As beginner golfers are acutely aware, the body motions of golf can feel and look as awkward as a seagull on a seesaw. As the new duffer progresses, it is traditional to model elements of his or her swing after the professional players they follow; A bit of Ben Hogan head-dip on the take-away, Tiger Woods’ torso turn at the top of the backswing, or Vijay Singh’s narrow attack on the downswing. So whose feet do you follow? Are they live or still? Sam Snead or Bobby Tway? Scientific golf studies have identified several key elements in the golf swing that can differentiate the skill level of golfers. The sequential pattern of swing involves movement of different segments of the body and interactions with the club at particular moments in time and through several necessary ranges. These motions require skill and timing in order to produce an optimum shot. But what's going on at the foot?? I find it to be one of the most simple yet confusing parts of the golf swing.
First, the swing...
We know all about the body in swing...Bunn (1972) described that the proximal body segments theoretically should reach their peak speed first, followed by more distal segments to execute an efficient and powerful motion during the golf swing. Thus, a proper golf swing should be initiated by motion of the pelvis, followed by that of the upper trunk, upper extremity, and then the golf club, in order to transfer momentum from proximal parts of the body to the distal segments. However, The feet play the role of dynamic stability...Kawashima Kazuaki investigated the intensity of force on the big toes of both feet during the golf swing. He looked at four right-handed golfers; a male tournament professional-golfer, a male amateur golfer (HDCP 16), a female tournament professional-golfer, and a female amateur golfer (HDCP 20). There were obvious differences among four golfers in the swing movement, comparing the intensity of force of the right and left big toes. The findings were as follows: The Male and female golfers demonstrated a gradual increase in force on his both big toes with the value 14 Ns and 11 Ns, respectively.
Conversely, the male amateur golfer exhibited high force (11 Ns) on the left big toe only. Both the male and the female pro-golfer and the male amateur showed higher force during the back swing (A-T) phase, compared with other phases, e.g. downswing (T-I) and follow-through (I-F). The female amateur golfer showed higher force at I-F phase. It may be considered that during back swing, the more skillful golfer puts force on the big toes of both feet. Results of this study indicated that toe force at A-T phase is an important factor that is required, in order to hit a ball correctly and with power.
Here's Rocco Mediate demonstrating the subject barefoot....
"Where my weight is going...towards my toes, not my heel" He says. So based on Kazuakis' study, Rocco appears to be a great person to emulate for proper lower extremity position and foot force during the back swing. However, the down swing and finish position of the foot belongs to Tiger.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to collaborate with PGA Pro Bernie Najar of Caves Valley GC in Baltimore, Maryland. His state of the art biomechanics lab features cameras, screens, and specialized computer programs that can capture a player's every movement. Together, we analyzed Tiger Woods' swing to discover a fix for a painful neuroma. It appeared on observation that Tiger internally rotated his hip during follow-through at a specific moment, allowing his heel to arc and rise into a position that pointed his toe perpendicular to his left foot. His left foot, was supinated at terminal swing to the point his great toe was off the ground and he was bearing weight on the lateral boarder of his foot. A morphologically distant indicator of adequate transverse pelvic rotation.
The adoption of this style of lower extremity positioning resulted in a reduction of pain in the right foot during the swing. Wearing a custom molded Graceyfeet Sole Commander orthotic and a premium Graceyfeet Cush insole in his shoe, Bernie had a maximum shot spread over 15 shots using a 7 iron that was no more then 5 yards in 360deg. Increased distance was noted after the technique change as well. Success!
Barton Bishop of Sport and Spine Rehab in Rockville, MD marvels at the many ways foot orthotics can help reduce pain on the golf course. One way, as Bernie and I found out, was through emulating Tiger Woods and his swing mechanics. You go Bernie Najar!
Chris Gracey MPT, Cped