Getting the club to the top of your backswing in solid position requires properly timing the movements of multiple parts.
Coordinating it all into an efficient, powerful downswing begins with a single, simple action: placing the left heel on the ground.
When making a full swing, your left heel (for right-handed golfers) may naturally lift a little. Even if the heel stays on the ground, you'll feel little or no weight pressing downward.
As you reach your backswings upper limit, the arms, shoulders and hips slow to a halt. To initiate the downswing, imagine stomping lightly on a bug with the left heel. This triggers the left hip to rotate, followed by the torso, shoulders and, finally, the arms.
As you can see, the downswing flows from the ground up. Too many golfers swing in a top-down fashion, lashing at the ball with the hands over a passive lower body. This drains power and leads to an outside-in club path.
To groove the heel-first downswing move, practice by pausing for 2-3 seconds at the top of your backswing before starting down.
This drill prevents the hands and arms from taking control, forcing the lower body to lead.
How to Correctly Trigger the Downswing in Golf
Among the many challenges that golfers face during the swing is knowing exactly when and how to trigger the start of the downswing. Obviously, your swing is going to start by moving the club head away from the ball as your body turns away from the target. At some point, however, that motion needs to reverse and your backswing needs to transition into a downswing. It is at this key moment that things can either go terribly wrong – or exactly right. When you are able to get the transition to the downswing correct, much of the rest of your swing will take care of itself.
To trigger the downswing, you will need some kind of a key that you use to signal your brain to get everything moving in the other direction. Many golfers lack this kind of trigger in their swings, and their backswings end up dragging on far too long as a result. Long backswings are common among amateur golfers, and they can lead to a whole host of problems. While it is possible to play well with a long backswing, most players would be well-served to shorten up their swings and focus on gaining better control of the club. A good downswing trigger can make it easier to do just that.
One of the most important aspects of your downswing trigger is that it needs to be decisive and consistent. As a golfer, you know that consistency is one of the most elusive things in the game. The best golfers are able to make their swings the same way over and over again – even if they aren't perfect from a technical perspective. In that pursuit of consistency, a good downswing trigger can be your best friend. It will give you something to rely on even when you are nervous out on the course. Once your key to trigger the downswing has been perfected on the driving range you just might be amazed at how much it can improve your performance during the average round of golf.
Another note on the downswing trigger – it should be the same across all of your clubs. While there are some mechanical differences between your swings with a driver and the swings you make with your irons, the trigger should be identical. This will make it easier to transition back and forth between woods and irons during the round, and will simplify your game as a whole. Mastering the transition between backswing and downswing is hard enough with just one trigger to learn – don't make it even more difficult by changing your technique dramatically based on the club that you are swinging.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed golfer, make sure to reverse the directions as necessary to make sure that they apply correctly to your swing.
Why Do You Need a Downswing Trigger At All?
Unless you have taken some lessons from a local teaching pro, you probably have learned the game mostly through trial and error. Plenty of golfers learn how to play simply by going to the driving range time after time and finding out what works for them, and what doesn't. One of the great things about golf is that there are so many different ways to get the job done. It doesnt matter what your swing looks like, as long as the ball flies in the right direction.
If your game is mostly of your own creation, you probably haven't thought much about using a trigger to initiate your downswing. Up until now, you likely just swung the club back and forth without much thought to the transition that connects those two motions. That is okay, but it usually isn't going to allow you to reach the level of consistency that you are looking for. Instead, you need to establish a designated downswing trigger which can happen in the same manner swing after swing, all day long.
In reality, the transition of your swing just might be the most important single moment throughout the whole action. While it is obviously important to have the club in the right position at impact, you wont get there successfully without a good transition. Since the transition happens so quickly, it is vital to have a single key that you can focus your mind on and execute the same way each time. The more clarity and precision you can bring to this downswing trigger key, the better it will work for you. Of course, your key needs to be something that helps you put the club in the right position and sets you up for a confident and aggressive strike into the ball.
One of the biggest problems that the average golfer encounters is the fact that their natural downswing trigger is something that leads them astray. Without even thinking about it, the default transition move for most players is to start their hands down toward the ball right from the top of the swing. Most beginning golfers fight a slice because they push their hands down toward impact before their body can rotate – and the club swipes across the ball at impact as a result. A proper golf swing is one where the body leads the way and the hands come through the hitting area last. Unfortunately, most golfers never learn that skill because they don't use the right key to transition into the downswing.
