The hands and arms may swing the golf club, but the feet, hips and legs form the foundation. Without fluid, properly timed lower body action, it's all but impossible to groove a consistent and powerful swing.
How do you know if your lower body is working as it should? Your weight transfer during the swing holds the clues. Basically speaking, the right-handed golfer should feel weight evenly balanced across both feet at address, then shift a majority of weight to the right foot on the backswing, and finish with most of his weight on the left foot.
Let's take a more detailed look at the correct weight shift sequence:
- Address: Equal weight on both feet, balanced between heels and balls of the feet.
- Takeaway: During the initial 12” of the swing, weight should begin shifting onto the right instep.
- To the top: Continuing the backswing, additional weight should transfer to the right foot. The right knee remains flexed as the hips rotate.
- Top of the backswing: Approximately 60-70% of your weight should now be on the center of the right foot. The right instep should remain planted; if the knee bows outward and the instep lifts, weight has gone to the outside of your foot.
- Starting down: Pressing the left heel into the ground begins the downswing sequence and pulls weight from the right side to the left.
- Downswing toward impact: As the hips rotate left and toward the target, additional weight piles onto the center of the left foot.
- At impact: Weight is once again evenly distributed, left foot to right, or perhaps slightly favoring the left. The right heel may be just off the ground as the hips continue turning.
- Follow-through: A majority of weight has now shifted to the left foot as the right heel lifts farther.
- Finish: Only a small percentage of your weight is now on the right foot; the heel is completely off the ground. You are balanced on the middle of the left foot.
Learning and maintaining a proper weight transfer sounds simple, but it gives many golfers fits. Among amateurs, one of the most common swing mistakes is the reverse pivot, while many players struggle to move the lower body sufficiently to generate power.
Watch this video tip to better understand and develop a fundamentally sound weight shift: Proper Weight Shift on the Takeaway and Downswing
Weight Transfer from Start to Finish in the Golf Swing
Controlling the movement of your weight during the golf swing is one of the most important jobs you have as a golfer. If you can properly manage your weight transfer from start to finish in your swing, you will find that striking the ball solidly becomes an easier task. The golfers who struggle with consistency are usually those who don't move their weight correctly during the swing. It is easy to focus your attention on managing the movement of your arms and hands during the swing, but it is really the motion of your body that will determine the quality of your shots.
Finding consistency should be the goal of every golfer, as being able to repeat your shots is the only path to success on the course. You don't even have to hit great looking shots to play good golf, as long as they are consistent. If you can accurately predict the direction and distance of your shots on a regular basis, you will become a difficult golfer to beat. Too many players become obsessed with creating picture perfect swings and ball flights, when all that matters is getting the ball as close to the hole as possible. By mastering the weight shift portion of your swing, the shots you hit will become much more predictable – and your scores will drop almost immediately.
The fundamentals of a proper weight transfer in the golf swing aren't really up for debate. While there is plenty of room for individuality in golf, a correct weight transfer is going to pretty much look the same from player to player. If you watch a group of professionals warming up the driving range, for example, you will notice that the weight transfer motion is almost identical across the board. Even if they use different mechanics within their swings to deliver the club to the ball, the weight transfer tends to be the same among all of the top players. You should follow their lead and try to develop your weight transfer from start to finish in the same fashion.
Working on your weight transfer is a process that is going to require some patience and commitment. If you have been playing golf for a long period of time, the weight transfer you use currently in your swing is going to be a hard habit to break. It is certainly possible, but don't expect it to change overnight. It will require plenty of work on the driving range before you can consistently use your new and improved weight transfer out on the course.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Three Common Weight Transfer Sins
No matter what kind of mistakes you make in your golf swing, it is safe to assume that you are not alone. Among the millions of golfers who play the game all around the world, there are certainly at least a few other players with your exact same problems. In fact, most of the swing mistakes made by amateur golfers can be lumped in to a few basic categories.
When it comes to the weight transfer, there are there common mistakes that cover the swings of the majority of amateur golfers. If you are having trouble with your weight transfer, chances are it is because of one of the following faults.
- Weight moving left during the takeaway. Many golf teachers will refer to this mistake as a 'reverse pivot', and it is one of the most damaging things that you can do to your golf swing. As the club starts to move away from the ball during the takeaway, your weight will begin to shift to the left. There are a couple of problems that arise when you allow this to happen. First, you will be putting yourself off-balance almost immediately after the swing begins. In order to strike the ball solidly, you will need to regain your balance at some point during the swinging motion. Also, you will be limiting the amount of turn you can get from your shoulders when you lean left during the takeaway. Balance is crucial in golf because it allows you to both improve your quality of contact and also maximize your power. If you allow a reverse pivot motion to work into your game, you will be harming yourself on both of those fronts.
