Like every other sport, golf is a lower-body game—power and accuracy come from the ground up. Although the vast majority of golf instruction centers on upper-body swing mechanics and positions, lower-body stability creates a support mechanism that, simply put, allows the upper body to do its thing.
Because of flexibility and/or posture limitations (or, let’s face it, bad technique), many everyday players lose the needed lower-body stability by straightening their left leg as they transition from backswing to downswing. This locking-up action causes a braking motion that disrupts rhythm and force of the swing as the clubhead moves into the impact zone. I’m aware that many top teachers advocate straightening the left leg at impact to generate more shock power through the ball, and I have no problem with it. However, it’s a highly skilled move that requires perfect timing, and the majority of amateur golfers simply can’t perform this move with the required precision. Keeping your knees flexed through the shot is almost considered taboo by today’s teachers, but guys like Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tommy Bolt, Johnny Miller and Arnold Palmer never straightened their legs, and as a result were some of the greatest shotmakers and players in history.
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Rather than worrying about straightening your left leg, you’re better off focusing on getting your left knee over and above your left foot on your downswing. As long as that happens, it doesn’t matter what the left leg does. It can straighten, remain flexed—whatever. Basically, when your left knee gets over and on top of your left foot, you’re good.
If you’re having difficulty controlling your lower body, or have overdone the left-leg straightening move that’s so often taught to a fault, try the following two drills, both of which are designed to help you steady your legs and maintain lower-body stability when you swing. Even for players with moderate flexibility, these will work wonders for your contact, accuracy and distance.
LEFT-LEG PIVOT DRILL
Step 1: Take your driver and assume your address position with the ball set just off the heel of your left foot.
Step 2: As you swing back, lift your left heel off the ground, transferring all of your weight to your right leg.
Step 3: Swing down by planting your left foot on the ground while simultaneously lifting up on your right toe. You’ll really have to shift and get back to your left side (left knee over left foot) to reach the forward ball position.
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PULL BACK DRILL
Step 1: Tee a ball up slightly with an 8-iron. Take your setup and pretend that you’re standing in dried concrete and that your legs are completely frozen.
Step 2: Swing your arms and club into your finish position without moving your legs.
Step 3: From here, swing the club past the ball and up to your regular top-of-the-backswing position while keeping your lower body braced and stable.
Step 4: From the top of this restricted backswing, swing your arms down through the ball. Make sure that you keep your right foot flat on the ground as you swing through. This drill will not only help you establish a better foundation for your motion, but also curb your tendency to stand up through the shot.
Golf fitness pioneer Roger Fredericks has worked with more than 70 Tour players, including seven Hall of Famers. His DVD, “Roger Fredericks Reveals the Secrets of Golf Swing Flexibility” is the best-selling golf fitness DVD of all time.