Part 2 of “speed, power & distance in the golf swing” deals with the body movements nearing the top of the backswing and the transition to downswing and pre impact. These key moves are all in an effort to preserve the wrist hinge and leverage built up in the backswing as discussed in Part 1 of this series. The result will be more speed and compression at impact. Watch the video then read the article for a full description.
Transition … the photo at the introduction of this article sets it up – braced right leg leaning toward the target, spine angle leaning away from target with head behind the ball and full wrist hinge.
The transition in golf is the moment where the club changes direction from backswing to downswing, and it should be as natural as throwing a baseball. But we know that natural motion is not so natural for golfers as we see so many struggle with the correct move from the top.
If you study a throwing motion, the thrower will step back into a braced leg position as the throwing arm winds up. This bracing is the first step in the process of creating real power in the forward motion.
Before the arm ever finishes moving all the way back, the thrower instinctively makes a stride with the front foot toward the intended target. (This step represents the forward swing weight shift in golf.) This dynamic movement creates “lag” as the weight of the baseball is still going backward in the windup while the legs and core of the body are moving forward. It literally stretches the throwing arm and wrist into positions we can’t otherwise attain.
This transition is very similar in golf. The move from backswing to downswing is made with no attempt to ever stop or pause at the top. There is simply a continuous flow of movement. As the arms and club are still moving upward, the feet and legs begin a motion targetward. This creates a stretch and lagging feel through the arms and wrists as they are dragged along by the body and ultimately whip through impact.
Let’s detail it here for you so you know what elements to put in play to create the feeling of effortless power.
Golf Swing Sequence from Transition to Pre-Impact
First, since you cannot step back and step through like a ball player, you need a stance that is wider than the hips, otherwise you will not be able to push off the back leg effectively. In fact the back leg may be kicked out slightly wider to exaggerate an inward leaning angle. You may notice some pros intentionally have a slight forward press targetward with the hips to flare that trailing leg and preload on the instep of the foot.
Next, through the windup of the backswing you should coil around the inside of that inward leaning leg (right leg for a right-handed golfer) while the upper torso and spine are leaning away from the target. The photo above right reveals a 9 degree inward leaning angle of the right leg at top of backswing. Tour Players will generally have anywhere from 5 – 12 degrees of inward leaning angle on that leg while the upper body leans as much as 5-10 degrees away from the target. To feel this position at the top of the backswing, try to coil back and keep your buttocks on the target side of the ball while your head and chest coil behind the ball. Allow your hips and torso to turn freely for a full windup. No swaying sideways with the hips – your pelvis must remain centered as you turn the hips. Most golfers are surprised to feel like their head moves to the right while their base feels like it makes a reverse pivot. This false perception must be overcome for maximum efficiency.
Finally, the braced leg with your buttocks left of the ball creates a natural ability to simply “fall” toward the target from the top of the backswing. Essentially, as the armswing is almost to the top of the backswing, the hips, knees and feet begin a downward squat that compresses into the ground and shifts the lower body targetward while the head stays behind the ball. Warning – this is a downward, compressive, lateral movement … we do not want any active hip clearing yet. Turning comes later. It’s also ok if you sense your body getting lower into impact. (More information is available by clicking this link to another article and video on weight shift in the golf swing.)
This targetward fall or squat momentarily leaves the club floating at the top of the transition as the arms try to catch up. With no delay, the arms start driving downward, and the trailing elbow (right elbow for right handers) drives down into the right hip. The wrist hinge tends to increase here. In other words, the angle between the clubshaft and the arms may actually get narrower on the way down – this is the lag we seek.
This gets us to the pre-impact area as shown in the photo below.
Right elbow should be on the right hip ready for a sidearm delivery to the ball, weight is pressed heavily into front foot, wrists still hinged at 90 degrees, butt of club pointed at target.
Practice in slow motion getting to the top of the backswing with the braced leg, then drive downward into this pre-impact position and check each feature. This sequence will help you avoid sitting back, standing up and throwing the clubhead, which is the common fault of players lacking distance and clubhead speed.
What do you think? Have you been sitting back, spinning out and throwing the clubhead losing all your speed and power before impact? Leave a comment below and let me know if this helped you.
Our next article and video will take us through impact and into the finish. Until then, work on the transition and focus on a good pre-impact position. More speed, power and distance will be on the way soon.