The hip turn during the down swing when following a full shoulder turn drives the club head forward with great speed.
This hip turn is essential to generate power. Without it any club head acceleration through impact is caused by thrashing at the ball with the hands and arms. This will not only reduce the potential amount of energy but also decrease accuracy on any eventual shot.
Presuming a player has a good back swing, which includes a full shoulder turn and coil between the upper and lower body, the first movement back towards the ball with the body should come from the hips. The left hip, for a right handed golfer, should begin to turn back towards the ball before continuing to rotate and 'clear the left side'. This allows the hands and arms to swing down and fire through the ball.
One way to think about the hip turn during the back swing is like a bicycle wheel. You can think of the hips as the centre of the wheel with the arms and hands acting as the spokes and the tire as the club. The hips being the centre of the wheel turn slowly, the spokes or arms, however, move faster and the wheel moves fastest of all. Now imagine a person turning the wheel which increases the power. The centre of the wheel will begin to move quicker but this speed is passed on and increased through the spokes and then the tire. It's exactly the same with the golf swing; the faster the hips move, the speed is increased and transferred through the arms to the club.
To practice turning the hips more quickly and to generate more speed you can use this drill.
- Using a driver, set up to the ball and strike it away using your normal swing.
- With a second ball, turn through the ball with greater hip speed. Note how much faster the swing felt and how much further the ball travels.
- Repeat the drill for a third time putting all the effort possible into the hip turn. Again note the increase in swing speed and distance.
- This drill is not for accuracy but for swing speed.
The best way to see if you can increase club head speed through hip turn is to use launch and swing speed monitors. Most modern golf shops, custom fit experts and coaches will have access to some form of swing speed technology. Using a monitor such as Flight Scope will give players a better understanding how turning the hips quicker will generate more club head speed and increase distances achievable throughout the bag and not just with the driver.
Fast Downswing - Hip Turn Generates More Head Speed
The downswing is when all of the action happens in the golf swing. Sure, the backswing is important in that it allows you to get everything positioned just right, but it is the downswing that sees the club accelerate into the back of the ball at (hopefully) high speed. If you aren't able to make a proper downswing motion, it won't matter what you do during the rest of the swing because you won't be able to hit good shots.
One of the key elements to a great downswing is hip turn. The best way to think about your hips is as the engine of the golf swing. The hips are really where the power comes from, so you want to engage them as much as possible while you are bringing the club down toward impact. Without an aggressive hip turn through the shot, your only source of power will be to swing your arms down at the ball – and that is a method that is not nearly as powerful as you might think. The best golfers in the world all use their hips effectively in the golf swing, and you should follow their lead. If you haven't used your hips correctly in the swing up until this point, you will be amazed at the kind of power that can be 'unlocked' once you learn the correct way to engage your lower body. You don't have to be big and strong to hit long golf shots – you simply need to know how and when to use each part of your body within the swing.
It is important to remember when aspiring to hit more powerful golf shots that it is only the downswing which needs to be fast. More specifically, it is only the bottom of your downswing that needs to be fast, as this is the point when you will actually hit the golf ball. It doesn't help to swing fast during your backswing, or even early in your downswing, as none of that energy is going to be transferred into the ball. It is only the moment of impact that matters, so focus your efforts on creating a swing that will have the club head moving quickly when it counts.
When working on your downswing hip turn, keep in mind that you don't want to swing so hard that you fall off balance or have trouble making solid contact with the ball. Yes, you want to hit the ball hard, but it is more important to make accurate and consistent swings. Power without control will do you absolutely no good on the golf course. Therefore, staying balanced should always be your top priority, as balance generally leads to control. As a general rule of thumb, you should swing as hard as you can while staying on balance, and no harder. If you notice that your hip turn is starting to pull you off balance during the swing, slow down a little bit until you find the right balance of control and speed.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
How to Move Your Hips in the Downswing
Moving your hips toward the target in the downswing just for the sake of moving them isn't going to get the job done. You need to know exactly how – and when – to move them in order to maximize the effect that your lower body has on the power of your golf swing. The 'when' part of the equation will be covered in the next section, but first you need to understand the 'how'. Using your hips properly will allow you to hit the ball harder than you ever thought possible, hopefully without sacrificing any of your control.
The first key to proper hip movement is to understand that you are looking for a rotational action, and not a slide. You do not want your hips sliding toward the target during the downswing, as a lower body slide will create all kinds of problems that you simply won't be able to fix before the club reaches the ball. Players who slide their hips toward the target generally drop the club below the proper swing plane, creating a shallow path into the ball. This can lead to fat shots, and it will also cost you club head speed as your hands and the club slow down before impact is reached.
