It sounds obvious because it is. Many golfers have a hard time knowing exactly when to stop turning away from the ball, so they just keep going until they can't anymore. This causes them to lose control of the clubhead, and they fail to create power-producing coil/tension between the upper and lower body.
Think of the end of your backswing as the start of the downswing, and strive to make this happen a little sooner. Here's a drill that will help:
Proceed to longer clubs as you get more comfortable with the shorter action.
Start Downswing Before Finishing Backswing?
Timing is everything in the golf swing. Okay - so it might not quite be 'everything', as there are a number of other important elements to playing good golf, but it remains incredibly important. Without good timing in your swing, you will simply never reach the level of consistency required to play good golf. The best players in the world all swing the club with a beautiful rhythm and tempo, and you should be striving to follow their lead. Not only will good timing help you hit solid shots on the range, but it will help you be more effective out on the course under pressure as well. Any way you look at it, improving your timing should be one of your main priorities when seeking to elevate your play.
One of the key ingredients to good timing is mastering the way the backswing turns into the downswing. This part of your technique is known as the transition, and it is where many amateur golfers go wrong. At some point, the club has to reverse course in the swing, switching from moving back away from the ball to moving back down toward it. How you make that switch is going to say a lot about the kinds of shots you are able to hit, and the consistency with which you are able to hit them. A good transition from backswing to downswing can lead to a powerful strike, while getting the transition wrong can easily lead to weak contact, a slice, and more.
As you will learn in the content below, there should actually be some overlap between your backswing and the downswing. So, to answer the question from the title of this article, yes - you should be starting your downswing before you finish the backswing. More specifically, your lower body should be starting the action of making a downswing while your upper body is still turning away from the target. If you can mesh these two moves together properly, you will be left with a powerful transition that consistently puts the club in the proper slot for an accurate downswing.
Have you ever wondered how the golfers you watch on TV can make their swings look so easy while still hitting the ball 300 yards or more? It has a lot to do with using this kind of transition. Starting the downswing before the backswing is finished will give your swing a smooth and effortless look, even when you are hitting a shot with maximum power. It isn't necessarily easy to learn how to time your swing in this way, but committing yourself to this important piece of technique is essential to your development as a player.
All of the instruction below has been written from the perspective of a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Crucial Parts
Before we get into the specifics of how you are going to time everything together just right, we should 'introduce' the key players that are going to have an effect on the transition phase of your swing. Several different parts of your body need to work together as you switch from backswing to downswing, and having even just one of these parts out of place is going to lead to trouble.
To gain a better understanding of everything that needs to go into the transition of your swing, review the following list.
- Shoulder rotation back. This is the foundation of everything that is going to come later in your swing. The backswing should be driven by a powerful shoulder rotation, one that positions your left shoulder at least over the golf ball (if not behind it) at the top. Finding a way to create this kind of quality shoulder rotation in your backswing should be one of your main priorities during practice sessions, as the shoulder turn is really the engine of the swing. Only golfers who are able to make a complete shoulder turn will be able to reach their distance potential when the time comes to actually strike the ball.
- Lower body rotation forward. This is in many ways the 'opposite' of your shoulder rotation. While it is the shoulders that control the backswing phase of the swing, it should be the lower body (hips and legs) that leads the way down into impact. Many amateur golfers struggle on this point, and some never do manage to figure out how to get the lower body involved properly. Those that do, however, are rewarded with powerful shots that travel a great distance while holding their line nicely. It is the left hip that you should focus on during the transition of the swing, as that is the part of the body that is most likely to get your lower body rotation off to a great start. Once the lower body is started toward the target, the downswing is underway and you will only have to swing through with confidence in order to produce a nice shot.
