10 Tips To Start The Downswing In Golf

The downswing in golf is the key to making solid contact and controlling your ball flight. If you're not starting down correctly, then your chances of hitting a good shot go way down.

This article discusses some things to consider about starting the downswing in golf.

The Golf Downswing Sequence:


It's very important to be lined up correctly before you start the downswing in golf .  This will help prevent you from trying to go too far with your arms during the backswing and then ending up out of top heaviness during the downswing.  

Solid contact is the goal of every golfer and it's much easier to hit solid shots when you're lined up correctly.

Tom Simpson summed it up well in his book, "The Golfing Machine:" "The overriding principle [for a good swing] is to get your shoulders, hips and feet working as one unit so that the upper and lower parts of the body assist each other instead of getting in each other's way."  


Many golfers start their downswing by flapping their arms. This arm-driven action creates dramatic changes in the golfer's spine angle and hip position, which makes it hard to swing from a balance point during the downswing.

While there are times when you need both arms and legs to start a movement such as when you're pushing off with your leg muscles to get out of deep rough this doesn't apply to the initial downswing movement.

As Ben Hogan wrote in his book, "Five Lessons:" "It is possible to get too much body action at the start of a swing and end up overextended with two moves when one should be enough."

Timothy Gallwey said it another way: "Don't let your muscles do the thinking for you. Your brain knows what it's trying to make happen before your body starts moving."

Hitting a smooth, balanced downswing requires that you start with just your lower body not with flapping-away arms .  


Your arms should travel in a natural, smooth arc during the downswing, similar to an airplane's flight path. 

In his book entitled "The Golf Swing" , Jack Nicklaus said that your arm swing should resemble a broad-based fountain shape: "Shoulders and hips should turn progressively faster than your arms," he wrote. "The speed of the shoulders and hips should be approximately three times as fast as that of the arms." 

But if you flap away with your arms during the downswing, they will likely become too active. Then you'll probably try to catch up with your body by swinging harder with your arms.  This is a common over-correction when people start the downswing with their arms flapping away and it often causes golfers to become top-heavy during the backswing and then hit shots that slice or hook .

In his book, "Golf My Way," Ben Hogan wrote: "It's pretty hard to resist the temptation to lift the head and hit hard, but that sort of golfing is about as much fun as having one's teeth drilled."


During a proper downswing, your club should be on-plane at impact not behind or in front of your hands.  A proper downswing should be a one-piece motion not a series of separate movements that look like someone glued the club onto your left hand during the backswing and then ripped it off just before impact.

Ben Hogan put it this way: "Never abandon the truth that the completion of any good swing must be in a position where you could strike the ball solidly."

To help with the proper downswing, it's a good idea to have someone videotape your swing so that you can see if your club is on-plane when you make contact. If it isn't, try to figure out why and then adjust accordingly.


Your body should be loose and relaxed during the downswing.  You don't want to get stiff-armed during your downswing, especially if you're hitting a full shot with your driver.   While there are times when you need muscles to help make a movement such as when you push off with your leg muscles to get out of deep rough, this doesn't apply to the initial downswing movement.

Charlie Sifford described a good downswing this way: "The ideal golf swing is like the flight of an eagle. It's powerful, but not stiff-armed."

Mike Austin put it another way: "A lot of people try to power the ball," he said. "You don't have to be strong or force your body. You just have to allow your body to do what it does. Don't force, don't try so hard. It's like those guys who run the 100-yard dash in 10 or 11 seconds and then collapse at the end of the race because they exerted too much energy.

If you can stay balanced and relaxed through impact, that's all you need for power."

Just as important as keeping your body loose during the initial downswing movement is making sure you pivot toward the target.  Your first move should be a lateral one, not forward or back. Ben Hogan once said: "It's what some people call a skipping action – going straight back and across without any hesitation or stop."


Your first move should be toward the target, not straight back.  In his book, "How I Play Golf," Bruce Devlin said: "Your first move should be to get your clubhead moving straight down the target line."

If you want to drive the ball long and straight , it's important for you to face your body squarely at address and then turn your hips and shoulders in the direction of your target.  When you try to drive from the top or through the ball, it's difficult for you to hit shots that go straight down the middle of the fairway.

Ben Hogan had a saying that can help you if you tend to face too much at address: "The secret is not hitting down on the ball, but hitting into it."

As far as getting your hips and shoulders to open during the backswing, Ben Hogan said: "The important point is to keep your face squarely at the ball until your hands are on top of your wrists.  You must not turn loose or cock before this happens; if you do, you will open the club face prematurely and leave the hitting area."


During a good downswing, you should be alert so that you can make adjustments for proper timing and power as well as stay out of bad positions caused by your arms pulling ahead or behind your torso.  If you want to hit long, straight shots, you have to stay in control of your body.  It's during the downswing that most golfers get into trouble because they go too much with their arms instead of letting their bodies do the work.

Ben Crenshaw put it this way: "You've got to be able to feel yourself and not let your arms take over," he said. "You've got to stay in control of your arms."


Hitting through the ball is one of the most important things to do when you want to generate a lot of clubhead speed.  It's also something that helps you keep your hands inside the golf club and avoid hitting the shot fat or with an open face, both of which cause shots to go left.

Of course, if you don't have clubhead speed or good timing and rhythm, hitting through the ball won't do much for your drive.  To help get more power from your downswing, you need to be sure that all of these elements are working together so that your body and arms work in unison.

Ben Hogan said: "If there is any fault to be found in the golf swing of a good player, it probably lies in his failure to develop clubhead speed.  When he has developed this feature fully, his level tee and fairway woods will carry as much additional distance as he can make consistently with control."


Couples said that when he was playing well, it didn't matter where his feet were positioned in the downswing. "My hips seem to move them without me doing anything," he said. "I don't know how they get back into position; I just let them."


When you get into your takeaway, at first it's your arms that are doing the work.  Then, as you come through impact and start the downswing, it's clubhead speed (how fast your hands whip around) that keeps the swing going. If you don't have enough clubhead speed to turn over, you'll hit the shot fat or with a closed face, causing the ball to go left.

When your clubhead reaches the top of its swing arc, and you finally let it pass through impact, it creates an explosion of power that goes from your hands into the bottom half of your body and then out into the rest of your system.

As Wayne Grady, the director of instruction for the Australian Golf Union said: "When you release the club through impact, your body is still turning. Your upper torso rotates away from the target and starts to come around into an athletic position.  When this happens, you can begin to set up for your next shot."

Final Thought

I hope this article was useful to you.  It was certainly fun for me to write.  I'm going to try and take some time tonight, but most likely it will be late before I post the next one.  

Lastly, if anyone has comments about these downswing tips or any other topic related to golf philosophies, let us know.  We'd love to hear from you.


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