|Assuming you have made the proper backswing and are in the proper positions, the downswing is the simplest aspect of the swing. What happens in the downswing is based on reaction and the body will do this naturally, the problem is most golfers react the wrong way at the top of the swing. This is also the hardest thing to fix; once you can correct this mistake then you are on your way to better scores. The downswing is started by a slight lateral shift left (towards the target) and an opening of the hips; this is why it is important to have some resistance in the hips on the backswing. As you open your hips, everything else will fall into place. Your right elbow will come into your side and your arms will drop down and onto plane. It should not be viewed as the hips opening then the arms falling in place; rather it should be viewed as the hips opening and the arms and elbow fall into place at the same time. The key is to allow the weight to start shifting back to the left side before this happens.
The "hip bump" happens before the arms have reached the top of the swing. Right before you get to the top of the swing, you should begin to shift the weight back towards the target with the entire body, not just the lower body. This results in a slight bump of the hips. Where people get into trouble is when they TRY to get a hip bump by pushing the hips out towards the target. I call this a false shift. This causes the legs to bend too much and usually all the pressure will go to the outside of the left foot rather than the inside. The upper body will hang back and you will have a hard time getting to a full finish on the left side. When you feel like you shift the entire body, it will promote more lateral movement in the swing and it will promote a more inside to out swing rather than the typical over the top move. As long as you keep the pressure on the inside of the left foot, you do not have to worry about shifting laterally too much. Instantly after the hip bump, the hips open and the arms come down. There should be no attempt to start the swing with the hips then swing the club down with the arms. You should feel like your hips and arms are moving together. In reality, your hips do start first, but you don’t want to feel like you doing things in an order. You want to have a flow to the downswing. The key is to get it to happen seamlessly.
I have watched many many videos of pro’s swings; the thing that I see the most is a slight lateral bump with the hips to start the downswing. It only happens in one frame, so it happens very quickly. We are talking about a split second here. From there, the hips start to open and the arms swing down along with the opening of the hips. Depending on how aggressive their leg action is, you can see a very noticeable bump of the hips or just an ever so slight shift of the weight back to the left side. To first get used to this move, you should do it in sections. Get close to the top of the swing, then start to shift your body towards the target (without rotating), this shifting should be happen right as the arms get to the top position, then open the hips and let your arms drop down and your right elbow come completely into your side, more specifically, just over the right hip joint. This is just meant to give you the proper feeling. In the actual golf swing you should not make an effort to do this. As I said, it should flow and it should feel like it is all happening at the same time.
When you open your hips, your arms will automatically come down, your right elbow will come into your side and you will retain the angle that your hands make relative to the shaft, this is what is known as “lag” and it is essential in a powerful swing. The biggest mistake at this stage in the swing is the golfer tries to swing from the top. You see that little white ball just laying there, almost mocking you and you think “I am going to kill this thing” If you are tense and you are trying to kill the ball it isn’t going to work. Many amateurs are guilty of this. When they get to the top of the swing they think, “Must kill the ball” What happens is they tense up, and from here they swing from the top. They simply rotate with no lateral shift. You can see this on any range and day of the week. The golfer with the big slice that always falls back on his back foot in the follow through
What this means is they try to accelerate from the top of their swing and as a result they will come over the top. All of their potential power is wasted at the top of the swing and in the power zone they try to compensate. This happens by rolling over the shoulders to try and over power the shot, the result is a weak slice. If you time it right you can hit it straight, but you are loosing valuable yardage and consistency.
A good way to think of this is like a car, when you’re at the top of the swing you don’t want to go from 0 to 100 mph instantly, rather you want it to be gradual. If you mash the pedal down your tires will spin and you won’t go anywhere, if you press the pedal down lightly just to get the car going, then slam the pedal down, the car will react much better. Starting the downswing with the hips is key, it sets up everything and from there you can go after the ball as hard as you want. The key when you start the swing with the hips is to shift the weight. With the average golfer, they will try to start down with the hips, but they never shift their weight. As I said earlier, you have to start shifting the weight before the arms reach the top of the swing. If you try to open your hips while you are still on the back foot, you will only spin around that foot. This will cause you to come over the top. This allows the club head to get out and in front of the body. When you shift your weight first and open the hips, this prevents the club head from getting ahead of you and coming from the outside.
You want to put all of your effort into the power zone, or impact zone as it is known. As you start the swing down you must be careful, you don’t want to violently open the hips, rather it should be controlled. It is necessary to have your hips open in order to swing freely into the ball, but you should not get carried away. Often times, if you over rotate with your hips you can cause the club to get stuck behind you. And from there you will either block the shot out to the right or you will try to “flip” your hands over and hook the ball, but this is a move that better ball strikers make.