Whether you are still fighting a slice in your game, or would simply like to add more distance and consistency to your ball flight, getting the transition right should be your top priority. A faulty transition – one where the hands move down first instead of your lower body – is something that you just cant recover from. While it can take some time and effort on the practice range to fix your transition, it must be done if you want to take your game to the next level.
Three Downswing Trigger Options
Technically, you could use just about anything to trigger your downswing action. As long as it was easy to execute, repeatable, and didn't put you out of position for the rest of the swing, it should be fair game. However, some triggers are going to work better than others. With that in mind, the following list offers three of the most-commonly used downswing triggers in golf. Consider each of the three and then decide on one to try out for yourself. It might take some trial and error going through all three options before you are able to settle on the one that is most-effective in your game.
- Left Heel Down. Some golfers, when they get to the top of their backswing, allow their left heel to come up off the ground slightly. Usually, players who do this lack the flexibility to complete their turn while keeping the left foot flat on the ground. There is nothing wrong with letting that left heel come up a little bit, however, and it can allow you a great chance to build a perfect downswing trigger. If you are a player that has your left heel off the ground at the top of the swing, consider using that heel as your downswing trigger. As soon as you put it back down flat on the ground, the rest of your body will know that the downswing has started. This works well as a trigger because it is at the bottom of your lower body, so it is a great way to get your legs working properly right from the start of the transition. Work on pushing that heel back into the ground and letting the rest of your lower body continue to turn toward the target.
- Left Hip Turning Left. This second option is very similar to the first, except it works for those golfers who like to keep their entire left foot flat on the ground during the backswing. Rather than using your foot as the downswing trigger, you are going to focus on turning your left hip quickly to the left. When the club arrives at the top of the swing, your left hip will start to open up and quickly pull the rest of your body into action. Again, this trigger option is simple and easy to repeat. Keep your mind focused on the left hip and make sure to get that part of your swing right. When done correctly, everything else can fall into place. By starting down with your lower body turning left, you will be guiding your arms into the right position and they will be able to come along for the ride until they reach impact.
- Right Elbow Down. Most golfers will be better served to use one of the two options above. However, this last choice can work as a downswing trigger for those who are more comfortable focusing on the movements of their arms rather than the movement of their lower body. When you get to the top of the backswing, transition to the downswing by moving your right elbow down toward the ground. This should only be a subtle movement to get the downswing started and begin the process of turning your body toward the target. The reason that this key can work is that it is the opposite of what many golfers do naturally. Most players make the mistake of moving their right elbow up higher into the air during the transition – setting up the over-the-top path that creates a slice. As long as you get your right elbow moving down in the transition, you should at least be able to avoid a slice and get yourself on the right track for a better ball flight.
Assuming that any of these three downswing triggers would be a big change for you, don't expect to get immediate results on the driving range. You are likely going to have to put in some quality practice time before you ball flight starts to improve. Stick with it and you can be rewarded with shots that you didn't know you were capable of producing.
Common Transition Problems
There are plenty of things that can go wrong during the transition from backswing to downswing – and not having a trigger to start your downswing will make it far more likely that some of those problems become present in your swing. However, even when you do have a downswing trigger in place, it is still possible that you could struggle with some of the common transition problems that plague so many amateur golfers. It is important that you know what these problems are, and how to spot them when they start to occur in your own game.
One of the biggest problems during the transition has already been mentioned above – moving the right elbow up and away from your body as the downswing begins. When this happens, the club becomes too high and will have to swipe across the ball at impact just to make contact. This is the classic way to create a slice, and millions of golfers have fought with this very issue over the years. If you are someone who deals with a slice, take a look at this part of your swing first because it is very likely that you make this exact mistake.
Another common problem during the transition is sliding to the left instead of rotating left. This might sound like a minor difference, but it is actually a huge issue when you get it wrong. The ideal transition will have your body start to rotate toward the target, while keeping your center of gravity in roughly the same place (it will move a little left, but not very much). When you allow your weight to slide dramatically to the left during your transition, you will be creating a number of problems. First, you will lose power because you wont be building speed through your rotation. Also, the club will likely shallow out prior to reaching impact, meaning you will have to hit up on your shots. While this might work okay for your driver, it is a disaster when trying to hit iron shots from the fairway.
