Which scenario sounds familiar? You set up and take your full
backswing, but then somewhere during the downswing you lose your balance. You
actually “fall” off your spot and have to take a step to recover your balance.
Or do you have a strong finish and “own” your full swing with hips facing the
target as you study the ball’s trajectory and plan your next shot. I hope you
experience the latter but if you lose your balance anywhere in the swing then
today’s drills are for you!
A powerful golf swing with shifting loads and forces is a test of
your dynamic balance. When dynamic balance is challenged, the brain
perceives it as a threat and may protect you by restricting your speed.
Dynamic balance in golf depends greatly on “feel balance” which
starts at the feet as information is quickly and directly relayed to the brain.
There is a direct connection between the feet and the cortex that uses
proprioception. When that connection is dulled from injuries, years of wearing
stiff, supportive shoes and lack of movement then you gradually see changes in
In addition to loss of proprioception, there can be many other
factors in play for loss of balance:
Maintaining strength and mobility in your whole
body is essential for balance but you can build quicker reactions for greater
ground connection using static and dynamic balance drills, single-leg
exercises, wobble boards and by doing foot sensory drills. Let’s test your balance and review a few effective
Time your balance with your eyes closed to
see how you rank among low handicap/tour level golfers. Stand on one leg and
raise your knee to hip height. Close your eyes for a few seconds and you’ll
notice balance is harder. Now for the test, close your eyes for as long as you
can and maintain balance on one leg. Stop the timer any time you adjust your
foot placement or set down the other leg. Tour level players can balance on
each foot for 25 seconds. Repeat on both sides. This test is also a drill.
Practice balancing on one leg with and without eyes closed daily so you can build
better proprioceptive feedback through the foot, ankle and body.
Use free form movement in this next drill so
you can increase your reaction time, strength and proprioceptive awareness.
Stand on one foot and randomly move the other
leg to apply shifting loads to the standing leg. Use a timer to balance 30-60
seconds on each side. If you have to stop to catch your balance at any time
just jump back into the drill and continue for the allotted time.
Shift your weight laterally from one foot to
the other foot. Try to stick the landing before you shift back to the other
foot. Vary the timing.
With shoes and socks off, gently massage your
feet using a variety of items to build sensory awareness. My favorite objects
include spiky balls, tennis balls, golf balls and cylinders. The greater the
variety the better. Keep these items in a convenient place so you can use them
while you sit at work or home. Use gentle pressure as the soles of our feet can
be sensitive and take some time to get used to any added pressure.
Practice these drills daily or as much as you
like to gain mastery of the shifting loads and forces of the swing. Your lower
body will be able to stabilize and deliver the power necessary without
restricting your speed.
Pam Owens is the Director of Fitness for Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston and the owner of Pam Owens Fitness. A three-time Golf Digest Top 50 Fitness Professional, Pam helps golfers all over the world get lean, bendy and powerful with online or in person coaching. For a free GET BENDY 5-day mobility guide and more resources, click here.