It may seem as though the arms and hands do most of the work in the golf swing, but a sound swing utilizes the bodys big muscles – shoulders, torso and hips – while the arms and hands merely follow.
That means in golf shifting the weight properly on the backswing and downswing is critical to keep it all moving in sync. For a standard full shot with any club (by a right-hander), the weight should be balanced equally on both feet at address, then shift to the inside of the right foot by the top of the backswing, move to the left foot to start the downswing, and finish firmly on the left foot.
Many golfers suffer whats known as a “reverse weight shift” or “reverse pivot.” Their balance moves left on the backswing and right going through, causing weak slices and pushes, plus topped, thin and fat shots.
Try the “step-through drill,” made famous by Gary Player, to develop a good weight shift:
• Take your normal backswing and downswing.
• In one seamless move as the club swings into and past the ball, step toward the target with your right foot, as though walking to your next shot. In other words, the right side follows the path of the club.
Youll be forced to shift weight to your right side going back, then left swinging through, to finish the drill correctly.
Mastering the Proper Weight Shift on the Takeaway and Downswing
The way you use your weight in the golf swing goes a long way toward determining just how successful you are on the course. When you are able to keep your weight in the right spots – and use it to your advantage – it is possible to hit great shots. However, when your weight starts to work against you in the swing, it can become difficult to even make contact and get the ball into the air. While many golfers will spend most of their practice time working on the position of the club throughout the swing, you really should be more-concerned with balance and weight shift. When you can control your body, it quickly becomes much easier to control the club.
If you are like most average golfers, there is a good chance that you are currently using your weight shift incorrectly. Most amateur players don't understand what they are supposed to be doing with their weight during the swing, and they get it wrong as a consequence. It actually isn't that hard to use your weight correctly – but you have to know what you are trying to do in order to do it properly. Once you have a clear picture in your mind of the proper weight shift, you should be able to incorporate it into your swing with just a bit of practice.
The content below will address two specific phases of the swing where you really need to have your balance and weight shift under control – the takeaway, and the downswing. In the takeaway, you can do considerable harm to your chances of making a good swing if you allow your weight shift to go wrong early in the swing. Controlling your weight correctly within the first foot or so of the swing is crucially important. Likewise, knowing how to move your weight when the club starts to come down toward impact is also a vital skill to develop. You want the club to be able to swing freely through the ball, but that is only possible when your body is in the right position.
You should think of your weight shift as one of the building blocks of your swing. Sure, there are other important technical parts to the swing that you need to understand, but those are only going to be helpful if you first get your weight working the right way. Many golfers approach this in the wrong order and try to fix the way they swing the club before they have their weight shift under control. If you are interesting in improving your overall technique in order to shoot lower scores, start by addressing the weight shift first and foremost. With that done, the rest of the changes that you need to make will come much easier.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed player, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary so that they apply correctly to your game.
The Wrong Way to Do It
One of the best ways to learn how to play golf is by learning the techniques and motions that you should avoid. Simply by not doing the wrong things, you can force yourself into doing the right things. This is certainly true of the weight shift. When you know what kind of mistakes you need to avoid during both your takeaway and your downswing, you will be a big step closer to using your weight in the right way.
Below is a list of three mistakes that are commonly seen among amateur players. Steer clear of these three problems and you will make great progress toward a better swing.
- The Sway. Far and away, this is the biggest problem for amateur golfers when it comes to the weight shift. Swaying from side to side is a terrible mistake to make in your swing, as it will rob you of both power and accuracy. Despite that fact, it is a mistake that many golfers make without even knowing they are doing anything wrong. Some players even think that they are supposed to be swaying from side to side during the swing in order to generate power. One of the key ingredients to building a powerful golf swing is proper rotation – and it is nearly impossible to rotate when you are swaying. Most of the time, a swaying golf swing will lead to poor contact and a ball flight that slices off to the right. There is an element of lateral motion in the golf swing, but it is subtle and secondary to the rotation that you should be focused on. If you feel like your golf swing is swaying from one side to the other, you would be well-served to correct that mistake as soon as possible.
