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The Lower Body in the Golf Swing

By M.L. Rose

Your arms may move the club, but your lower body generates most of the power in your golf swing. Your lower-body movements also help align your arms correctly so you can hit the ball straight. If you master golf’s lower-body movements, you’ll come a long way toward developing a complete golf swing.


Maintaining balance, which is a key to a good golf swing, begins with your stance. Spread your feet roughly shoulder-width apart as you address the ball. In his book, “How I Play Golf,” Tiger Woods recommends aligning the insides of your feet with the outside of each shoulder for tee shots. Bring your feet in a few inches closer when you hit middle or short irons. Flex your knees a bit and distribute your weight evenly on your feet, from heel to toe.


A proper weight shift is necessary to maximize your power, so you’ll transfer most of your weight over the inside of your back foot during your backswing. As you draw the club back you must also rotate your hips, turning your back to the target. In Jack Nicklaus’ book “My 55 Ways to Lower Your Golf Score,” the golf legend says your front knee should move forward and to the right, if you’re a right-handed player, while the back knee should remain firm throughout your backswing. Golf writer Steve Newell recommends keeping your front heel flat during the backswing if you’re very flexible. Otherwise, lift your front heel a bit to help you make complete hip and shoulder turns on your backswing.


The downswing is basically the opposite of your backswing -- your weight shifts from your back to your front foot, your hips rotate in the opposite direction, your back knee bends and your front knee straightens. If you lifted your front heel on the backswing, return it to the ground as you begin the downswing, then lift your rear heel as you approach the moment of impact. PGA pro Rick Smith recommends starting your backswing by moving your hips, along with your torso, slightly toward the target to begin your weight shift.

Sliding Hips

Sliding the hips, rather than rotating them, is a key lower-body mistake many golfers make, according to Nicklaus. Sliding your hips laterally toward the target on the downswing results in right-handed players pushing shots toward the right. Nicklaus suggests that you focus on turning your rear hip toward the ball as your club descends. You’ll know that you’ve rotated your hips properly if your navel points toward the target on your follow through, rather than your front hip.

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