Tuning up the downswing

by Donald Crawley

Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.

Donald Crawley Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) -- Because you are all into the golf season now and have made a few backswings this year, I will share my beliefs about the downswing. If you carefully observe the tour players either on TV, Sportsnetwork.com or live, you will see a variety of backswings. It, the backswing, does not pay the bills or Tigers jet fuel.

As a quick review and perhaps an oversimplified statement, the purpose of the backswing is to get the body and the club into the correct plane and direction for the downswing.

So, let?s delve into the downswing:

From the top of the backswing the club must swing down on the same plane and direction. The downswing is a reversal of the backswing.

The sequence of the start down is crucial. There is not a conscious pause or a stopping point at the top of your backswing, therefore the start of the downswing is in motion at the completion of the backswing.

This is called ?transition at the top?. This transition must be smooth. As the upper body completes its coil at the top, the lower body is starting to unwind. Because of this, most swing experts agree that the hips unwinding is the first movement in the downswing.

However, what is so often overlooked is the arms and club shaft must be swinging down freely and inhibited at exactly the same time as the hips are unwinding.

Tiger Woods
With perfect positioning, Tiger Woods is always near the top in driving distances.
I will often describe the downswing, for most amateur golfers, that the arms, hands and club drop down on plane, at the start of the downswing. The arms and club swing down the exact same path and plane as the backswing. The wrists uncock in the bottom half of the downswing as the club head approaches the ball. The swishing of the club head through the impact area can often stimulate the trunk to follow this club head arc, helping the hips to turn through the shot.

Golf swing experts constantly debate what came first; the chicken or the egg? Does the unwinding of the hips, dictate the release of the club? OR does the swinging of the arms/ hands/ club head pull the hips and trunk around?

My opinion: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Meaning some people feel that the hips pull the club through automatically; while an equal amount of golfers feel the swinging of the arms and club pulls the body through.

My suggestion: try both and see what works best for you.

Through impact and follow through

At impact, the club head is returning to how it was placed at address. Square to the target and facing down the target line.

A reminder of the correct impact factors. Face square to the direction the club head is traveling; down the target line. Club head approaching level to the ground and at maximum speed.

To achieve this, the best golfers in the world constantly practice all day every day. Golf is a simple but very difficult game. It is exacting and hard to perfect. It is the fun and challenge that attracts so many people to this game.

At impact, your hips should be open to the target line. The top pro?s have their hips as much as 40 degrees open through impact.

Simple analogy. Take a golf ball and throw it twenty yards underhand. You will see that you instinctively open or turn your hips open as you throw the ball toward the target.

The most common word used in golf is release. Release means just that. You are releasing all the power you have been building and storing in your swing prior to this point. Your hips are releasing. Your arms are releasing. Your wrists are releasing.The club head is releasing.

I like to describe the release like this: Your arms, shaft and club head are rotating and releasing through the ball as fast and as freely as you can manage. Your arms must feel to cross-over early in the downswing, followed immediately by your right side (for right handers) rotating and transferring your weight to the left side.

This lack of releasing and rotating the club in the downswing tends to make so many golfers, at least 80% who play, leave the club face open resulting in the slice, the most common mis-hit of all!

If you slice the ball, a ball curving to the right (again for right handers) with your driver, and irons flying too high, short and to the right of the target, you need to work on this releasing as mentioned above.

The follow through

The follow through is a continuation of the release through impact. The hips, trunk, chest and shoulders fully unwind to face the target. Weight should be 90% on your left side. Your back should be straight and not arched, what we used to call the ?reverse C?. Your spine angle, the tip from your hips at address, should have been maintained throughout the swing and to the finish. Your arms and wrists have crossed over, re-cocked and finishing over your left shoulder. You should be balanced. Your head has followed the trunk, rotated through shortly after impact and your eyes would have followed the flight of the ball. Your head should not be down. The finish will be around and at the same height as the backswing. No false ?high finishes? please!

The follow through is a continuation of the downswing. The plane of the follow through should be a mirror image of the backswing.

Donald Crawley
Donald Crawley

Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs? Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.

Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA?s Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.

Comments? Contact Donald Crawley at dcrawley@luxuryresorts.com.

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