For any golfers wishing to improve their down swing, it's essential to complete a successful hip turn through the ball.
To complete a successful hip turn it's important to understand the axis and direction in which they rotate both back and through the ball.
This description of the hip turn assumes the golfers is right handed but also of good health, flexibility and has a sound posture, with the spine angle tilted over from the hips with the hips not tucked under the body at address.
The club is taken away from the ball using the hands, arms, shoulders, torso and hips in that order. As the hips are the last thing to move during the back swing they turn a relatively small amount. But during the small hip turn during the back swing, the left hip turns around and down and the right hip turns around and up slightly. This is because the hips are on the same slightly tilted axis as the spine. If the spine was bolt upright, vertical to the ground, the hips would turn back and through without tilting up and around but because the spine and pelvis are tilted, the hips turn around this slight axis.
During the down swing, this tilt and turn is repeated. The hips rotate toward the target, turning through the same position they were at address with both hips level. As the hips continue to turn towards the target, the left hip rises upwards and the right hip goes slightly downward. This is a result of the pelvic tilt seen if the player can maintain their posture thoughout the swing.
After impact, when the golfer raises up out of the posture to face the target, the hips level out as the spine and pelvis align.
This movement up of the left hip during the down swing has a number of different effects. Firstly, it helps the swing arc stay correct for the particular club being used, not allowing it to become too steep and hitting down on to the ball. It also causes the left leg to straighten at impact.
During the down swing, the left hip will move up slightly and should feel like the first thing to move as it rotates towards the target. Practice these movements and a more consistent down swing motion with the hips should be achievable.
Does the Left Hip Move Upwards in the Downswing?
There is a lot going on in the downswing phase of your golf swing – and it all happens very quickly. Most golfers are able to get from the top of the swing down to impact in just a fraction of a second, meaning you don't really have any time to think about what is happening. Your job is to prepare your body and the club for the downswing during the backswing and transition, and then simply hold on as the club rips through the hitting area.
Once the downswing is started in motion, there is too much momentum moving toward the target to do anything but continue on into the follow through and hope for the best. Good golfers feel confident during the downswing, knowing that they have done everything right earlier in the swing to prepare for a clean strike. Poor golfers, on the other hand, lack confidence and often try to 'steer' the club through the hitting area. You don't want to fall into that category – work hard on your swing technique in the backswing and transition so that your downswing can take care of itself.
Among the many important parts of the downswing is the action of your left hip (for a right handed golfer). As you move through the ball, your lower body should be playing an important role in the swing, and your hip in particular should be rotating hard toward the target. But how should that hip be moving? Should it be simply turning to the left, or should it be coming up away from the ground at the same time? This is a question that many golfers do not have an answer to, but it is important that you understand exactly how this part of your body should function in the downswing.
As mentioned above, you shouldn't be actively trying to do anything during yoru downswing, because all of the work that needs to be done should have been completed by the time you finish the transition. The downswing should be an 'auto-pilot' move – the completion what your backswing and transition have positioned you to do with the club. Therefore, when working on how your left hip works in the downswing, you really need to be working on the backswing and transition pieces of the puzzle. If your hip is positioned correctly at the top of the swing, and if it starts toward the target correctly as well, you will be on your way toward solid ball striking and plenty of power.
Before getting too far into the details regarding this part of the golf swing, one point that should be highlight is the importance of video in the game of golf. Since the swing happens so quickly, and since you don't have a very good view of your swing as you are making it, using video is a powerful way to get better. Consider having a friend video your swing on the driving range from time to time so you can watch it back and spot areas that need improvement. Whether it relates to your downswing or any other part of your technique, your game will stand to be dramatically improved by the use of video.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Left Hip in the Backswing
Where most golfers are focused on the downswing phase of their motion because they believe that is where the action happens, accomplished players including most professionals actually spend far more time working on the backswing. If you get the backswing right, there isn't really much that can go wrong in the downswing. Get the backswing wrong, however, and you will stand very little chance at producing a good shot. The swing happens too fast to consistently 'save' your technique after it goes wrong, so taking the time to get the backswing right is a step that every golfer should take seriously.
During your backswing, the left hip should do basically nothing at all. While that sounds simple and straightforward, it can be harder than you might think to convince your hip to do nothing. Your lower body is going to want to get involved in the swing right from the start, and it is up to you to resist that temptation. The lower body has a crucial role to play in the swing, but that role doesn't get started until later in the proceedings.
