Golf tip: Heel's the clue to a powerful swing

Lift, then plant the left heel like Watson for a more powerful, better golf swing


Posted: 19 September 2013
by Golfmagic Staff

A more powerful golf swing can be yours if you follow our isntruction

A golfer can have a great looking backswing but if the downswing is not started in the correct sequence, power and accuracy is lost. The transition between backswing and downswing is a crucial part of the swing and makes the difference between a great shot and one, which misses the fairways and greens.

Below, check out how Tom Watson uses his heel to create power in this article or look at our Golf's Toughest Drives instructional piece or work on the top driving practice drills for more help.

Start the downswing correctly by learning to plant the left foot. it will help trigger the correct downswing sequence - and give you extra power.

At the top of the backswing your weight should be transferred onto the right side and with the body coiled ready for action there will only be about twenty per-cent of your weight remaining on the left side. At this time the heel of the left foot may well have come off the ground.

Watson is not the only player to have a powerful swing, Johan Edfors makes sure he has a closed stance to increase his power while Rory McIlroy has a huge shoulder turn to whip the club around.

If you watched Tom Watson in action at the Open in 2009 you'll have instantly spot how a pronounced the lift is with the left heel. He showed that, even at aged 59, he can still rip it out there.

How much the left heel rises is determined by how supple a golfer is and the action is similar to that when a baseball pitcher poised to throw the ball at the batter with the right hand and raises left leg comes off the turf.

To start the golfer's downswing in the correct sequence, the left heel needs to be driven back into its original position. You can practise this without a club and to make it more dynamic it’s best to have a pronounced lift of the left heel on the backswing. The harder you slam the heel back into the ground the more potential speed you generate.

First published December 2009. Updated September 2013.

Want anymore tips? Check out our top guides to...

How to fade your driver
Driving into the wind


Next article
Golf Practice Drills: hit up with driver

Discuss this story

Just come across this whilst reading the instruction part of the website.

I would have thought that the more you lift your left heel on the backswing the less supple you are?

I always thought lifting your left heel at anytime was a no no. Am I missing something? Surely it would lead to inconsistency?

Posted: 23/12/2009 at 10:10

Lifting the left heel can be down to a less flexible body, or even old age.

It definately leads to less torque in the back swing but I wouldn't necesarrily say it is a nono.

Whatever works imo.

Posted: 23/12/2009 at 12:50

Your thoughts echo mine and contradict Hoski's article, or at least one sentance of it! Just thought it was a strange article to write. Maybe he should have stated what kind of golfer the tip was aimed at?

Posted: 23/12/2009 at 15:32

I raise it, and always have done. Not through any flexibility issues, but as a means to start the downswing from the ground up, by way of thrusting the heel in the the ground.

Posted: 24/12/2009 at 16:05

If the left heal lifts because the knee goes forward, thats not too bad. If it lifts because the body is swaying onto the right side moving the head over the right foot, that's not so good.

It's normally used to help the more seniors golfers complete their backswing

Posted: 27/12/2009 at 07:06

I used to lift my left heel on the backswing and was unaware of it until somebody pointed it out that my heel was coming down in a different position on the downswing which misaligned my shot. I've endevoured from that point onwards to keep my left heel firmly on the ground. It's improved my shot making although it felt a bit restricting initially. I do get get better ball striking consistency by keeping my left heel firmly rooted to the ground on the backswing.

Posted: 28/12/2009 at 00:24

Years ago everyone was taught to lift their left heel aka Nickluas, Watson, Woosnam and more recently Harrington. In recent years their has been a vouge to keep the left heel planted on the ground, or at least a minimum of heel lift. I reverted some ten years ago from lifting my left heel to keeping it on the ground, which provides for better stability and less sway, but the downside is it can cause a retricted shoulder turn and reverse pivot in the extreme.

I tend to think that if the left heel lifts when completing a full shoulder turn then so be it.    

Posted: 01/01/2010 at 09:59

the 'regrounding' of the left heel helps create space for the right elbow to pass the right hip and avoid the dreaded OTT or roundhouse at the ball.

I wouldn't say its a good or bad thing but if you have a big OTT or roundhouse problem then imagining there is an empty cola can under your left heel and 'crushing' it with your left heel as you begin your downswing is a good drill for you to try.