To get the rotation that you are looking for, it is best to key on your left hip during the downswing. Rather than moving directly toward the target, the left hip should be pulling back away from the ball (while also moving slightly to the left). As your left hip opens up to the target, your right hip will naturally be rotated in closer to the ball – which is exactly the motion that you are looking to achieve.
If you are having trouble executing the proper hip motion, it might help to think about it this way – try to point your belt buckle at the target as quickly as possible once the downswing begins. It is always helpful to simply your swing mechanics in your mind, and making it a goal to point your belt buckle at the target is about as simple as it gets. By approaching it this way, your brain will have a clear objective once the downswing begins. As soon as the swing starts moving forward, your brain will tell your lower body to point your belt buckle at the target as quickly as possible and your legs and hips will get to work on making that happen.
Since the downswing happens so quickly, it is helpful to look at your finish position to evaluate the quality of your hip turn within the swing. When you finish your swing, you should be balanced on your left foot with your belt buckle pointing right at the target. If your belt buckle is pointing to the right of the target, you will know that you have under rotated in the downswing, and you probably wasted potential power. Make it a habit to take note of your finish position after every shot on the driving range until you are confident that you have mastered the correct hip turn.
Firing Your Hips at the Perfect Moment
Timing is everything in golf. Making the right moves in your swing is one thing, but making them at precisely the right time is something completely different. Only golfers who are able to time their swings just right will be able to produce quality shots time and time again. If your timing is off by even a fraction of a second, you could send the ball in the complete wrong direction. The challenge of maintaining great timing throughout a full round of golf is a large part of what makes the game so difficult.
So when should you fire your hips in the downswing? How do you know when just the right moment has arrived to turn your hips open to the target and accelerate the club down toward the ball? Fortunately, the timing of this aspect of the swing is relatively simple - your hips should fire immediately when the club arrives at the top of the swing.
This is a point that most amateur golfers get completely wrong. Instead of starting with their hips, many average players lead with their hands or even their shoulders, putting the rest of the swing out of sequence and leading to weak contact. In order to create power, you need to have the club come down into the ball only after your whole body has turned through the shot. That means leading with your hips while allowing your torso, shoulders, and arms to follow along. Finally, when your body has cleared the hitting area, it will be time for the club to speed down into impact and launch the ball up into the air.
While you are hitting balls on the driving range, focus your attention on the transition between your backswing and your downswing. This is really where timing comes into play, and getting the sequence of the swing right at this key point will allow you to unlock your power potential. As the club is coming to a stop at the end of the backswing, your left hip should be jumping into action and turning toward the target. In fact, you can even start your left hip moving slightly before the backswing has completed – many pros do this, and it accounts for the smooth and effortless appearance in their swings.
The most important point is that nothing should move toward the target prior to your hips going in motion. It is essential that your hip turn leads the way in the downswing, because the rest of your mechanics will play off of that one single move. If your hips are slow to get started, the rest of the swing won't have a chance to recover. You may hit the ball relatively straight from time to time, but you will never have the power you desire without letting your hip turn take charge right from the top.
Work on Hip Turn Throughout the Bag
Since hip turn in the downswing is something that is usually associated with power, many golfers think they only need to be worried about it with the driver and other long clubs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your hip turn through the downswing is just as important with your wedges as it is with your driver. It is important to build speed with all of your clubs, whether you are trying to launch a 300-yard drive or hit a spinning wedge in from 100 yards out. Acceleration and speed are always required in the golf swing, and hip turn is the best way to get them both.
While many players think of the driver as the hardest club in the bag to hit properly, plenty of golfers actually have more trouble with the short clubs because of the timing issue they present. Your driver swing is long and flowing, so it is easy to get into a rhythm and start your hips at just the right time during the transition. Given a little bit of instruction and some time to practice, most people can learn the timing of the hip turn while hitting a driver.
Learning that same timing with a wedge can be more difficult. Wedge swings are short and compact, and they take only a brief period of time to complete. Since the swing is shorter, you will have to be ready to get your hips in motion quicker than you would when hitting a driver. The top of the backswing comes fast with a wedge in your hands, so it is easy to fall behind if the transition arrives and your hips aren't ready to turn. Do you find that you miss your wedges to the left on a regular basis? If so, you aren't alone. Pulling wedges to the left is a common mistake, and it is caused by a late hip turn in the downswing. Be ready to start your lower body in motion as soon as the backswing is completed – no matter what club you are holding – if you want to hit the ball on line.
