A lot of attention is given to footwork and using the ground as leverage to generate more power in the downswing. But if you’re looking to pick up some extra distance, what you do with your feet in the backswing is just as important. For years I’ve been telling my students to coil, not turn, as they take the club back. The length of the backswing isn’t nearly as important as feeling wound up at the top. Obviously, a healthy shoulder turn is part of it. But so is good footwork. Good golfers use their foot closest to the target, as a resister (you can’t coil without it).
Biomechanist J.J. Rivet, who works with European Tour pros, used sensors on Major champion Justin Rose [below] to see if the effective weight of his body changed as he swung back. It did. At the point when the shaft was close to parallel to the ground, his effective weight increased by 20 percent. He was pushing into the ground to provide more resistance to the coiling of his backswing. Also interesting is that a good bit of that push was coming from his front foot – surprising if you’ve been told to get all your weight on your trail side as you reach the top. That’s not happening in a good player’s swing.
Here I’m demonstrating a drill that teaches how to properly use the ground in the backswing [above]. Take a resistance band with your lead hand (the left hand for right-handers) and anchor it by your lead knee. Now mimic a backswing with your trail hand while keeping your lead knee and hand stable. Feel how your left foot has to push into the ground to prevent the stretched band from pulling you out of your posture. That’s the feeling you want as you take the club back. Do that, and you’ll have created and stored power for 20 extra metres.
Leadbetter is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional