A day on the golf course is a day well spent! It’s summer which means it’s golf time. Although, many of you love the game, it can be a frustrating sport. Good news, we have a few tips to improve your game.
In an attempt to play your best and prevent those pesky injuries, you have probably tried shoulder and hip stretching and core strengthening. But have you thought about the role of your feet and good balance? You may be surprised that strengthening your feet can improve your golf performance. The skilled golfer must maintain a stable base of support.
Researchers were able to distinguish good golfers from great golfers simply by their ability to balance on one leg. Golfers with the lowest handicaps were able to balance the longest while standing on one leg with their eyes open. The idea is that golfers with good balance are better able to shift weight between their feet during the golf swing and therefore have a more stable stroke.
Researchers also looked at the center of pressure in the feet while golfers putted. Low-handicap golfers move the center of pressure in their feet in a pure side to side direction. However, high-handicap golfers move the center of pressure in their feet in a more haphazard manner with lots of forward and backward shifting. The excessive shifting in the feet could worsen putting accuracy. The best golfers are well-balanced throughout impact and follow-through and this allows them to maintain stability and accuracy.
What does this mean for you? To improve or maintain your current skill level, you need to be able to control subtle shifts in your feet. The most important muscles for this are your toe muscles! When analyzing golfers, the best golfers are able to generate the greatest force beneath their toes. Strengthening your toe muscles helps you maintain balance and improve stability during your golf stroke.
Unfortunately, as we age the sensation in our feet decreases and our toe muscles get weaker. In fact, the average 70-year old has 35% less toe strength than the average 30-year old. The decreased sensation along the bottom of our feet and the weak toe muscles explain why older golfers have difficulty maintaining low handicaps. It makes sense that slight increases in toe strength will improve putting accuracy and driving distances!
How can you tell if you have weak toes? Take a look at your insoles. Ideally, you will have clear wear patterns beneath the tips of all your toes, especially your big toe. It is also easy to evaluate your balance. You should be able to balance on one foot for at least 10 seconds. Make sure you do this test near a stable object so you can grab yourself if you begin to lose balance. Did you fail either of these tests? The good news is that it is fairly easy to improve strength and balance with a few simple home exercises. Many balance exercises also strengthen your hip muscles which is a bonus because the best golfers also demonstrate significantly stronger hips!
We talked about the necessity of controlling where the weight is shifted in our feet when golfing. One thing that may help is to place balance buttons in your shoes. Balance buttons are pads with little bumps on them that stimulate the sensation receptors in your feet. They provide feedback about where your weight is shifting while you are swinging a club. Improved awareness beneath the outside of the foot can quickly improve balance, especially in older golfers. This could mean immediate improvements in putting and driving.
At our clinic, we treat golfers and other athletes with regard to both symptoms and function. Looking for poor “function” is another way of saying areas are too tight and/or too weak. By taking this approach, we can identify both what tissue is causing symptoms and why it occurred in the first place. A wonderful side effect is that the athlete’s performance improves, because the same factors that predispose to injury also hamper performance. After thorough screening, we utilize whichever of our many available treatments are best suited to help reach the patient’s goals.
Many golfers know it is important to strengthen your core, hips and shoulders to play your best. However, the latest research shows it is also important to do exercises to maintain foot strength and balance! In addition to improving your golf game, maximizing foot strength and balance also reduces your risk of falling and improves your ability to stay healthy.
Advanced Healthcare & Sports Injury hopes you have an enjoyable day on the golf course. Keep calm and golf on!

Reference: Michaud, Tom. Good Balance and Strong Toes: The Most Underappreciated Components of a Great Golf Stroke