- Getting stuck on the right leg. An ideal backswing will have your weight remain balanced perfectly in the middle of your stance. Even if you accomplish that goal, however, it is still possible to ruin your weight transfer by getting stuck on your back leg during the downswing. Once you transition from backswing to downswing, your weight should begin moving toward the target as you rotate your lower body aggressively. However, many golfers have a habit of leaning back onto their right leg as they start the downswing. This is often in an attempt to 'help' the ball up off the ground. As you might suspect, this causes many problems within your swing. Most golfers who suffer from a consistent slice fall into this category, as do players who routinely hit the ball too high and short of their target. Striking powerful shots requires your weight to move toward the target in the downswing, and that won' happen if you get stuck on your right leg.
- Starting off balance. Getting the weight transfer right in your swing is challenging enough when you start from a good address position – so it is basically impossible when you don't address the ball correctly. Starting your swing from a balanced, athletic position might be the single most important thing that you can do on the golf course. Building a good stance, and using it shot after shot, will go a long way toward helping you strike the ball cleanly with all of your clubs. Specifically, your weight transfer will be far easier to execute properly when you begin the swing from a balanced stance. Your weight should be evenly distributed between your feet, and you shouldn't be leaning forward onto your toes or back onto your heels. Spend as much practice time as you need in order to master this balanced stance before you work on more advanced weight transfer techniques.
As you read the points above, be honest in your self-assessment when determining if any of these faults apply to your game. Don't worry if you are currently making one or more of these mistakes, because you should be able to make the necessary corrections in order to get your swing on track. In fact, the biggest challenge is often simply identifying the problem. Once you are clear on what it is that you are doing wrong, it will be time to tackle that swing fault and get it fixed once and for all.
Two Key Positions
While the weight transfer is a dynamic motion, it is often helpful to think about it as a couple of static positions that you need to reach. If you are able to find the two positions below during each and every swing that you make, you can be confident that the motion which connects these two positions will be right on track.
The first key position for your weight transfer is a balanced stance at the top of your backswing. When the club reaches the top of the backswing and begins to change direction, you should be perfectly balanced with your weight evenly distributed between your two feet. Also, your knees should have maintained the flex that they had at address. You want to feel totally in control of your swing at this point, and that feeling comes from being balanced in an athletic posture.
Standing up out of the backswing is a common error among amateur golfers. As you turn away from the target, be careful not to stand up out of your swing as you will lose balance and your knees will straighten. To avoid this problem, focus on the position of your right knee throughout the backswing. If you can successfully maintain all of the flex in the right knee (or at least most of it), you should be in a great position at the top. Straightening your right knee is a sign that you are lifting up in your backswing, and a poor position at the top is a likely outcome.
To check on your top-of-backswing position, simply make a practice swing with your driver and pause when you get to the top. Hold your body and the club in place, and check on your balance and knee flex. If you feel like you are going to fall over in one direction or the other, you will know instantly that you have a balance problem. Likewise, it should be easy to tell quickly if you have lost the flex in your knees. Make note of any issues that you find with your position at the top of the swing so that they can be addressed immediately.
The other key position for a successful weight transfer occurs when you make impact with the ball. At impact, you need to have the majority of your weight onto your left leg, with your right heel beginning to come off of the ground as a result of your lower body rotation. Impact is the moment of truth in the golf swing, as all of your hard work culminates in actual contact with the ball. If you have done things correctly, a great shot will result. If not, you are going to be disappointed with the shot that you hit.
One of the big challenges associated with impact is getting your weight on your left leg while still keeping your upper body down over the shot. As you rotate to the left in the downswing, it is tempting to pull your left shoulder up away from the ball. If that happens, it won't matter how well your weight transfer was executed, because you won't strike the ball cleanly. You need to strike the right balance between moving your weight left and still keeping your upper body over the shot if you are going to find success.
As a means of checking your impact position, it is best to record your swing on video. Since impact with the ball happens so fast, there is really no way to analyze your impact position accurately in real time. By taking video, you can slow down the action and get a better idea of what is going on at the bottom of your swing. Ask a friend to stand a few feet away with a video camera (or cell phone) to record while you hit a few shots. After the video has been taken, watch it back in slow motion to dissect your impact position. Hopefully, you will find that your weight has successfully been transferred onto your left leg by the time the club head reached the ball. If not, work on engaging your lower body earlier in the downswing in order to reach this crucial position.