So is it as simple as just keeping your left hip totally still while you turn the club back away from the target? Not exactly. There is going to be a little movement in the position of your left hip, but it should be subtle, and it definitely shouldn't be forced. You want to keep your entire lower body quiet during the backswing and only allow it to move in response to the pulling of your shoulders as they rotate to the right. In other words, it is okay to let your lower body move as necessary to facilitate a big shoulder turn, but your legs and hips shouldn't be actively moving on their own in the backswing. Setting yourself up for a powerful swing has everything to do with turning your shoulders away from the ball while your legs provide a balanced and stable platform. Only when the backswing is completed will your legs actively get involved in moving the club back down toward the ball.
When you arrive at the top of the backswing, your hips should be relatively level and you should not have come up out of your stance at all. You need to have maintained the flex in your knees, and your back should remain tilted out over the ball – just as it was at address. This stability will put your left hip in a great position to start toward the target once the transition phase of your swing gets going. Many amateur golfers over rotate the left hip away from the target in the backswing, which causes them to lose balance and creates a sliding motion in the downswing – which is never a good thing. If you find that your left hip is pointing at the ball when you finish your backswing, you will know that you have released your hips too much and your downswing will likely encounter plenty of problems.
All in all, you really shouldn't be thinking about your left hip while you make your backswing. A good backswing will involve only a turning of your shoulders while the rest of your body stays out of the way. As long as you are able to make your backswing all about creating a great shoulder turn, you should find that your left hip is exactly where you need it to be when you get to the top.
The All-Important Transition
When the backswing turns into the downswing is really when the 'magic' happens in the golf swing. It is at this point when you set in motion the swing that is going to determine how well you hit the ball at the moment of impact. The transition happens quickly, so you need to be extremely focused on the move that you are trying to make to get everything started. You only get one chance (per swing) to get this right, so there is no room for confusion or margin for error – nail the transition time after time and you are sure to become a quality ball striker.
As the transition begins, everything should be focused on your left hip, as this needs to be the first part of the body to start moving toward the target. Your left hip should quickly begin to open up to the target line, moving back away from the ball as your legs begin to fire and create the speed that will eventually move the club through impact. It is important to note that your arms should not be coming forward just yet – the transition needs to come from the lower body up into your arms and hands, not the other way around. Nearly every accomplished golfer swings the club by starting the forward swing with the left hip opening to the target, and you should do the same.
So does that mean the left hip is moving upwards? No, this motion should be lateral in nature, while your hips stay relatively level to the ground. It is possible that your left hip may move up slightly as you get down toward impact, but the majority of the movement within your swing should involve that hip turning open to the target. Any time that you spend moving your hip upward is time that is not spend turning to the left, meaning you will be losing power as you go by coming up off of the ground. Also, as you raise the level of your hip, you will be making it harder to achieve solid contact at the bottom of your swing. Keep your hip level as it turns and use that rotation to develop as much power as possible at the beginning of your downswing.
It is crucial that you start the hip turning left during the transition because there won't be time to make this move later in the downswing. If you were to start your downswing by pulling your hands down toward the ball, only to later start your hip rotation, everything would be out of sync and the swing would be a failure. The left hip absolutely has to go first, as all of the power and accuracy of your swing is tied to getting the sequencing of the downswing correct. Start that turn with the hips and you will be ready to unload when you get down to impact.
Since we have already established the fact that your downswing occurs too quickly to actually make any changes on the fly, getting your hip moving in the right direction during the transition is essentially your last chance to affect the outcome of your shot. By turning your hip on a level plane toward the target, your arms will be able to catch a ride down toward impact, and you should be able to strike the ball powerfully time after time. Start down with anything else, such as your arms and hands, and weak contact is the inevitable outcome.
On the driving range, work on how you turn your backswing into a downswing by repeating the transition over and over again without even hitting any shots. Swing up to the top and start your downswing with your left hip turning left – and don't bother finishing the rest of the swing. Work on this simple motion as many times as you would like until you are comfortable with the idea of starting your downswing with a hip turn. You should feel like you are holding your hands back at the top of the swing, and there should actually be a little bit of a 'pause' in the movement of the club. Take the club up to the top using your shoulders, pause briefly while your hips get going, and then swing down aggressively. It sounds so simple when put into those terms, and it can actually be simple if executed properly. Don't move your hip up, or in any other direction that isn't going to help you build speed in your swing. Use rotation to power the club and you will quickly find extra yards on the end of your shots.
