How Much Knee Flex?

By Dr. T. J. Tomasi, Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

There is an ever-increasing number of golfers who have knee injuries; some so severe they require a total knee replacement.  If you have any hint of knee problems or you want to protect against developing them in the future, you should modify your golf swing, so you decrease the amount of stress on your knee joints.

Best Golf Swing for Bad Knees

Here are some suggestions. As always, consult your physician.

  • Learn to play more “on your toes” because playing flat-footed increases the square footage in contact with the ground putting much more stress on the knees. Learn to allow your target heel to come off the ground on the backswing and your trail heel to come off the ground on the downswing.
  • If your knees are an acute problem, it may help to “walk through” your shots. Allow your trail foot to come off the ground during your follow-through as you step toward the target with the back foot. Gary Player’s knees are still going strong at 80+, and he’s used the walk-through technique for years.  
  • If your front knee is a problem, you will benefit from an open stance that will have you facing the target more, so you don’t have to rotate as much in the impact zone, protection that takes stress off of the knee. 
  • To avoid knee problems, keep your knees flexed at all points throughout your swing. Video your swing and check these points for flex – 1) at address; 2) the top; 3) impact and 4) the finish. 

Tiger Woods Golf Swing

Tiger-2000 was one of the longest hitters on tour, but his golf swing centered around an explosive snap release where his lead leg hyperextended. Look how stiff his left leg is in the photo and imagine the sheer force in the knee when it snapped straight – ball after ball, year after year until both his knee and his back were damaged. Tiger is a well-conditioned athlete, but his joints (and yours) can take only so much pounding. To his credit, Tiger-2019 has changed his swing from explosive to smooth – and along with a change in mechanics, he has become even more of a tactician than he was in his early days – dot-to-dot has replaced smash and gouge.

Paul Goydos, the winner of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open in 2016 on the Champions Tour, has been playing golf for ~50 years and still going strong. Goydos protects his knees by allowing the left heel to rise while keeping his back knee flexed. Once you lock-out either knee, you ratchet up the amount of force placed on it – and that’s not good.

Takeaway: To reduce torque, release your front knee on the backswing, then keep your lead knee slightly flexed through impact and at the finish.

How Much Knee Flex in Golf Swing

The amount of knee flex varies from player to player and is determined in large part by your physique.  Tall players with symmetrical distribution of muscles and fat have narrow stances, whereas short, top-heavy players with thick torsos have wide-balanced stances. 

To find your natural knee flex, take your normal stride, allowing the back heel (but not toe) to rise off the ground as you plant your front foot flat on the ground. Stop at this point and check the amount of bend in your front knee — this is your optimum knee flex position.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.

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