating a reverse pivot during the swing is a common swing flaw that leads to an avalanche of additional incorrect movements. A reverse pivot can be defined when the back leg straightens and the body weight shifts to the front leg at the top of the swing. Correcting a reverse pivot can be as simple as maintaining the knee bend in the golf swing. The golf swing operates with a cause and effect relationship and several outcomes of the reverse pivot are listed below.
The reverse pivot causes the head to move toward the target and dip down on the backswing. The average PGA Tour Professional only moves their head 1 inch during the backswing and even less during the forward swing. Therefore, the head moving forward and down is a serious problem and opposite of what should occur. During a reverse pivot, the head usually continues to move back and away from the target creating a fall back move through impact. Typically, you can expect to see a shot that either slices or starts left of the target.
One of the common mistakes of the reverse pivot occurs when the right leg straightens and the left knee bends too much. The correct sequence of movements maintains a knee bend in the golf swing. The lower body is responsible for maintaining stability and the knees remain level throughout the swing. The left knee never dips down during the backswing, which causes the whole body to tilt forward to the target. Again, this is a complete opposite movement that you desire. Keep both knees level and maintain the bend in the golf swing so you maintain your original spine angle. A repeatable swing relies on solid fundamentals rather than compensations.
The reverse pivot causes the left knee to point left of the ball instead of pointing forward and to the right of it. The left knee again serves as a checkpoint to avoid a reverse pivot.
A loss of balance and incorrect weight shift occur when the left knee points to the right of the ball while the lower body collapses. There is no recovering, the body is stuck out of position and only incredible timing will allow for a decent golf shot. The lack of solid fundamentals will make it very difficult to create a consistent swing and make improvement difficult and slow.
The reverse pivot directly effects impact and the follow through causing the body to fall back and away from the target. The follow through with a reverse pivot generally results in the weight remaining on the right leg while the sole of the right foot stays planted on the ground. In severe cases, the left foot comes up and even spins out with the left shoulder. Watch any PGA or LPGA player and notice how balanced they are at the conclusion of their swing. The front foot stays planted while the upper body turns toward the target and the back foot comes up off the ground. The average PGA Player transfers 75% to 90% of his weight on the front leg and foot at impact. Obviously, the amateur with a reverse pivot has no where near that percentage on their front side. Rather, they have the majority of their weight on the back leg which limits their power to the upper body. Athletes in other sports utilize power from their body, not just the arms. The same is true in golf, your power is generated from the ground up, not the top down.
The golf swing is not exactly healthy for the back, however, a reverse pivot really increases the chance for a severe back injury. A study of PGA players, who create the most efficient swings in world, indicate that approximately 77% will report acute or chronic low back pain related to the golf swing. If the best players in the world suffer from back injury than you can expect amateur golfers with poor fundamentals to experience varying back issues. Low back problems are the most frequently reported injury in golf. During the swing the arms swinging the club while the body falls away from the target places an enormous amount of pressure on the lower back. The violent move of a reverse pivot increases the likelihood of producing a minor to serious injury to the lower back.
Golf Knee Bend Movements (Knee Bend in Golf)
The golf swing is dependent on doing the previous move correctly. The following tips will examine the consequences of the correct and incorrect movements of the knees throughout the swing. Several swing faults are the direct result of moving the knees throughout the swing.
In golf the knee bend is imperative for a solid golf swing. During the takeaway the arms and left shoulder initiate the takeaway while the lower body remains still. Once the club reaches waist high, the wrists hinge, hips begin to rotate and the left shoulder turns under the chin while the hands continue up to the top of the backswing. A little known secret of the golf swing includes maintaining the original knee bend, which in turn helps deliver more power at impact. In fact, the right and left knee flex maintain the original knee flex during the backswing.
Swing the club around the Spine angle
The golf swing is a rotational movement where the arms swing the club around the spine. The club swings around the body in an arc. Obviously the arc is bigger as each club gets longer. As each club gets longer, any mistake becomes magnified. In a simple and efficient swing the spine remains a fixed angle throughout the set up, backswing and forward swing. In order to maintain a fixed spine angle the swing eliminates any vertical or lateral movements. Lateral movements generally involve some form of swaying throughout the swing. However, in golf the knee bend is directly responsible for many vertical movements. Specifically, the right knee straightens and the left knee dips. When this happens the spine angle moves from the original position to an upward position, and then must return back, similar to the original position at address. There are several compensations occurring that typically result in inconsistent contact. The swing is difficult enough, especially when you factor in additional and unnecessary movements that occur in the second you swing the club. With additional and extra steps it should be simple to understand how difficult it is to make solid and consistent contact. Now, just imagine if you maintain the original spine angle. One simple move such as straightening the right knee during the backswing causes an entire chain reaction of extra movements that make creating a consistent and repeatable swing almost impossible.
The Iron Byron is a mechanical robot used to independently test equipment. The robotic movement achieves a fixed spine angle while the arms swing the club. Notice how simple the arm swings the club, making it extremely easy to create an efficient and repeatable swing. Now, imagine the Iron Byron moving 6 inches up during the backswing and hopefully 6 inches back to the original position during the forward swing. That extra movement is what occurs due to the right knee losing it’s original knee bend in the golf swing. The Iron Byron maintains the initial spine angle and swing plane to deliver a repeatable and consistent swing.
