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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coming Down

Ok, consider this a "bonus" post for you over-the-toppers like Dexter who used my one-piece takeaway drill to stop your looping and now, having gotten to the top of your backswing, wonder how complicated it is to get that clubhead back down to the ball. But this post should help all of you weekend players, because we really make the golf swing much harder than it is.

First, although this is by no means a rule, I think you'll be much more consistent if you feel as if you are starting the downswing with your upper and lower bodies together, rather than trying to get "lag" between them. Here's a brief explanation of why: It is physiologically impossible to start the downswing with your upper body. Now, here's the more technical explanation; skip it if you feel no need for it:
Newton's Third Law of Motion says that for any action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In other words, if you try to turn your upper body to the left, your lower body tries to turn to the right the same amount. You can experience this by simply trying to make a golf swing on wet ground; when your foot slips, it slips in the opposite direction of your swing, which rapidly loses speed and doesn't get to the ball, resulting in a fat or topped shot. You need FRICTION to get your upper body moving, friction between your feet and the ground. Your feet have to resist moving (which is why your foot goes backward when it slips), which means your lower body has to start resisting before your upper body can go anywhere. Therefore, your lower body HAS to start the downswing.
Now that we've got that out of the way, we can look at the actual downswing.

Ideally, you swing down the same way you swing up. Now, that doesn't automatically mean that your backswing and downswing planes are the same. You could swing up to the top, then your swing plane drops a little before you start down. What I mean is that the two planes look similar. You former over-the-toppers know what I mean -- your backswing goes back and then almost straight up, then your downswing goes out and over before it finally comes back toward you. Those two "planes" have nothing in common!

In a good swing, you swing in a relatively straight line from the ball to the top, then maybe the club drops a bit before swinging in a relatively straight line from the top down to the ball. A simple swing with no real surprises -- that's what you want.

If you watch some of the slo-mo swing videos on YouTube, you'll see that the arms don't seem to be changing their relative positions much at all on the way down... and you'd be exactly right. Once your arms have reached the top of your backswing, with one arm straight and the other elbow bent, these positions don't really change until halfway down. In other words, your arms just drop straight down from the top, pivoting at the shoulders, without changing the angle in the bent elbow. I remarked in yesterday's post that:
"...the combination of one arm straight and one arm bending, combined with the upward momentum of the club, is what causes your wrists to cock. That's why you want to keep your forearms relaxed during the swing -- so you won't interfere with this very natural process."
Those of you trying to "hold" your wrist cock on the way down are trying to do something that happens naturally. When you change direction at the top and start down, the same club momentum that helped cock your wrists continues to keep them cocked until the downward movement of the hands becomes great enough to overcome it; then the club starts "flinging" outward and uncocking the wrists. If you don't change your arm position on the way down -- if you just let them fall downward -- you don't push outward on the shaft. (You can see these things in the swing video at the end of the post.)

Now, some people (Ben Hogan is a classic example) try to pull their bent elbow in closer to their side on the way down. The idea is that they actually increase their wrist cock during their downswing. There's nothing wrong with this except that it can be very tricky to do consistently; it's just one more thing to think about during your swing; and if you don't do it correctly, you can end up changing your downswing plane and hitting the ball somewhere you didn't mean to. My recommendation, unless you plan to spend lots of time practicing and have a very high tolerance for frustration, is to forget about manipulating your arms this way. I'm not using the word "fall" by accident; that's really what it feels like. It's not a long fall -- if you measured it, it would probably only be something like 8 to 10 inches of vertical drop. It's almost like you took a deep breath, then exhaled and just relaxed your shoulders.

That'll get you about halfway down. Now you're essentially in your waist high one-piece takeaway position... but your wrists are still cocked. That means your elbow is still bent, which means you are coming at the ball from the inside, not outside the way you were when you went over-the-top. This is a powerful position, folks. The club is "in front of you," as teachers are fond of saying lately, and you cannot get "stuck" from here. Your arms are in a good position to just swing past your hips as your shoulders unwind -- and remember, since you're basically in your one-piece takeaway position, that means your shoulders still have most of their coil. You have a lot of shoulder coil and a lot of wrist cock just begging to be unleased on that little white ball.

All you have to do from here is straighten your elbow and square up your shoulders. Can you say "high clubhead speed"? 'Cause that's what you're going to get -- just let 'er rip! To demonstrate, I present to you none other than "the Bashful Prince," Ryo Ishikawa:



You can see the momentum of the club actually increase his wrist cock as he changes direction; no real change in his arm position until they get halfway down (note that some of the "fall" comes from his move to his left side on the downswing); his arms swinging past his hips at the bottom of the swing; and his bent elbow straightening as it reaches the ball.

And remember: This is a relaxed motion. You don't want to tense up when you swing. Martial artists know that relaxed muscles move faster than tight ones.

So that's a quick look at the downswing. I hope it helps you all to stop working against yourself so much. The downswing is actually a pretty natural move that you would perform just fine if you didn't call it a "golf swing."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your one piece take away explanation. I've just started practicing with your drills and have already notice my swing on plane more consistently. Your explanation has been more helpful than some one on lessons I've been through.

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