My Golf Instructor

Should You Detach Your Left Heel On The Backswing?
Does Keeping Your Front Heel Down Help or Hurt?

A popular question of the day for a right-handed golfer is whether the left heel should detach or stay grounded at the top of the backswing. My response? Both scenarios are OK as long as it is not a conscious choice either way and that a good transfer and turn is created without possibility of injury.

You Have Permission to Detach!

The more flexibility you have, there may be greater possibility that your left heel stays down. With this being said, you certainly "have permission" to detach the left heel if this is what your body wants to do when transferring weight and turning to the top of your swing.

Many instructors promote minimal or no lower body action in the backswing. While I tend to agree with quieting overactive lower body motion, I feel like this suggestion has minimized or eliminated footwork for most students. Good footwork is necessary in all sports and certainly important in the execution of an effective golf swing. I think that when your footwork is right, your lower body action can be quiet but efficient. Good footwork leads to the proper order of movement in the swing with a solid transfer and turn...the compound pivot.

If you have loaded the right side well, an upper body torso turn may be easier to accomplish due to the body being in a position that enables a upper body turn against a lower body with minimal hip turn to create torque. This is like a spring being wound in your hips and torso, and then unwound with a torqueing power that accelerates the shoulders, arms, and club. Many believe that the hips turn about 40 - 45 degrees and the chest/shoulder turn is 80 - 90 degrees, creating the gap necessary for powerful torque. Not everyone can achieve this due to range of motion and flexibility, but a shift and turn will create good power into and through the golf ball. The left heel detaching is often of great help to create this powerful loaded position at the top of the swing.

Learn how to feel a natural weight shift by lifting your left heel.  Don't Prevent a Natural Load Back
Learn how to plant your front heel for a natural weight shift through the ball. Plant the Left Heel For A Natural Shift
Make sure all of your weight finishes on your front foot. Finish 100% Target Side

Good Footwork is the Benchmark of Champions

The left heel, if it detaches near the top of the backswing, does so only as a chain reaction response to the coil of the upper body which in turn pulls the hip upward, exerting an upward pull on the lower left leg and foot. If it moves off the ground, the left heel is the last thing to move. My preference is to allow this to happen; don't fight it consciously. Most people are not supple enough to make a 90-degree shoulder/torso turn while keeping the left heel down. Additionally, we feel much of our rhythm through our feet. Detaching and replanting the left heel promotes the correct sequence and good footwork. Good footwork is the benchmark of champions in all sports. Most golfers make a much better weight transfer when they detach the heel slightly. Golfers who leave the heel down tend to swing flat footed and overuse the upper body. This not only increases the chance for injury, but there may be a significant power loss in the swing motion.

If you feel like you can accomplish this torque with your left heel down and feel comfortable with your golf swing (distance and direction), you should leave things as they are. If you are having trouble pivoting, you may have to allow your left heel to detach. When you walk, one foot releases to transfer weight onto the other foot. Thus, it may be more natural than you believe. Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Nick Price, Ben Crenshaw, Johnny Miller, Laura Davies, Julie Inkster, Patty Sheehan, and Karrie Webb seem to think it is a natural thing to do. Either way, work on your strength/flexibility and you will be able to create more energy in your swing motion!

Deb Vangellow
Deb Vangellow

Deb Vangellow is a LPGA Master Professional and teaches at Riverbend Country Club in Houston, Texas. She is the 2012 LPGA National Teacher Of The Year, an LPGA and Golf Digest Woman Top 50 Teacher and a Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine Top Regional Teacher. Deb serves as the National Vice President of the LPGA Teaching And Club Professionals. Learn more about Deb Vangellow at

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