You may have heard about how powerful long drivers of the golf ball create energy from the ground up.
This is true and the way it works is pretty remarkable. Hopefully with a better understanding of how the hips are used as a power source, you can help deliver a greater amount of energy to the golf ball during impact.
To help illustrate this concept, imagine I handed you a golf ball and asked you to throw it as far as you can. If you're a fairly healthy person then you might get something of a running start and push off the ground with your trailing foot. Although you might still be able to hurl the ball a long distance with a stationary lower body, you will most likely gain some extra distance by pushing off the ground some.
In golf, the lower body should be viewed as an important source of power and stability. The hips lead the downswing and are the source that following segments build upon. As the hips unwind, the torso follows. As the torso unwinds, the arms follow. And trailing behind the arms should be the club carrying the accumulated energy. Comparable to a whip, you want the “crack” to occur at impact.
When viewing the swing face on as pictured, we can draw a line on the outside of our right leg. No part of our body should extend outside this line during the swing. It can help to think of keeping the weight inside of the feet throughout the swing. A right handed golfer swings into a stable right leg and rotates the hips back just enough to allow for a full shoulder turn. If you have access to a video camera, this is a pretty simple technical aspect of the swing to check.
If your body extends beyond this line then you are swaying. This problem may be biomechanical in nature and if you have limited mobility in this specific area then allow yourself to rotate your hips more on the backswing instead of shifting so much to the right side.
This should help keep you more centered over the ball and will get you into a more “coiled” or “loaded” position which can then lead to a more powerful downswing sequence.
Correct Back Leg for Increased Golf Power
The lower body is the engine of the golf swing. If you aren't using your lower body to help create speed in your swing, you aren't maximizing your distance potential - it's just that simple. The best golfers in the world have a great understanding of how to use the lower body during the golf swing, and you should work toward that point as well. If you are able to put your legs to work properly during the swing, you will be amazed at just how much speed and power you are actually capable of creating.
In the content below, we are going to focus on the role that your back leg plays in the power equation. For a right handed golfer, the back leg is the right leg, while it would obviously be the left leg for a left handed player. No matter which side of the ball you happen to stand on while swinging, your back leg is going to play a critical role in launching the ball far off into the distance. There is nothing quite like the feeling of blasting a powerful drive perfectly down the middle of the fairway – especially when you see your ball fly past the tee shots of your playing competitors.
As you read through this content, it is important to keep in mind the big picture of the golf swing as a whole. You will certainly need more than just a good back leg position in your swing to hit great shots, so remember to keep the role of the back leg in context along with everything else you are trying to do. The best way to improve at golf is to pick out one element of your technique at a time and improve that area before moving on to the next. So, while working on your back leg, try to resist the temptation to change anything else about your swing. The mechanics of the rest of the swing can be addressed at some point in the future, but for now, you want to keep them steady so your mind can center on learning the right moves with the back leg. It is important to pay attention to the whole swing during any practice session, but limit yourself to one area of the swing at a time in terms of actually making changes to your mechanics.
There is plenty of room for individual style when it comes to the golf swing, but that really isn't the case when the conversation turns to the back leg. This is a 'building block' of the swing, and the way you use the back leg shouldn't deviate much from other good players. If you find that your back leg is behaving in a way that is dramatically different from the players you see on TV, for instance, there is a good chance that something is going wrong. Golf is an extremely difficult game, and you don't want to make it any harder by trying to swing on top of a lower body that is making mistakes. Take the information contained below into your practice sessions to gain control over your back leg and your game will be better for the effort.
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.
The Back Leg at Address
You won't be able to use your back leg correctly during the golf swing if it isn't in the right position at address. In general, the address position is an overlooked aspect of golf technique. Professionals understand how important it is to position their bodies just right over the ball, but most amateurs take the stance for granted. If you would like to elevate the overall quality of your game – not just add power, but actually make yourself better all the way around – you will learn to respect the importance of a great address position.
So what should you be doing with your back leg as you set up to the ball? The fundamentals of a good back leg position in your stance are rather simple, but they are important nonetheless. Hit on all three of these points and you will be ready to start your swing with confidence.