Getting into Impact
As you have hopefully learned from the content above, the role of your left hip in the downswing is actually very simple and straightforward. It should move to the left on a level plane, and it should be the driving force behind the power of your golf swing. Every good golfer understands how to use their lower body in a way that will promote both speed and power, and you should work toward that same understanding if you wish to take your game to a new level.
There is one important point that needs to be made in reference to the average amateur golfer when it comes to the impact position. As the club swings down, everything should be basically on auto-pilot (as mentioned above). Unfortunately, some golfers like to try and interfere with their swings at the very last moment – and the results are predictably disappointing. There is nothing you can do that will affect your shots positively once you are well into the downswing, so you are better off staying confidence and hitting all the way through the ball.
When it comes to getting in the way of their own swing, the one mistake that stands above the rest for the average golfer is coming up onto the left toes just slightly before impact. In an effort to gain even more speed, some golfers will stand up onto the toe of their left shoe just at the last moment before impact is made with the ball. Obviously, this is not a move that you should be making, as it comes along with a variety of different problems. The issues with this move are as follows –
- Loss of speed. This point was mentioned briefly above, but it should be highlighted here as well for clarity. If you are moving your hip in an upward direction as you approach impact, you are taking away from some of its ability to rotate toward the target. You can't move in two different directions at the same time, so upward motion has to come at the expense of lateral motion. By keeping your foot on the ground and your hip at the same level where it started the downswing (more or less), you will enable your lower body to provide the club with as much power as possible.
- Uneven downswing level. Trying to strike the ball cleanly is a challenge that some golfers never manage to tackle. One of the key elements to playing good golf is simply being able to make a clean strike at impact time and time again, and moving up and down in your downswing will make that dramatically more difficult. By staying level, your body will have a far easier time returning the club to the ball just as it was at address. Even a slight move up with your left foot and hip will raise the level of the left side of your body, meaning your upper body will have to 'dive' down into impact in order to catch the ball cleanly. It is possible to hit the ball solid with this technique? Sure – but you are unlikely to repeat that success on a regular basis.
- Upward strike. When playing iron shots, you should always be trying to move the club down through the ball at impact. That downward impact is going to get a lot more difficult to achieve if you come up onto your left toe – and you might even wind up with an upward strike as a result. Staying down on your left heel throughout the swing will enable you to hit down aggressively, meaning you can produce backspin and a ball flight that soars high into the air before coming softly back down to the ground.
The move up onto your left toes is something of a panic maneuver at the very last instant prior to impact. The best way to counteract that temptation is with confidence and belief in your swing. Trust that you are using your hip properly in the downswing and don't resort to extra movements in order to add anything to your swing. A simple, basic golf swing is more than enough to hit great shots, so keep your left heel down and turn that left hip on a level plane all the way through the hitting area.
Swinging Too Hard
At the root cause of many swing problems in the game of golf is swinging too hard. Everyone wants to hit the ball as far as possible, so they reach back for as much power as they can muster – even if that means losing track of the basic fundamentals of the swing. Does this sound like you? If it does, one of the best things that you could do for your game is simply adjust your attitude toward distance. Having power from the tee and from the fairway should be looked at as a nice bonus, not an essential requirement. First and foremost, you should be worried about your ability to control the ball and move it around the course without encountering any major hazards.
When you swing too hard, you are prone to lose the level of your lower body – meaning your hip may come up at some point during the downswing. Instead of going all out trying to smash the ball, work on balance, rhythm, and timing in your swing. Not only will these fundamentals make you a better ball striker, you might also be surprised to learn that they can help you hit the ball farther as well. More effort doesn't always equal more distance, so keeping yourself under control may be exactly what you need in order to add yards.
There is no reward at the end of a golf tournament for swinging as hard as you can – there is only a trophy for the player who took the fewest amount of shots to get from the tee into the hole. Power is overrated in terms of its impact on the scorecard, as players with a wide range of distance capabilities can succeed at any level of golf. Let go of the obsession with distance, stop swinging so hard, and your fundamentals will improve all the way around.
Your left hip should stay level in the golf swing, and you should try to avoid any excessive upward movement as you swing down toward the ball. Instead of focusing on the downswing itself, work on putting the club and your body in better positions during the backswing and transition in order to set up a smooth and powerful downswing action.