|Hogan's Foot Positions|
I wrote before about my wacky left shoulder hitch. It's not my only downswing hiccup, however. This particular one--the subject of this post--can really destroy one's game unless one has a lot of talent (like Bubba Watson or other pros who can spin out and play well in spite of this error).
I had unconsciously ingrained the habit of turning my left foot outward during my downswing, such that my toes were pointing more toward the target than they were at address. I would address the ball with both feet flared out slightly (left over from the S&T days), but I would then unconsciously spin my left foot more open, so that the toes pointed more towards the target midway through my downswing. When I concentrate, I can keep it from moving during my downswing, and as a result my impact is much, much better. For me, I believe moving my left foot is just a bad habit more than a flexibility issue.
The position of the feet at address can be used to assist in creating different ball flights. Keeping the left foot perpendicular while turning the right foot out a bit can assist with hitting a powerful draw. Reversing this can help hit a fade, but it's important NOT to move that front foot once it's position is established at address, regardless of how open it is at setup.
If you're observant, you'll notice that there are a few touring and teaching professionals who allow the front foot to spin out--some significantly--on the downswing, such as Bubba Watson. But I believe they're great inspite of this error; we amateurs can't afford to allow this to happen. Another interesting point: Most teaching professionals espouse a front foot that is positioned anywhere between 20-45 degrees open (seriously...does one get out a protractor to measure this?), while the rear foot (right foot) should be positioned perpendicular to the target line. However, like most "fundamentals" of golf, you'll find teaching pros who advocate the feet positioned in every possible combination: left flared, right straight; left straight, right flared; both flared; both straight. Hogan advocated for a flared front foot and square back foot (probably why most instructors teach this), but keep in mind that Hogan also fought a hook, so much of what he taught in his famous Five Lessons book were keys to hitting a controlled fade and avoiding the uncontrolled duck hook.
Spinning the left foot outward during the downswing from its initial address position can affect weight transfer to the front foot and throw one off balance. It can cause a slice, pull, or pull hook, as the downswing path is suddenly thrown--even if minutely--off to the left; as the left foot spins open, it sets up a chain of movement from the ground up that adds more leftward downswing rotation (knees, hips, and shoulders in that order), which can exacerbate a slice or pull. Ultimately, this can affect the quality of impact, reducing distance and causing various mishits. One sign that the foot moved (other than simply being aware of it happening), is that it's impossible to maintain a balanced finish. A balanced, solid finish usually means the front foot did not move--or move much--during the swing.
Keeping the left foot in the same position from address to finish can be critical in ensuring a solid, compressing strike on the ball. This is what is often called hitting into a firm left side.
Here's an interesting theory: Keeping the rear (right) foot pointing straight ahead at setup (perpendicular to the target line) and the left foot slightly flared out may, in fact, prevent the left foot from spinning open during the downswing, whereas flaring the right foot and left foot may actually contribute to a left foot spin out on the downswing. Flaring either foot eases hip rotation in that direction, so a more rotated pelvis in the backswing (not desirable--see the much maligned "X factor") could increase rotation on the downswing, causing the left foot to spin out. Because the keeping the right foot perpendicular at setup decreases hip rotation on the backswing, it also helps prevent a sway to the right; likewise, a left foot that is too open at setup can cause too much forward sway or hip slide in the downswing.
Either way, you should experiment with keeping either the front or rear foot perpendicular at setup to see how it affects ball flight and improves power and stability. For a standard shot off the tee box or fairway, I feel one foot or the other should be perpendicular at setup; both feet should not be simultaneously flared out nor both perpendicular, though you can find any variation of these taught in golf. Remember that flaring the front and not the rear can increase the chance of hitting a fade or even OTT (in this case, pull the right foot back a bit--especially for longer clubs [see Hogan's image above]), and the opposite condition can increase the chance of hitting a draw or a push.
Make certain that you recheck the alignment of the knees, hips, and shoulders when adjusting the positions of your feet. For me, flaring the front foot while straightening the rear foot caused my hips to open without me realizing it. I started hitting it better once I re-squared my body alignments.
As most trouble shots require a stable lower body (for instance, in a fairway bunker), keeping both feet pointed straight ahead or even turned in a bit will limit the turn back and turn through of the lower body and increase the chance of solid contact and a good escape over power and distance.
