Using the Ground for Leverage
This summer I had a chance to interview legendary teaching instructor, Jimmy Ballard. Seeing that Jimmy has so many fantastic thoughts on the golf swing I thought I would break out a few of these concepts. One of the most fundamental of these concepts is how to use the ground for leverage.
While there is some disagreement on this point, I am partial to Ballard’s philosophy that the golf swing shares basic athletic motions used in other sports. For example, we all know that the ground is a linchpin for creating power in baseball, football, lacross and nearly every sport where you need to throw or hit a ball. Why should golf be any different?
In the interview, Jimmy told me about a letter Hogan had written to his doctor. Apparently, the letter has stick-figure drawings that Hogan drew for his doctor, demonstrating the ‘coil’ he made with his body in the backswing. Hogan explains that as he coiled into his braced, flexed right leg, he tried to move the inside of his left knee all the way over to almost touch the inside of his right knee, and also squeeze his right nut against his right thigh with his left thigh as he coiled into the backswing.
The reason why Hogan was so obsessed with this backswing is because when properely done it allowed him to simply push off of his back side to release all of the stored power. Hogan believed that when the backswing is properly made, it put him in the perfect postion to push off the ground with his right foot, which turned his right hip towards the target, pulling his shoulders through. In turn, since his arms were connected to his body, he could easily throw his hands through the hitting zone. With his whole left side out of the way, Hogan would have room to use his entire right side to generate additional power. In fact Hogan once said ‘I wish I had three right hands’ to hit it with”.
Critical to loading power on the backswing is maintaining pressure on the inside of your right foot and right leg as you coil. In order to promote this pressure, Ballard insists that you setup with your right foot perpendicular to the target line, not flared out, and that your right knee stay flexed throughout the back swing.
Herein lies the “death move”: locking the back knee. For once you straighten the back leg your body has little choice but to alter your swing plane to an outside-in move since your shoulder must come over the top in order to compensate for the raised back hip.
On the other hand, if I keep my knee flexed as the pressure of the backswing coil grows, then I have tons of stored energy to push off that right toe, and throw the club down the line as my body unwinds toward the target.
One drill that Jim Colbert taught me was to put a golf ball under the outside of your back foot, and stand that way with your foot ‘leaning’ towards the target, and with your back knee flexed through the swing. You can really push off that right foot, when a golf ball is under the outside of the foot for support.
Give it a try, and see if using the ground to ‘leverage’ or push off of the ground will give you the same feeling that a pitcher has in baseball when he pushes off the mound and throws that fastball over home plate.