Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Balance, Counter Balance and Speed in the Golf Swing

Today's blog is a communication for one of my players, so I am not going to bother with the pictures.  It is chock full of links to swings and other things, so it will take a little time to read, but it is a good overview of the importance of motion and balance to your power.  I tried to make it comprehensive, but it is a subject with many examples.

Our bodies work to stay centered in all that we do.  If you are gently pushed backward, your body will quickly compensate by either leaning forward into the force or by taking a quick step backward.  All of this is reflexive and is happening for us constantly.  Many things that are happening in your golf swing are also reflexive and occur as a result of balance problems or misconceptions.  It rarely occurs to us that something as simple as balance could be causing our swing flaws, but it is actually one of the major causes.

If you take a golf stance as you would to create a powerful ready position in another sport, you will be starting on the right track.  Power is created through a combination of leverage, balance, strength and speed.  Picture a power lifter about to lift a heavy rack of weight.  He will sink into his hips and his weight will be centered between the arches and heels of his feet.  His weight will never be on his toes or even the balls of his feet.  If it were, he would tip forward and not be able to properly use his hips and legs to push against the ground while lifting.  By centering his weight using the strongest leverage point, where the tibia centers over the foot, his balance is assured and his butt will serve as ballast for the heavy weight being lifted on the front side.  Even though we aren't lifting a big rack of weight, golfers also need to have their weight centered or more specifically, directly below where the leg bone meets the ankle joint.

Here is a link to a dead lift with proper form.  Notice where the weight is on his feet as he lifts.

Here is a link to a swing by KJ Choi.  Notice that his set up puts the weight in the very same place on his feet as the weight lifter.

If you set up with your weight too far forward in your feet, with too much weight toward your toes, your body will immediately counter balance by swinging your arms inside on the way back and bringing your overall balance back to center.  If you had poor instruction and you were told that you should be on the balls of your feet at address, it would be a fair guess that your next lesson focused on the takeaway and you worked on getting the club on plane on the way back, instead of inside the plane.  If you are a player who struggles with bringing the club too far inside with your backswing, you should start by checking your balance at set up and making sure it isn't too far forward.

The opposite of this would be the golfer who has too much weight on his heels at address.  One thing that is usually lacking when the weight is too much on the heels is good posture.  Good posture will have a hip set that provides a counterbalance at address.  Usually, players with too much weight on their heels have posture that includes too much knee bend and too straight of a spine angle or in other words, their backs are straight up and down instead of tilted over the ball.  Their first move usually involves dropping their heads and rocking their shoulders to take the club away.  Once again, if you have been told that you drop your head or move it up and down as you swing, you should check your balance and posture. 

If all of this happens based on poor address positions, imagine what happens when your balance isn't where it should be as you are swinging the club.  As I said earlier, power will be created with the combination of balance, leverage, speed and strength.  Your balance is controlled by your center or core. Think about what your body does when you begin to walk.  When I ask students how they begin walking, almost all tell me that they start by kicking their leg forward.  Our bodies don't move because our appendages move.  It is the opposite.  Your core is in charge of whatever you do with your arms, legs or head and it will adjust using other appendages to offset a bad move.  Have someone put the end of your golf grip directly below your belly button and then try to take a step.  You will instantly feel stuck, no matter how many times you kick your leg forward.  A step forward starts with your core leaning forward to create momentum.  Your leg fires out to keep you from falling on your face because of that momentum.

Check out this link to an example of what we are talking about.  It is a very cool clip.  Notice how the woman in the clip only spins fast when she is lined up top to bottom.


In your golf swing, the center of your body starts the turn away, the shoulder turn and gently shifts the weight back and through.  Many players have a high center of gravity and want their heads to lead their back or through swing.  The extra movement that occurs high in the body is tough to recover from for golfers.  It is not exactly correct for someone to ask you to keep your head still.  Your head will move slightly back and through as you swing.  However, a lot of head movement is counter-productive to a great swing that is grounded.

A link of a teacher going over a one footed spin.  Again, he talks about the importance of standing straight over the skate you are spinning on. 


Another common misconceptions that even good players have is that you need to be centered at impact.  If your balance is centered in the middle of your body at impact, it will be tough to hit down on the golf ball, release the club down the line or create maximum speed in either your turn or club head.  There are three centers in the golf swing.  The first is the true center, which is your starting point and is the midline between your sternum and belly button.  The second center is the point you move to in your back swing and is a point just inside the top of your right femur or the inside of your right hip.  From there, you move to the third center, which is just inside the top of your left femur or the inside of your left hip.  This move to the third center is the key to the speed that big hitters have as they swing through the ball.  If you are taught to return to center, but not taught to commit to your front leg, everything will slow down in your through swing because of the lack of a straight line of rotation.

Here is a video of a little girl learning to spin on one skate.  In her first attempt, her weight isn't centered over her skate, but more in the center of her body.  She loses her balance and has to use her head and arms to right herself.  In her second attempt, she commits her center over her skate and is able to spin in a straight line.  This commitment is the same thing we need in a golf swing.  Perfect balance along with maximum speed happens when we commit our weight over our front foot, so we can create a straight line that extends from the ground up to our head.  If we hang back and start our through swing without committing all the way to our third center, our core will be working to offset the balance problem created by having our head behind center while the hips are out in front of center.   Check out this swing of Rory McIroy.  Stop it at :07 and you will see that his weight is lined up over the inside of his left hip.  His head is quiet and his hip is under his shoulder and his body creates a line that allows it maximum speed.

I hope all of this helps you to understand the balance you want in a great golf swing and the problems poor balance will cause.  

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