by Derek Hooper
The start of the down swing is arguably the most important move in golf. It is the move that separates average ball strikers from great ones and yet it is a move that few players truly understand. A correctly sequenced transition from backswing to downswing will deliver the club head to the ball with speed and accuracy, ensuring the best opportunity of hitting a solid shot.
The start of the downswing is similar to the transition move that we make in any action where we are trying to propel an object forward – throw a ball, swing a baseball bat or cut down a tree with an axe. There is the initial loading around the trail hip and associated weight transfer onto the trail leg, followed by a sequence of movement designed to deliver maximum power to the impact. So what is the correct sequence?
In watching a baseball game you will see the batter preparing themselves prior to the pitcher delivering the ball. They get a solid footing, set the arms behind them with the bat held high, and they place the majority of their weight on the trail leg. As the pitcher delivers the ball, the batter’s first move is to step towards the pitch and transfer weight from the trail leg to the front leg. Once the weight is transferred, there is then an aggressive rotation of the lower body around the lead leg that pulls the upper body through, and ultimately delivers the bat into the hitting zone.
In terms of weight transfer and unloading of stored energy into a strike zone, golf and baseball have many similarities. To translate the baseball move to the golf swing, the backswing in golf serves the same purpose as the preparation phase of baseball batting. The start of the downswing in golf should be from the ground up, as it is in baseball. This would mean that to start the downswing, there will be a small lateral movement of the hips towards target that allows the weight to shift from trail foot to lead foot, prior to any substantial unwinding of the upper body. Once the weight is transferred, the hips can rotate around the lead leg as the arms drop and are pulled into impact by the subsequent turning of the upper body.
A great drill to help train the correct sequence of movement in the downswing is to do Step Swings.
Step Swing Drill. Take your normal address position and then slowly take the club to the top of your backswing. In this position there should be more weight on the trail foot, and the back should be turned to target giving you a loaded feeling. To start the downswing, lift the lead foot off the ground by a couple of inches and then plant it back down allowing the lower body to shift and weight to transfer to the lead leg. The key in making this move is to keep the back to target for as long as possible so as to allow the arms to drop naturally and thus place the club on plane. Once the weight starts to transfer to the lead side, the hips can then turn through towards target dragging the upper body and arms into the impact area.
This is not the easiest drill you will ever do, but it is the best one to allow you to correctly train an athletic move into impact.
Derek Hooper is the Director of Instruction at Lake of Isles Golf Academy. Derek has a college degree in teaching and over 14 years experience conducting lesson programs in Australia, Japan and Taiwan. Before moving to the United States Derek was the Director of Instruction at the David Duval Golf Academy in Miyazaki, Japan. Derek can be contacted at 888.475.3746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.