Lesson 7 - The Role of the Body
I hope you have already grasped the importance of the swinging of the left hand and arm in the golf swing. It is really astonishing that this simple truth has been overlooked in the long history of intensive golf instruction.
As you will know, teachers and players alike have assumed that "power in the golf swing originates in the body and is transmitted to the club via the hands". I consider this concept is profoundly incorrect and requires correction. I will explain later why so many great players have advanced this mistaken point of view. For the moment I simply ask you to accept that it is an incorrect analysis.
I am quite sure, after almost forty-five years of teaching and study that this concept has ruined thousands upon thousands of golf swings...... and continues to arrest the progress of pro's and amateurs alike.
So if power does not " originate in the body", what is the role of the body in the golf swing?
I have said that the swing of the left hand and arm is paramount in the golf action.. I stand by that. But this swing cannot occur if the body turn is incorrect! therefore, the body must be trained to carry out movements that make a FULL, FREE SWING OF THE LEFT HAND AND ARM possible.
Misuse of the body (an incorrect turn) destroys the capacity of the left hand and arm to swing. Conversely, a correct body movement creates conditions for a full swing of the left hand and arm to maximum leverage. The correct body movement and the left hand and arm swing are complimentary. We cannot have one without the other.
Here is a point about which I am adamant. THE LEFT HAND AND ARM IS NOT PROPELLED BY THE BODY AT ANY TIME IN THE SWING. or, putting it another way we don't turn the body in order to move the hand and arm.
The left hand and arm swings the club, and the body turns in order to assist this swing and promote arm leverage. IT IS VITAL TO UNDERSTAND THIS POINT.
The left hand and arm swings the club in the golf action. Body action must never hinder or worse still TAKE OVER, the role of the left hand and arm. The body turns in a controlled manner, not to move the left hand and arm ..... but to allow it to swing unrestricted in both the backswing and downswing. This is what I mean when I talk of the body "responding".
I have made this point in some detail to answer crictics who suggest that I advocate a swing of the left hand and arm alone, ignoring the contribution of the body in the swing.
If I have overstressed the role of the left hand and arm in the swing it is because the accent in current golf teaching is very firmly on body action..... and particularly the assertion that body movement causes the movement of the hands and the club.... ......it alone accounts for the vast number of poor golfers in the world today.
Resistance and counter forces
It is now time to refer to a matter of great importance in the golf swing. It is the phenomenon of "resistance" or " counter forces" in the golf action.
It is customary to talk of "the resistance of the hips to the turn of the shoulders in the backswing". I have said there is no resistance in the hips. Quite the contrary, the right hip and right side must be fully cleared to the rear to assist a full shoulder turn. A full 45 degree turn at the hips must take place.
I am more concerned with a sensation that takes place in the "up" and "down" directions in a correct swing. It is this...
As the left hand and arm swings the club back and up in the bckswing, there is a distinct feeling (particulalry in the knees and feet) that the body is staying down. There is a downward pressure through the feet.
This pressure of the feet into the ground increases the leverage developed by the left hand and arm as it swings upward.
Once you let the body RISE UP as the left hand and arm SWING UP, the capacity for a free swing is immediately destroyed.
We will encounter "resistance" again in the downswing, where it plays an important role.
Remember that any hint of "upward lift" or sway in the body during the backswing literally takes the power out of the left hand and arm swing. You can try this movement without a club in your hand. Swing the left hand and arm up, at the same time sensing that the body remains down. NEVER GO WITH THE SWING of the left hand and arm.
This is yet another example of the body acting to assist the swing of the left hand and arm.
The flexed right leg
I said in Lesson 1 that the legs are flexed at address, and the right leg must remain flexed throughout the backswing movement. This is a must for a correct body turn.
First, by maintaining a flexed right leg the head is held at a constant height from the ground during the backswing. It does not bob up and down.
Next, the flexed right leg promotes a full and correct body turn. By remaining flexed and active the hip and side can be fully cleared to the rear in the way we have been describing. Remember, during the turn the right hip goes back, but it must not be allowed to rise up. If the right leg straightens during the backswing a full hip and shoulder turn will be virtually impossible. Further, the head will tip over in the direction of the target and the "shape" of the body turn is destroyed....as is the plane of the backswing. If this happens the club is bound to be out of position at the top.
Finally, the flexed right leg steadies the body and enables it to turn in the right way. By turning correctly the body makes possible a full, free swing of the left hand and arm. If the club is being moved by a body sway or a heave, the arm swing is destroyed. A correctly "shaped" body movement promotes a full and free left hand and arm swing. Club head motion must be either supplied by the body or left hand and arm. IT CANNOT BE BOTH!
