Everyone knows you're supposed to finish the golf swing balanced on your left foot, the club held high above the shoulders with your belt buckle facing the target. Right?
Not necessarily. In fact, one of golf's greatest champions sometimes breaks into a walk soon after contact.
That would be Gary Player, the nine-time major winner from South Africa. His walk-through finish isn't some attention-getting gimmick, let alone the sign of an unsound swing. It's actually meant to encourage proper rotation and weight shift – and it can work wonders for amateur golfers, too.
While Player has been known to walk through shots during competition, his method actually makes a terrific practice drill. It's an incredibly simple way to improve your weight transfer and ensure that your body turns correctly before and after impact.
- Using any club, take your normal backswing.
- On the way down, swing your right foot out and around, toward the target, as you make contact.
- Take an additional step or two for a balanced, free-flowing motion.
The walk-through will improve your power, especially if you're small in stature like Player.
Walk Through Swing Encourages Good Rotation
The golf swing, by nature, is a rotational action. While many golfers try to force some side to side movement into the swing, it is really the rotation of your body that propels the club into the ball at high speed. If you have ever wondered how professional golfers are able to produce such impressive club head speed while seemingly making a smooth swing from start to finish, it all comes down to rotation. When the body rotates properly – and the club turns around the body correctly as well – amazing power and control is possible. Of course, it isn't necessarily easy to achieve that kind of efficient rotation, which is why so many players struggle to unlock the power that they desire.
In this article, we are going to look at one specific way in which you can unlock the rotation of your swing – the walk through. By 'walking through' your finish, you can successfully teach yourself how to rotate through the ball and beyond into impact. This isn't a style of swing that you are going to want to use permanently out on the course, but it is something that you can use during your practice sessions to reinforce the importance of great rotation. Once you feel the power that is possible through the use of good rotation, you aren't going to want to go back to any kind of lateral move in your swing.
Unfortunately, it is lateral motion that ruins the golf swings of many amateurs. While those players might understand that they need to turn during the swing, they also build in some degree of lateral motion which makes it hard to time up the bottom of the swing properly. Sliding to the right or left as you swing is going to cost you balance, and losing your balance is a sure way to ruin your ball striking. You need to be perfectly balanced if you are going to be able to turn the club loose through the hitting area, and the only way to stay balanced from start to finish is by rotating rather than sliding. This is going to be a significant change if you are used to sliding at least somewhat during the swing, but the change will be worth it in the end when you find just how much your ball striking has improved.
If you do decide to use the walk through in your swing to work on improving your rotation, you will be in good company – Gary Player was known for using this move throughout his career. One of the best players in the history of golf, Gary Player would frequently allow his right leg to step through the shot after the ball had gone, leaving him in a position that was facing the target. Always physically fit, Player was able to rotate beautifully through his shots, allowing him to impart an impressive blow on the back of the ball, despite his small stature. Learning from a golfer that has the resume of Gary Player is always a good idea, so you can be sure that there is plenty to be gained from using the walk through.
All of the content included below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play golf left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Setting Up for the Walk Through
If you would like to experiment with using the walk through on the range to learn proper rotation, the first thing you need to do is put yourself in a position to use this move effectively. If you make mistakes in your backswing, you won't have the opportunity to walk through the shot on the way down through impact. Check on all of the points below to confirm that you are giving yourself every opportunity to walk through the shot successfully.
- Starting on balance. You can't expect to find balance in your swing if you don't start out balanced to begin with. When you stand over the ball prior to your swing, you should feel grounded, connected, and ready to make a powerful motion. Too many golfers are casual with their stance, and they pay the price when the time comes to swing down into the ball. Take time to build a powerful stance – just as you would when playing any other sport – and you will be rewarded with improved play almost immediately.
- Maintain control of the backswing. One of the common mistakes that is made in the modern golf swing is swinging the club back too far in the backswing. Yes, you want to make a full turn, but you don't want to turn so far that you pull yourself off balance in the process. The right length for a backswing is turning as far back as you can without losing balance. Nothing is going to be gained from forcing your arm swing to be as long as possible, but you can easily lose balance and control when you have that goal in mind. Stop your arm swing as soon as your shoulders stop their rotation away from the target and you will have a better chance to walk through the shot properly after impact.