By checking the top of your backswing position as well as your impact position, you can create a clear picture of how your weight is moving throughout your swing. As long as you are well-balanced at the top of the swing and your weight is on your left leg at impact, you will know for certain that your weight transfer is working properly. Don't make the evaluation of your weight transfer any more complicated than this – get those two positions in order and move on to other parts of your swing.
The Finish Position Matters
To many golfers, the swing ends at impact. After all, the ball is gone, so why worry about what happens in the rest of the swing? Of course, this kind of thinking is a mistake. The finish of your swing matters a great deal, largely because it can give you information about the swing you have just made. If you ignore your finish position, you are missing out on a great opportunity to gain insight into your technique. Golfers who are serious about improving will pay just as much attention to the finish of their swing as they will to the backswing and downswing.
The most important thing to find in your finish is balance. You want almost all of your weight to end up on your left foot, and the toe of your right shoe should be touching the ground. One of the big mistakes that the average golfer makes is hanging back on their right foot in the follow through. If you notice that most of your right foot is still flat on the ground, you will know that you haven't released completely through the shot. This is another sign that you need to be more aggressive with your lower body. Use your hips to fire through the impact area and the momentum of the swing will bring you all the way up onto the toe of your right shoe.
Make it a habit to hold your finish position until the ball has landed. Watch the flight of your shot while holding your beautiful follow through, and only give up that position once the ball has completed its journey. This is a good habit for two reasons. First, it will allow you to test your balance after every swing. If you can hold your finish position comfortably until the ball lands, you will know that your swing was well-balanced from start to finish. Also, watching the ball for its entire flight will help you to learn about the shape of your shots. Watch closely for patterns that you can use to improve your aim during future rounds.
You can also use your finish position as the basis for a simple swing drill to improve your overall balance during the swing. Follow the steps below to complete this helpful practice drill –
- Stand in your normal address position, holding any of your clubs. You won't be hitting any balls during this drill.
- Instead of taking the club back as you would normally, move the club forward from address and swing up into a finish position. When you arrive at a full finish, hold your position and make sure you are properly balanced over your left leg.
- From there, reverse the process and swing back down toward the address position. However, you are going to keep going and swing up to the top of the backswing. When you get the top of the backswing, hold again and check your balance. Also, remember to check the position of your right knee to confirm that it has maintained its flex.
- To complete the drill, swing back down to address and hold. You can repeat this process as many times as you would like.
The idea behind this drill is to help you get comfortable with remaining balanced at all points during your swing. By reversing the order of your swing, your brain will have to pay extra attention to keeping your body in position and on-balance. By using this drill to master your balance throughout the swing, you will be a big step closer to having a proper weight transfer from start to finish.
Weight Transfer and Tempo
Once you put in some practice time on the range to learn how your weight should be moving during the swing, you should be able to repeat the process with a nice level of consistency. However, there is still another problem to worry about when you get to the course – tempo. The tempo you use in your golf swing has an effect on everything that you do, including the transfer of your weight. Following are two problems that can arise in the weight transfer when your tempo gets off track.
- Fast tempo = never getting left. When your swing speeds up beyond its usual pace, you will have a hard time getting all the way onto your left leg prior to impact. Since a quick tempo means you have cut your backswing short, your lower body won't have as much time as it needs to complete the rotation toward the target in the downswing. Simply put, you will get stuck on your right side and the shot won't have much chance of success.
- Slow tempo = lost balance in backswing. The other tempo problem that you can develop is swinging too slow. If that happens, you will be prone to leaning left during the backswing, which creates the 'reverse pivot' that was discussed earlier. As the club slowly makes it way up to the top of the swing, your body will have too much time available and it will be easy to drift off-balance to the left.
The correction for both of these errors is to simply do your best to keep your tempo steady from the first shot of the day to the last. That is, of course, easier said than done. To maintain your tempo, try to block out any outside distractions or pressures and focus simply on the shot at hand. Go through your entire pre-shot routine carefully, and only start your swing when your mind is completed focused on the task at hand. If you can do that prior to each shot, you should be able to maintain your tempo and avoid the weight transfer problems that a bad tempo can create.
Your weight transfer is a crucial element of your golf swing, and one that you shouldn't take for granted. Take some time during your next few practice sessions to work on your weight transfer, including recording a video of your swing to review your impact position. Most likely, you will need to make subtle adjustments to your weight transfer until you are able to use your body perfectly from the start of your swing to the finish.