2003: The perfect swing strikes a balance
By Mike Malaska
Balance is a word that gets tossed around a lot in our sport. But what is balance in the golf swing? How do you practice it?
The dictionary defines balance as a state of equilibrium or the ability to maintain equal weight distribution or body equilibrium. But how do we establish it in the swing? And exactly where are we supposed to feel it and deal with it throughout the swing?
These are important questions.
The first thing to understand is that balance takes on different forms. Static balance applies mostly to the setup. And then there is balance during motion, which is what we’re dealing with in the swing.
The proper bend is important to balance, too. As you bend to the ball, it is important to keep the weight in the center of your feet. To achieve this, your hips or pelvis have to move back slightly. If you bend just from your hips, your weight will move out to your toes; your toes will grab and you’ll be off balance.
The biggest indicator of being off balance is in the setup, backswing or downswing when your toes grab the ground. We have some fun with people getting them to feel proper balance. Sometimes I’ll have players take their shoes off and just hit balls and watch what their feet do. In this sense, good golf really does start from the ground up.
The most important area is the feet. You must establish what balance feels like in your feet. If you stand upright and are stable enough so that if somebody pushed you in any direction and you wouldn’t fall, you would be in static balance. This comes when you feel balance throughout your feet and toes.
To attain static balance, your weight should not be back on your heels or up on your toes. The toes are a crucial indicator. They tell you what’s going on in your body, reacting to balance or lack of it and telling your body what it needs to do to get back in balance. In static balance your toes should be quiet, relaxed and not lifted.
As you make your backswing you might feel the weight in your back foot but your toes must stay quiet. They should not lift and should not grab the ground. When you change direction and start down through the ball you want the same feeling. You want the toes of your trail foot to stay quiet. As your weight moves into your followthrough side, you don’t want your toes to grab because that will make the hip move up. This is what too many people try to do. They try to push off and they push off way too soon.
Your toes will tell you if you’re doing that too soon. As you move into your follow through side, again the weight moves into the center of your foot, toward the ball of your foot, and then as you rotate through it starts to move back toward your heel. Again, the toes on your followthrough foot never grab.
There are a many ways to practice balance. Going barefoot is the best way I know. It helps to be able to watch and feel what your toes are doing. Make practice swings with a golf club and just watch and feel what goes on with your toes.
If a player has poor balance, it often is because his or her ankles are weak. Foot exercises that can help are foot circles and point flexes, or just standing on one foot with arms extended and eyes closed for one minute, alternating feet. This can help strengthen the rotation ability and stability of your ankles, which will improve your balance.