- Quiet arms. Of everything that has to go into a good golf swing, this is probably the single point that is most difficult to amateur players to understand or execute. Since it is your hands that are holding onto the grip of the club, and your arms control the movement of those hands, it seems obvious that your arm swing should dictate how the club moves throughout the shot. However, that really should not be the case. Rather than moving the club intentionally with your arms, you should be moving it mostly with your body rotation, while the arms stay quiet and just 'go along for the ride'. Sure, it will feel like you are moving your arms on purpose, but really they will only be responding to what the rest of the body is telling them to do. This is an especially important point at the top, during the transition of the swing. You need to keep your arms as quiet as possible during the transition, allowing the lower body to take the lead in getting the downswing started.
The three points listed above are the three main moving parts that are going to be involved in the transition from backswing to downswing. Sure, there are other parts of your body that are going to play supporting roles, but these are the three main players. If you can make sure to have all three of these parts of your body doing their jobs properly, it should be relatively easy to bring the timing together with just a bit of practice.
Stitching It Together
Now that you have a picture of everything that needs to happen in order to make a solid transition, it is time to talk about timing. How do these parts fit together? What should a quality transition look like when it is actually used to a hit a golf shot? The answers to these questions are actually relatively simple and straightforward, but you need to understand them perfectly in order to have success.
The following is a step-by-step progression of exactly how the transition should take place. If you can teach yourself to work through the top of the swing in this order time after time, good golf shots should be sure to follow.
- As the club approaches the top of the swing, there shouldn't be much happening throughout your body except for with your shoulders. You want to be making a powerful shoulder turn at this point, with your left shoulder passing under your chin on its way back. Your head should be still during the backswing, and your lower body should be mostly still as well. In many ways, the backswing should be as 'boring' as possible while you work on getting the club up to the top. With a shoulder rotation and not much else, you can position yourself nicely for a powerful downswing.
- When the club has nearly reached the end of its backswing journey, you can begin the process of turning your lower body toward the target. This is a tricky point to teach because you can't be simply instructed on exactly when to start the lower body turn - that timing is something you have to develop by feel during your practice sessions. The only thing you can be told for sure is that the lower body move needs to start before the backswing is finished. When the lower body does get started, you should feel like your body is moving in two different directions at the same time for just a split second. Your upper body should be finishing its turn to the right, and your lower body should be starting its turn to the left. By bringing together these two moves simultaneously, you will be creating a powerful transition that allows you to create and carry plenty of speed down toward the ball.
- During this 'crossover' moment when your upper and lower body are moving in different directions, the club and your arms should be hanging at the top waiting to be pulled into position. This is an important concept, and one that is not understood by many players. The start of your downswing with the club should not be a conscious effort to swing the club down with your arms - rather, it should be a natural response to what is happening with your lower body. As your lower body turns toward the target, your arms should feel like they are being pulled down into position. It is extremely important that you execute your swing in this manner. Forcing your arms to swing down prematurely is going to cause a number of problems in the swing, including a lack of power and a likely slice. You have to be patient at the top of the swing while allowing your lower body to get the head start it needs to pull everything else into position.
- Now that you have gotten the downswing started successfully, the only thing left to do is continue turning to the left all the way through impact and beyond. While that might sound easy enough, you may be surprised to know just how many golfers go wrong at this point. Whether due to a lack of confidence or just a misunderstanding of how the swing needs to work on the way down, many golfers give up on their lower body rotation shortly after it begins - and the results speak for themselves. As soon as you start down, switch your focus to moving the club aggressively all the way to a full finish on your left side. If you can swing through fully time after time, there is a good chance that you will hit plenty of solid shots along the way.
As you can see, the transition of the swing really isn't all that complicated, however it can be difficult to execute correctly. When you are able to start your lower body turn to the left before the upper body is finished turning right, you will be well on your way to quality ball striking.
Unfortunately, things probably aren't going to be as easy as you would like when you first get to work on this key part of your golf swing technique. Golf is a hard game, and timing up the transition of your swing successfully is something that is going to take some practice and repetition. If you are going to see it through to a successful conclusion, patience and commitment are going to be crucial. Don't give up after just a few poor shots - stick with the process and you will be rewarded in the end.
In this section, we are going to look at some troubleshooting tips for problems that will likely be encountered at some point along the way. If any of the problems below are currently present in your swing, use the provided instruction to get back on track.