It requires some practice to get used to the motion and to get the right feel of how fast you should open your hips. I should add that over rotating the hips is still better then coming over the top, so you really should not worry about it too much. It will just take a little time to get used to the move and get the feel for how fast or slow you should open your hips. Once you start the downswing correctly, everything will be in place to really go after the ball. The downswing is already halfway to impact. Because you have opened your hips, you should be shifting your weight on to your left side like I have said previously. Your left heel should come back to the ground with the opening of your hips at the top of the swing, once your left heel comes down, I recommend lifting your right heel off of the ground.
You should view your feet as pistons, your left foot will come up and your right will stay down in the backswing, then your left comes down to start the downswing and your right comes up finish it. This will clear your hips even further and it will get you off of your right side and into your left. Once your right heel starts to come off the ground, your hips will have opened farther and your arms are now nearing the power zone. This is where all the power comes from, this is where you get the most club head speed and this is when you use your arms to the fullest ability.
You want to accelerate fully with the club through the ball right here, from this position your only thought should be “accelerate with the hands” You should have retained a lot of shaft lag so the only thing you have to do is release it. This does not mean you should “flip” your wrists at the ball, this means that you should accelerate through the ball with your hands. If you look at any good ball striker you will see a big acceleration through impact. How is it that they guys on tour look so effortless in their swings yet they hit the ball so far? Next time you watch them, make a note to look at their swing through the power zone, you will notice that this is where they accelerate the most through the swing. This is why the amateur golfer looks like he is trying to kill the ball, he accelerates at the top of his swing rather than where it counts. I would recommend doing this in slow motion. Get a feel for what is happening in the swing and let your body adjust. Start off just practicing these moves. It will really feel like you are doing a few things at separate times in the swing, but once you get these right, you can just swing the club normally and they will fall into place naturally. Once you feel comfortable, you can start hitting golf balls, but make very slow swings. I want you to get the feeling of accelerating through the ball with your arms and hands through the power zone rather that hitting from the top.
I would recommend that for the first month you don’t swing over 60 percent. Once this feeling becomes ingrained into your swing and once you become comfortable with it, then you can start making normal swings. You will find that once you get comfortable with this, you can really go after the ball and still stay in control. Why? Because you are no longer swinging from the top. As I said earlier, most golfers swing from the top and when they really want to crank one out there this problem is really exposed. Once you ingrain this swing you will be able to go through the ball as hard as you want because you are concentrating all of the power in the impact zone rather than the top of your swing.
The Release and Finish:
So what happens in the power or impact zone? At the beginning of the power zone, your right elbow is into your side and bent, your left arm is straight and it is on top. This is why the left arm is called the leading arm because it is on top. This causes the club to come from the inside, which is key to a powerful and consistent swing. You have also retained most or all of your shaft lag and your hips are open. As get closer to the ball your right arm will begin straightening and your hands will begin to release. In the downswing your left arm (lead arm) stays on top and your right arm follows behind and under because it is bent and into your side, this once again causes you to have an inside swing path, if you have ever wanted to hit a draw, this is the key. As you get closer to impact, the right arm starts to straighten and it starts to come up and over.
At impact your right arm is even with your left or just slightly underneath because it is still bent. As you go past impact, your right arm is still extending and has now fully extended and become straight, that is why it is important to accelerate through the ball, not to the ball. The right arm continues to rotate over your left arm and now it is leading. Your arms will continue to rotate as your body is now following and you are coming up and out of the shot. Half way into the follow through the left arm, which has been straight through out the swing, will finally begin to bend. For the rest of the swing it has been straight because it has been the leading arm. Now that the right arm has straightened and taken over, the left has to bend. From there your arms come up and around towards your left ear and they both bend around. At this time your body has fully unwound from the backswing and your chest should be facing towards the intended target and 95 percent of your weight should be on your left side.
A great drill to give you the feeling of accelerating through with your arms and hands is what I call the set and release drill. Set up to the ball like you would normally, I want you to cock your wrists back, or in the case up towards the sky then rotate your arms back away from the target and put your right elbow into your side. This is the position that you will come into the ball at in the downswing. From here I want you to release through as hard as you can, just explode through, but do not use your body. This is a move that you should do only with your arms and hands. After you release, let the body follow and go to a complete finish. You will notice that you can generate a lot of power from this very small movement in comparison to the full swing. I want you to really focus on this drill as it gives you the proper feeling of accelerating through the zone with your arms and hands. It will also develop more strength in your hands and forearms. Once you get familiar with the drill you can hit golf balls with it. You will notice the amount of consistency that you will get. When you hit a ball off line it is because your body is trying to get in on it. This is where your timing issues and your off line shots come from. The hands release naturally and in the same spot without any outside interference. When you bring your body into the equation, it can cause your hands to release too soon or too late depending on what you are doing. That is why it is important to work on the opening of the hips in the swing so your body gets out of the way and clears a path for the hands and arms to do what they do. If you are fighting with your body in the swing, there isn’t anyway you can release the club consistently.