- Integrity in your right side. The most important portion of your body during the backswing is the right side – you need to maintain stability in that right side as you swing up and back to put yourself in the right position to attack from the top. Many players allow the right side to 'collapse' during the backswing, which winds up putting too much weight on the right leg by the time the backswing has finished. Focus on maintaining the position of both your right knee and your right hip as you make your backswing, and you will feel stronger at the top than ever before. Professional golfers are great at holding their posture firm while the club swings back, and that is a model that you should learn from in your own game.
Ideally, the backswing will be a simple, basic action that serves the purpose of putting your body and the club into the right spot for an aggressive and powerful downswing. There shouldn't be very much going on in the backswing – if there is, you are doing something wrong. Work on taking out moves that aren't necessary while focusing on the three points included in the list above. If you are able to successfully hit on all three of these points while swinging the club back, you just might be surprised to find how simple the downswing can become.
You shouldn't even bother to work on the walk through until you feel that you have built a reliable and balanced backswing. Without a good backswing, the walk through will only be adding another element to the swing that you have to time properly in order to pull everything together. Instead of rushing to work on this tip, take your time and first master the backswing action. With that out of the way, you can then get down to the business of learning how the walk through can help your rotation.
Understanding the Idea
For the purposes of this article, we are going to assume that you now have a quality backswing in place in your swing. With that out of the way, we can shift our attention to the walk through itself. What is it, and how does it work? Why would you do it? To handle those questions, we are going to highlight some of the key points related to the walk through in the list below.
- Right foot is the key. When the term 'walk through' is used in this context, it is referring to the right foot stepping through the shot to come up next to the left. As you strike the ball, the right foot will begin to come off the ground, and it will 'chase' the club down the line into the finish. When you are done, your right foot and left foot will be relatively close together, and your entire body will be facing the target. This, obviously, is quite a difference from a typical golf follow through position, where the feet stay where they were throughout the swing. It might look as though the swing is off balance when you walk through your shots, but that is not actually the case. Balance is still required, as your body is only going to move all the way over to the left after the ball is gone.
- Hold nothing back. The basic idea of the walk through move is the idea that you are going to be holding nothing back when it comes to your rotation. To successfully walk through a shot, you have to be moving toward the target with everything you have on the way down toward the ball. If you are holding back, there won't be enough momentum on your side to actually step through the shot properly. Therefore, the walk through and a full release go hand in hand, and you can compel yourself to swing aggressively through impact just by attempting to walk through the shot. Many amateur golfers come up short when it comes to their rotation in the downswing, but you will be able to rotate beautifully if you are focused on mastering the walk through.
- Lower body drives the turn. The lower body is supposed to be the engine of the golf swing, but it doesn't really work out that way for most players. Even among those who know they are supposed to turn rather than slide in the swing, it is common for that turn to take place only in the upper body. Yes, the upper body needs to turn in order to facilitate a great swing, but the lower body has work to do as well, especially in the downswing. If you are going to strike the ball powerfully time after time, you have to engage your lower body in the move toward the target. This is a great reason to employ the use of the walk through. By walking through the shot, you will guarantee that you lower body is moving toward the target at and beyond impact, which is exactly what needs to happen.
- Left foot stability. While you are going to walk through the shot with your right foot, the left foot shouldn't be doing anything different from what it would do during a 'normal' swing. You want to keep the left foot down on the ground throughout the swing, including in the follow through. This will give the swing stability, and it will give you a point to swing around as the club moves through the hitting area.
The walk through sounds like a complicated move at first, but it is actually quite simple to execute once you get into it and hit just a few practice shots. In the next section, we will walk you through exactly how to use this drill on the practice range to teach yourself the importance of great rotation in the golf swing.
Walking Through on the Range
The time has finally come to hit some shots with this unique method. You have done your homework, you have built a quality backswing that will prepare you to use the walk through, and you should be ready to strike some quality shots with plenty of speed and power. To get started with your first try at using the walk through, follow the steps below when you arrive at the range.
