Golfers (and instructors) pay plenty of attention to the turning of the hips and shoulders on the backswing and through the ball. Naturally, the foundation for proper rotation lies in the feet.
The direction and degree to which your toes are pointed at address greatly influences your ability to rotate. The idea is to slightly restrict the movement of the hips on the backswing, which loads weight onto your right side (for right-handers) and creates the tension between the upper and lower body that produces power. On the downswing and follow-through, the hips should be free to turn to the left – also called “clearing” the hips. This action pulls the shoulders and arms along into the impact zone.
On the flip side, too much lateral movement on the backswing can cause a loss of balance and limit your coiling power.
And if the body is restricted coming into and through the ball, the shoulders will not be square at impact while the arms lag behind, causing pushed shots and other mishits.
To promote a proper hip rotation back and through (for a right-handed golfer):
- The right foot should be perpendicular or square to the target line./li>
- The left foot should be angled slightly outward, toward the target. Some teachers recommend flaring it out just a few degrees, while others suggest as much as 22°. Experiment on the practice range to determine what feels and works best for you.
Feet Direction Key for Solid Golf Stance
Your stance is extremely important to the overall success of your golf swing. The stance is an area of golf technique that is often overlooked by amateur players – which may explain why so many amateurs struggle to improve their games as the years go by. You won't see a professional golfer playing at the highest levels of the game without a good stance, and that is no coincidence. In order to play well, you need to stand over the ball properly – it's just that simple.
One of the keys to your stance is the positioning of your feet prior to starting the swing. You want to be able to keep your feet as quiet and stable as possible during the swing, which means you need to have them positioned correctly to begin with. If your feet are pointed in the wrong direction at address, there will be some sort of correction required during the swing – and that correction could lead to plenty of other problems within your technique. Simplicity should always be the goal in your golf swing, and a big part of making your move as simple as possible is keeping your feet grounded from start to finish.
Most likely, you haven't spent much time previously thinking about the direction of your feet during the stance. This is understandable, as there are many other things to think about both before and during the swing. Just a partial list of all of the things you need to consider with relation to your swing includes the grip, your posture, your takeaway, your transition, your shoulder turn, and much more. It is easy to be overwhelmed, especially if you are new to the game, by all of the various things you need to consider prior to hitting a shot. However, you would be wise to make room in your pre-shot process to think about the positioning and direction of your feet, as this subtle point can have a big impact on the shots you hit.
One of the tricky things about positioning your feet is the fact that you will not want to have them pointing in the same direction for all shots. You can actually vary the kinds of shots you hit and the swings you make through adjust your feet at address – this is a powerful tool to have in your arsenal, but only if you know how to use it correctly. To start with, you will want to learn the 'basic' stance which you are going to use for the majority of your shots (this stance will be outlined later in this article). Once you have become comfortable with the way your feet are positioned in the basic stance, you can then work on learning how to make adjustments that will alter your ball flight. In the end, you should be able check yet another important point off of your golf to-do list. With your feet behaving properly, there will now be one less thing that can go wrong in your game.
All of the content below is written from the perspective of a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Importance of the Stance
Let's back up for a moment before we get too far into the topic of foot placement in your stance. It is important that you understand why you are doing what you are doing in your swing, so we should stop to highlight the reasons why the stance is so crucial to begin with. Why do you need to be in a good stance before starting your swing? How does the stance affect the swing that you make, and the shots that you hit? If you don't know the answers to these questions, you may never give your pre-shot fundamentals the attention they deserve.
With that in mind, take a moment to review the points below. These are some of the biggest reasons to take the time necessary to build a quality stance prior to every swing.
- Keeping your balance. Perhaps the most important single reason to have a quality stance as part of your game is to help yourself stay on balance throughout the swing. Balance is incredibly important in golf, yet many players fall to one side or another during their swing time after time. You want to make balance one of your top priorities, and focusing on your stance is a great way to bring this element of your game up to a higher level. A good stance will put you in a balanced position before the club even starts in motion, and it will help you also to stay in that position after the swing has begun.
