The Role of the Knees

By Tim Krumnow

Many golfers struggle to understand the role of the knees throughout the golf swing. Should they move or should they remain stable? Should they be flexed or straight during the golf swing? The answer to all of these questions is…yes.

Knees at Address

Watch the tour professionals on TV (or live if you get the opportunity), and you will see common themes to how their knees move. At address, your knees should be slightly flexed with your weight favoring the balls of your feet. To get into the correct position at address, stand with your legs straight and then flex your knees just enough to unlock them. As you take the club back through the golf swing, the knees should remain stable.  They should maintain their flex all the way up to the top of the backswing. The distance between your knees at address (as viewed from the front of the body) should also remain constant if possible. To sum it up, your knees should stay as stable as possible up to the top of the swing, moving only as far as needed to facilitate a slight rotation of the hips. Once this happens, your legs are now ready to head into the downswing.

Knees in Motion

The knees move the most from the top of the swing through impact. It’s in this portion of the swing that tour professionals use their legs (and knees) to generate power in their golf swing. The leg muscles are the biggest and strongest muscles in your body, thus it makes sense to use them for power in the downswing – here’s how.  At the top of the swing, the knees are both flexed. Then, starting the downswing, the left knee and leg begin to straighten. This happens so you can clear the left hip, which creates hip rotation and room for the hands to swing freely through impact. While the left leg is straightening, the right knee should be flexing in toward the left calf as though you are trying to hit the ball with your right hip and knee. While the club comes through impact, the left knee should be straight to maximize hip rotation and minimize lateral hip sway. This move produces a swing that is powered by the legs.

Most amateurs move the knees and legs too much during their backswing. A misconception exists that a long backswing + lots of leg motion back = maximum power. In fact, too much leg motion will reduce the amount of power that ultimately gets transferred into the ball. This phenomenon occurs because excessive motion back will lead to minimal motion through impact. The less the legs and knees work in the downswing, the more you are relying on your arms and hands to produce power.

How Do I Practice This?

Drill 1: One of the best ways to feel a correct position with the knees through the backswing is to take practice swings using a ball as a training aid. The ball should be about the size of a soccer ball or basketball. Start out with the ball between your knees at address and stand to face a full-length mirror. Take practice backswings, and watch the ball in the mirror. The goal here is to keep the ball from moving during the backswing. The ball could sway laterally, or rotate back as you take the club away.

Drill 2: Stand with the outside of your target-side foot (left foot for right-handed golfers) front foot against a doorway. Using a correct backswing to the top, start the downswing with the knee and leg motions described above. If done correctly, your left hipbone should have missed hitting the doorway as you turned past it going into impact.

Repetitions of each of these drills will help you build the correct motion for your legs through the swing.  If you have any questions on this motion or any other aspects of the golf swing, contact you PGA Professional at Precision Golf Academy to take your game to the next level.  

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