Posted: 02/01/2010 at 15:01

If we agree that the stance should be so that at address the weight is centred between the feet at a 50-50 ratio and that the pressure in the feet should be slightly forward (balls of the feet or arches).  When you make the backswing there should be a certain amount of spine-tilt away from or behind the ball, as your arms move out and wide then your centre of gravity is shifted right with the motion of the arms and their weight being distributed to the right and outside the body's centre line.  As a result you would either roll your left foot in or, in some cases, lift the left heel.

All current teachings is that the downswing starts from the ground up, if that's agreed then the first movement should be to replant the left foot (roll left foot back to flat) or plant the heel and swing arms,club and subsequently c.o.g back to the left.  The picture shows (I think) an exagerration for visual impact, in reality I think it would be a lot less, eg Tom Watson in the other picture.

I'm no expert, I did get an awful lot out of Shaun Clement's website www.clemshawgolf.com - see the vids he has there on left heel planting - they make sense to me and have certainly improved my awareness - if not my game.

Posted: 12/05/2010 at 17:26

I have been recently working on impact position. I am right handed, so my right heel is off the ground at impact. I am having difficulty getting to this position in a full swing scenario. I can do it if I start in this position(right heel up). I understand I need to start the forward swing with my lower body. When I do this my timing gets thrown off. I see myself as a magician, because I can hit good shots with both heels on the ground the whole time. I can also hit good shots with my right heel up at address. Maybe I should start a golf myth busting show (patent). Any advice golf gurus'?

Posted: 29/06/2011 at 07:06

It's certainly one of the things Bob Torrance gets Harrington and Paul Lawrie to do. Paul Lawrie had a very pronounced "left heel raise" action a couple of years ago as this was "bedding in". It's now less pronounced but it's still noticeable.

I can't remember if it was the S&T guys or SliceFixer (on this site) who talk about "crushing the beetle" to initiate the downswing.

It's basically a downswing trigger/key to initiate the weight transfer back onto the forward leg.

Posted: 29/06/2011 at 08:53

My pro  stuck a foam pad under my left heel and told me to think about squashing it down to start the downswing.

I think one of the dangers of raising the left heel for a lot of amatuers is that it gets a lot of weight onto the right hand side that they then have trouble getting back across.

Posted: 29/06/2011 at 12:04

I was doing a bit of left heel lifting while driving a short while ago. It made me inconsistent because I was thinking during the swing 'does it come back down the same everytime?' and the thinking ruined taking the shot. Had to stop letting it come up.

Posted: 29/06/2011 at 19:15

I reckon this is the secret I've been looking for.

It's not the Holy Grail an a physical form I'm looking for anymore, as I now know that doesn't exist, but more the Holy Grail instruction of downswing initiation.

Hells Bells, just done a few practice swings without a club and hit >300 yards dead straight!

Posted: 29/06/2011 at 19:41

Have tried the lifting left heel on backswing thing, but I must lack co-ordination as I could never seem to plant it back down at the right time. The few times I accidentally did get it right were truly wondrous hits, but a success ratio of 1% wasnt appealing.

Posted: 29/06/2011 at 20:38

Despite playing for years and being an 8 handicapper I have spells (like now) where I have a horrible OTT action resulting in weak slice and the shanks. I suspect its the way I tend to drive my hips forward rather than rotating but I'm not sure -just desperate...Its driving me crazy but today on the range I tried raising my left heel/instep slightly and bingo what a difference in striking. As I reversed the swing it feels like my right hip was turning under with my shoulders rather than recently where the shoulders felt like they were spinning out and my left hip was sliding ahead. It feels a bit weird with a driver but can it really be so simple???

Posted: 06/07/2011 at 14:01

I had been working on the downswing and release and initially was trying to start the downswing with my hips, but then found the movement of pressing down the left heel worked better. 

Posted: 06/07/2011 at 15:09

I've been told to stop lifting my left heel because, as I'm a slim, supple kind of guy, it can lead to too big a shoulder turn and, therefore, an apparent overswing.
However, I suspect Hoski's main point is that the re-planting of the left heel leads to starting the downswing with the feet/legs instead of with the hands/shoulders from the top.

Posted: 17/08/2011 at 18:09

That sounds reasonable

In my case the extra shoulder turn available if I lift my left heel allows the club to pass the horizontal AND cross the line as well. Don't know if that's normal or not

Hmm, control..........I remember that 

Posted: 17/08/2011 at 18:24

Sadly not, but you're right there. He didn't do too badly did he?

Posted: 17/08/2011 at 18:38

See more comments...
We'd love you to add a comment! Please take half a minute to register as a free member