Left foot planted? Or not? Golf’s secret to timing

My initial introduction to the golf swing found me overswinging on my backswing – causing my left foot (heel) to come off the ground.

Replanting that left foot triggered my downswing – and I found it to be a natural way to transition into the downswing.  All my coaches asked me to transfer my weight to the right to initiate the downswing – and replanting my  left foot accomplished exactly that.

These were all GOOD habits – and resulted in consistent ball striking. At some point though, every coach I worked with, tried to lead me away from this ‘left heel leaving the ground’ habit.

They instructed me to keep my left foot planted – no matter what!

Fortunately, there was one coach (an ex-India open champion back in India) who was slightly old school. He was perfectly okay with my left foot (heel) coming off the ground – provided my KNEE also rolled inwards (and provided I kept my balance).

This post describes the effectiveness of lifting your left heel on your backswing – and how it might address two common problems for the golfing amateur.

Some famous ‘lifters of the left foot’

Before we discuss all the benefits of lifting the left foot, let us review some historical greats who lifted their left foot on the completion of their backswing. These include the likes of Nicklaus and Bobby Jones :

Jack Nicklaus Bobby Jones
jackN bobbyJones

The RAISING and REPLANTING the left heel – the minutiae

As with everything in golf, the devil is in the details. How much should one lift the left foot, what happens to the left knee etc….?

  1. The HEEL – never the TOE – Firstly, it is the HEEL and the heel only that comes off the ground. At not point should your toe leave the ground.
  2. Stay Balanced – Secondly, as long as you keep your balance going back, there is no limit to how high your left heel can rise. Let us review the two fundamental goals of a golf swing – Balance (staying balanced) and shoulder turn (turning your shoulder behind the ball).  As long as you are staying balanced, a rising left heel can only assist in the shoulder turn. To read about another revolutionary concept to get a better shoulder turn, read this post on the right foot.
  3. Re-Planting the left foot – The beauty of the left foot rising is that  (along with providing a better shoulder turn), it acts as a key to ingrain timing into the golf swing. In fact, the timing is so mechanical, that you do not need to think about it. Simply REPLANTING the foot causes the hips to shift to the left – pulling your upper body along.  Each of these things is actually very difficult to accomplish INTENTIONALLY (if you try to intentionally keep your upper body fixed while the hips initiate the downswing, you will find that it takes a lot of practice). However, the replanting of the left foot starts off the correct chain of events – without requiring any intentional focus on a particular step.

The Left KNEE’s action

While we are at the left foot, it may be a good time to discuss the correct motion of the left knee.

  1. The left knee has to roll INWARDS. Most amateurs find their left knee kicking OUTWARDS (towards the ball). This is incorrect – as it restricts the upper body wind up.
  2. The roll (rolling in) is a CONSEQUENCE (of the upward body pulling the hips along – pulling the lower body along). It is not something you try to intentionally accomplish.
  3. The more your left heel comes off the ground, the more the left knee will roll inwards. This results in a greater upper body coil – which is an important key to generating power.



Contrary to popular golf instruction, the left heel does not need to stay planted during your backswing. In fact, a key to generating more power is to let the heel lift, while allowing the left knee to kick in – resulting in a larger shoulder turn. 

In addition to providing power, the rising left heel addresses one of the toughest problems in golf – that of timing. Unlike tennis or baseball, where the key to timing is provided by the movement of the ball, in golf, there is no such simplistic key. Everyone uses their own technique to time their shots – and every poor shot is a result of poor timing.

Imagine being able to address the timing problem once and for all ! Replanting the left foot does exactly that.

If you are new to golf and find your left heel coming off the ground, fear not – you are in good (even GREAT) company. Legends such as Nicklaus used this to generate more power-  and legends like Jones used it as a secret move to developing extraordinary timing.

Questions? Comments ?

Amateur golfer with no real claim to fame (unless club championships count). Sharing knowledge obtained from (far too many) golf lessons – from far too many pros.

Golf Tips – who has written posts on Anuj Varma, Technology Architect.

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