- Flex in the knee. This point should not be a surprise. You probably already know that you should have your knees flexed when standing over the ball preparing to swing. Both knees should be flexed evenly, and you should feel comfortable with the amount of flex that you are using. There is no 'perfect' amount of knee flex that you should try to achieve – rather, you should work on making yourself comfortable while having enough flex to feel athletic and powerful. Feel free to experiment on the range with different amounts of flex until you find the angle that enables you to make great swings.
- Right foot square to the line. For most golfers, the best position for the right foot is going to be perpendicular to the target line. Put another way, your toes should be pointed out directly in front of you, rather that being turned in to the left or out to the right. Placing your foot in this position will give you nice stability in the backswing, and stability is important for the power that you are trying to generate. However, there is one exception to this general rule – players with limited flexibility. If you feel like your flexibility holds you back from making a big turn away from the ball, you may need to adjust your right foot position accordingly. To help you make a bigger turn, consider opening your right foot by turning that foot out to the right at least a few degrees. This adjustment will make it easier to turn to your right in the backswing while taking some of the pressure off of your knee and hip. Don't hesitate to make this change if you think it will help with your flexibility, but players who already have plenty of flexibility should keep the foot square for stability purposes.
- A stacked position. When you settle in to your stance, you should feel like your right foot, right knee, and right hip are all 'stacked' on top of each other. That means that they should be in line, with the exception of the right knee sticking out a bit to the front because of the flex in that joint. Where some golfers get into problems is when they have the right knee either bowed out to the right or pinched in to the left. Each of these positions can cause trouble, so it is important that you find a nicely stacked position before getting your swing started. If you aren't sure how your right leg looks in your address position currently, consider taking your stance in front of a mirror to get a look for yourself.
Hopefully your right leg is already in a good position at address. Use the three points below to check on the status of your current stance, and make any adjustments that you deem necessary to get on track. These points are not particularly difficult to achieve, but their importance cannot be overstated. Continue to work on the points in this section as necessary, and only move forward once you are confident in the quality of your stance.
The Back Leg in the Backswing
On the surface, the role of the back leg in the backswing seems extremely simple – it should basically do nothing at all. That's right – your goal for the right leg in the backswing is to have it do nothing as you work the club up to the top. If your right leg can remain stable and steady while the swing is going on around it, you will be well-positioned to strike with confidence and power as the backswing turns into the downswing. Of course, even though you aren't trying to actively do anything with your back leg in the backswing, you still need to watch for some signs of trouble.
The main concern that you should have for your right leg as you swing back is the right leg 'getting away from you' and swaying out to the right. This is an extremely common mistake, and it is one of the main reasons why most amateur golfers struggle to produce power. The golf swing should be rotational in nature, and any excess lateral movement that can be found in your swing is only going to serve to cost you distance. You would be hard pressed to find a single professional golfer who allows his or her right knee to sway back away from the target in the backswing – and that is for good reason. The pros know that they need to keep that back leg stacked up while turning away from the target, and you should be doing exactly the same thing.
A lack of flexibility is one reason people resort to swaying away from the target, as they don't feel that they can make enough of a turn to complete the backswing with the right leg in place. If that is the case for you, the lack of flexibility should have been dealt with in your address position as highlighted earlier. By turning your right foot open at address, you can make it easier to turn back without having to slide. As long as you take care of this matter before starting your swing, you shouldn't need to resort to a lateral slide in order to get the club back into position at the top of your swing.
Another point of emphasis for your back leg in the backswing is to make sure that your foot is remaining flat on the ground. Footwork is something that doesn't get much attention in golf, but it is important just the same. As the club goes back, your right leg shouldn't be doing much of anything – and that includes your right foot. Keep the foot planted firmly on the ground all the way until you have reached the top of the backswing, specifically avoiding the temptation to roll back onto your heel. By keeping the entire bottom of your shoe in contact with the grass in the backswing, you will have a great chance to transition perfectly into the downswing.
It seems easy to just have your back leg do nothing during the backswing, but you might find that this is one of the most-difficult parts of the whole process. It is always going to be tempting to have your leg do something as you swing back, especially since most golfers naturally associate movement with power. However, in this case, it is the lack of movement that is going to allow you do develop power and speed later on. Your backswing simply sets the stage for the downswing, so there is no need to incorporate extra movements at this point. Keep that right leg quiet – along with most of the rest of your body – and let the swing build up naturally. Once you transition from backswing to downswing, many of the parts that were quiet will suddenly jump into action as you race the club down toward impact.
