A GOOD HIP ACTION FACILITATES A DYNAMIC BACKSWING COIL
We talk a lot about the importance of creating and holding ‘resistance’ in the lower body, to turn against a flexed right knee and thigh and so create this coiling effect in the backswing as the bigger muscles in the torso stretch over the hips and the legs. All well and good – but you do have to be careful. I see a lot of talented amateur players who take this to the nth degree, and who display so much resistance in the hips and legs that they actually stifle the natural turning motion that must exist in a dynamic golf swing. If I were to put a ration on it I’d say that anyone who is restricting their hip rotation to 30 degrees or less is in danger of sabotaging the quality of their full swing – you need a little more rotation to make the most of your coil.
The secret to a good leg action is that you feel the resistance more in the knees and thighs that you do the hips. The exercise you see here is one that will help you to appreciate this as you rehearse the dynamic of a backswing. In good posture, flex your knees to sharpen up your body angles, and then press a shaft tight into your pelvis to accentuate the feeling in that area as you make your backswing. You want a real sense of interacting with the ground through your feet as your rotate into the right hip, allowing your upper torso to rotate and stretch as it completes the turning motion. My suggestion is that in a full swing – and here I’m using a 6-iron - your hips turn through at least 40 degrees, which will free up your torso to get behind the ball.
RECOIL GENERATES THE SPEED FOR IMPACT...
...AND BODY ACTION CONTROLS THE SHOW ALL THE WAY TO A BALANCED FINISH
When we work on the sequence of moves in a flowing swing we look for a chain reaction, and nowhere is this more important than from the top of the backswing as you negotiate the transition and shift through the gears in the build up to releasing the club through impact. This is where that hip action is your ally, as turning your hips correctly in posture on the way back enables you to then utilise them effectively on the way back down as you unwind.
Study the sequence here and you will notice that the transition works progressively from the ground up – exactly as it should. From a compact backswing position, a subtle move in the left heel and left knee signals the change in direction; as my weight shifts towards the target, the hips enjoy the freedom to re-rotate, which in turn invites the arms and the hands to fall into a wonderfully natural hitting position – the ‘slot’ tour players are looking for (note that the wrists remain fully hinged and ‘loaded’ relatively deep into the downswing).
A key point that I would make here is that as the lower body unwinds from the top of the backswing the chest holds for a split second, allowing the arms to shallow and then gather speed as they are accelerated through impact. Speed in the swing is generated by the rotation of the ‘core’, and this subtle sequence at the start of the downswing enables the arms and the body to match up through the ball.
The importance of establishing good body angles at the setup is very much in evidence as a player builds his or her swing around the heartbeat of this rotation, or pivot motion. The spine angle that is created at address is seen to be pretty well maintained all the way up to the moment of impact, and then softens as the body rotates on to a finish.
ENJOY THE SENSATION OF BEING ‘GROUNDED’ AND UNWIND BODY IN SYNC
The temptation to drive the legs into the downswing is one that causes a lot of golfers a serious problem – and so let me share a couple of ways in which you can work on stabilising your leg action and so enjoy a more synchronised body move through the ball.
First up, try hitting a few shots with what I call the ‘flat-footed’ drill, as you see in this sequence above. Just as it says on the tin, the key here is that you keep both of your feet flat on the ground throughout the entire swing, and the toes open. This will help you to appreciate the ‘quietness’ of a sound lower body action as you wind and unwind your top half.
Anyone with a tendency to jump too quickly off that right foot at the start of the downswing will find this a bit of a challenge initially, but as you persevere you will find that keeping that right foot, particularly, on the ground gives you a terrific feeling of width and freedom as you unwind. No longer will you feel ‘trapped’ and narrow approaching the ball – you will have all the room you need to unwind in sync and release the clubhead freely.
BACK TO BASICS: NO BETTER EXERCISE TO ESTABLISH THE BACK-BEAT OF A GOOD BODY ACTION
In my coaching I advocate using a combination of the exercises you see demonstrated over these pages to improve both the quality of the leg action and the general rotation of the body that is so vital in terms of generating speed and also pacing the tempo of a solid golf swing. Remember, the hips must be encouraged to turn away from the target in the backswing in order that you turn your upper body correctly and get properly coiled behind the ball; in the downswing, the re-rotation of the hips and stomach is the chief source of speed
TURN BACK, TURN THROUGH THE ESSENCE OF A NATURAL, REPEATING SWING
As a final fun exercise, hit a few shots as I am doing here in between working on your regular swing. Drawing your right foot back like this paves the way for the arms and upper body to work nicely together in the backswing, and you then enjoy a lovely feeling of swinging from the inside as you unwind and clip the ball away, re-rotating your body against the flex in the left knee. Again, a useful drill with which to develop better rotary motion of your hips and ‘core’