You don't hear the word “leverage” used very often in analysis of the golf swing.
But it's a key factor in generating power from the lower body. Watch modern pros like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, or a legendary star like Sam Snead, and you'll notice they share a similar leverage-boosting move.
In fact, Snead was so noted for this move, it was dubbed the “Snead Squat.”
Simply put, these golfers appear to squat from the start of the downswing toward impact, then explode up into the ball and drive it prodigious distances.
Of course, you'd be hard-pressed to name three more naturally gifted golfers than Snead, Woods and McIlroy. And the move isn't recommended for players without a fairly sound swing paired with strong legs and a reasonably solid core.
If you're lucky enough to possess those attributes, and you're looking for ways to add power to your game, try integrating this technique into your swing:
- Take your normal stance with the driver and imagine a chair directly behind you, close enough to sit in.
- Make your normal backswing, focusing on completing a full turn of the shoulders and hips.
- The knees should remain flexed at the top of your backswing.
- At the beginning of the downswing, flex downward slightly at the knees.
- Rotate the hips to your left (right-handed golfer), toward the target, while imagining that you're sitting down into the chair.
You don't want to consciously “stand up” coming through impact; the force of your body's rotation should make this happen naturally.
To reiterate: This is a pretty advanced move that takes a considerable amount of practice.
You may need to put in a good deal of range time to groove the action, but once you do, you'll have a new appreciation for the power of leverage.
How to Leverage Your Power with a Downswing Squat
Every golfer wants more power. From the beginning player at a local municipal course all the way up to the top players in the world, every golfer would love to be able to hit it just a little bit further. Longer drives mean shorter approach shots, and those shorter approach shots should lead to more pars and birdies. In addition to helping you lower your scores, hitting the ball long distance is just plain fun. Once you learn what it feels like to blast a long drive right down the middle of the fairway, you will want to do it over and over again.
Of course, adding distance to your swing is easier said than done. You have probably been trying to add yards to your shots for years, with varying levels of success. There is no one single way that will be most effective when trying to add speed to your swing, because everyone swings the club just a little bit differently. In order to uncover the right combination of moves that will allow you to reach your potential, you may have to try a number of various methods along the way. Don't be afraid to experiment with new techniques within your swing – you never know when you will come across something that changes the way you play.
One such technique that you can consider is a downswing squat. There is the potential to develop great power by using a squat in your downswing, but this move is not for everyone. Some players are likely to experience success with this approach, while others will have trouble even making solid contact. Even if you end up falling in to the camp that can't really make a good swing while squatting in the downswing, it is worth your time and effort to try. Your legs can be a great source of power in the swing, and a squat is one way to tap into that power potential.
Even as you are working on hitting the ball farther, it is important to remember that you shouldn't sell out all of your swing mechanics just in the pursuit of a few extra yards. Added distance is great, but not if it comes at the expense of accuracy or control. Work on building speed in your swing while you still maintain balance and rhythm – otherwise, you aren't going to be a better golfer at the end of the process. When you finish a round, the only thing that matters is your final score, not how far you hit the ball along the way.
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.
What is a Downswing Squat?
Even if you have ready plenty of golf instruction articles in the past, you may not be familiar with the idea of a downswing squat. This kind of technique is not commonly taught, especially to beginning golfers, because it can be very difficult to execute correctly. To pull off this move, you have to have the right combination of timing, athleticism, and eye-hand coordination.
The basic idea of a downswing squat is exactly what the name would imply – you are going to squat down farther into your stance as the club starts to move down toward the ball. From the top of the swing your knees will begin to add flex so that your whole body becomes slightly lower to the ground. This shouldn't be a dramatic move down – in fact it might not even be noticeable to the naked eye. However, you will be able to easily feel it when you do it correctly, as the muscles in your upper legs will have to work hard to execute this kind of swing.
As your clubs get longer, the downswing squat will become more pronounced. So, for example, there will be barely any squat at all when you are hitting a short iron, but they will be a larger squat when hitting a driver from the tee. Remember, this is a power move, so it is only going to help you when distance is a concern. Hitting a short iron approach shot is not a time when you are concerned with maxing out your distance, so the squat will basically go away on those swings. It might seem like it would be difficult to adjust the amount of squat you use based on the club in your hands, but those adjustments will quickly become natural as you spend some time on the practice range.
