The Golfer’s Achilles Heel

This is probably the first golf lesson you’ve ever had about your heel. You don’t hear many Pros talking about it. So lets talk about it.

When I am working with my golfers, the heel of the back foot is something I am always watching. I believe the heel’s finish position has a huge impact on where the ball is going to end up. I bet a week hasn’t gone by in all my years of coaching that I haven’t at least mentioned something about a players back heel.

For me, at the end of the swing, where the heel is pointing is the clearest and easiest indicator of whether a player has transferred his weight properly on the through-swing. Most amateur golfers finish their swing with their heel in a very poor position. I find this is especially true for older golfers.

“Who cares?” you say. “It can’t be that important!” Well… I do, and it is.

Let’s imagine a clock and the heel of the back foot is the hour hand. In this case we’ll use a right-handed golfer. If his heel finishes in a position earlier than 12 o’clock (shown in first photo) not only has his weight failed to transfer properly on the through-swing, but his hips never fully released, either. In addition, it is doubtful that he will ever be able to Cross the Finish Line. (Last lesson.)

Failure to get the weight off of the back foot causes the lower body to slow down.  To compensate for the lack of power from the legs, the arms take over, and then the hands get too involved. The result is usually an early release, which will produce thin shots, fat shots, a pull or a hook, a push, a slice, etc. Good luck with that.
This looks less than athletic; in fact, if you don’t get off back foot completely, you’ll look like you’re swinging a sledgehammer. When the heel doesn’t finish at 12 o’clock it’s very difficult to predict with any consistency where the ball is going. Especially when it really matters. I’m betting, not at the intended target. By the way, if this is you, you’re the guy I want to play for money.

If the heel ends up pointing at 12 o’clock or, preferably even later (shown in 2nd photo), the player has fully released his hips and will have a nice long balanced finish position; i.e., athletic. He Crosses the Finish Line. More than likely, the ball will end up in a great position. The by-product of getting the heel past 12 o’clock is that the clubhead releases at the proper time not only increasing accuracy but also swing speed.

Another huge benefit is physical. Failing to get your heel to 12 o’clock puts a great deal of stress, on your lower back. If your lower body slows down while the upper body continues to turn through at a high speed, this creates tremendous torque, which could cause serious back injury. Sorry Dad, this is one of the big reasons you’ve had back problems over the years. I’ve even had some of my college guys who look like perfect physical specimens struggle with lower back issues for this very reason. I once tried to swing with my back heel finishing close to the ground while continuing to turn my upper body through the shot fully and I thought I was going to break in half. Wow, was it painful! AND I hit an awful shot. Getting your weight completely off the back foot will eliminate much of the stress the golf swing puts on the lower back.

If for no other reason, get your heel past 12 o’clock to protect your back. You’ll save a ton on chiropractic visits and you’ll thank me for lower scores, too.

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28 comments

  • You know Coach, the more I read these lessons the more I start to realize when I hit a perfect shot, am the most balanced and most effortless and still powerful, I have done everything you’ve said: close finish line, and my right heel has been to 12 o’clock or further actually most times. I was at the range today for awhile and I was working on knockdown shots and wedges and even then, I could feel my heel being where you would like it, and sure enough, they were all beautiful perfect controlled shots. I’ll keep a good mental note of this and when I mishit a shot a bit, I’ll check where my right heel was first and if it’s not fully released, then I’ll know, I got caught in the swing and didn’t release my hips enough on time. Thanks coach for the pointer!! Amazing stuff!

  • Can you talk to us, especially older golfers, about how to completely transfer out weight to the left side? I struggle with it constantly.

    • What Matthew says is good in his comment.
      I have another way also. I believe that the body learns best when moving in slow motion. When moving at full speed inertia takes over and it’s tough to sense what is actually happening.
      So, try this set up to the ball the way you always do and then take the right hand off the club and swing the club in only your left hand. Because you are weaker you will not be able to swing the club as fast also, since you feel weaker the weight of the club will swing through full and natural. It seems that anyone who swings a club in just the left hand ends up in the most beautiful, perfect finish position. It says a lot about how the right hand can screw things up. It can act like a break. That’s a future lesson. Don’t want to give it all away. Anyway, stand their in that awesome finish position and hold that pose. That way you will teach your body where you want it to finish. Then after a few seconds without moving put your right hand on the club. It may by tough at first. Soon, you’ll stretch out and with some work that finish position will become natural.

