Golf equipment has advanced dramatically over the past few decades, and the swing has evolved along with it. For example, the role of the legs has changed considerably since the days of Jack Nicklaus, whose powerful lower-body action was considered the model for golfers to emulate.
In Nicklaus’ day, most players turned the left knee noticeably to the right on the backswing with the left heel lifting well of the ground in many cases. On the downswing, the legs would drive toward the target, with the knees ahead of the hips, the left foot tilted onto its outside edge and the right heel lifting.
Today, most teachers advocate a “quiet” lower body that serves primarily as a base for the core muscles and shoulders – the new power center. Here’s a brief summary how the legs should work based on the consensus among current teaching pros:
- Address position: 1) With the driver, the insides of the feet are directly beneath the outsides of the shoulders (e.g. shoulder width). 2) The left or lead foot is flared slightly toward the target; the right foot may be square or pointing a little right. 3) The knees should be nicely flexed and point in the same direction as the feet (not inward).
- Backswing: 1) The left knee will move to the right, but only a small amount. It should not turn so much that the heel comes more than an inch or so off the ground, if at all, depending on the player’s flexibility. 2) The right knee may move slightly right, but serves essentially as a brace as the body’s weight is “loaded” onto the right side.
- Downswing and follow-through: 1) Rather than racing toward the target, the knees stay beneath the hips while rotating to the left. 2) The left knee straightens (but not completely) as the club approaches impact, with the right hip and knee continuing to turn through the shot.
If you’ve been playing golf for 20 years or more and still swing with lots of leg action, a tuneup might be in order. Consult your local PGA pro, who can bring your swing up to date with today’s equipment.