So how is the downswing squat going to help you add yardage to your shots? There are a couple of benefits that you can gain when this move is properly executed.
- Force coming off the ground. The ground below your feet is able to provide you with a ton of leverage for your swing – but only if you know how to use it. By squatting in your downswing, you will be loading up your legs so that they can explode upward through the ball. As your legs straighten back up near impact, you will be pushing against the ground and your body will be rising aggressively. That upward motion gives you a great chance to build speed and rip the club through the hitting area. If you were to simply slide right and then left in your swing, instead of pushing up off the ground, you would have nowhere near the same potential for power.
- Engage your core. One big problem that is shared by many amateur golfers is the lack of core muscle involvement in the downswing. Many players just throw their arms and the club at the ball in the downswing without ever really using their big muscles to help the cause. When you add a downswing squat to the equation, you will be forces to engage some of those big muscles – which could significantly help when trying to swing the club faster.
- Avoid the slice. Even if a downswing squat is unsuccessful in your quest to find more power, it could still help you out by putting the club in a better position to avoid the slice. Most players who slice move the club up and away from their body in the transition from backswing to downswing. However, since you will be focused on the squat as you start the downswing, you should be able to pull the club down lower along with the rest of your body. The result will be a better swing path through the shot, and a better ball flight overall. The idea of the downswing squat is to add power, but it could have an additional benefit of eliminating that nasty slice.
Hopefully at this point you have a clear picture of what the downswing squat is, and what it could do for your game. The next step in the process is to head out to the driving range to work on the mechanics of this powerful but challenging technique.
Your First Range Visit
Learning the downswing squat is one of those things that is best done at the driving range where you can hit plenty of balls – and make plenty of mistakes. Working on this technique away from the course where you can only make 'dry' swings isn't really going to help, because you need to see the results of your swings in order to fine tune the mechanics. Make no mistake – adding this move to your swing could be difficult, but the reward is certainly worth the effort.
To get started, head to the range with your set of clubs and a bucket of practice balls. You will be using a number of different clubs while working on this move, so don't just show up with your driver and start swinging away. As with any serious practice session that you engage in, it would be best if you are at the range alone so you can concentrate on the task at hand. It is certainly fun to practice with other golfers from time to time, but focus is essential if you are going to make any progress with your swing. Save the social outings for another time and practice alone while working on adding a downswing squat to your game.
One important point to keep in mind before getting started is that you don't want to make any other technical adjustments to your swing at this time. Try to do everything as you normally would, except for adding in the downswing squat to the equation. Don't change your grip, your stance, your takeaway, or anything else – working on more than one change at a time is a recipe for failure. Focus this practice session on adding a squat and you can work on other improvements later down the road.
It was mentioned earlier that you aren't going to be using much of a downswing squat in your short iron swings. While that is true, it is still best to start with a short iron when adding this technique to your game, simply because the swing is so much shorter and slower than a driver swing. Therefore, grab one of your wedges out of your bag and hit a few shots. The idea is to move into your squat just as the club begins to transition from backswing to downswing. Your knees will add flex at this early stage of the downswing, only to release all of that flex as you stand up through the shot.
It is going to feel awkward at first, and your shots probably won't look at that pretty right away. Try not to get frustrated by poor results as it is inevitable to hit a few bad shots while making a swing change. If you are really struggling, slow your swing down to where you are only hitting the ball 40 or 50 yards for now. The slower you swing, the easier it will be to learn the mechanics of this move. As you start to get the hang of it, you can gradually build speed back into the swing until you are going at the ball with 100% effort.
As the practice session moves along, feel free to hit some longer clubs after you get comfortable with a wedge. You aren't going to master this technique in a single practice session, but you should start to see some progress within the first 20 or 30 shots. Again, it is okay to hit some bad shots, so don't get down on yourself right away. Stick with it and remember that nothing in golf comes easy – you have to work for every improvement that you make.
Troubleshooting the Squat
It is almost a certainty that problems will come along when adding this move to your swing. It is a difficult move to execute, and it would be very surprising if you were able to hit the ball solidly time after time immediately after adding a downswing squat to your swing. With that in mind, the following troubleshooting points should help you work out the kinks and make progress toward your ball striking goals.