  • There is a drill you can do that will teach you to get your hips rotated all the way, which enables you to release your right heel properly. What you do is, when you hit balls (at the range), you set up to the ball. Once your feet are set then take your right foot and move it back to where the toe of your right foot is perpendicular to your left foot’s heel. Now, practice hitting 1/2 swing shots at 1/2 speed and this will teach you how to get your hips through the ball because the only way you can hit the ball straight and solid is you have to get your hips cleared. You’ll notice more power and consistency once you get the hang of that. Hope this helps! 🙂

  • The heel’s finish position has an immense influence towards the golf swing; it brings stability and shows you have fully committed to the shot. I find it very interesting that the heel’s position does have a great impact on the direction as well as relives stress from the lower back. With the visual aid I cant wait to apply this to my practice.
    Thanks Coach

  • Another great lesson. This exercise is extremely important for tournament rounds and in times of pressure as many golfers, once tired fail to get off their back foot result in a “arm swing.” The reference you made to the hips clearly is great, i think if you focus on either of these two elements clearing the rest will take care of itself.

  • This is a very important lesson when warming up in the morning. A lot of people tend to give up on the range when they see themselves hitting terrible shots. A lot of the time its to do with turning and getting off that right side. Make sure in the morning that you get off that right foot and get the heel off the ground, you’ll see it will help you with your pre-round warmup.

  • I can’t wait for that next lesson! I need to get my right hand out of the picture. 🙂

  • I know how important this lesson is because it is something that I used to struggle with. Getting off your back foot is essential to a successful and consistent golf swing. I was always able to generate a lot of club head speed but struggled with distance control due to the fact that I was not getting off of my back foot, the right foot for me. Another great tip that helped me to ensure that my back foot got all the way to 12 o’clock on my follow-through is to try to make your right knee touch your left knee as you swing through the ball (for right handers). This will ensure that you drive through your shot transfer your weight, and get completely off of your back foot and have it pointed at 12 o’clock. Great Lesson!

  • Getting through the ball and really releasing your hips for balance and control are really major key aspects when hitting a great and or straight shot. I would say that the right foot for a righty or the left foot for a lefty is as important as any other movement in the golf swing. It lets you have balance and good composer. I see people sometimes falling over to their right being a righty because of lack of balance. I know I used to do it. One thing that really helps me is letting my right knee follow my club, if i do this, then after impact, my heel is almost always in the right position at 12 o’clock or past.

  • The way you finish reflects how you perform your swing, and this lesson it is all about that.
    When I dont hit a great shot I notice almost every time that I am out of balance and, being one of my main problems, I dont turn my hips fast enough. There is when I that see my right foot is the evidence of the problem, standing there on the 10 o’clock position.
    Giving importance to this can be very helpful, it will definitely improve your ball stroke.

  • I had never considered where the heel ends up on any given swing until coach brought it up. My main swing thought when practicing is to make a solid repeatable finish. When I first began working toward holding this finish I had a lot of trouble. By clearing completely through the ball and making an effort to turn this heel, my body has no choice but to wind up in the finish that I desire.

  • This is a great lesson and a very important part of your golf swing. Making sure you have your heel passed 12 o’clock takes care of many other tendency’s in a golf swing, just by turning your heel your increasing swing speed, hip turn, and the most important aspect in golf….. Consistency!
    By just thinking about making sure your heel have turned past 12 o’clock in your finished position before you hit a ball, your not thinking about huge swing mechanics and more importantly lowers pressure in a tournament round.

  • Andres you couldn’t have said it any better, “the way you finish reflects how you perform your swing, and this lesson it is all about that”. This in combination with holding your finish gives your swing a consistent and professional look. Great drill Coach.

