Kids, the Golf Swing, and Power

Watching a child golfer, especially your child golfer, is wonderful … and I mean full of wonder.  This is true of most young athletes, I’m sure, as parents revel in their child’s talent.  I think golf is extra special in this way just because of how hard it is to play well.

One of the most impressive aspects of a child golfer with a good golf swing is the distance they can drive the golf ball.  It kinda’ reminds me of an ant that can carry many times its weight. Eight and nine year-olds longer than 200 yards are quite common on the kids golf tours.  My son has driven over 250 yards and is only ten.

However, just like the big boys, distance from power is usually not consistently straight.  We were suffering from this inconsistency.  I noticed a flaw in his swing that is clearly attributable to his power.  We caught this photo of our son right at impact.  He was up on his toes, and almost off the ground!!

Photo of Child Golf swing showing a power lift off

Child Golfer swinging with enough power to almost leave the ground!

After the lift off, he would actually turn towards the target, rotate his feet, and land ~3 inches to the right.  You can see the rest of his form is good … hip leading, head behind the ball, good extension.  But when I saw this I thought, “that can’t be good!”.

So I grabbed my video camera and video’d him on the practice tee. Sure enough, every full swing, up on the toes with a slight shift away from the target at impact and finish.  The power of his swing was actually lifting him off the ground. 

I thought, wow! what talent. I mean, imagine me picking you up nearly four inches in your through swing at impact and putting you down four inches to the right … and you still being able to strike the ball well enough to shoot in the high thirties, low forties for nine holes???  I mean what talent for him to be able to compensate during his swing, almost uncanny.  If I could stop bleeding off that talent in compensating for this flaw in his swing, then he should really knock some strokes off is long game.

Off I went to YouTube looking at a couple dozen slow motion pro golfers’ swings.  Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, and on.  None of them go up on their toes.  Watching the videos drew my attention to their left heel. They all keep that left heel pretty much on the ground at impact and have rolled slightly to the outside of that heel in their finish.

The observations I made said, “we need to translate that lift-off power to club head speed through the ball.”  Getting those heels to stay near the ground during the through swing seemed imperative, though the right heel seems to have more freedom (for right handed golfers).

So, as if the discovery of the flaw was an epiphany, that wasn’t the hard part.  Identifying the problem was the easy part.  Fixing it?  Well that’s another story.  How do you get a 10-year-old to break this kinda’ habit and adopt a new one of “don’t go up on your toes.”

Working with our pro, he put our child golfer’s toes on a 2 x 4 and had him swing. Of course our once a week lesson for an hour wasn’t gonna’ cut it for this Daddy Caddy!  I had to come up with something along the line of what our pro had him doing for practice.  The hard part was what to do that didn’t need a prop like the 2 x 4.

I realized that even though both feet were going up on toes, the sensible “anchor” point is the left heel.  I don’t mean to anchor, but keeping it contact with the ground seemed to be a  good focus.  We had a hard time getting our ten-year old to translate the instruction, “keep your left heel down” into practice.  I had to video him to prove he wasn’t doing it despite insisting he was.

The next epiphany was to have him only think about his left toes, and instead of heel down, we got him to think, “toes up.”  Bingo. He certainly can’t lift both his heel and his toes off the ground!  The only very important adder is to be sure his left toes come up only in the through swing and that he is swinging to a proper forward finish, “pose”.

So, “left foot toes up and pose.”  It works.  His swing has never looked better and he sees it on video and therefore is on board with it too.  His contact is much more consistent and he is learning to translate that power as lateral speed through the ball instead of vertical lift off at impact.

One closing note: I observed a number of young golfers since our work on this and saw an alarming number of them coming up on the toes of both feet, spinning 90 degrees and landing with both feet pointing at the target, just like our child golfer was doing.  I am convinced it’s a common flaw for these light people with good power.  You may want to notice this about your golfer as it seems a hard habit to break later if they are doing it.

All the best!

2 thoughts on “Kids, the Golf Swing, and Power

  1. I’m sure you’re well intentioned, but it is a mistake to think coming onto toes at impact is a flaw. It is in fact an organic power move that your child naturally intuited. Generally I would say leave kids alone other than fundamentals in the set up and grip, and encourage them to get as much speed as possible through the ball. Speed is the key, not force. Effortless power vs powerful effort

    • Good feedback Justin. Agreed but it was a bit extreme where he was levitating and shifting position. This made his accuracy inconsistent. We watched tour players who definitely rise and rotate, but not shift. Toes pretty much maintain contact with the ground. Just needed to tone it down a smidge. Thanks again!

      BTW, he’s 16-1/2 now, still rises and rotates, but no shifting. He’s driving 310+ and pretty straight.

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