- Getting off to a good stance. In addition to balance, the takeaway is another one of the key ingredients in a successful golf swing. The first foot or so of the backswing is incredibly important, as this portion of the action is going to determine the path your club will take up to the top. By putting yourself in a good stance, with proper foot placement in addition to other fundamentals, you can set the club on an appropriate path right from the start. This is key, as starting the club on the wrong path is one of the leading mistakes that is made by amateur players. Avoid having to make in-swing corrections by finding the correct path right from the start of the action.
- Making a repeatable motion. Do you feel that you are consistent with your swing throughout the course of an 18-hole round? Probably not – few golfers are happy with their consistency. However, by using a fundamentally sound stance, you will stand to improve on that consistency in the very near future. Using the same stance over and over again, shot after shot, is sure to lead to improved results. You will feel comfortable over the ball in your stance when you take the time to build it the right way, and you will be able to expect the same kinds of ball flights over and over again. No golfer hits a great shot every time they swing the club, but a good stance can definitely take you in the right direction from a consistency standpoint.
Make no mistake – the stance is extremely important. From your feet all the way up to your head, it is crucial that you have each part of your body in the right position to get the swing started successfully. For some reason, countless amateur golfers ignore the importance of the stance, only choosing to instead work on the moving parts of the swing. This is a major mistake. Avoid falling into this trap by making the stance a big part of each practice session. Dedicate time and energy to this element of the game and you will be a better player for the effort.
Orienting Your Feet
As mentioned earlier, the first thing we need to do is make sure your feet are finding the right positions for a basic, standard golf swing. In this section, we are going to address that very topic. You need to be confident in how you are placing your feet for a standard shot, as everything else you do around the course is going to be based off of this basic stance. Fortunately, getting your feet to point the right direction at address is a very simple chore.
Generally speaking, you want to have your feet in a square position at address. What does that mean? Basically, your feet should be oriented at a 90-degree angle to the target line you have picked out for the shot. If you picture the target line that you are using as an actual line on the ground, your feet should be on lines that are perpendicular to that line. While not every player stands with their feet in this kind of position, this is the best starting point from which to work. You might end up making adjustments from this point based on your own personal needs, but starting from square is the best way to go.
When your feet are square to the target line, you will feel solid and stable over the ball. As you bend your knees, your feet will be able to settle into the ground and form a great base that you can use to support your swing from start to finish. You shouldn't have any trouble with balance at address when you use this kind of stance, as this is the same orientation that your feet have when just going about your day to day life. Most likely, this is how your feet would fall if you didn't even think twice about your stance prior to making a swing. Keeping your swing as comfortable as you can is going to improve your chances of success, and that all starts with a stable stance that keeps your feet in a square position.
After the swing gets underway, this kind of stance is going to continue to serve you well. During the backswing, you want to do your best to keep your feet flat down on the ground – and that should be relatively easy when they are square. You might find that your left heel wants to come up off the ground slightly at the top of the swing, and that is okay, as long as it goes right back down in the same position when the downswing begins. In all, you want to do your best to keep any active footwork to a minimum during the golf swing. Allowing your feet to move around excessively is an added variable that you just don't need to deal with.
Perhaps the biggest payoff for this kind of stance comes when you move through the downswing and into the follow through. As you finish your swing, you should be allowing your left foot to roll onto its left side, even bowing your ankle out slightly by the time the swing is completed. With your feet square to the target line, it will become much easier to achieve this kind of finish, rather than trying to get to this point with your feet pointed in a different direction.
Why is this important? It comes down to the importance of rotation in the golf swing. The best way to send the ball toward the target is to rotate rather than sliding through impact. If you keep that left foot square and allow it to roll to the outside as you swing through, there is a good chance you will be rotating nicely. On the other hand, if you change the positioning of your left foot – such as opening it up to the target – you may find it easier to make the mistake of sliding through the shot. Rotation should always be the main driver of the golf swing, and good foot positioning will help you rotate during every swing you make.
Is it possible to play good golf without keeping both feet square to the target line? Yes – absolutely it is. In fact, many players at the top levels of the game actually play from a stance that doesn't have the feet perfectly square to the line. However, it is best to start from this position and then adjust on an as-needed basis. Work on hitting some practice shots with both of your feet nicely square and see how it goes. If you feel good, you can stick with that positioning and move on. Or, if you need to make changes, you can review the information in the next section to determine exactly what those changes should be.
