Skilled golfers know that true power results from the upper body coiling over the resistance of the lower body, and that the key to this is establishing good footwork. Typical modern-day pros are flexible enough to get the upper body behind the ball without having to lift the left foot off the ground. Instead, they shift their weight to the inside of the right foot as the left foot rolls slightly inward, allowing the left knee to rotate behind the ball. From this position, they shift weight laterally on the downswing, pushing off the ground with the right foot.
High-handicappers, on the other hand, tend to turn too much on the backswing, allowing the left foot to rise off the ground, which creates the dreaded reverse pivot at the top of the swing. From this position, it’s nearly impossible to shift weight correctly on the downswing. As a result, they’re forced to keep the right heel firmly planted at impact. This is the opposite of what you should do. Professionals keep their left heel planted on the backswing and push off of their right heel on the downswing; the high-handicapper lifts the left heel on the backswing and keeps the right heel planted at impact. Learn the correct footwork and you’ll be on your way to hitting longer, more accurate shots.
Good Footwork Starts At Address
Your stance should be about shoulder width for your longer clubs and should narrow slightly as you move down to the short irons. I suggest that you square your back foot to the target line to help keep your weight on the inside of your right foot as you swing to the top. The front foot should be flared out about 30 degrees to facilitate the uncoiling of the hips on the downswing. At address, your weight should be evenly divided not only between both feet, but also between the balls and heels. You should feel comfortable, balanced and stable.
As you begin your backswing, you should feel a slight weight shift to the inside of your right foot as your right knee remains flexed. If your right leg straightens or if the weight shifts to the outside of the right foot, you’ll fail to create the resistance needed to generate power on the downswing. Your left heel will lift and you’ll lose the gap between the knees. Trust that you can make a complete turn without lifting your left heel.
During the initial stages of the downswing, your weight should shift laterally back to the inside of your left foot as your right foot pushes off the ground. This move allows you to bring the club down on the correct path with speed and force. The right foot push-off continues through impact, so at the followthrough position, your weight is fully entrenched over your left side with only the toe of your right foot touching the ground.
Uphill lies force you to shift your weight correctly on the backswing. So, find a good upslope and make your typical swing. Feel the weight move to the inside of your right foot and let your left foot roll slightly inward; don’t lift up the left heel.
To help you shift your weight on the downswing, make practice swings on a downhill lie. Because of the slope, gravity will pull your right heel off the ground as you follow through. Don’t fight the forward downswing weight; simply follow the slope and you’ll automatically get off your right side. At home, practice the proper footwork with your arms folded across your chest. It’s an old drill that really works, allowing you to focus on feel rather than worrying about ballflight.
Class-A LPGA teaching professional Karen Palacios-Jansen is the director of instruction for Swing Blade Golf Enterprises (www.swingbladegolf.com).