GRANT HEPBURN looks at how the action of straightening your left leg (for right-handers) through impact will allow your hips to open up, adding speed and power to your golf swing.
It’s a key move that top players use to help generate a faster clubhead speed, which of course translates into more distance.
Good swing sequence
I’ll start with a good swing sequence. Here, I set up in a powerful address position, with my weight slightly favouring my right side, my left shoulder above my right and my left hip above the right. My knees are slightly flexed.
Note how, on my backswing, I sweep the club away and my right hip turns, coiling me like a corkscrew and allowing my shoulders to reach their full turning potential as I reach the top of my backswing in a powerful, loaded position.
As my downswing starts, my weight transfers to my left side and my hips start to unwind, clearing a path for my hands to swing through.
As I approach impact, note how my left leg firms up (straightens). By doing this, it gives me a solid axis around which I can create speed and force. It also promotes a full weight transfer, so that I can uncoil my upper body and swing hard at the ball.
A great drill to do is to put a ball on a tee and then take little half-swings. Place an alignment stick or something similar into the ground just outside your left hip.
Don’t worry too much about where your shots go, because the sole intention of these swings is to focus only on bumping the alignment stick with your left leg and then firming up your left leg as you hit the ball.
Even your finish should be a half-swing, because you are just focusing on the impact area and the left leg straightening at the right time as you bump the stick and your hips open up.
Getting it right
Ideally, as I swing through the impact zone, my left leg should nudge the alignment stick that is in the ground next to my left heel. Then, at impact, my left leg and knee should straighten and firm up.
When this happens, it allows the hips to open up, with the left hip higher than the right hip. That then creates room for the right side of the body to swing through and under the left side as you chase the ball down the line towards the target.
Getting it wrong
A common mistake I see among amateur golfers is that the left leg stays bent and keeps on sliding past the pole. In other words, it doesn’t allow the hips to open up and add power to the downswing.
It also blocks the motion of the body and arms, because when the hips remain closed at this point, due to the bent left leg, the body and arms cannot continue unwinding and swinging towards the target.
Another common amateur mistake occurs when the hips open up too early, before the weight has moved to the left.
You will see in this image that I have not bumped the shaft in the ground before my hips open up and left leg firms up. This causes my arms and body to swing the club to the left, which causes massive inconsistency in the direction of the shot.
– This article first appeared in the May 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.