The Back Leg in the Downswing
This is where the action happens. If you have followed the directions above, you should have reached the top of your backswing with the right leg in a great position. Now, however, it has to take an active role in the swing as it helps you accelerate the club into a powerful impact with the ball. For most amateurs, the downswing is all about the arms throwing the club head down toward the ball – which is a weak and ineffective way to go. In reality, the arms and hands should just guide the club down toward impact while the rest of your body does the actual work of providing speed and acceleration.
As soon as the club is ready to transition from backswing to downswing, your right knee should start moving in toward your left. This is an absolutely critical move in the golf swing. When your right knee starts to make the trip toward the left knee, your right side will drop slightly and the club will fall into the 'slot'. The slot is a term that many golfers use to refer to the perfect position for the club to find as it travels toward the ball. Players who don't move their right knee in toward the left usually fail to get the club slotted because their right side stays too high early in the downswing. This forces the club to come up and away from the body, and a slice is usually the eventual outcome. To find the slot, build power, and avoid the slice, it is imperative that your right knee takes action as soon as the downswing begins.
Of course, your right knee is not the only part of your body in motion at this point. While the right knee is moving left, your entire lower body should also be rotating toward the target. The left hip is usually in charge of this action, as it opens up to the target and pulls everything else along for the ride. When everything is coordinated properly – the movements of the left hip and the right knee, specifically – you can bring the swing together in a powerful fashion.
It should be clear by now why we pointed out in the introduction that you should only be working on one part of your swing at a time. The golf swing is a complicated collection of movements, and trying to learn them all at once would be overwhelming – and nearly impossible. If you are going to work on how your right leg functions in the downswing, work on that alone and save the other parts for later. Yes, you will need to eventually stitch everything together perfectly if you want to see great results, this is not a project that can be handled in a single practice session. Do your best to learn how to effectively use your right leg in the downswing and then move on to other issues once this point is under control.
As you work on this point, remember that everything in your golf swing should be smooth and connected. You don't want a swing that is just a collection of parts – rather, you want a cohesive unit that looks seamless from start to finish. With that in mind, make sure that the action of your right knee moving in toward the left knee comes as a natural part of the overall swing. If it looks like you are stopping your swing at the top, moving your knee, and then starting again, you are doing it wrong. One of your top priorities during every practice session should be to achieve a smooth and flowing action in your swing.
Letting the Power Flow
If you use all of the information above to properly use your back leg in the golf swing, you should suddenly have more power at your disposal on the course. Unfortunately, many of the golfers who have this power available to them don't end up using is properly. It is easy to waste power in golf if you don't understand where it is coming from in the first place.
In the context of the golf swing, power is equal to speed. The more speed that you can develop in the downswing, the more power you can put into your shots. When someone says they are a powerful golfer, what they really mean is that they can create a lot of club head speed through impact. There is no sense in trying to 'overpower' or 'muscle' your golf shots down the fairway – the only way to hit long shots is through speed. If you look at the bodies of the players on the PGA Tour, this makes sense. While the typical player is highly fit, they are not muscle-bound people. Instead, they tend to be slender, flexible, and able to turn quickly through the ball.
So what does all of this mean for you? It means that you have to basically stay out of the way while the speed develops in your downswing. If you are doing things correctly with your lower body, the best thing you can do with your hands is to hold on and guide the club right into the back of the ball. Should you allow your hands to get too active in the downswing, you will effectively be wasting the work that you did with your lower body, and your swing will actually be slowing down by the time you reach impact. You want the fastest point of your swing to be the instant when you strike the ball, and that will only happen if you trust your lower body to power the swing. Use the combination of a great back leg action and an aggressive left hip turn to lead you to impressive speed at the bottom, while your arms and hands mostly 'stay out of the way'.
The back leg is an important piece of the golf swing puzzle. It is not only useful for generating speed, but it also can help you to stabilize your swing and achieve consistent contact shot after shot. It would be hard to build a good golf game without having your back leg under control, so use the information contained above to get on the right track. Remember to work on only one thing at a time within your swing, as to avoid overloading your brain with excess information and ideas. It will take patience to work through your swing this way, but the results will be worth it in the end. With your right leg doing the correct things both before the swing starts and while it is in motion, your game will be a big step closer to living up to its potential.