- A Reverse Pivot. As the name would suggest, the reverse pivot is basically the opposite of what you should be trying to do with your weight shift in the swing. When you make a reverse pivot motion, your weight starts out by moving toward the target during the takeaway, only to move back to the right (and away from the target) during the downswing. This will cause a variety of problems. First, your swing will get rather steep on the backswing because of the way you are moving your center of gravity. Also, you will be losing significant power on the way down since your body weight is actually moving away from where you are trying to hit the ball. In a good golf swing, everything will be working together in the same direction to send the ball toward the target. Just like the sway, a reverse pivot is something that you should try to correct quickly to get your swing on the right path.
- All Arms. Not using your weight at all in the golf swing might be even worse than using it improperly. Some amateur players stand up to the ball with straight legs and simply swing the club by moving their arms back and through. As you would probably guess, this isn't a strategy that will lead to very many positive outcomes. When you don't get your body weight involved in the swing, you are wasting a big opportunity to generate power. It is hard to swing the club very hard when only using your arms, so your potential as a player will be limited – even if you manage to hit solid shots. If you have any interest in taking the next step forward in your game, it will be essential that you learn how to engage your body in the swing and use it to your advantage.
You can probably think about golfers you have played with in the past and picture at least one player who fits into each of these three categories. All of the mistakes above are commonly seen around the golf course, yet none of them are helping golfers actually play any better. If you can avoid making any of those errors in your own game, you will be headed in the right direction.
The Right Way to Do It
Although there are plenty of different ways to swing the golf club and get good results, most accomplished players use their weight shift in the same way. The majority of variation that you see in the golf swings of the Tour players occurs in the way that they move the club back and through. However, the way they move their bodies through the shot doesn't vary all that much from player to player (with a few exceptions). With that in mind, it will greatly benefit your game if you can learn that same method of weight shift for use in your own swing.
First, lets look at how you should handle the weight shift during the takeaway phase of your swing. As you start to move the club away from the ball, your weight should do – nothing. That's right, nothing. Ideally, you will be able to keep your weight perfectly in place during this part of the swing. Any movement to the right or left is only going to serve to make the rest of your swing more complicated. Balance is the key to making a good backswing, and that all starts by keeping your weight nicely in place during the takeaway. Assuming you have started in a good address position for your swing, your weight should be well-balanced when you start to move the club. Therefore, your only job at first is to prevent it from getting out of place. If you can keep the same center of gravity from the start of your swing all the way up to the top of the backswing, you will be in excellent position to attack the ball.
Obviously, this is a little bit easier said than done. Your body is going to have to rotate during the backswing in order to get the club in position, so it can be challenge to keep your weight in the same place while your torso is turning to the right. This is why your lower body is so important. When you use your legs to build a stable base for the swing, holding your balance becomes much easier. Bent knees and good posture are what will allow you to keep your weight in place throughout the backswing. Without either one of those two elements, you will always struggle to use your weight correctly.
Once the takeaway and backswing are handled successfully, your attention will need to turn to the downswing. It is at this point that your weight shift jumps into action and you actually start to move toward the target. However, you don't want to do it incorrectly, as you can quickly undo all of the good work that you have done in the backswing.
When the club transitions from backswing to downswing is when your lower body needs to take control of the swing and start moving your whole body toward the target. This is done through a rotation to the left, and not a slide. This point cannot be emphasized enough. If you were to slide your lower body toward the target, the club would drop too quickly and a variety of problems could result. Instead, you need to simply turn your lower body to the left to get the chain reaction started which will eventually lead to your body clearing through the hitting area.
This is the point in the swing where many amateur golfers get confused. Why? Because they think they need to move their weight toward the target, so they slide instead of rotating. After all, the slide does lead to a weight shift that moves toward the target. However, that shift doesn't do anything to help the club speed up on the downswing. It is rotation that does that. Your weight will move closer to the target in the downswing, but think of that as a by-product of a good swing. You aren't trying intentionally to slide closer to the target – you are just trying to rotate to swing the club down into the ball.
All of the content above is a complicated way of saying the following – there should be no weight shift during the takeaway, and a rotation to the left in the downswing that will lead to a weight shift toward the target. That single sentence breaks down exactly what you should be trying to do with your weight in the swing. As long as you can maintain your center of gravity during the early portion of the swing, and then make an aggressive turn toward the target in the downswing, good golf is never going to be far away.
