Copyright (c) 2009 Scott Cole
Proper balance is probably the most overlooked key to a powerful golf swing. Although most instructors teach their students about good balance, the student can take this concept a step further through the study of the martial arts.
I trained for eight years in the martial art of Pai Lum Kung Fu, and proper balance was stressed throughout my training, from my days as a beginner student, and even beyond when I attained 1st Degree Black Belt. However, in our training, we focused on every possible detail regarding balance, from the feet, to proper stance width, posture and center of gravity. These are all important keys to developing power in our Kung Fu techniques, and they are important keys to helping golfers develop more power in their golf swings as well.
In describing the swing of J.B. Holmes, noted golf instructor David Leadbetter has this to say..." Starting down, his legs get into a squat position, which lets him use the ground as resistance and create an unbelievable energy flow from his legs, up through his shoulders and down into his arms and the club."
Using the ground as resistance and the creation of energy flow from the legs are two important components we focused on for generating power in our techniques at the kung fu school.
To increase the power in our punching techniques, my teacher often stressted getting our feet rooted into the ground. We devote an entire breathing exercise that lasts about five minutes to this concept of rooting. Later in our training, we were taught to focus on a specific spot on the bottom of our foot where our balance will be rooted into the ground. This spot will also draw energy from the earth into our body, and then we learn how to transfer this energy into our technique. When you develop this ability, you become capable of generating incredible bower with minimal movement.
To locate this specific spot on the bottom of your foot, take a moment to sit down, and take off your shoes and socks. On the bottom of your feet you will notice thick pads, that are often described as the balls of the feet. The biggest of these pads is under the area beneath the big toe. Next to this large pad is an area that looks like a small hollow. Take your thumb and push into this hollow firmly. If you feel a nice jolt of pain, you have found the right spot! If not, keep searching until you feel that bit of pain. In Chinese medicine, this spot is known as Kidney Point 1, and it is viewed as a very significant healing point, even for a heart attack victim.
Now that we have identified this point, we want to take this information and transfer it into our golf swing. So, with your shoes off, find a spot on a hard floor and get into your golf stance (without a club of course). As you get yourself set into your golf stance, focus hard on these specific points in the bottom of your feet. These are the points where you should focus your balance.
Now I want you to feel a sort of corkscrewing motion, starting with that spot in the bottom of your feet, then feel it up into your knees, then into your hips. You should feel as if you are trying to screw the bottom of your foot into the ground, and then the hips tuck under your torso, and maybe move forward a little bit (we also refer to this as a curling of the hips). Practice a few times at home with your shoes off, then try getting that same feeling with your golf shoes on (preferably not indoors or you will have some damaged floors!). You see, it is absolutely critical that you engage the hips in your golf swing, particularly at the start of your downswing. Engaging the hips in this manner will help them clear out the path for the golf club more quickly, generating more power.
Posture also plays a significant role in developing proper balance. Although we want to feel as if we are rooted into the ground like a tree, we certainly do not want to stand straight up in our golf stance, nor do we want to be bent over too far in our stance. Generally speaking, if we draw a straight line up from the ground to the sky at the back our hips, we then want to be bent at the hips so that our spine is angled about 30 degrees from that straight line. Find a photo of Tiger Woods' stance and you have a perfect picture of what I describe. This stance allows the arms plenty of room to swing freely in the golf swing.
Finally, it is important to maintain a low center of gravity throughout your golf swing. You will often hear football announcers describe how a running back is difficult to tackle because he has a low center of gravity. The martial artist looks to develop that low center of gravity as well, in order to generate power in his punches. The golfer will lose power by rising up in his/her golf swing.
To make sure you keep your center of gravity as low as possible, it is important to learn how to relax your abdomen during the golf swing. In other words, let your gut sag instead of sucking it in! This will require you to learn how to breathe so that you fill up all three levels of your lungs (lower, middle, upper), rather than just the upper level of your lungs. By learning how to breathe in this manner, you will learn how to maintain a low center of gravity even while holding your breath at the beginning of the swing (you should learn how to exhale during the downswing).
If you can learn how to develop proper posture and balance in this manner, you will have success in improving the power of your golf swing.
Scott Cole is a golf instructor and 1st Degree Blackbelt in the art of Pai Lum Kung Fu. He has produced a golf fitness e-book "How to Increase Your Golf Power" and is the owner of the website, http://www.powergolftraining.net
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