The flexed right leg during the backswing promotes the type of turn that assists and promotes a full swing of the left hand and arm. The straight right leg destroys the turn.... and with it the left hand and arm swing.
Once the right leg has been correctly set at address the position remains virtually unchanged throughout the swing. The body turn, in fact, takes place over the flexed right leg. By supporting the swing in this manner sway is prevented and a real turn can take place.
Note that the right knee is inside the foot. It remians inside throughout the backswing. It must not be allowed to wander out to the right during the turn. This is a sympton of the sway we are trying to avoid.
Neither is there a marked "weight shift" from the left foot to the right foot during the backswing. At the completion of the backswing the weight is still more or less evenly distributed between the feet, just as it was as address. Remembe what we said about raising the left heel? There, the weight was transferred to the big toe joint of the left foot. It is the foot rolling movement which transfers most of the weight to the right leg during the backswing... and I have already warned you against foot rolling and swaying.
In the backswing the weight is concentrated on the INSIDES of the balls of the feet. There is a slight "knock kneed" feeling at all times, just as there was at address.
To develop and sense the "supporting" role of the flexed right leg in the backswing I often tell pupils to place a golf ball under the outside of the right foot. This transfers the weight to the inside .... where it should be... and the vital stabilising task of the right leg in the backswing becomes clear. Try it, and note the firming effect it has on the backswing movement.
Why the left heel must rise
We have seen that a really full body turn is necessary to permit the club to reach a correct position at the top of the swing. During the turn a player must make a special effort to clear the right side of the body, from the hip to the shoulder, to the rear. This permits a full 90 degree turn of the shoulders.
In clearing the right side as I have described most players will find it necessary to slightly raise the left heel off the ground. This heel movement permits that little bit of extra body turn which ensures that the club reaches a correct position at the top. Only the most supple players are able to execute a full body turn without raising the left heel. Consequently I build this movement into the swings of my pupils whether they feel the need for it or not.
Remember, in a full turn the hips move through 45 degrees and the shoulders through 90 degrees. Less than this is simply not acceptable! This left heel movement ensures that a full body turn will be achieved.
Another reason why I encourage the left heel movement is because it keeps the feet live and active. This is vital for a correct backswing and downswing. If the feet are inactive, and the left is glued to the ground the chances are that you will fail to make a full turn. a "resistance" will remain in the right side of the body which will inhibit a full shoulder turn. Inevitably, the club is then "off line" at the top and an out-to-in downswing path will result. THE FEET MUST REMAIN ACTIVE THROUGHOUT THE SWING.
A word of warning about overdoing this left heel movement! Some players raise the heel up far too much during the turn.... tipping the foot up on the toe. This is both harmful and unnecessary. Players who do this are lifting the body up during the backswing. This is wrong. You do not lift the body to raise the left heel. (Remember what we have already said about lifting the body). As the left heel rises the weight moves forward on the big toe joint and a slight forward movement of the left knee occurs. That is all. The body must not be allowed to rise up as the left hand and arm swings the club to the top. Rather, the body must stay down to permit maximum leverage for the hand and arm.
Thus, excessive movement of the left heel....and the liftiing up of the body associated with it....destroys the left hand an arm swing and leads to misuse of the body. Superfluous movement in the backswing, sideways swaying and heaving with the shoulders in the backswing also result. Unwanted movement in the backswing usually leads to unwanted movement in the downswing.
Study the illustration on the right carefully, noting that the heel alone has risen slightly. The rest of the foot is firmly in contact with the ground. I an not advocating an inward roll of the left foot! As the left heel rises the weight moves forward on the big toe joint of the left foot. Thus, the left foot "breaks" at the toe joints. This is not the same as rolling the foot inwards! Again , study the drawing carefully and perfect this left foot movement. A correct foot movement promotes a correct "shape" in the body turn. A bad foot movement ruins the shape of the turn.
Inward rolling of the left foot in the backswing is in fact part and parcel of the down and round action that we are trying to avoid. The left shoulder drop causes a sway to the right, straightening the right leg... and the left foot responds to this sway by rolling inwards. This body movement is a rocking motion of the body rather than a genuine turn.
If your turn is correct the left foot will "break" in the way I have described. If you are merely rocking the body sideways your left foot will roll inwards.
Check this foot movement and understand it.
Next Lesson - Top of the Backswing Analysis