Practicing the Takeaway
You now know what you need to do in the takeaway, but it is going to take some time on the practice range before you can get comfortable with it and then take it with you out onto the course. Just because you know not to move your weight in the takeaway doesnt mean it will be easy to make that change. If you are currently moving your weight early in the swing, it is going to take some effort to remove that mistake from your technique.
The following drill will help you learn how to hold your center of gravity in place during the takeaway. To start, visit the driving range and take any of your irons out of the bag. You wont be hitting any balls during this drill. As you take your stance to make a practice swing, pull both of your knees close to each other. You want to get your knees as close to each other as you can while still maintaining your normal golf posture like you would use before any regular shot. Imagine that you are holding an object such as a basketball between your knees and you don't want to let it drop.
Once you have taken your stance with your knees pulled in tight, go ahead and make some practice takeaways. Since your lower body is in an awkward position, you don't want to make your full backswing – just the takeaway. When you do this, you should quickly notice that the position of your knees will make it almost impossible to get off balance early in the swing. Unless you allow your knees to move out of position, you should be able to complete the takeaway while remaining nicely balanced.
This drill is simple, and you should be able to do it over and over again until your body gets used to making a takeaway without moving your weight either left or right. Make sure you do plenty of repetitions before you start hitting some shots. Obviously, you will want to move back to your normal stance with your knees a comfortable distance apart before you hit any practice balls. Remember the feeling that you had during the drill, however, and try to replicate the same kind of takeaway in your full swing. As long as you are staying balanced nicely in the takeaway phase of the swing, your ball striking should quickly improve even if no other changes are made.
Practicing the Downswing
The other half of the weight shift equation is the downswing, so you will need to work on a drill that addresses that portion of the swing as well. Specifically, you want to make sure that your body is properly rotating to the left in the downswing instead of sliding. As discussed above, the slide to the left is one of the most-common faults among amateur golfers, and it will rob you of your ability to generate power in the swing. Therefore, doing a drill that focuses on adding rotation and subtracting lateral movement is a great way to improve.
For this drill, you don't actually need to be holding a golf club, but you do need your golf bag. Take your stance as you would normally prior to a shot, making sure that you are in a good posture and your legs are engaged at address. At this point, take your golf bag and place it to your left, adjacent to your left foot. It should be standing up and placed in a position where if you were to slide to your left, you would bump into it.
With the bag in place, start to make some practice swings without the use of a club. Try to make your body motion as much like your regular swing as you can, even though you aren't holding onto a club at the moment. Swing all the way back into a full backswing, and transition down into your downswing and on through into the finish. The focus of this drill is on the downswing and how your lower body rotates to the left. When you start down from the top of the swing, make sure your left hip is turning open to the target so the rest of your body can rotate along with it. If the first move from your hip is to slide left, the rest of your body will want to slide as well.
This is where the bag comes into play. When you make a swing that has too much lateral slide, you will bump the bag with your hip and be reminded that you need to rotate more. However, if you are able to swing clean through to a balanced finish without making contact with the bag, that will be a good sign that your rotation is working like it should. If you find that you are having trouble getting through this drill without touching the bag, slow down your swing until you can get through the drill successfully. With a slower swing, your mechanics are easier to control and adjust. After solving the problem at a slow speed, gradually work your way bag up to full speed until you get it right.
With plenty of repetitions of this drill completed, move your bag out of the way and pick up a club. As you start to hit some shots, imagine that the bag is still in place while you swing. This is a great mental trick to keep your weight shift under control and make sure you are getting plenty of rotation in the downswing. Although it might take some time to get the combination of your improved takeaway and downswing working together properly, the results can be incredible once you do.
The weight shift is one of the most-important elements of the golf swing, even if it is overlooked by a majority of amateur players. Spend some of your practice time working on the two weight shift drills above until you are confident that your technique is improved in both of those areas. When you make the proper moves in your takeaway and in your downswing, it becomes much easier to build power and make solid contact shot after shot, all day long.