'Leading the Way'
First, your weight is placed lightly on the balls of your feet, balanced
between your front and rear foot. Then there is a slight shift to the back foot,
then another shift back to the front. Sound like dance steps? These intricate
movements actually describe what goes on below the knees during an ordinary golf
Good foot action is the mark of an accomplished golfer. "All timing,
distance, and direction comes out of the lower body with the feet leading the
way," golf legend Jack Nicklaus has said. Nicklaus or any professional will tell
you that problems with the feet, even a painful corn or callus, can impede
timing and balance to the point where it's reflected on the scorecard at the end
of the day.
Close to 45 million Americans enjoy golf on an amateur level. Above and
beyond the satisfaction of competition, a full round of golf affords the
opportunity for a 4-5 mile workout that can reduce stress and improve
Before taking to the links, your body needs to be prepared for the workout
involved in walking the whole course. (If the pros can walk, so can you!) Anyone
older than 40, or having any problems with weight, respiration, blood pressure,
pulse rate, or cholesterol, should check with a doctor before playing. The same
goes for smokers, diabetics, and people with preexisting injuries or a history
of heart trouble.
Your podiatric physician, a foot and ankle specialist, knows the importance
of wearing proper golf shoes. Once, driven by fashion, golf shoes were wing-tip
oxfords with spikes. Today, shoes are constructed using basic principles of
athletic footwear. Some even incorporate advanced technological innovations such
as graphite shank reinforcements, which keep them light and add strength.
Don't wear anything on your feet that wouldn't be comfortable if you were
taking a good long walk. Make sure shoes fit well in the store before purchasing
them. It's best to shop for them in the afternoon when the feet are slightly
swollen. Try on shoes with the same socks you'll wear on the course. Tie both
left and right shoes tightly, and walk around your store or pro shop a few
minutes before deciding on a make and model.
Some simple stretching exercises are important before taking to the first tee
and after leaving the last. Consult a podiatric physician who specializes in
sports medicine for a light stretching regimen that will help alleviate
stiffness after a day of golf.
The Ideal Swing
Biomechanics, the application of mechanical laws to living structures such as
the feet, play a crucial part in developing the ideal golf swing. The lateral
motion and the pivoting intrinsic to the golf swing can be functionally impeded
by certain biomechanical conditions. Faulty biomechanics can inhibit proper foot
function, and your game will suffer.
The anatomy of a biomechanically sound swing goes like this: During set-up,
your weight should be evenly distributed on both feet with slightly more weight
on the forefoot as you lean over, and slightly more weight on the insides of
Maintenance of proper foot alignment on the backswing is critical for control
of the downswing and contact position. During the backswing, weight should be
shifted to the back foot. It should be evenly distributed on the back foot or
maintained slightly on the inside. Shifting weight to the outside leaves you
susceptible to the dreaded "sway," a common error in swing. Without an exact
reversal of the sway in the downswing, swaying will result in improper contact
with the ball.
As the back foot remains in a solid position on the back swing without any
rolling to the outside, the front foot is in turn rolling to the inside. The
front heel occasionally comes off the ground to promote a full shoulder turn.
Completion of the backswing places the weight on the back foot, evenly
distributed between forefoot and rearfoot, with the weight left on the front
foot rolling to the inside.
The downswing involves a rapid shift of weight from back to front foot;
momentum brings the heel of the front foot down, and follow-though naturally
causes a rolling of the back foot to the inside and the front foot to the
outside. Golf should always be played from the insides of the feet.
Like the great Nicklaus said, "lively feet" are critical to a successful golf
game. Having healthy, biomechancially stable feet is the first prerequisite for
achieving that goal.
Orthoses: Preventing Pain, Improving Game
For the foot that is not able to function normally due to biomechanical
conditions such as excessive pronation (rolling in) or supination (rolling out),
a state of optimal biomechanics can be achieved through the use of orthoses,
custom shoe inserts that can be prescribed by a podiatrist. Orthoses not only
allow the feet to function as they ought to, but can alleviate the
predisposition to injury brought on by biomechanical imbalances.
If you already wear orthoses in your street shoes, by all means transfer them
to golf shoes. Podiatrists who specialize in sports medicine say there are cases
when orthotic devices optimally designed for golf shoes will be different than
those designed for street shoes.
If biomechanical problems are present in your swing, they will invariably
cause symptoms when walking the links as well. Addressing biomechanical problems
in walking may therefore result in the secondary benefit of an improved swing
through proper foot function.
If a round of golf is painful on the feet, first assess the quality of your
shoes. Any time pain is not adequately resolved with good, stable, golf shoes,
and is present for more than two or three consecutive rounds, it's time to visit
a podiatric sports physician. He or she can diagnose and treat any problems, and
help make your feet an asset, not a liability, to your golf game.
Other Injuries and Treatment
The torque of a golf swing can strain muscles in the legs, abdomen, and back.
The fact that the game is usually played on hilly terrain increases these
forces, which in turn predispose to injury. Proper warm-up and stretching
exercises specific to golf can help in injury prevention. A sports podiatrist
can recommend a suitable warm-up regimen.
If biomechanical imbalances are present, these existing stresses will
overload certain structures, and predispose the golfer to overuse of muscles and
strain on ligaments and tendons. Orthoses will equalize the weight load on the
lower extremity, and in essence rest the overused muscle.
Other problems, such as tendonitis, capsulitis, and ligament sprains and
pulls, can also keep a golf enthusiast back at the clubhouse. Improper shoes can
bring on blisters, neuromas (inflamed nerve endings), and other pains in the
feet. Podiatrists see these problems daily and can treat them conservatively to
allow for a quick return to the sport.
When injured, participation is no substitute for rehabilitation. Injured body
parts must be thoroughly treated and rehabilitated to meet the full demands of
golf or any other sport. If you are injured, your return should be gradual. As
much as you may want to get back to your game, take it slow. A healthy body
makes for a more enjoyable game, and possibly a better scorecard at the end of