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September 1, 2017

Building Speed and Power From the Ground Up

Helping your students properly use their legs and the ground during the golf swing

BY: ALISON CURDT, PGA with Editorial Director, Tony Starks

When instructors talk about ground force reaction and how to use the legs in the golf swing, it can quickly become a complicated conversation. Ground force reaction in itself is fairly abstract concept to most golfers, and it can be made further confusing through the use of technical terms and scientific data from advanced tech pieces such as BodiTrak or other devices that measure weight distribution throughout the swing.

However, there are some very simple ways to teach players how to efficiently use their legs and the ground to create power in the golf swing.

LOAD SQUAT JUMP
The load
squat jump sequence is an easy way to describe the proper use of the legs in the golf swing and help your students begin to use ground force reaction to generate speed and power in thee swing.

There are two simple drills I prescribe to help with this. The first is the SingleLeg Swing. I have the player address the ball, and align it with their lead foot. Then position their trail foot back with their toe in the ground (see picture 1). When golfers first start this drill, they tend to keep the lower body stable and only swing with their upper body. Be sure to encourage them to engage their lower body while doing this drill.

What will naturally happen is their left knee (for right handed golfers) will flex on the down swing in order to maintain stability and balance. Then it will straighten or post just before impact so they’re able to rotate and swivel around (see pictures 2 and 3 below).

During this drill, I often notice students picking up clubhead speed when tracking them on a launch monitor. If their normal clubhead speed is 60mph with two feet on the ground, then with just one leg they jump up to 65mph they quickly understand the benefits and impact of using the ground properly in the swing. This is a really simply and easy way for me to demonstrate to my students what is actually happening when they push into the ground with their legs to create force. The second drill is even simpler yet (see picture 4).

I encourage most of my students to jump rope. I know that may sound a little weird to some of my fellow golf instructors, but this favorite childhood activity is a perfect way to practice the knee flexion and extension that’s needed in the golf swing. As you’ll notice in the photos, the knee flexes just before I leap over the twirling rope, and then it extends as I’m in the air. The movement of knee flexion to extension is what creates the force and energy that propels my body into the air. Golfers use that same flex-toextension action to create energy and power in the golf swing.

It used to be that as golf instructors we wanted our students to keep their heads still and level, but over the years we’ve learned that by squatting on the downswing and lifting upward into impact golfers can generate massive gains in power. It’s a motion that’s utilized by some of the game’s longest hitters on the men’s and women’s tour such as Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson. It can also help put more speed and power into your students’ swings.

FOCUSING ON THE TARGET

When I start working with a new student, I’ll watch their swing from down the line. I find that many of them have alignment problems and don’t even know it. If they’re consistently aiming 10 yards left or right of their intended target, they’re going to start making compensations during the swing to get the ball on line, and that will negatively impact ball flight and accuracy. I let them know that they’re not alone – this is a common problem that a lot of players, myself included, struggle with. From there, my goal is to help them focus on the target in a way that improves their alignment right away.

GETTING A LINE ON THE TARGET

I teach my students exactly what I do on every shot I hit on the course and on the practice range. I start by getting them to stand behind the ball and identify their target – in the photo to the right, I’ve chosen a flag downrange as my target. I then have them mentally draw a line from the target back to their ball. Some people can do this just by looking at the target, but some benefit from holding their arm out in front of them as visual reference. Whatever it takes to see that line is fine.

ESTABLISH AN INTERMEDIATE TARGET

Once the player has visualized the line to their target, I want them to find an intermediate target close to their ball. It’s a lot easier to aim at something 18 inches in front of you than hundreds of yards away. As we’re getting started, I’ll put down a tee or a ball marker as an intermediate target, but I teach students to find naturally occurring marks on the golf course to use as intermediate targets: old divots, ball marks and footprints are all good possibilities. In addition to getting the student properly aligned to their target, it also helps them visualize the proper swing path. For example, if someone’s trying to fix a slice, I’ll have them focus on swinging to the outside of their intermediate target (pictured at right).

MAKE INSTRUCTION ATHLETIC

PGA Professional Ashley Grier teaches plenty of private lessons and group clinics as an Assistant Golf Professional at Overbrook Golf Club in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. As a four-time Middle Atlantic PGA Women’s Championship winner and competitor in the 2016 PGA Professional Championship, she’s used to looking at golf as a series of athletic movements. She uses the same approach in her teaching with men and women:

“A lot of people come to golf with experience in other sports, and I like to use that on the lesson tee. For example, if I asked them to throw a medicine ball underhand, they wouldn’t just use their arms – they’d make a turn and a sequence of movements, just like in the golf swing.

“I use a similar approach with an Impact Ball for a drill that improves impact by keeping the arms and hands connected to the body. I’ll have a student put an Impact Ball between their forearms as they prepare to make a swing with an iron. As they swing, the ball will fall out if their arms get too far apart. This fixes scooping, chicken wings and other swing flaws that cause poor impact, and also helps students rotate their bodies instead of just flipping their hands through impact.

“This drill can make a huge impact in a hurry. I had one 20-handicap female student make a dramatic change after hitting just five shots with an Impact Ball between her forearms. Using athletic movements to teach the golf swing is a great way to engage women on the lesson tee. This sort of approach has helped us fill all our women’s clinics this spring, and we now have a waiting list.”