Now that you understand your basic stance, it is time to discuss the adjustments that can be used in order to personalize your foot positioning for your needs. Golfers are not robots, after all – they are unique individuals with specific strengths and weaknesses that must be considered. If you are going to make your swing work as effectively as possible for you, it is important that you customize the stance you use as needed.
Following is a list of the adjustments that you can make to correct for problems that might exist in your game.
- Open the right foot to extend the backswing. This is the most common adjustment that is used by amateur golfers. If you feel like you aren't able to make a full backswing when you have your feet square, you may want to open up your right foot to the target line in order to promote a better turn. You will be able to turn farther back with your right foot open, as your knee and hip will offer up less resistance in this position. However, when you do make this adjustment, you have to remember to focus on rotation in the backswing, as it will be easier to slide to the right in this stance.
- Open the left foot to help the lower body through impact. In the same way that you can open the right foot to help your backswing, you can also open up your left foot in order to help yourself get through the ball effectively. You want to make a strong lower body turn through impact in your downswing, but that will be difficult to do for some golfers when using a square stance. With your left foot open, there will be less pressure put on your left knee and ankle through impact, and you may feel more free to swing aggressively. As you might have guessed, this adjustment comes with the same warning as the previous point. You are going to be more prone to slide in the downswing with your left foot open, so focus on great rotation and balance to keep things under control.
- Turn the right foot in toward the target. This is an adjustment that is unlikely to work for most golfers, but it is an option for those with impressive upper body flexibility. If you have no problem at all making a big turn away from the ball, consider turning your right foot in slightly to keep that backswing under control. There is such a thing as a backswing that gets too long, and you want to avoid making that mistake so you can keep balance and timing in your swing. If you are prone to a long swing, turning the right foot in just slightly will cut you off and force you to start the downswing in a timely manner. Again, this move is not one that will work for a large percentage of golfers, but it can be a big help to a select few.
Golf is a game of adjustments. You have to find a swing, and a stance, that works specifically for you. It doesn't particularly matter if your swing technique works for anyone else, as long as it works for you. With that in mind, test out the tips above during your next practice session to see if you can settle on a stance which will help you to play your best.
Manipulating Ball Flights
Having the ability to hit the same ball flight over and over again is a great thing, and it will take you a long way on the golf course. However, having the ability to produce more than one shot on command is an advanced skill that can allow you to navigate a wide variety of courses successfully.
While there are a number of different ways to attempt to alter your ball flight, adjusting the positioning of your feet is one of the easiest. It should be noted, however, that these kinds of adjustments are only going to lead to minor changes to your ball flight. If you wish to produce a dramatically different shot from what you usually create with your swing, you will have to look for more significant ways to alter your technique.
If you would like to help your ball draw on the way to the target – turn from right to left, for a right handed golfer – you should try turning your right foot out away from the target slightly. As mentioned previously, that adjustment is going to help you make a slightly longer backswing, which will help you stay behind the ball at impact. That style of swing is perfect for creating a draw as it encourages the club to attack the ball from the inside on the way down. Of course, the ball isn't automatically going to draw when you make this adjustment, as there are a number of other factors at play that need to come together as well. However, if you want to favor a right to left shot pattern, opening up your right foot is a good start.
It probably isn't a surprise to learn that opening up your left foot at address will have the opposite effect. Rather than helping you attack from the inside, this change will help you come at the ball from a slightly outside angle – meaning the ball will be more likely to fade on the way to the target. A perfect time to use this adjustment would be for a shot that you absolutely can't afford to miss left. For instance, if there is water all the way down the left side of the hole you are playing, open up that left foot and make your normal swing – the adjustment should help you to keep the ball safely clear of the water.
The positioning of your feet prior to starting the golf swing is one of those things that seems minor, but can actually have a major impact on your game. Take some time during an upcoming practice session to work on this point and you should be able to improve your performance sooner rather than later. Once you find the right stance for your own swing, work on making that stance comfortable and you will have greatly improved your changes to play at a high level. Good luck!