It’s a mid week blog, since I played golf on Sunday and yesterday, during this rough Western Pennsylvania winter. Today is left heel day. Such a small part of the body, but the golf teaching world wants to talk about it a lot,and has lot’s of ideas. There are three schools of thought concerning that little left heel: 1. It should remain on the ground throughout the backswing. Certainly this is the current PGA tour swing mode. 2. Its ok to lift the left heel at the top of the backswing but you should feel that your turn is dragging the heel off the ground. In other words this not something you should consciously do. 3. You should lift the heel off the ground during the backswing. The theory being that this makes the backswing turn easier to do and is a more natural way to play. So is this true. Should only the very flexible and PGA pros play with their left heel on the ground. Let’s break it down and see what’s really going on with each method. At the end of the post I will go through some very simple drills that will show what is happening.
Keeping your left heel on the ground is going to do two things when you make a golf swing. It will restrict your hip turn and it is going to make your head drop just slightly down. Then depending on how long you keep your right heel down on the downswing your head is going drop even more. This head drop is evident in almost every tour players swing when it is analyzed on TV. What I get a big kick out of, on every good shot the head drop is fine, every bad shot the head drop is too much. Head drop is simply a function of knee flex and heel function.
Raising your left heel at the end of the backswing or feeling like your turn is pulling your left heel up will do three things. It will stop the slight drop of your head. It will level your hips by raising your left hip. It will slightly increase your hip turn but do nothing for your shoulder turn. You will not feel as much of a stretch up the left side at the top of the backswing. Hip turn doing nothing for your shoulder turn will be discussed in more depth when the hips are discussed.
Raising your left heel as part of your backswing, in other words, start raising the heel as you start your swing will modify the above swing two ways. Your hips will start to turn quicker and your head will drop not at all as you go to the top of the swing.
Now for the drills that shows what is going on. Both drills are very simple and no golf clubs are required. First just stand in front of a mirror in natural standing position facing the mirror. Stand fairly erect but not at attention with the arms down at your side. While remaining standing, just flex your knees like you would in a golf set up and what happens. Your head lowers. Go back to the standing position. Now stand up on your toes with your heels off the ground. Your head rises. Go back to the standing position. Now as you begin to slowly flex your knees, start to raise your heels and your head will remain in the same position. The second drill is to assume your normal golf address position, no club necessary. With the left heel staying on the ground simply bend your left knee toward the ball as you would on the backswing, without moving anything else. You will see that your hips turn a little and there is even less turn of your shoulders but they will move a little. Now, just go to the top of your swing with your full shoulder turn while keeping your left heel on the ground, and hold that position for just a second or two. Now raise the left heel. Your hips will level up and you will fee a slight increase in your hip turn, but your shoulder turn will stay the same.
Some final comments. The group of instructors that advocate lifting the left heel as part of a normal backswing say this is a more natural way for the body to move. If you turn your body to talk to someone, or point in that direction, your heel comes off the ground. They also say if you tried to walk with your heels staying on the ground you would not walk very well or fast. I am not too sure what this really has to do with the golf swing. This still might be a good way to swing the golf club I don’t think this is the reason you should to do it. This heel thing really boils down to the hips and head and what do you think they should be doing in the golf swing. That’s another subject for another day. The next blog ball position.