If you are struggling with the timing of your hip turn while hitting shorter clubs, consider using the tips below to get on the right track.
- Use a slower takeaway. To avoid that rushed feeling that usually leads to your lower body falling behind in the swing sequence, try slowing down your takeaway. By making a slow and steady takeaway at the start of your swing, you will give your mind a chance to think clearly about what it needs to tell the body to do. If you rush through the takeaway, you can have the club up to the top before your brain really knows what happened. Slow things down within the first foot or so of the swing and your hips will stand a much better chance of staying on time.
- Take more club and swing softer. It is usually the wedge shots that you try to hit at 100% effort that cause problems. During your next round, consider using one extra club on all of your short-range approach shots. For example, if you have 110 yards to the green, and you would usually hit a pitching wedge from that distance, try hitting a nine iron instead. Knowing you have too much club in your hands, you will be forced to slow everything down and swing smoothly. By slowing down, your backswing and transition won't be rushed, and your hips should be able to keep up.
- Count out loud. This is only something that you should do on the driving range, and even at that you should only do it when there aren't other golfers practice near you (it would be poor etiquette to distract them from their practice). However, if you do get an opportunity when you are practicing on a mostly empty driving range, try counting your tempo out loud as a way to find your rhythm. You should count 'one' when you start the swing, 'two' when you reach halfway back', 'three' at the top of your swing, and 'four' at impact. Try to keep your counting even and maintain a smooth tempo throughout the swing. Simply counting off the numbers one through four while you swing your wedge will hopefully be enough to restore a good rhythm in your golf swing.
It is crucial that you use your hips in the proper way during the downswing, no matter what club you happen to be hitting. Sure, you want to maximize your speed with the driver in order to hit the ball long distances, but speed with your wedges is just as important. When you can accelerate your wedge through the hitting area, you will impart a high spin rate which will help the ball to climb high and stop quick. If your timing with the wedges gets a little bit off track, use the instruction above to bring everything together nicely in the downswing.
The Role of Fitness
Golf takes players of all shapes and sizes. Unlike some other sports such as football or basketball, you don't need to be a certain size or run a certain speed in order to play great golf. There are players on the PGA Tour who are tall and strong, but there are also short players, and every body type in between. As long as you learn the fundamentals of the swing and have the mental fortitude to get the ball in the hole, you can play golf at a high level.
With that said, there are certain physical traits that will help when it comes to making a good golf swing. As it relates to hip turn, you can take some steps in terms of your fitness to make your turn more dynamic and aggressive. Since the speed of your hip turn is directly correlated to the speed of your swing, you would be wise to do what you can to make your hips as quick as possible.
Following are some areas of your personal fitness that could help your hip turn if improved. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before taking on any kind of new exercise regimen.
- Whole body flexibility. This is easily the most important area of fitness for golf as a whole, and specifically for your hip turn. You don't need to be muscle bound to hit powerful shots (in fact, muscle mass can hinder the golf swing), but you do need to be flexible. The golf swing requires aggressive rotation of your entire body, and that rotation is only possible when your muscles have the necessary flexibility to move back and through the shot. By improving the flexibility in your upper legs and lower back, you should be able to turn better with your hips in the downswing.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Your weight is generally tied to your flexibility, so this point is certainly connected to the first one. If you are overweight, it will be harder to turn your hips quickly through the hitting area because of the additional weight around your midsection. Golfers who maintain a healthy weight will almost always be able to turn faster through the swing than golfers who are carrying a few extra pounds.
- Lower body strength. One of the best things you can do for your golf swing is provide it with a stable base. By adding strength to your legs, you will stabilize your swing and make it easier to turn through the ball aggressively without losing balance. You don't need to be built like a bodybuilder to swing hard, but even just adding a little bit of strength to your upper and lower legs will go a long way toward promoting a fast and powerful downswing.
Improving your level of physical fitness can have a number of benefits for your golf game, from adding speed to your hip turn to giving you more energy as you make your way around the course. It isn't necessary to be an Olympic-level athlete to play quality golf, but even a small improvement in your overall fitness can do wonders for your swing and your scores.
Making a fast downswing with the help of a great hip turn should add power to your golf swing, and distance to your shots. Hitting the ball with authority will not only benefit you in terms of getting the ball further down the fairway, but it will also increase your spin rate and improve your ability to play shots from poor lies. Put some of the advice contained above to work in your golf swing and you should be striking the ball better than ever after just a few practice sessions.