2002: The quest to strike a balance

By Mike Malaska

Balance is critical in all sports, and golf is no exception. Nor is it any surprise that achieving proper balance in golf is easier said than done. But make no mistake, it is achievable for players of all skill levels.

If a player stands and becomes balanced or centered, you can push them in any direction, and he or she will be ready for it. Plus, a balanced player’s toes are not going to be grabbing the ground or lifting back.

Once you establish balance in your feet, the key is to bend from the hips and give your arms room to swing while not having the weight change in your feet. The point where balance has to be felt in your feet is directly below your ankles through the top of your arches right into your foot. The foot activates the arch and stabilizes your whole body.

After you have established a balanced position, you must be able to bend from your hips and not lose that balance. That means your hips must move back. Finally, there must be a slight flex in your knees while keeping the weight centered in your feet.

The best way to test for balance is to watch what your toes are doing. If you’re balanced, your toes won’t lift or grab. When you get really stable, standing upright, your toes will be very quiet on the ground, not grabbing or lifting.

Your toes are telling you what’s going on in your feet. And your feet are telling you where your balance is.

You also need to know whether you have better balance in one foot or the other. If you are unbalanced one way or the other, you will avoid that foot as you swing. The first way to check balance and stability in your feet is to stand and lift a foot. Then put your arms out to the side and try to stay stable. If you can do that, then close your eyes.

It’s an old sobriety test. When you close your eyes, it simulates motion. If somebody has really good balance and stability, when they close their eyes, their body will make the adjustments to keep them balanced.

Also critical is the test of going from your right foot to your left foot and seeing if your balance is equal on both sides. If your balance is good, you should be able to stand on either foot with your eyes closed for 30 seconds to a minute. This also is a good exercise.

Centrifugal force also plays a big role in balance in the golf swing. The clubhead weighs 12 to 16 ounces as you swing it to the top. The effective weight rises drastically as it starts down. As the weight increases, the critical thing balancewise is to keep an imaginary line through the base of your neck – or a line that goes from the base of your neck through your back shoulder to the ground. That line should drop straight to the ground into your feet, your toes and the balls of your feet.

Position is crucial. If you try to fix a bad balance situation with a Band-Aid, things will only get worse.

Other balance and stability exercises are foot circles and point flexes. You can do these simply by lying on your back or sitting in a chair, pulling your leg up and rotating your foot in one direction, then another, pointing your foot down and flexing it back. As you rotate your foot, the circle should be symmetrical. If the circles are real boxy – or if it’s hard to make a circle – that means that ankle or that foot is unstable.

You also should be able to stop and reverse the circle and have the circle be smooth. If the circle is jumpy or almost like a square, then the stability in your foot is inadequate, and your dynamic balance throughout your swing is going to be off.

You must start in a static balance position to make the dynamic balance of your swing easier to develop and feel.

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