Usually the slide to the left in the transition is caused by a mistake made earlier on in the swing. When you allow your weight to move right during the backswing, the natural reaction is to slide it back to the left in the downswing. This is why controlling your balance is so crucial during the backswing phase of the swing. Stay centered and rotate in place during your backswing and you should find that your slide to the left in the downswing is quickly cured.
The last transition issue that is shared among many golfers is simply rushing through this portion of the swing. Many players get excited to hit the ball when they get to the top of the backswing and rush through the transition. When you go too fast at this point, your body wont be able to get into position and you wont have the opportunity to build the speed that you are looking for. The fact is, there is no need to rush at the top of the swing. The ball is sitting still, and you don't need to swing fast at the top – only at the bottom through impact.
This is why a downswing trigger is so important. When you have a trigger that you can use to keep your mind focused on the process of the swing itself, you will be less likely to get rushed due to nerves or pressure. Using a downswing trigger can make everything simpler – just wait until your backswing is finished, focus on executing your key move that triggers the downswing, and let everything else happen naturally. It will take some practice, but in time it can become just that easy.
The Mental Aspect of a Downswing Trigger
Having a trigger for your downswing is helpful because it can get your body moving in the right direction. For example, if you use the Left Hip Turning Left trigger presented earlier, it will help you get your lower body rotating properly in the downswing. However, for as helpful as they are from a physical perspective, downswing triggers can be just as helpful mentally.
Finding clarity in your mind is one of the most-important skills you can develop as a golfer. If you are standing over the ball with ten different thoughts running through your head prior to hitting a shot, there is very little chance that shot will be a good one. Plenty of golfers never get their minds settled down prior to starting their swing, and the results speak for themselves.
Thinking clearly allows your body to function properly and execute the fundamentals of the swing that you have been working on. Since the whole swing only takes a couple of seconds to complete, there simply isnt time to think about a number of different thoughts and use them all properly. Rather, you need to limit yourself to one or two specific thoughts and then execute those as precisely as possible. This kind of clarity is incredibly liberating, allowing your body to make an athletic swing without being bogged down by the weight of so many different thoughts.
Do get to that point, try limiting yourself to two specific thoughts – one that keys your takeaway, and one that is your downswing trigger. Your takeaway thought can be anything that helps you make a smooth and slow takeaway to initiate the backswing. Many good players just focus their mind on their shoulders at this point in the swing – when you turn the club away with only your shoulders, the club should find its way into a good position. As the club continues up to the top of the swing, your thoughts shift from the first key to the second, and you make a perfect transition into the downswing.
This approach can be successful because the backswing develops slow enough that there is time for two specific thoughts. That same kind of approach would not work in the downswing simply because it happens too fast. That's why your final active thought should relate to the transition. Execute the transition right and then just let the rest of the swing happen. When you try to think about a specific action in your downswing – or at impact – you will struggle with consistency because everything happens so fast. Focus in on a downswing trigger and then let the swing go with total confidence that you are going to hit a great shot.
There is one final point that needs to be made regarding the use of two swing thoughts. It is crucial that both thoughts are very specific and positive. They need to be framed in terms of something that you want to do, not something you are trying to avoid. For example
- I am going to move my right elbow down in my transition to the downswing is a good thought.
- I dont want to let my right elbow move up and away from my body during the transition is not a good thought to use.
One is positive, and the other is negative. Always tell your mind what you want it to do in positive terms. Too many golfers focus their thoughts on what they don't want to do, and then they end up doing that exact thing. Make sure you have no more than two swing thoughts, and make sure both of them are framed in a positive fashion.
Using a downswing trigger might not be something you have thought about before, but it is a technique that can pay great dividends in your game. Getting the transition right is one of the most important parts of the golf swing and a good key to trigger the downswing is an easy way to get it right time after time. Once your downswing trigger is successfully integrated into your swing mechanics, expect your ball striking consistency to quickly improve as a result. Consistency is hard to find on the golf course, so take this chance to make your shots more predictable than ever before.