- Slice. This is the big one, as countless golfers struggle with the slice each time they head to the course. If you count yourself among the many golfers who can't quite seem to get rid of the slice, you are likely using your arms too actively in the transition. When the arms take over during the transition from backswing to downswing, the club is forced up and away from the body - meaning it will have to come back across the ball at impact in order to even make contact with the shot. To alleviate this problem, work on slowing down your arms at the top while giving your lower body a chance to get out in front. It seems counterintuitive to slow down your arms when trying to keep the ball from going right, but that is exactly what you need to do. On the range, work on slowing down your arms at the top while getting your lower body moving quickly to the left and you should find that your slice gradually disappears.
- Hitting the ball fat. Many players, when first getting started with this kind of transition, will find that they are hitting the ball fat more times than not. When that happens to you, it is likely the result of giving up on your lower body turn before it is completed. On the way down, you need to keep your hips (and the rest of your lower body) turning left aggressively through the shot. Should you happen to give up on this move part way through the downswing, you won't be able to 'reach' the ball at impact and you will hit the turf before the ball. Obviously, you want to avoid this outcome, so you need to convince yourself to keep moving throughout the downswing. Even if you aren't feeling particularly confident in your swing, now is no time to be tentative or passive with your swinging action. Give it everything you have in the downswing and hope for a positive outcome.
- Losing your balance. As you should already know, balance is incredibly important in the golf swing. Without good balance, it will be nearly impossible to strike clean shots, and it will be impossible to play well day after day, year after year. Balance is what can make you consistent and reliable on the course, so never compromise your balance in order to add something else to your swing. That is certainly true in this case, as you don't want the moves you make in the transition to knock you off of your center of gravity. Should you find that you are losing your balance in the downswing, work on rotating rather than sliding toward the target. It is usually a slide that will cost you balance on the way down, so don't allow your weight to get outside of your left foot as you swing toward the target.
While there are more potential problems that you can encounter than just the three listed above, those are the main points with which you need to be concerned. If any of those problems are giving you trouble at the moment, work through the advice included above during your next practice session to hopefully get yourself moving in the right direction once again.
Dealing with Pressure
Once you take this new and improved golf swing back out onto the golf course, you will likely notice one thing right away - pressure has a way of doing bad things to your transition. When you start to get a bit nervous on the course, it is your transition that will likely come apart first. Why is that? Simple - the transition is all about timing, and it is hard to stay within your normal rhythm to keep your timing when you are nervous. Of course, if you want to play good golf even while you are under pressure, you are going to need to find a way to get over this hurdle.
The best way to overcome pressure while still making your 'usual' swing with good timing is to focus on your pre-shot routine. Using a consistent, comfortable pre-shot routine will help you to remain in tempo without having the pressure force you to rush. You are always going to be inclined to rush through your swing when you feel nervous, so the main challenge here is to simply calm down and execute your swing. By sticking with your routine, and making a smooth practice swing to settle your nerves, you should be able to hit solid shots even when the heat is on.
One other important tip that you can use to keep your rhythm under pressure is to always stay within your abilities when picking a target and club. Since you are already feeling stressed about the shot at hand, you don't want to add to the pressure by forcing yourself to hit a shot that you aren't comfortable with. Instead, make sure you have plenty of club in hand and pick a target line that provides you with some margin for error. By taking the easiest possible path to the target, you will be able to calm down your mind knowing that you can make a slight mistake and still wind up with a good shot. Forcing yourself to be perfect while under pressure is a recipe for disaster, so stay away from that scenario if at all possible.
Starting your downswing before the backswing has finished is a crucial piece of the golf swing puzzle, but it has to be done correctly if it is going to be effective. Use the content contained above to work on the all-important transition phase of your golf swing, and you should be able to look forward to powerful, accurate shots in your near future. With the transition sorted out and in great shape, you can move on to working on other parts of your swing until you reach a point where you have a reliable, consistent action each time you take to the course.