The Dance of Golf

By Jim Bartlett

Footwork, believe it or not, is important in the golf swing. Sure, you are hitting the ball with the club, the arms and the hands. But the power and timing is controlled by the lower body, and that means the feet. Thinking about the swing from the ground up is a great way to improve all aspects of one's golf swing.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Step 1
Start off in a balanced, relaxed position. At address, your weight should be evenly balanced between both feet--don't let yourself lean either forward or back. It should also rest on the balls of your feet, not the toes or heel. Pretend you're a shortshop in a baseball game, or that you're getting ready to shoot a basketball from the foul line. Your legs and feet should have that same athletic flex--loose, bouncy, balanced and ready for anything.
Step 2
Transfer of most of your body's weight to the back foot (in a right-handed golfer, the right foot). This weight shift comes in harmony with the motion of the arms as they begin to swing back and around. Only by shifting your weight to the back foot can you make the nice full shoulder turn needed to make a full swing. But don't get carried away! The weight shift you want is a simple adjustment from having your weight balanced between both feet, to shifting most of the weight to the back leg and foot. If your shoulders or trunk move laterally backwards, instead of rotating around the spine, you'll be "swaying," which can cause all kinds of problems.
Step 3
Stop and actually lift your front foot off the ground entirely at the top of the backswing. If you can't do that easily, you haven't shifted your weight enough. Do a few slow-motion test swings until you get the feeling of having all your weight on the back leg and foot when your arms are at the top of the swing, with your shoulders turned and your back to the target.
Step 4
Begin the downswing with a shift back to the front. Again, you don't want a lurching motion with the entire body, but instead a controlled drive with the legs. The proper sequence is the weight shifting from the back leg to the front leg, the trunk following the legs and beginning to unwind, and the hands and arms and golf club following along for the ride.

If you like dancing, the golf swing is like a dance step that goes "one-and-cha-cha-cha" where the backswing and weight shift backwards comes during the "one-and" and the weight shift forward, trunk turn and arms-and-club hitting the ball come in the rapid "cha-cha-cha" move.
Step 5
Don't stop your footwork when the ball is struck. The momentum of the swing throws the weight forward onto the front leg, while the trunk turns to face the target and the arms swing around and up. The key here is to keep driving down the line with the back leg through the swing. You occasionally hear the television commentators say "he held back on that one," which means the golfer didn't get his weight transferred from the back leg to the front. That is called a classic "reverse-C" swing and often leads to slices or worse.

Tips & Warnings

The simplest test for proper weight transfer and footwork is the foot-lift drill. Make your usual backswing and then pause at the top. If you can lift your front foot off the ground and wiggle it around, you've shifted your weight correctly. If not, you need to work on weight transfer until you can. Likewise, finish your swing until your finish and hold that position. Now, you should be able to lift your rear foot entirely off the ground and wiggle it around. Imitate Gary Player. As a little man, Player knew that to generate power and keep up with the big guys, he had to use every ounce he had. You can still watch him swing, and after he hits the ball, with the same motion of his follow-through, he begins walking almost as if he is chasing the ball down the fairway. By making that first step with his back foot, he is making sure he has transferred his weight forward and through the ball. Use that little walk-through device to get your weight moving forward too. Another good drill is to wield your club like a baseball bat. Pretend you're taking a cut against Randy Johnson or Josh Beckett. As batters wait for the pitch to arrive, they 'load up' their weight on the back foot, then step into the pitch, driving forward onto their front foot as the bat comes around and strikes the ball. The golf swing is exactly the same, without the stepping-into-the-pitch part. Practicing swinging at a few imaginary pitches will help you get the feeling for transferring your weight from back to front during the swing.
The simplest test for proper weight transfer and footwork is the foot-lift drill. Make your usual backswing and then pause at the top. If you can lift your front foot off the ground and wiggle it around, you've shifted your weight correctly. If not, you need to work on weight transfer until you can.
Likewise, finish your swing until your finish and hold that position. Now, you should be able to lift your rear foot entirely off the ground and wiggle it around.
Imitate Gary Player. As a little man, Player knew that to generate power and keep up with the big guys, he had to use every ounce he had. You can still watch him swing, and after he hits the ball, with the same motion of his follow-through, he begins walking almost as if he is chasing the ball down the fairway. By making that first step with his back foot, he is making sure he has transferred his weight forward and through the ball. Use that little walk-through device to get your weight moving forward too.
Another good drill is to wield your club like a baseball bat. Pretend you're taking a cut against Randy Johnson or Josh Beckett. As batters wait for the pitch to arrive, they 'load up' their weight on the back foot, then step into the pitch, driving forward onto their front foot as the bat comes around and strikes the ball. The golf swing is exactly the same, without the stepping-into-the-pitch part.
Practicing swinging at a few imaginary pitches will help you get the feeling for transferring your weight from back to front during the swing.

About The Author

James Y. Bartlett is a freelance writer, editor, and author. His work has appeared in Forbes Life, Hemispheres and dozens of national publications. He has worked as editor at Golfweek, Caribbean Travel & Life, LuxuryGolf and Our Place (second home magazine) and published nine books. He has a degree in journalism from Boston University and in international studies from Franklin College, Lugano, Switzerland.

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