This ideal weight shift allows these players to deliver the clubhead squarely into the ball at impact as they rotate powerfully around the front foot.
Does your left foot stay stable throughout your golf swing? Does it move, and if so, which direction? It can move incorrectly three ways during motion or a combination of all three. On simple terms, it can move incorrectly, side to side, rotational, and forward and back. Fix the most dominant mistake first!
If there is too much rotational movement in the foot, practice off a dry erase board on socks with some pledge for more difficulty. Objective, don't let the foot rotate during the swing.
The two stabilising points are the head and left foot. The head must be kept back behind the ball, and it must act as the upper stabilising point while the left foot represents the lower stabilising point.
The two main ingredients in a golf swing that are responsible for hitting against a firm left side are the head staying still and the left foot set correctly at address.
The head should be tilted back slightly at address anchoring the top half of the body. The left foot must be positioned almost at right angles to the target, this anchors the bottom of the body. All too often club golfers open up the left foot too much. These two small adjustments at set up can have a dramatic effect on hand speed at impact.
One of the common mistakes golfers make is to allow their left foot to spin out as they hit the shot. This leads to inconsistent golf ball striking and errant golf shots.
Since Hogan wrote the Modern Fundamentals it has been popular to open the left foot at address a quarter turn. But turning out the left foot too much can make a slice worse. Rather than being able to hit against the left side, which encourages a full release of the club, if the left foot is turned out too much there is nothing to stop the shoulders spinning open.
You have to setup with your feet in a certain configuration. What I noticed is when I told my students to do this drill with no additional instruction. They almost always setup with [their] LEFT foot flared toward the target.
To get maximum benefits you should setup with your left foot perpendicular to the target line, and your right foot flared away from the target. You should also drop your right foot back slightly. Just check out the picture below and copy the feet position.
Students in the early stages of learning, are taught to keep feet parallel and perpendicular to the body line.
The left, or front, foot is always turned out slightly to the left. With the foot in this position, a player can transfer their weight to the left side more easily and quickly on the downswing. They can also hit through the ball with greater power and comfort because the directional force of the swing is toward where the left foot is aiming—to the left.
Position the right foot so that it points almost straight ahead. A common mistake is to address the ball with both feet pointed out, whereas only the left foot should be in that position.
With the right foot positioned so that it points ahead, or almost so, instead of to the right, the weight shift on the backswing becomes more centralized around your spine rather than on the extreme outside of the right leg and right foot.
At address, my right foot points perpendicular to the target line, but my left foot flares out almost thirty degrees to the left. That's a lot. The reason I do this is that it helps me get my left side out of the way and turn fully through impact. The flip side of this is that the flared-out left toe restricts my hip turn away from the ball and thus limits the length of my backswing. That's not a liability for me, however, because I've been blessed with a supple body.
If you have trouble turning through the ball, I recommend that you experiment with this flared left toe. Just be careful not to allow the alignment of your feet, hips, and shoulders to open.
Conversely, if you want to make a more full and free turn on your backswing, try experimenting with a flared right toe. Just bear in mind that this can inhibit your turn through impact.
There is always lots of discussion about whether the feet should be flared, square, turned in, etc.
Just like most things in the golf swing, it is very individual and dictated by how you swing the club and what mistakes you make or physical limitations you have.
To me, the right foot (back foot for righty) should never be flared intentionally. It can cause over rotation and getting the club behind you and it can also make it difficult for your lower body to clear in sync with the shoulder turn.
The left foot (front foot for righty) has a more flexible range of how to place it. Many people get a great benefit from flaring the left foot to give the lower body more room to clear. Those with over active lower bodies that get out in front and get the swing out of sync, may benefit from a square or turned in left foot.
I can’t tell you individually what to do, but you can use this info as a guide to tinker yourself.
However, if the left foot is turned back so it is at right angles to the target, it encourages the correct transition between backswing and downswing. The shoulders can’t spin open too much as the left foot anchors the whole of the left side.
The more the left foot anchors the hips and consequently the shoulders from spinning open, the club will approach the impact area more from the inside.
To do this, dig your feet into the sand, then turn your toes inward as you take your stance. This secures your lower body in the bunker. Your weight should feel as if it's on the inside edges of your feet, and when you swing, keep your weight in that same position. Unlike a normal full-swing shot, there's not a lot of weight transfer.