- Hitting the ball fat. This is the problem that most people are going to have early in the process. When your club hits the ground before it reaches the ball, it is called hitting the shot fat. In this case, that is likely happening because you are not getting out of the squat in time to bring your body back up to the correct level. If you are still down in the squat at impact, the club will be too low coming into the ball and a fat shot will result. Instead of trying to just get out of your squat faster, try getting down into it sooner in the downswing. Think about the squat happening simultaneously to the transition of your swing from back to forward. When you can get down into the squat a little bit faster, you will have more time to get back out of it before impact. Work on the timing for the start of the squat and the timing at the bottom of your swing should quickly be corrected.
- Hitting a hook. As you are working on the squat, it is important that you don't forget to rotate your body left at the same time. The squat is not a replacement for your body rotation – rather, it is just an additional move that can help add power to that turn. If you were to stop rotating in an effort to add the downswing squat, you may find that you start to hook the ball badly to the left. A hook is a common outcome when body rotation is lacking. Focus on keeping your body moving through the shot to the left while still getting in and out of your squat on time.
- Loss of power. The downswing squat is supposed to add power to your swing, not take it away. If you are losing power when trying this move, it is likely because you aren't exploding out of the squat and up into the ball with enough conviction. The squat is really just to load up your legs so that they can be used more aggressively through the hitting area. Once your knees add flex, they need to then get rid of that flex by pushing down against the ground while the club rips through the ball. Make sure you are using your leg muscles as actively as possible through impact so that you can extract the maximum swing speed gain from your downswing squat.
Hopefully the problems that you are struggling with on the practice range can be solved by one of the three points above. There is plenty of trial and error involved with adding this move to your swing, so don't be afraid to try various solutions until you are able to find the right mix of mechanics to strike the ball solidly time after time.
There is no perfect move in golf. Every different kind of swing has its pros and cons, and it is up to you to find the one that works best in your game. If you are waiting around for the perfect golf swing to show up at your door, you are going to be waiting for a long time. Perfection isn't going to happen, so you need to simply work on finding the swing that highlights your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses.
The story is no different when it comes to the downswing squat. There are positives to using this move – power, specifically – and there are negatives as well. It is important that you understand the drawbacks as well as the advantages so you can make an informed decision for your game. Whether or not you end up using a downswing squat on the course is up to you, but you should base that decision on all of the information available – both good and bad.
One of the main downsides to using a downswing squat is the timing that is required to execute this kind of swing properly. As you are coming down into the ball, you will need to straighten your legs out in order to return your body to the proper height for the strike. While this can work great when the timing is perfect, the results can be rather ugly if your timing is off. The problem is that timing can come and go without any warning – so you can be playing a nice round of golf and suddenly be struggling to strike the ball cleanly because your timing has been thrown off for some reason. With a 'regular' swing, there is less timing involved at impact, so your ball striking is likely to be more consistent.
Another downside is the differences between your long swings and your short swings. There will be a significant squatting motion when you hit a driver, but the squat with your short irons will be minimal at the most. Therefore, the continuity between your swings will be a little thrown off, and your consistency could again be affected. Making the same swing with all of your clubs is a good way to hit repeatable shots from the first hole to the last, and the downswing squat can get in the way of that goal.
Finally, dealing with poor lies can be another challenge when you are using the downswing squat in your game. This move flattens out the path of the club prior to impact, meaning you won't be attacking the ball from above like you would with a traditional swing. That isn't a problem when playing from the tee or the fairway, but it can be a big issue when coming out of the rough. You want to miss the grass behind the ball as much as possible when playing from a bad lie, but you are going to have a hard time doing that if you use the squat during your downswing.
There are plenty of positives and plenty of negatives to consider in regard to using a downswing squat to add power to your game. In the end, the only sure way to know how it will work for you is to get out to the driving range and try it for yourself. It could be that you fall in love with this move right away – or you could decide that it won't work for you at all. No matter the outcome, spending at least one or two practice sessions trying this technique is worth the effort. If you decide to stick with your regular swing, the only thing lost is a little bit of practice time. If, however, you find that the squat is adding distance to your shots, you will be glad you took the time to test it out. Added distance is always a good thing, as long as it doesn't come at the expense of your accuracy. Put the downswing squat to use in your next practice session and see if you can unlock yardage that has been hiding deep within your swing.