Lesson 10 - Direction and Power - Purpose of the Downswing
The downswing is undoubtedly the most critical and misunderstood phase of the swing. It has been the subject of more misleading advice than any other phase of the swing movement. I intend to correct these errors, and replace them with concepts of the downswing that are both simple and effective.
Essentially, the problem is this. Most players start the downswing by turning the shoulders. Consequently they end up swinging across the intended line of flight from "out-to-in", with the shoulders open at impact.
Why do they do this? Because, I submit, the traditional analysis of how the swing is performed tends to produce this result!
A correct downswing movement must result in a powerful swing into and along the intended line of flight, through impact. For this to be achieved the shoulders must be square at impact, or better still, fractionally "closed". Keep this in mind!
Hence we see that proper control of the shoulders is the key to the correct downswing movement. Indeed, we shall see that foot and leg action in the downswing occurs largely to keep the shoulders passive and under control as the downswing takes place. Hence my assertion that the downswing occurs from the feet....up. I intend to explain this further.
For now, simply remember that without proper control of the shoulders both power and direction in the downswing will surely be destroyed!
Three downswing faults to be avoided
The sole purpose of the backswing is to correctly position the club at the top. The left hand and arm has swung the club up into position. In so doing it has created the swing plane. Now the left hand and arm must reverse its direction of swing....moving the hands and club down into the ball. As it does this, the hands, shaft and clubhead must remain on the same plane that was created in the backswing.... and the hands must lead the club-head down into the ball, conserving power for a properly timed "release" at the ball.... and not before! In short we must maintain a good "club-line" down into the ball, and we must "release" the club-head at the right time.
There are three common downswing errors which make this impossible...
1. Dominant right hand - club thrown forward over the hands.
Many pros and handicappers allow the right hand to dominate the left as the downswing begins. Control has been transferred from the left hand and arm entirely to the right hand.
Consequently the right hand throws the club-head forward over the left hand and arm.... completely destroying club-line and releasing the club-head far too early.
The result. A weak, out-to-in impact!
Retain control in the left hand and arm throughout the backswing and the downswing. The right hand will then assume its correct role.
2. Turning the shoulders from the top - club moves to an 'outside' line and an out-to-in impact
Many golfers start down from the top by turning the shoulders. This is brought about by failure to use the feet in the downswing, an incorrect backswing, the desire to "hit" rather than "swing", neglect of the left hand and arm swing and various other errors - starting the downswing by turning the hips is a major cause.
The effect is to take the club off the correct swing line, looping it forward on to the "outside" line. The result is an across line impact... the hallmark of the "hacker".
Again, this faulty downswing line brings about premature "release".
Club moves to an 'outside' line and an out-to-in impact
Swing the club down into the ball with the left hand and arm, maintaining the correct plane. This will assist a correctly timed, properly directed release of power.
3. Throwing out from the top - a sure way to waste power
The third common downswing fault is "throwing" the club-head out to the right as the downswing begins. This is in fact a very early release of power. It is caused by over anxiety to "hit" the ball, and is often associated with a very fast swing.
By releasing the power early, the club-head overtakes the hands before impact making for a weak shot.
It is quite possible to "throw out" from the top and yet maintain a good line into the ball. However, since power has been released early, it is almost certain that the point of release will vary with each swing. Hence, shots with the same club will vary in length as the point of "release" varies. A caddie will find it difficult to club you correctly. In short, throwing-out makes for weak shots of variable length. It also causes hitting the ground before the ball is struck.
Maintain the club-head behind the hands on the way down. Allow the downward swing of the left and arm to make the initial movement, then when the hands have been lowered to about hip-height, release the clubhead. Not before!
The role of the right hand and arm in the downswing
Misuse of the right hand and arm is extremely common in the downswing. It can cause both loss of line down into the ball and a premature release of power. Both errors are highly undesirable.
Hand and wrist always 'live'...arm and elbow passive until the release
Some critics have suggested that I have stressed the role of the left hand and arm at the expense of the right hand. I disagree. It is the commanding role of the left hand and arm that has been neglected in golf teaching, and most golfers over employ the right hand and arm anyway!
I have already said the hands control the club at ALL times. The hands work together while the left hand assumes the commanding role. When we are talking about "hand control", we are speaking mainly about the interaction between the fingers and wrists of the hands. These are live and sensitive at all times.
From a correct position at the top of the swing, the left hand and arm swing downwards into the ball. Meanwhile, both hands are contributing towards control of the club-head in the fingers and wrists. However, the right arm and elbow are passive until the club descends to about hip height. Then...when good club-line through the ball is assured, the hands are in position to safely "release" the club-head into the ball.
If, through misuse of the right arm and elbow, the right hand is allowed to overpower the left before release, power and direction is prejudiced. It then comes into the shot too early, interfering with the guiding role of the left hand and arm....throwing the club off line.
The club is thrown forward, over the left arm to an outside line
As long as the left hand and arm remains in control, the right hand will play its proper part... at the proper time.
It is essential to realise the shaft and club-head are maintained behind the hands during the downswing. When so positioned, the hands sensing and anticipating the release throughout the movement. When the downward swing of the left hand and arm has brought the hands down into position for a final release of power into and along the intended line of flight. It is at this point that the hands release the club-head into the ball in a properly times delivery.
Premature use of the right hand both destroys a timed delivery (which is the secret of power) and destroys the club line down into the ball, resulting in inaccurate and mis-hit shots.
A correctly timed delivery is, in the final analysis, what the golf swing is all about. Once the left hand and arm has successfully made the line down into the ball, the hands take over for the final application of power.
Power, conservation, release. A vital concept!
In the next lesson I describe the feeling of a correct downswing