If a good backswing lays the foundation for sound golf technique, then a strong downswing is the heart of your stroke. While many golf instructors advise casual players to keep their swings simple and repeatable, there are a few fundamentals on which any player should focus to develop a solid downswing.
The transition from backswing to downswing is a key moment in a golfer’s stroke. Golf writer Steve Newell notes that many players make the mistake of transitioning too quickly and rushing into their downswing, rather than moving the club fluidly. Newell recommends players heed the advice of the legendary Bobby Jones, who advised that the downswing begin at the same speed as the backswing started.
PGA teaching pro Rick Smith says the transition actually begins a fraction of a second before the club reaches the top of the backswing, when a player’s hip and trunk should move slightly toward the target. This move begins the forward weight shift that’s necessary to create good club head speed.
Begin the Downswing
Golf instructor Hank Haney says golfers who tend to slice should begin the downswing by rotating their arms first, to extend the club in front of their body, then should rotate their hips. Slicers should keep their shoulders back while beginning the downswing, allowing the hands and arms to lower the club head, thereby keeping the club face square on impact. However you begin the downswing, Haney says, it’s important that your weight shifts from your back to your front foot during this sequence, to generate maximum power.
Haney’s former pupil, Tiger Woods, begins his downswing by letting his arms drop naturally, giving them “a little head start” before turning his shoulders.
Rotate the Hips
Sliding the hips laterally toward the target, rather than rotating the hips, is a key cause of many shots that are pushed to the right, according to Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus says proper downswing hip movement is set up by a full hip rotation on the backswing. On the downswing, he advises right-handed golfers to focus on “turning the right hip toward the ball.” This will cause the left hip to rotate properly. If you rotate your hips correctly, the front of your body will face the target on your follow through, rather than your side.
Prepare for Impact
To achieve more power at impact, golf instructor Jim McLean says when your right arm moves in front of your right hip, the palm of your right hand should be square to the target and your left leg should be fully straight. Then, to help assure you square the club head before striking the ball, you should feel that your left knuckles are turning toward the ground, not moving upward toward the sky.