- Find a place to hit balls on the driving range, and get a bucket of balls to use for this drill. Ideally, you will be able to hit your shots in a location on the range where you will be able to focus without much distraction from other players. There is plenty of time to be social on and around the golf course, but this is not that time – if you are going to improve, you have to focus and work hard on your game.
- For your first swings, you aren't going to actually hit any balls. Instead, you are just going to make some 'dry' swings to get used to the motion. Once you are comfortable with the swing itself, you can then add the ball into the equation.
- Take one of your wedges from the bag to make your first swings. It will be okay to move up to longer clubs later, but you should keep things simple for now by using one of your wedges. The swing arc that you use with a wedge is the shortest of any of your clubs, meaning the swing is a simpler action overall.
- The first half of the swing is going to be the same as it usually is. Take a solid stance, make a smooth and steady backswing, and transition into the downswing by using your lower body to start the rotation toward the hole. For the most part, this swing shouldn't look any different than swings you make during your actual rounds of golf.
- As you approach impact, be careful to continue your lower body rotation as much as possible. Stopping your rotation is exactly what you are trying to avoid, yet it is an easy mistake to make as you shift your focus to using your hands through the hitting area. Keep your left hip turning hard to the left and hold nothing back in terms of rotation through the shot.
- As the club passes through the area where the ball would normally be, keep rotating to the left and allow your right foot to come off the ground. This is where the walk through actually takes place. Instead of keeping your right toe down on the turf and holding your right leg back, allow everything to release toward the target freely. Your left foot will stay on the ground, but your right foot will come up and walk toward your left. With one step, your feet will now be relatively close together and you will be facing the target. Just like that, you will have managed to complete your first walk through swing.
It might be easiest to start out by making some swings at half speed just to get the feet for this motion. As you gain confidence you can gradually pick up the pace until you are making full swings with your wedges, and then full swings with longer clubs. The walk through is almost certain to feel awkward at first, but it will come around quickly with a bit of practice and patience.
Now that you are comfortable with using this technique for your practice swings, it is time to actually hit a few balls. Even if you have worked your way up to the driver during your practice swings, move back down to the wedges when you get started hitting shots. Of course, you should always pick out a target like you do out on the course to make this experience as realistic as possible. Hit a few balls, take notice of any adjustments that you need to make, and then hit a few more until you start to become happy with the results.
You should immediately feel how powerful this kind of swing can be when executed correctly. Adding the walk through should cause you to feel empowered in terms of swinging aggressively on the way down. The lower body has the potential to create enormous rotational power in the swing, but it can only do so if you let it. By walking through your shots on the range, you can experience everything that the lower body has to offer, and your game may never be the same.
Taking It to the Course
As mentioned earlier, you are going to want to revert back to your usual swing when you start playing on the course once again. Yes, Gary Player was able to use this technique on the course, but he possessed a level of talent uncommon to the average golfer. Instead of using the walk through on the course, use it at the range to teach yourself how to be aggressive with your rotation. Then, when you tee it up for an actual round, take that aggressive attitude with you while leaving the walk through behind.
Most important in this case is that you maintain the ability to turn your lower body hard to the left during the downswing and follow through. Many amateur golfers come up way short on this point, which is why they can't generate the same kind of speed seen among professionals. From the top of your swing on down to impact and beyond, make sure your lower body is working hard to produce as much rotational power as possible. It can be hard to maintain this aggressive approach to the swing when you get nervous on the course, which is exactly why you need to prepare yourself properly on the range. Put in the work on the driving range to build up your confidence in this swing so you can stay aggressive even when facing tough, pressure-packed shots during your next round.
Walking through your shots is a great drill to use on the driving range, and it can even help you on the course prior to hitting your shots. If you want to emphasize this important point to yourself during a round, simply make a couple of practice swings using this method before hitting a shot. There is no rule against making practice swings that are different from your usual swing, so rehearse this technique with a couple of quick practice swings before stepping up to the ball. Just one or two practice swings may be all it takes to remind you of how you need to use your lower body in the downswing. Good luck with the walk through method of practicing your golf swing, and play well out there!