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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some Further Thoughts about Leg Action, Part 2

(PAY ATTENTION, RIGHTHANDERS! Normally I describe things as a righthander, and lefties have to transpose it. But Brian is a lefty and this is his project, so you righties will have to substitute “right” for “left” and vice versa. It will give you an appreciation for what lefties have to go through when they learn the game. But here’s a hint that will help: View any diagrams as if you were looking in a mirror.)

Now, where did we leave off yesterday? Oh yes…

The back knee MUST remain flexed throughout the swing. As I said, even when you pull with the front leg, your upper body can still move forward enough to throw you off-balance. Because you set up with your spine tilted toward the ball, the back hip needs to rotate forward AND DOWN as your front leg pulls you through the shot. If you straighten your back knee on the downswing, you push the back hip upward instead, which throws your upper body toward the target and prevents you from getting that nice balanced finish everybody likes to have.

Yes, I know what you’re going to say… Gary Player used to advise students to “step through the shot,” which meant the upper body was moving forward so much that the back foot had to step in front of the pulling foot to keep you from taking a faceplant into the ground. Gary used to do it himself on occasion, and he was a pretty decent golfer, wasn’t he?

But the key words here are on occasion. This step-through isn’t the desired move so much as it’s the desired error. The most common alternative is a reverse-C, which causes most weekend golfers to hit a big slice. (It doesn’t help the old back much, either!) There have been a few good players who “did the C”―Johnny Miller being one of the most notable―but most of them didn’t enjoy long careers.

Here’s the difference, and it’s all about knee flex: The reverse-C causes the hips to slide too far forward, while the step-through causes the upper body to move too far forward. That’s because the back knee collapses in the reverse-C, while it straightens in the step-through. See the pattern?


In the proper move, the back knee doesn’t straighten much and it certainly doesn’t collapse; it feels more as if it is swiveling. It swings toward the ball as the club approaches the ball (which means your body weight moves from being centered over your back foot to being on the inside edge of it―think of a rolling motion), and then the back knee turns toward the target as the club moves to the followthrough position and the back foot pivots up onto its toes. Now you’re in the classic finish position, with your weight balanced on your front foot.

The movement of the back leg and knee is a reaction to the movement of the hips. It’s Principle 7 at work; the back leg is moving around because the hips pull it around, and the back foot rolls and pivots because that’s the way the hips are turning.

We’ll look at hip action more closely in the next post.


  1. I really appreciate the simplicity of your instruction Mike.

    For a couple of years now, I've know that my back foot comes up way too high and much too early.

    It never occurred to me that the reason for this is because I'm bending my knee too much. Duh!
    Makes perfect sense of course!

  2. The answers are always simple... once you know what they are!

    I learned that the hard way, Brian. Trust me - everybody struggles with the same problems. It's just that some problems are caused by other problems... and because they're tied together, you either solve both or neither. It's like the chicken wing/twisted forearm problem; they're connected, so fixing the cause fixes the effect.

    Knees just don't get talked about much in most golf instruction. I don't know if teachers think it's too confusing for most students or just think it's more effective to treat the problem indirectly. But you need to understand what you want to see happen, even if you have to fix it indirectly to get the right results. It's no wonder that so many people have footwork and hip problems.

    And thanks again for the kind words. I like to keep things simple, when possible.