Tag Archives: balance

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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Cross the Finish Line !

As a PGA Professional and college coach I look at golf swings just about every day. When working with a new student (or starting a series of lessons with a club golfer), I start the lesson by observing the student’s swing. I will just watch for a while. Usually during this process I note an erratic shot pattern. After each swing, I am asked, “What did I do that time?” I give an answer. He swings again. Most times the ball goes in a different direction. He asks the same question. “What I do THAT time?” I give a different answer. This routine goes on for a while. I say, “That time you did so-and-so;” then, “Well, that time you did, X.” You get the idea.

Most amateur golfers, when making a full swing, rarely are able to repeat their swing from one shot to the next. Even many of my college golfers, when they first join the team, fall into this category. They are more “hitters” than “swingers.” This inconsistency makes it impossible to predict from day to day how a golfer will play. This is a large reason why my freshman golfers have up-and-down tournaments, with scores that vary dramatically from round to round.

Getting a new golfer to make the same swing every time is Lesson One. It doesn’t matter how good a teacher is—if the student doesn’t make the same move swing after swing, the teacher can’t properly diagnose or fix what is really going on with the swing. The student will never improve.

So, here is my theory:

Every person’s golf swing begins the same way, with the club set right behind the ball—without exception, driver thru putter. If there is a definite starting point in the swing there must also be a definite finishing point in the swing. 

As seen in the photos, a vertical line extends up from the ball. That marks where your swing should begin and end. All golfers begin with the clubhead at the starting line. Unfortunately, most never get the clubhead to cross the finish line, as shown in the second photo. This a large reason shots go off line. It’s why a golfer’s ball flight is inconsistent from shot to shot, round to round, month to month, etc.

I teach every student to get the clubhead to cross the finish line and hold that position until the ball makes contact with the planet. This ensures his weight has completely transferred off the back foot and he has swung in perfect balance. He stands like a statue or “poses” until the ball falls back to earth. At first, many find it difficult to hold this position, which reveals a lot. Butch Harmon says it best: “If you can’t hold your finish it is just by accident that you hit a good shot.” If a golfer can’t hold this position it is clear that he is over-swinging. When making the transition from “hitter” to “swinger”, some golfers make the adjustment relatively quickly; for others, it will take some time. But it is always worth the effort to change. When the student can finally get to the finish line and stay there, we begin to see a clear shot pattern. Now things get exciting.

The student is now SWINGING instead of HITTING, and we begin to see sameness shot after shot. Not only that, almost always he is already hitting the ball better, without any further recommendations from me. At this point I always witness the same thing—big smiles—when he see how a golf ball should be hit, and then the realization of how good he really can be.

Crossing the finish line eliminates many of the variables in the swing. Once we’ve identified a definite shot pattern we can make educated assessments of his swing. There is no guessing or opinion. Just science. Now we can make the proper corrections in posture, grip or alignment that will have lasting and dramatic results in his game.

The lesson is easy. Cross the finish line and stay there, on EVERY full-swing. As I always say to my golfers, “If you start in the same place every time and finish in the same place every time, the middle will take care of itself.”

If you commit to make this change you’ll play better golf. Guaranteed. Not only that, on the range or on the course, even if you hit a poor shot, you’ll still look like a stud.