Knee Bend and the Swing Plane
Finally, in golf the knee bend helps indirectly maintain the swing on the correct swing plane. The swing plane is the angle the club swings around the body. A simple way to understand the swing plane is notice where the end of the grip points throughout the swing. When the club reaches waist high during the backswing, your wrists will hinge and the end of the club will begin to point down toward the ball followed by the target line. Throughout the backswing and downswing, try to keep the end of the grip pointing toward the target line for as long as possible. When the end of the grip points toward your toes or other side of the golf ball the swing plane becomes steep or flat. A steep swing plane causes the end of the grip between the toes and target line. In a severe case, the steep swing plane can be compared to the vertical motion of chopping wood with an ax. Failure to maintain the knee bend in the golf swing typically results in a steep swing plane. This motion can easily become an “over the top” downswing. The steep swing plane typically causes the ball to slice and start left of the intended target.
Golf Posture Knee Bend
A good golf posture and knee bend work cohesively together to achieve the proper weight shift and solid golf swing. The ability to hold both angles are vital for good shots and the loss of either angle increases the chance of inconsistent shots.
Maintaining your right knee bend will encourage the proper weight shift. In addition, you will eliminate many swing faults such as vertical or lateral movements in the spine. Also, your head and weight should now remain behind the golf ball during the backswing. The improved sequence of movements during the backswing will lead to more consistent and powerful golf shots. Watch any low handicap or professional player and notice how both knees stay flexed and their head stays behind the golf ball during the backswing.
Weight Shift Drill
Work on the correct weight shift by practicing the following drill. Practice your set up and place a ball under your front foot. This should help correctly position weight on the inside of your back leg and foot. Now swing the club to the top of your backswing. If your weight goes forward it should feel uncomfortable with the ball under your front foot. Practice this movement until it transfers over to a regular swing. The drill can be practiced at home or even hitting balls on the practice range. In addition, the other key of this drill is to focus on the right knee maintaining it’s flex throughout the backswing.
Practice the Correct Weight Shift
The right knee plays a pivotal role that stores your power in the backswing. The correct weight shift maintains the golf posture and knee bend throughout the swing. If you allow the right knee to sway or straighten practice swinging with the right side of the body against a wall or alignment stick stuck vertically in the ground. This should help ingrain the feeling of hips turning properly in the swing. In the event of a lateral weight shift the hips will move against the wall or stick on the right side of the body. The hips should never move laterally at any point in the golf swing. In fact, the hips will rotate to the right during the backswing and uncoil during the forward swing.
If you still have problems with the lateral weight shift try to maintain the weight on the inside of your right leg throughout your backswing. If your weight reaches the outside of the right leg and foot you have started a lateral slide during the backswing. If you still experience a problem begin with a normal set up position. Take your right foot and point it toward the ball, effectively creating about a 45 degree angle in relation to the target line. This will restrict the hip and lower body movement during the backswing and help create a rotation rather than a slide during the backswing.
Two Club Backswing Drill
The two club backswing drill teaches the correct movements necessary for an efficient backswing. The drill requires an additional person to hold the two clubs. Begin in the set up position with the proper posture and knee bend. Have your assistant stand behind you and place the club head against your left shoulder and the other against the left hip. Swing the club back to the top of your backswing. If your hip moves away from the club you have produced a lateral sway where the right leg and knee have moved or straightened. The correct movement maintains the original posture as the left shoulder turns away from the club and the left hip rotates and still maintains contact with the club. When you turn the shoulder and rotate the hip correctly you will maintain a solid golf posture and knee bend. Once you learn to maintain the original angle in your posture and knee bend you will develop a consistent and repeatable golf swing. Changing the original angle in the right knee significantly impairs your ability to hit a solid golf shot.
Anchor Training Aid
Players who still need additional help maintaining their golf posture and knee bend might look at using a training aid such as the Anchor. The Anchor is a stabilizing brace designed to eliminate the sway and stabilize the lower body by maintaining the flex in the back knee throughout the swing. The Anchor fits securely around the knee with 4 straps and locks into place in the set up position. Once locked into the flex position the Anchor prevents straightening the back knee during the swing. Therefore, the golf posture and knee bend angles are maintained throughout the swing.
Knee Bend Golf Set Up
The set up in the golf swing is one of the most important and overlooked fundamentals of the golf swing. The set up basically dictates the following movements of the swing. Knee bend in the golf set up.
Effective Points of Golf Set Up
The golf swing requires an athletic set up similar to many other sports. Consider a basketball player shooting a free throw, baseball player fielding a ground ball or even a tennis player waiting for a serve. These are just a few examples of athletes starting in a ready and athletic position. Golf requires a similar posture that helps promote the correct sequence of movements throughout the entire golf swing.
The basics of the golf set up position require approximately a 45 degree tilt forward from the hips, known as the spine angle. The knees should be flexed slightly and the arms hang directly down tension free below the shoulders and above the toes. Finally, the weight should be positioned on the balls of your feet.
There are two common errors in the set up. First, an incorrect bend at the waist occurs with a vertical spine angle or bending too much at the ribcage causing a rounded spine. Second, excessive knee bend in the golf set up places weight on the heels and poor balance throughout the swing. Both of these faults in the set up lead to a number of unwanted results including topped shots, pulls, slices and fat or thin shots.
The following posture drill will help achieve the correct spine angle and knee bend in the golf set up. Begin by taking a club with your right hand and lay in down the middle your back with the grip near your tailbone and club head against the back of your head. Keep the club pressed against your back and lean forward to a 45 degree angle where the shoulders are directly above the toes. Next, bend the knees with the weight balanced on the balls of your feet. Lastly, maintain the perfect knee bend and golf set up position and return the club to a normal address. This is a simple drill to achieve the correct set up. It is beneficial to find a mirror so you can visually see the correct set up and feel the fundamentally sound address position.