Time To Change The Message – The Rear Leg, Weight Distribution, How The Spine Turns (Part 2)

Posted on by Dave Hill WGCA contributing writer

As discussed in the previous article, we are moving away from the idea of weight transfer during the backswing. We are also changing the vernacular from weight transfer to pressure change. Another term we should begin embracing is “center of mass” (COM). As golf teaching professionals and coaches, we need not be experts in anatomy. However, a little knowledge can go a long way.

Most golfers complain of inconsistency, and we all know they are consistent within their inconsistent results. However, are we as instructors consistent in the message we are sending golfers via our instruction? Many studies over the past years have produced undeniable evidence as to how the most proficient golfers strike the ball consistently solid and relatively straight most of the time. Undeniable evidence, because it has been backed up by not only simple and common-sense observations, but by research and “3-D” technology software.

In referring back to Part 1 of this series, I discussed the idea of teachers departing ways with the idea of torque being created for power by developing a huge degree of shoulder turn with limited hip rotation. There is a reason: this is not how the spine works. It is a given the thoracic spine area (midsection to shoulder height) is the power source, or the high-horsepower engine of the swing. However, it does have a limit as to how much rotation can occur from that area of the body. We also must turn the lower spine as well, so when the thoracic spine has completed its job, we as golfers have developed a proper shoulder turn without the appearance to the naked eye of moving off center or coming out of posture by standing taller during the backswing.  There is a common and yet very easy solution.

The lower parts of the spine (the coccyx and sacrum) are in essence fused. Part of the sacrum is attached to the pelvis on a transverse (horizontal) plane rather than simply having a vertical formation, which, of course, differs from the remaining components of the spine found above the sacral area. Therefore, what helps one turn the upper spine is the rotation of the lower spine, which, as we said, is fused; therefore, the entire pelvic unit must rotate in order for the upper spine to turn into what is considered a proper top-of-backswing position. This is simply done by letting the rear leg (right leg for the right-handed golfer) lose some of its knee flex during the backswing. The caveat to this is also making no conscience effort whatsoever of trying to put any extra weight on the rear foot during the backswing.

What?!  Doesn’t that imply a reverse pivot as per traditional instruction? Yes, as per “traditional instruction,” indeed it does. However, it is time to move toward not what has been traditionally taught by instructors, but what has been traditionally performed by players. This may seem to be a controversial statement; however, it holds true.

The rear leg straightening is the catalyst for initiating the process of a full turn. Almost every player, past and present, has performed the backswing in this manner. There are some exceptions, but as instructors we must teach the tried and true. We’ve been doing the opposite for far too long. The straightening of the rear leg allows the pelvic unit (pelvis and lower spine) to turn, allowing for a much easier completion of a proper backswing with no extra strain or flexibility required. As mentioned, there shall be no need to transfer extra weight onto the rear foot. If so, the “center of mass” (COM), situated just above hip level (navel), will move laterally, compromising an easy completion of the backswing via an effective rotation. Furthermore, an extraneous movement of shifting back laterally to the forward foot is now required to hopefully strike the ball effectively. By resisting weight transfer to the rear foot, the COM remains centered, much the way Sam Snead coined the phrase “turn inside a barrel.”

This does not mean there is no downward pressure built into the rear foot due to the arm swing and rotation of the spine away from the target, but that becomes an individual feel rather than a reality, as only those fancy weight pressure mats (not giving a plug here) will be a testament to, and ultimately the amount of pressure on the rear leg/foot is dependent on weight distribution at address.

It is vital we begin changing the message, because our industry depends on golfers enjoying the game. It is no fun doing anything poorly, and as instructors, we are at the forefront of the battle lines for changing the game one golfer at a time.

(To be continued. Part 3, “How the setup gets it done.”

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