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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ernie Feet

I've been searching for some video of the swing change Ernie Els has been working on recently that he says is helping his accuracy so much.

I believe I finally found one... at least it's close enough for you to get an idea. Here's a slo-mo video from back in March:

Take a good look at how his knees (and therefore his feet) are moving during his swing, especially his backswing. The first thing to note is that both knees stay flexed all the way through the backswing and pretty much until his hands are below waist high on the downswing. Too many of you are making one of two mistakes:
  • Straightening one or both knees during your backswing, which locks your lower body and contributes to an over-the-top move.
  • Straightening both knees during your downswing, which causes you to stand up and hit the ball thin.
If you look closely at his left foot during his backswing, you'll see the change he's been working on -- he's letting his left heel come off the ground during his backswing. (I think Kostis said he's after around 3 inches of lift, but he's only getting about half that right now.) This is a move that can help in several ways:
  • It helps those "old bones" when they need a little more flexibility, although I don't think Ernie has this trouble. If you're not flexible enough to get a full shoulder turn, this can help.
  • It's a rhythm helper. By letting his heel come up he eliminates some muscle tension, and relaxed muscles make it a bit easier to keep your rhythm. Any of you who have ever danced know what I'm talking about -- tight muscles are stiff, jerky muscles.
  • It's a downswing trigger. He has to push that heel back down to the ground to start his downswing, and that helps initiate his weight shift.
One last thing: Pay attention to his hip movement. Although Ernie has a lot of lower body motion in his swing, his right leg is still leaning slightly toward the target at the top of his backswing, and his left leg is still leaning slightly away from the target after the ball is gone and his hands are halfway up into his finish. His hips are turning, not sliding from side to side. This helps keep his spine from leaning too much toward or away from the target, and that helps keep his swing plane more consistant -- which means his swing path is more consistent time after time.

And the result of the whole thing is a much more balanced finish.

Ernie's Total Driving stat has improved considerably this year. It's as important to his improved play as his improved putting is. He's gone from 237 (158th) in 2010 and 235 (162nd) in 2011 to 121 (26th) this year. Golf is much easier when you play from the fairway.

Improving your footwork can always help improve your swing. Keeping those knees flexed during the swing is one of the things that pros do so much better than weekend players... but it's something that is easily improved. Just look back at this post and focus on keeping your knees flexed while doing the drill. You don't even need a club to practice

If it helps Ernie Els, it'll probably help you too.


  1. In a golf swing it's important to keep the spine angle constant, that's the real reason to keep the knees flexed in both the upswing and downswing, I do this drill a lot to remind myself to stay in posture.


  2. Thanks for the link -- that's definitely a good drill to help stop you from standing up when you swing. You're right that knee flex helps keep you from bobbing up-and-down. But remember that spine angle has to stay constant from side-to-side as well. If you don't keep your knees flexed, your spine angle can change in all directions, and that's not good.