Back foot position is a frequently overlooked part of the golf setup, but this important fundamental can have a surprisingly huge impact on your swing and performance. Here is how to do it right and how it can benefit your golf game:
Your back foot should be perpendicular to your target line and not flared out like your front foot. If your back foot is not squared with the target line, it can create a number of problems:
A back foot that is flared open will promote over rotation of the hips and excessive weight shift. When your weight is over-shifted on your back swing, (outside the back foot), it becomes much more difficult to recover and swing your golf club back to the ball without hitting the shot fat or thin.
Instead, set up with your back foot square to the target-line, and keep your weight on the inside of the back leg as you turn and rotate on the back-swing. This will prevent the hips from over turning and will lead to a more consistent and controlled swing.
When your back foot is not perpendicular to the target line, your back leg will have less bracing strength. This will cause you to over-swing, and your leading arm to bend, resulting in a shorter swing arc with less club-head speed and less power.
If, you set up with your back foot square to the target-line, it will give the back leg more bracing strength to deliver power into your golf swing.
Setting your back foot perpendicular to your target line will:
- Strengthen back leg bracing and increase stored up power in the backswing.
- Discourage over rotation of the hips and excess weight shifting.
- Lengthen your swing arc and increase club head speed.
- Generate a more repeatable back swing that will help increase shot consistency.
- Become part of your reliable routine to ensure you and your club are in proper alignment with the target line.
All about the Feet in Golf
Of all of the things you have worked on in your golf swing over the years, the role of your feet probably isn't one of them. Most golfers take their feet for granted, thinking that the other moving parts of the swing have far more to do with the quality of shots that they will hit. In fact, your feet play a crucial role in the golf swing. Throughout much of the swing they need to remain quiet, but there is a time for them to get into the action and contribute to the power of the golf swing. Also, the position of your feet in your stance and during the swing is a crucial component of quality ball striking.
The reason that your feet are so important to the overall performance of your golf swing is that they are directly related to the kind of balance you have throughout the swing. Balance is perhaps the single most-important fundamental in golf, and your feet play a big role in making sure that you keep your balance from start to finish. If you are plagued by poor footwork during your swing, holding your balance will become a significantly more difficult task. Controlling your golf feet from setup to a full finish is a vital skill to develop as a golfer.
During the next golf tournament that you get to watch on television, notice the footwork of some of the best players in the world. What do you see? Most likely, not much. That is because the best players are able to keep their feet mostly quiet during the swing, allowing them to provide a solid base on which the rest of the swing can occur. With a few exceptions, most of the top players will keep both feet flat on the ground until they reach the follow through when the right heel comes up off the ground (for a right handed player). This is a great model for you to copy. Quiet feet usually lead to a simple golf swing, and a simple golf swing can lead to consistent results.
Most golfers don't think they have a problem with their footwork, or the golf setup feet position that they use. While some players do a good job with their feet, the majority have room for improvement. Becoming a better golfer is all about making small improvements along the way until you have removed most or all of your technical mistakes – refining the way you use your feet in the swing is a big step in that direction.
All of the direction that you will find below is written for a right handed golfer. Left handed players will need to reverse the instructions so that they apply correctly.
Get Your Feet in the Right Position
Using the right golf setup feet position is the first step in the process of making sure that your feet support your swing as they should. If you were to use a stance that was too wide, your turn would be restricted and your power would be limited. Using a stance that was too narrow, you could make a full turn but it would be nearly impossible to hold your balance throughout the swing. However, when you find the right stance that is neither too wide nor too narrow, you will be able to make a big backswing and still hold your balance as the club speeds down toward the ball.
To start with, try taking a stance with your feet right around shoulder width apart. Think about stacking your feet, knees, and shoulders right on top of each other. For long clubs like the driver, you may want to take a stance that is slightly wider than this – but shoulder width is a good reference point to start with. If you are having trouble finding shoulder width when taking your stance, rehearse in front of a full-length mirror at home. You don't need to have a club in your hands to practice taking your stance in front of a mirror. Just pretend like you are holding a club and get into your stance – then look up and see how your feet are positioned in comparison to your shoulders. The more times you do this basic drill, the easier it will be to get into a good stance on the golf course.
