The Position of The Right Foot

Wed Nov 14, 2012 by Dave Phillips

Ben Vs. Gerry Hogan: The battle of the right foot

OK, once and for all, how should the right foot be positioned in the golfer’s address position? Some experts say it should be aligned at a right angle to the target line, while others maintain it can be, or even should be, flared out to varying degrees.

In his classic book, “Five Lessons; The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” Ben Hogan is crystal clear on the subject:

There is one correct basic stance: The right foot is at a right angle to the line of flight… By standing with his right foot pointed out, for example, a player definitely makes it much harder for himself to bring the club swiftly and smoothly into the ball and through it. He has obstructed his own passage forward. He has to go on a detour out and around his right hip to get past it.

The other side of the coin is represented by prominent golf instructor Gerry Hogan (no relation to Ben), who brings forth the following view on his website

"Myth: The right foot must be at right angles to the toe line.

This idea is a product of the obsession we all have with symmetrics. Symmetrics have provided a basis for countless wrong and often senseless rules of technique. There is no reason why you should keep your right foot at right angles, so don't feel obliged to do it. Just place your right foot in whichever position feels most comfortable.

Who’s right, who’s wrong? Are they both right? Both wrong? Should Ben and Gerry just stick to manufacturing ice cream?

I am not a golf swing instructor, so I’ll address this issue purely from the standpoint of biomechanics in sports.

Ben is right.

The key to the issue lies in the fact that the feet are the foundation of the swing. They are the first link in the chain that must conduct a series of muscular actions resulting in the loading and unloading of the body during the swing.

The right foot in particular has a very important function. Let’s hear what noted physical therapist and sports biomechanics expert Gary Gray has to say:

The right foot criteria is to undergo dorsiflexion, eversion, and internal rotation on the ground to allow effective loading up the chain.

OK, OK, I’ll put that in layman’s terms: The right foot has to feel like it is getting “screwed into the ground” during the backswing. Imagine that you are using a screwdriver and driving a screw into a wooden tabletop. You are almost done – there is only one tiny turn remaining and the screw will be flush with the tabletop. That’s how your right foot should feel during the backswing – flush with the ground - just like that last tiny flattening of the screw into the wood.

One of the keys to right foot positioning is the configuration of the arch of the foot – I’m talking about the long arch along the inside of the foot. If the foot is pointing at right angles to the target line, the foot is in its biomechanical strongest position, ready to provide a great foundation for the swing.

If you flare your right foot out to the right, the arch lengthens and the inner edge if the foot collapses toward the ground. This is a biomechanical weak position – the arch (and therefore the foot) is no longer providing a great foundation.

You can prove this to yourself with what I call the “vertical jump test.” Place your feet shoulder-width apart with your feet pointing straight ahead. Now jump straight up in the air. Next, flare your feet out to the sides at, say, a 25-degree angle. Now jump up again. That felt different, didn’t it? With your feet flared out, your arches were longer and weaker – compared to the “straight feet” position the jump felt awkward and weak, right?

Now consider the fact that the foot and the hip have strong interaction – they are like dance partners. If the foot is flared out, the hip joint is externally rotated (opening to the outside). The hip is now in a poor position to be loaded. That’s probably what Ben Hogan instinctively was trying to describe when he said “he has to go on a detour out and around his right hip to get past it.”

One more thing: If you have a tight right hip joint, it will be difficult for you to rotate it when your right foot is at right angle to the target line. This is where Gerry's recommendation might come in the mix.  The following exercise, the Pigeon-Toed Twist, will help you loosen your hip:

The Pigeon-Toed Twist helps promote proper teamwork between the feet, knees, and ankles. Stand with your feet in a pigeon-toed (inward-pointed) stance. Place a soccer ball between your knees and squeeze inward on it. You should feel as though the soles of your feet are very flat to the ground – the big toes should not pull away from the ground. Draw your belly button gently inward toward your spine. Rotate your trunk back and forth, moving from a 1/2 backswing to a 1/2 follow-through.


Perform 2 sets of 30 repetitions to each side.

In summary:

  • The right foot should be set at right angles to the target line.
  • If you violate this principle, don’t violate it by much – you can probably get away with 3-5 degrees of right foot flare. Any more than that and your hip joint is not going to like you later in life.

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