The Basics Part 5: Downswing and Impact Fundamentals
By Erika Larkin on 4/3/13
Before you get into the "meat and potatoes" of your 2013 season, Erika wants you to check your fundamentals. So over the next several weeks, she's going to run a five-part series about the fundamentals. If you missed part 1, part 2, part 3, or part 4, click here, here, here, or here. Enjoy!

We can make up for lots of "sins" that happen in the setup and backswing with a good downswing. Lots of great players have had loops in their swing, weird grips and open stances, and yet seem to re-route the club just right to achieve great impact alignments with their body and club. We need to know where we are going and our bodies can then find a way to get there. So here is where we are "going".
  • Start your downswing from the ground up: In other sports we don't even think about "stepping" first before we throw or hit, but in golf it seems many people forget the weight shift and particularly the lateral move that initiates the change of direction from backswing to downswing. To break it down- replant your front heel down and allow your lead hip to rock/slide/shift/bump (whatever you want to call it) over your front foot (without rotation). It should feel like you just stepped to the target. This one move tells your arms and the golf club that the downswing has started. It allows your spine to get in position so that the club and your arms can fall on plane smoothly. This move is very important because if the arms and hands start the downswing you would create jerky and poor rhythm, add tension and would not use the lower body to its potential.

  • Fall: Well, sort off, as the transition or what we call change of direction happens as described above, the arms should naturally "fall" vertically for a moment maybe less than a foot in total distance. It's a free fall, no tension and no pulling.

  • Turn: We want to now unleash and let our bodies unwind at the ball- hips should pivot causing the front leg to straighten and that will in turn pull the torso and the arms around. The shoulders and torso and arms should then fire down at the ball while the hands /wrists stay back and loaded as long as possible to store power.

  • Whip it: Once the body has turned through and the hands are close to impact it's time to fire and whip through the remaining wrist hinge to achieve a flat lead wrist, straight lead arm and square clubface at impact. At this very moment 80% or more of the golfer's weight should be on their lead leg and the hips will be more open than the shoulders. (If a person wants to hit a draw vs. a fade the shoulder position would be more closed vs. open relative to desired ball flight). I would recommend practicing (if nothing else) what a desired impact position feels like in front of a mirror- go from setup to impact and back again until you memorize it (see pic).

  • Reach through: Just past impact is where our divot with an iron should be, so don't be in a rush to stand up or collapse those arms or wrists. Reach through down the target line. Let your hands "release" which means roll over so the clubface closes and reaches a toe-up position as the shaft is at hip height. Keep your head down and posture steady as long as possible for this phase. We see way too many amateurs with chicken-wings, early extended (tall) posture and scooped/cast-away wrists.

  • Balanced finish: Don't underestimate the value of a balanced finish. If you are in balance at the end, you have more control through impact and that is what we all desire. Finish on your lead leg, back foot pivoted on its toe with no weight on it. Arms should be folded at the elbows over the lead shoulder and chest and hips should be facing the target. Hold that trophy pose and try and have a neutral emotional reaction to your shot good or bad. That body language will go a long way and it will help you see where your ball actually lands!!
Happy practicing!

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine and she's oobgolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, email her at Enjoy!

[ comments ]
GolfSmith7 says:
I've been working on my down swing since January thanks for the word.
GBogey says:
When I take the occasional lesson I am told to work on a balanced finish which I don't do enough. In addition to what Erika laid out, I've been told that it helps create mental images in your brain as to how the ball reacts to what you just die with your swing.
legitimatebeef says:
Very good description of what happens in downswing. I think just reading this article will help us all swing better. Agree 100% about practicing impact position. The heart of the swing, the one thing that really defines how you hit it.
joe jones says:
Wonderful. Now if this tired old body would only accomplish what my mind can comprehend.
onedollarwed says:
What's great about a coordinated efficient swing is that you don't have to be big or strong to transfer power to the ball. Maintaining spine angle before, through and after impact allows for a fluid rotation to comfortable power to go along with essential weight shift. I don't think most people realize just how complete the weight shift is, and how you have to balance and anchor that move.

Gravity would pull the body to the ground at 32 ft/sec squared if the left leg didn't brace you and provide you with something to pivot around - not the round barrel as depicted in so many books. If you rotated around your spine you would reverse pivot and fall over I think.
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