How to Transition a Golf Downswing

A smooth transition will put your club on a path to solid contact.

A smooth transition will put your club on a path to solid contact.

Golf is a game of split-second timing. It takes less than a quarter of a second from the time you start your downswing until your club smacks the golf ball. The human brain isn’t quick enough to manipulate what’s happening in that space, so the transition, that flash of time between the end of your backswing and the first few inches of your downswing may be your last chance to make something good happen.

The Transition

Blend the motion of your hands, arms and shoulders in the backswing so they deliver the club to the top of the swing at the same time. You should feel like the club easily settles into a slot at the top. That slot sets the path for your club on the way down. If your wrists are still hinging after your arms have stopped swinging, or your arms keep swinging after your shoulders stop turning, you are likely to struggle with timing in your downswing. Practice swinging in front of a mirror or watch video of your swing to see if you’re hitting the slot at the top of the swing.

Start the transition from the ground up. The lower-body action in the transition isn't dramatic. In one motion, start transferring your weight from your back foot to your front foot, pull your front knee toward the target and allow the hips to begin to unwind. You can practice this early portion of the transition by swinging back into the slot and pausing for a few beats, then initiate your lower-body move slowly and pause again to feel the position. Focus your attention on building a feel for starting down.

Keep your upper body relatively passive during the transition, responding in sequence to the lower-body's lead. The shoulders turn a fraction. Your hand and arms begin to move down in the slot a few inches. The club is the last part to move. Feel like someone is holding onto the club and imagine you have to engage in a gentle tug-of-war to get the club moving. The sense of resistance will help create the proper series of movements as you start down.

Visualize your club's path back to the ball. Pro golfer Hale Irwin pictures a track running from the top of his swing back to the ball, and he pictures the club staying on that track until it hits the ball. You want to picture the club coming down a path the is slightly inside the target line until it squares at impact. Make a slow, smooth backswing and pause at the top. Start down in slow motion following the correct sequence. When the club start to moves, feel like it is following a track back to the ball.

Items you will need

  • Golf club
  • Video camera
  • Mirror
  • Practice balls

Tip

  • Working on your tempo in the transition will help your sequence and timing. Try to maintain a smooth motion from your takeaway through transition and let momentum take care of producing the rest of the speed in your swing. Being too quick or too slow starting down will spoil the timing of your swing.

Warning

  • The right sequence of motions is vital in the transition. If your upper body starts down before your lower body, you risk coming over the top and pulling the shot. On the other hand, if your upper body lags too far behind your lower body, your clubhead will come from too far inside and you will push or hook the ball. Check your transition if these mishits apply to you.
 

References

  • Tour Tempo; John Novesel
  • How I Play Golf; Tiger Woods
  • How to Feel a Real Golf swing; Bob Toski and Davis Love Jr.
  • The Seven Laws of the Golf Swing; Nick Bradley

About the Author

David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images