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Saturday, April 23, 2011

What You Can Learn from Ken Green

Since the Legends are playing this week, I thought I'd run a lesson on a legend you might not have expected -- Ken Green. You may remember that Green was in a car accident in June 2009 that killed his girlfriend, brother, and dog, plus resulted in an amputated right leg.

The prosthesis he plays on now is the focus of today's short lesson. Here's a short clip of Ken hitting balls -- first, a full-body view and then a close-up of the leg:

Granted, you'll want to keep your back knee flexed; Ken doesn't have that luxury. But do you see how steady he keeps his back leg and hip? That's a big key to getting a good movement through the ball that'll give you both power and accuracy.

Note that Ken lifts his left heel so he can get a good free turn -- sometimes you just aren't flexible enough to keep both feet on the ground. Ken's body also moves forward quite a bit on his followthrough because he can't get the normal hip and leg rotation from his right side. That's ok too -- it's just like Gary Player's old step-through move. It helps him avoid a reverse pivot, which would be a real problem since he can't bend his right knee.

If your lower body is a bit stiff, Ken's approach may be just what you're looking for. And in case you're interested, Ken and his partner Mark Calcavecchia are at -4, considerably behind the leaders at -10 and near the bottom of the field. But after what Ken's been through, that's amazing.

And in case you missed it, the team of Joey Sindelar and John Cook are at -7, just 3 off the lead. What makes this so cool is that Sindelar was out Thursday because of back problems (he hopes to be back today) and John played all by himself. Cookie finished ahead of half the field on his own ball!


  1. I always lift my left heel on my takeaway. I get comments about it all the time, but now I'm thinking it's not such a bad thing. What do you think? Should I be working on getting better flexibility in the hip area or go with what I have been doing. The reason I became concerned about it is because sometimes I feel like I am not properly balanced throughout the swing and this may be the result of my "happy feet". My father-in-law says I look like I'm dancing on the tee box:-)

  2. I have five words for you: Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for everybody!

    Seriously, lifting the left heel during the backswing is part of what we call the classic swing, while trying to keep it flat is part of the modern swing. Neither is right and neither is wrong. Do what feels comfortable.

    Poor balance can be caused by a lot of things, but rarely lifting your heel. If you need to lift your heel and don't, that can throw you off-balance.

    It never hurts to increase your flexibility, but that doesn't mean you'll stop lifting your heel. That's as much a result of how you generate power as how flexible you are.

    BTW, more than a few teachers advocate "dancing" in the tee box. Footwork that creates a smooth fluid swing is always better than footwork that doesn't.

    Does that make you feel better? ;-)

  3. Yes, yes it does. Another case of listening to amateurs who think they are trying to help but are actually doing more harm than good.

    And you're right about me being off-balance. When I think about keeping my heel down, that is when I run into problems. I guess it is just part of my "authentic swing."