  • I laughed when I read this article. This time last year, I tried to finish before 12 o’clock because I thought finishing beyond that mark looked “sloppy.” I went out to one of our home courses, McGregor Links, and shot a million. Now, whether it was due to not playing for months or the heel issue is up for debate. I’m guessing it was a combination of both. But, I have come to find that getting the back heel to the sky is a golfer’s best friend and I had to learn the hard way. It makes perfect sense when you put it in the context of releasing your hips fully through impact. This is one piece of advice that cannot be done wrongly and that makes it incredibly useful.

  • Coach,
    I think having a balanced swing and ending up in the proper position with your heel is crucial to the golf swing and where the ball travels. I have often been told that I can swing as hard as I can as long as I am balanced and am not falling over at the end of my swing. This is a great way to keep your swing in check on the course because I know when I can not keep my balance after swinging that I am swinging too hard.

  • Coach,
    Balance is one of the most important parts of the golf swing. I still remember the 2 holes that we played together at National and I quickly found myself back on the driving range. After recording my swing, the two things you told me were to hold my finish position and watch my heel. These two thoughts have stuck with me throughout every swing now and it has definitely improved my game. Staying balanced creates a repetitive swing and teaches great tempo. Great article!

  • Coach,
    The heel is definitely a great indicator of whether or not I have finished my swing. I have never really thought about this but sometimes I do hang back on my right side. This goes hand and hand with the idea of holding the finish, which is also something you love to stress. I will certainly look at where my right foot finishes to be sure I am completely “crossing the finish line” and then hold my finish. This is something new for me, but it is a simple check for my swing.

  • This article makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve never been backed up with evidence like this about my swing, but I’ve always noticed that it just felt bad on my body when I didn’t finish fully with my heel. I’ll be even more sure to extend the finish with my heel and keep balanced from now on.

  • The golf swing is so interesting because every body part matters. You so often hear amateur players saying things such as ” Im just trying to get my shoulders to here.” Its so easy to simply focus at one part and ignore important ones like the heel. Having a strong, full swing is not only good for your golf game, but your body as well and this article perfectly illustrates that.

  • This article made me think of Phil Mickelson. He is one of the only guys on tour who doesn’t fully get through the ball. If you watch his swing he sometimes hangs back and leaves his right foot (his driving foot) at that 10:30-11:00 o’clock position you mentioned in the article coach. I don’t know how he does it, I guess that has always been his natural move at the ball. But great article coach, it truly is hard to think of a bad swing that I have made when perfectly balanced.

  • Throughout my golf career I have consistently had to go back to hitting balls flat footed in order to slow speedy hips. I usually have the opposite problem where my back foot goes far past 12 which is a power leak because my body is so far ahead of my arms. Finding the Balance between over swinging and not getting to your finish

  • I like this post. One of the few swing thoughts I keep include quiet footwork, which leads to a more balanced swing.

  • Throughout my golf career I have consistently had to go back to hitting balls flat footed in order to slow speedy hips. I usually have tho opposite problem where my back foot goes far past 12 which is a power leak because my body is so far ahead of my arms. Finding the Balance between over swinging and not getting to your finish

  • This is a great swing thought to have when under the gun as it helps prevent two of the most common, pressure related, tendencies of not finishing a golf swing and, especially for me, not getting weight transferred completely to the left side. Great swing thought to help alleviate both of these swing killers.

  • Coach, You’re completely right. The heel position is very important especially for balance. Whenever I hit a bad shot I find myself off balance and the whole swing looks horrible. You told me that every golfer should finish their swing, because if they don’t they are not finishing what they started. The player cant make a good consistent swing if they don’t. If they cant get their back foot past “12” they most likely haven’t finished their swing. Great article Coach!

  • Mackenzie Nelson

    Coach,
    I completely agree you! Nothing good can happen when you do not finish your golf swing and there still is weight on your right side after impact. Not completely transferring your weight can only cause problems in your golf game.

  • Mitchell Campbell

    Good observation Coach! This makes me think of Robert Allenby. He never really seems to get off of his back foot and maybe thats why he’s not up at the top anymore! I like the reference to “Crossing the finish line”. It really helps me to understand what you’re talking about. Getting to a full balanced finish is key when trying to hit pure shots.

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