Clarifying the Notion of Walking
by Taylor Spalding
The notion of walking needs to be clarified. In the original explanation, "Walking" is described as a gentle shifting of the legs so that one can center the body from below. Just how this happens is a very difficult thing to put into a formula. Though we all share characteristics that make us distinctly human, not one person is put together exactly the same as another. Additionally, a description of such a thing that may spark the mind of one person could absolutely fall flat in the mind of another person. Each person slips into their own composture in a unique fashion. So at the risk of falling into the quagmire of description and formalism, let me put forth this brief treatise with the hope of instilling a progression toward composture.
What I don't want you to come away with is the thought that the "virtual walk" is just like a normal walk except that it's done in place. It's not! A normal walk would be from heel to toe and from heel to toe. We are not taking a stroll down the street; we are golfing. Therefore we make a golfing walk which is a dereliction of normal walking.
The virtual walk in golf is done more stiff legged and is performed on the heels.
Try this exercise:
Stand normally with your hands at your sides. Now raise your arms to shoulder level with your thumbs pointing up. Try to put your arms out along the same lines that your big toes are pointing. Now move your weight completely to your heels. Fine and good! Now move your arms back down to your sides. Whoa! Suddenly you feel like falling back. Obviously the extended arms were serving to counterbalance the lower body. So too in golf we don't swing with our hands at our sides. We swing with the arms extended while holding a blunt instrument. I think you can see what I'm getting at.
Go back and do this exercise again. But this time leave the arms up and begin walking while staying completely on the heels. The toes should remain lifted. Do not shift your weight to your toes. You must also maintain a stiffness in the knees that is just on the edge of being "lock-kneed." By the way, I don't recommend trying this exercise while walking down a busy public street...especially if you're unshaven and disheveled. Passers-by may gawk.
The average golfer (author included) tends to get a little too much squat in the knee. Many professionals and gurus mislead the student by having him imagine that he should make the motion of a person just about to sit down or that he's got a wall two inches behind his butt and that the student should just push his butt into that wall. This type of exercise, though well meaning, encourages the golfer to push his weight to the toes. The result is generally too much sitting down, too much flex in the knee...too much squat!
Think of it this way: Golf is a game hips and heels not a game of knees and toes. The latter is known as skiing. In powder conditions one could make an argument for skiing being a sport of knees and heels, but that's beside the point. Golf is hips and heels. Everything below the center is leaning away from the ball and everything above the center is leaning toward the ball. Try that first exercise again but this time bring the hands halfway down by bending forward at the waist. When this is done correctly you will feel very centered right around the navel. Even with a slight bend in the knees the legs will feel more like columns than like crooked sticks. This is the right composture! Such a stance offers solid grounding and allows the golfer to get the feeling of being over the ball.
The consensus among the golf illuminati is that the weight at setup is on the balls of the feet. And I will not disagree that the balls of the feet have a bearing in the setup position. My point is that the taking of stance should work from the heels forward and not from the toes backward. As the upper body bends over toward the ball the balls of the feet will serve to stabilize the stance while keeping the heel dominant position in tact. Some may be concerned that such a stance will promote a falling back on the heels during the follow through. If you setup as described in the exercises above it won't. = Allowing the swing to manifest its subtle J-curve motion will encourage the left foot to react purely and you should end up on the outside edge of the left foot, the momentum working from the outside of the left heel toward the left pinky. Think of it as falling slightly left of the target line and gearing the clubhead sightly to the right of the target line. There's an excellent exercise to do with The Golden Swing Thing that encourages and demonstrates that gear effect perfectly. See also Lower Body Composture: Re-explaining David Lee's counterfall theory. In the backswing the left heel will naturally relinquish its position as the WANING movement is made. Remember everything is reacting to True Center, and if you are well centered and perform a WANING motion all will be well.
The main thread here is that one should always take a stance that starts on the heels and works forward to a balance from there. Also, the lower body pins the backswing on the inside of the right leg and releases it full bore to the outside of the left heel.
Setup key: Use the ball of the right foot to prevent spin out. Lift the left big toe to the top of the inside of the left shoe to encourage return to outside of left heel. Centrifigal force will balance the return to the left heel.
This compostured feeling of stance will do far more good than concerns over whether or not the right foot is slightly turned in and other details of stance. These nuances will play themselves out naturally; there is no need to pick them apart. This is a large muscle game. Placing these large muscles in a composed and properly postured way will do more good than any other single physical manipulation.
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