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Golf Tips: The Down Swing

The first movement from the top of the swing is a lateral thrust of the hips to the left, eventually followed by an automatic turning of the hips. This is true. But there is more than that. Here are some great tips to improve your downswing. The hips must not only move to the left and turn, their movement must be so closely tied to the left arm that it pulls the arm and the club down and whips them through the ball. Finally you must turn your hips toward the target as they reach the extension of their lateral movement.

Are your hips ever in this position when you hit the ball? What happens, actually, is that the left arm itself is being pulled by the hips. The arm is merely the connecting rod between the hips and the club. When the hips exert this pulling action, they cause the shoulders and the left arm to revolve so fast around the axis of the upper spine that the hands have little or no time to manipulate or do anything whatever with the club except hang onto it. If there is one single secret to the golf swings this is it. Moving the hips in this fashion would seem a simple thing to do.

It is easy to say and easy to understand. Yet nearly all of the vast army of golfers fail to do it. Millions have read it and heard it and seen pictures of it, but just as many millions keep right on starting down with their hands, or pulling with their arms, or stopping the hips after they start them, forgetting to move them all the way through. They fail for two reasons. The first is that this is a big movement and they are afraid to make it. The second is that, preoccupied with what they think they must make the club head do, they completely forget the fundamental hip action and let it die. The tight connection between the hips and the club, and the consequent pull the club gets from the hip action, is the single greatest source of power in the golf swing. The big muscles of the upper legs and of the torso are giving the club a flying start before the hands do anything. To visualize what happens it may be helpful to use a mechanical image. Think of a golfer at the top of his backswing.

Now imagine a rope, running from the point of his left hip up his left side to his shoulder and then out through his left arm to his left hand. This rope is pulled tight at the top of the swing. As the hips start the downswing by moving to the left and turning, they will pull shoulder, arm, and club with them so long as the rope is tight. The rope can be kept tight only if the hips move first and only if they keep moving and then turning, on past the ball. Otherwise the rope will slacken, the pull will stop, and the club never will gain the speed it should reach at the ball. The rope will slacken if, from the top, the shoulders or the hands move first, or if the hips stop moving before they are all the way through. How do we know when to start the hip movement? We start it the instant we feel the backward momentum of the club start to pull against our hands at the top. This is a reflex action with most of us, but for those who want the moment pinpointed, there it is. And once you start to move the hips, keep them flying—all the way through until they turn toward the target. This action alone will cure a great number of golfing ills.

This is how it should feel: For you who have been hitting from the top and from the outside for years (and you are about 95 per cent of all golfers), these actions will feel strange indeed, and our problem is how to describe the feeling you should have when you make them. Words here become of even greater importance than they are customarily. So, since the same action feels different to different people, we will describe several feelings so that perhaps one of them may be recognized. What all this comes down to is two things. First, we coil ourselves up on the backswing to gain tension that is going to be released as late as possible on the downswing. Holding that tension is the "staying uncomfortable" feeling, the "storing up" feeling. That is what gives us distance. Second, as we move our hips laterally and keep our head back, but do nothing else, there is a complete absence of effort in our arms and hands. Then, if we have kept ourselves from uncoiling, the hands and club come down on the inside. That, plus club-face position, gives us direction.

When we have made this first move from the top correctly, where does it bring us? It brings us to a position generally Called the hitting area. It is not that, exactly. It is only one position in an infinite number that we pass through in the downswing. It is, roughly, the point in the downswing that we reach before the arm-shaft angle opens up much. The move brings us down so that our hands are nearly opposite our right leg, our weight is about equally distributed but moving toward our left leg, the body is beginning to bow out to the left, the right elbow is nestled against the hip bone, and the club is nearing a horizontal position. Right here the check points appear. We can't see them in the actual swing, of course, but we can stop the swing now and then and take a look. If the swing has been made correctly and if the hand-wrist position gained by the backward break has been held, then one knuckle of the left hand should be visible and two of the right, the club face should be at about a 45-degree angle with the ground, the right arm should be firm .


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