Beyond the width of your stance, there is another element that many golfers overlook – the angle of your feet at address. Most golfers simply stand with their feet pointing straight ahead, perpendicular to the target line. That is one option, but it might not be ideal for you. Consider trying to hit a few shots with your left foot turned open slightly, and your toes pointing about ten or fifteen degrees to the left. This golf front foot position will make it a little easier to make an aggressive downswing because your front side will have an easier time getting out of the way. When you keep your golf front foot angled square to the target line, you might notice that your downswing rotation is limited by the resistance that your leg provides. Try hitting shots with a variety of positions for your front foot until you find one that feels comfortable.
Just the same, you can also adjust the golf back foot position that you use in the swing. Try turning your golf back foot open to the right to make it easier to create a bigger backswing. When your right foot is angled open slightly, your right leg will provide less resistance to the turn you are trying to make away from the ball. For golfers with limited flexibility, this kind of stance adjustment can make a big difference. While this is a viable option to add distance, you do have to be careful that you don't allow your weight to slide to the right and away from the target during the backswing. Even when you turn your right foot out to provide extra rotation it is still vital that you stay balanced and keep your weight right in the middle of your stance.
The way you position your feet prior to hitting a shot will have a lot to do with the outcome of that shot. Get in a good stance that makes you feel athletic and allows you to make a full turn back and through. Once your feet are in the right spot underneath you, one more variable will have been eliminated from the golf swing.
Don't Let Your Feet Get in the Way
Once the club starts in motion, your feet are basically done with their job – at least, they should be. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers struggle to keep their feet quiet during the swing and they end up doing far more with their footwork than is necessary. Ideally, both feet will stay mostly flat on the ground throughout the backswing and downswing, with only the right heel starting to come off the ground as the club moves through the hitting area. At the finish of the swing, your right foot should be up on its toe, but the left foot should remain flat on the ground (although your weight may cause it to roll onto the left side somewhat).
There are a number of different mistakes that average golfers make when it comes to footwork in the swing. Following are three of the most-commonly seen problems.
- Left heel off the ground in the backswing. It is important to note that this isn't always a problem – in fact, some of the best players in the world make swings in which their left heel comes off the ground during the backswing. However, when amateurs do it, the outcome is usually not a positive one. If you are allowing your left heel to lift up during the backswing, it is probably because your weight has drifted away from the target and off of that front foot. That is a problem. You need to keep your weight mostly balanced between your two feet during the backswing. It is okay to allow your left heel to lift up off the ground if you are staying balanced, but make sure that is the case.
- Pushing up onto toes during the downswing. In an effort to find more power and speed in their swing, some golfers fall into the trap of standing up onto their toes with both feet as they swing down toward the hitting area. This isn't going to help you generate much (or any) more power, but it will make it more difficult to hit the ball square. Since your whole swing up to that point has been based on balance and control, the last thing you want to do is dramatically change the level of your body by standing up onto your toes. Maintaining your head level through the shot is a key fundamental in the golf swing, and that is nearly impossible to do when you allow your heels to come off the ground in the downswing. Work on staying grounded through the shot and use your body rotation to maximize your swing speed.
- Not getting off the right heel at the finish. The one time you do want part of your foot to come off the ground is when you make your way to the finish. The rotation of your body should pull your right heel off the ground such that your right foot is balanced on its toes when you are in your finish position. Using your golf feet from setup to a full finish properly means that you should allow that right heel to come up at the end because you have rotated so aggressively toward the target. Some amateur players get stuck on their right side and don't ever reach that full finish position. When this happens, your right heel will still be on the ground even when the swing has completed. This should signal to you that the follow through of your swing was not as complete as it should have been. When this happens, work on using your lower body more in the downswing to get everything moving toward the target as the club swings through impact. If you do this properly, your right heel wont have any choice but to come off the ground as you finish the swing.
The importance of the feet in your golf swing is almost more about what they shouldn't be doing rather than what they should be doing. If you can keep them on the ground for the most part throughout the swing, your footwork will be in good shape. However, it is crucial that you get your right heel off the ground in the follow through if you are going to maximize your power potential. In the end, its quite simple – feet flat on the ground during the swing, and right heel off the ground in the follow through. Get those two points right and your swing will be better for the effort.
Using Your Feet to Work on Your Swing
In addition to using your feet to build a good golf swing from the ground up, you can also use your feet in various ways to help work on your swing technique. Drills are a great way to ingrain different mechanics that you need to work on, and your feet can help to modify your swing in order to perform some basic drills.
One of the most-popular swing drills for amateur golfers to work on is the golf feet together drill. This drill is just like it sounds – you stand with your feet together and hit some shots on the driving range. Why would you do this? Its all about learning the mechanics of how the club moves through the hitting area without any of the other normal swing variables getting in the way.
When you stand with your feet next to each other in the golf feet together drill, you wont be able to sway side to side at all in your swing, or really use your lower body to rotate through the shot. Therefore, the entire swing will be left up to your arms and your hands. Obviously you aren't going to be able to hit the ball very far with this kind of swing, but distance isn't the point of this drill. Start out by hitting a few wedge shots and only try to hit them in the range of 50 yards or so. Pay attention to maintaining a good tempo with your arm swing and make sure you keep your eyes down on the ball through contact. Once you are able to hit the ball solidly with a small wedge swing, work your way up to the longer clubs. You can even hit a driver while doing this drill, but don't try to swing too hard – only swing hard enough so you can feel the dynamics of your hands and arms moving through the shot.
Once you have hit a number of shots with your feet together, move back to your normal stance and hit a few more practice balls. Remember the feelings that you achieved when doing the drill, and try to have your arms and hands work through the swing in the same manner. However, now you will be adding back in your lower body movement so you should be able to generate far more power than you were when working on the drill. The combination of a proper arm swing and an aggressive lower body turn could lead you to some of the most powerful shots you have ever hit.
One other drill you can do using your feet relates to the short game. If you have trouble chipping the ball consistently, try modifying your chipping stance while practicing to learn how to hit down through your chip shots properly. To set up for this drill, take your normal chipping stance with a wedge in your hand. Prior to starting your swing, pick up your right foot and place it so that only the toe of your shoe is touching the ground. This will force some of your weight onto your left side – exactly what you want while chipping. Hit some chip shots from this adjusted position and you should quickly notice how much the club is moving down through the shot. Hopefully, you will be able to make solid contact with the ball using this technique, even if you don't have a very good lie in the grass.
When finished with the drill, take your normal stance again and remember to keep the majority of your weight on your left side at address. If the drill has been effective, you will now be able to hit down through your chip shots so that they float up into the air and land softly on the green.
The Importance of Golf Shoes
The final point that needs to be made related to your feet in the golf swing is not a technical one, but an equipment-related one. Having good golf shoes is important because they should allow you to maintain a connection between your feet and the ground throughout the swing. Your feet shouldn't be moving around much during the swing – as has been discussed above – as having golf shoes with plenty of traction on the sole is key to making that happen. If you were to take to the course in just tennis shoes, for example, it would be very difficult to maintain your footing throughout the swing. As far as playing good golf goes, quality shoes should be considered necessary equipment.
So what should you look for when buying golf shoes? First of all, they should make sense for the climate in which you play most of your golf. If you live and play in an area that is prone to plenty of rain, waterproof shoes would be a smart investment. Also, you might want to consider picking out a darker color of shoe so they don't show the dirt and mud as easily as white shoes. Most golf shoe companies offer at least a couple different models of waterproof shoes, so you should have plenty of options to pick from.
In warmer, dry climates, lightweight shoes are usually the most-popular choice. Many new models on the market have mesh built into the design so they help to keep your shoes cool throughout the round. These are often some of the most-comfortable golf shoes available, but they will only really work in climates that stay dry for the majority of the year.
Finally, you need to think about whether you prefer to walk or ride during most of your rounds of golf. Obviously, if you like to walk the course, you will want to find a pair of shoes that are going to keep your feet comfortable as the holes goes by. Walking a round of golf often requires that you walk at least five miles or more, so a good shoe is a necessity. If you are someone who tends to ride in the cart most of the time, you can opt more for style and other features since you wont be logging nearly as many miles in your shoes.
Your feet are a crucial part of your golf game, even though you might not have thought much about them in the past. They are your only connection to the ground, and the ground can be a great source of power in your swing if you use it in the right way. By staying connecting to the turf and not coming up onto your toes unnecessarily during the swing, you will have a much better chance to rotate hard toward the target and build speed that can be unleashed into the ball. Golfers who do a good job of keeping their feet quiet tend to be more consistent ball strikers, and longer hitters as well. Work on the way your use your feet in your golf game to take another step toward being the best player you can be.