Golf Swing Transition Tips & Technique
There are hundreds if not thousands of written and video documented tutorials on the golf swing. Why? Because it’s the most important part of the sport. The better you can swing your club, the better you can expect your scores to be.
Golf players practice very hard to get the right moves from the muscles. In naked eyes, golf looks like a calm sport with not much movement. But in reality, it’s just as precise as any other sports like baseball, football, tennis, and so on.
Speaking of the golf swing, there are different parts of the swing. It’s ideal to think of the swing as one smooth motion because if you try to break it down, you can essentially create pauses in your training which is not good.
However, we can break a complete golf swing into three different parts. The first is the backswing, then the downswing, and lastly, the follow through. They are basically broken down based on the change of direction of the club rather than three different moves.
The point of this guide is to highlight the transition between the backswing and the downswing. It’s also known as the golf swing transition. It’s one of the hardest skills to master as a beginner. It needs immense numbers of practice runs and the proper know-how of how to do it.
In this post, we’re going to learn exactly what is a golf swing transition, what things may or may not be stopping you from achieving the optimum motion, and how you can overcome your shortcomings to become a better player in general.
What is Golf Swing Transition?
First things first. What is it? Why is it so important?
As the name suggests, a swing transition is a transition between your backswing and your downswing. In your backswing, the golf club travels up, your upper body and hips rotate to generate static energy in your muscles.
Once you’re at the top of the backswing, the direction of the club needs to change. And it needs to happen in one motion. You cannot get to the top, stop your body to rotate, and then come down.
However, confusion arises when you look at players rather than knowing what is exactly happening. If you look at players taking shots from whether the tee box or the fairway, you may see that there is a clear pause when the players at their top point of the swing. And then the club starts to come down.
In reality, as the club is still traveling upward, the motion for the downswing has already been initiated. The lower body is already turning to the opposite direction of the backswing to generate the force you need for the backswing.
To better understand it, you need to understand how the force on the club is generated. Many amateurs and people who don’t really play golf think that the force is generated from the arms and the wrists. That the more pressure one can create with your arms the longer one can hit the shot.
That is never the case. The force is generated from the ground. The only reason you’re coiling your body in the form of a backswing is so that you can uncoil it to unleash all the static force and convert it to kinetic energy. The more efficiently you can uncoil your body, the more distance you can generate with your shots.
Mastering the proper transition for the maximum transfer of energy takes time. And it takes to follow a certain routine. You need to fix your posture, your hand positions, prepare your upper and lower body to act on cue, and so on.
So, now that you know what a golf swing transition is, let’s look at what happens when you do it.
What Happens in a Golf Swing Transition?
In laymen’s terms, you transfer the energy from your body and your arms to the club and the club face to hit the ball. It’s all there to it. If you know the concept of swing lag, it’ll become easier for you to understand what a swing transition is.
If you’re not, however, sure about what swing lag is, you can check out our article to know all about it.
Basically, the idea is that your club should lag behind every other moving part of the equation. Your lower body starts to rotate first. Then your hips follow, then your torso and arms follow. At last, the club starts to come down.
To achieve this motion, you need to time your movements correctly. We all know that the hips must move laterally toward the target for a shallow and in-to-out shot in golf. But when do you initiate the hip movement?
This is why a golf swing transition is one of the hardest things you can learn. It’s not about the big muscles that you’ve built by going to the gym regularly. It’s all about being in the right headspace and fire the right muscles at the right time.
Ideally, the downswing or the transition, whatever you may want to call it, initiates while the backswing is still in motion. If you look closely at how the PGA tour Pros or star players like Tiger Woods move their bodies, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
The only reason you may not have noticed it already is that we’re often too busy looking at the club. If you shift your focus and look at the player’s hips, you’ll notice that they’ll start to move toward the target as the club is going up.
Now that you have a precise idea of what exactly happens in a perfect transition, let’s focus on how you can incorporate the motion in your golf swing.
The Proper Sequence of Swing Transition
So, you’ve successfully completed your backswing. It’s time to transition to the downswing without disrupting the smooth motion of your muscles. We’ll start with the pause you see on camera at the top of the swing and work our way down.
For the best of players, there will be a pause with the club. The difference between the pause of the professional players and amateurs is the intention. For professionals, it’s not intentional. The pause happens because they’re moving their body right. For amateurs and beginners, it’s the opposite.
The pause may be long or short, depending on how each player works on their swing. The length of the pause doesn’t matter as much. The only thing matters is that you do it right.
When you’re at the pause, your lower body should already be moving toward the target, as you already know. The pause is the inevitable result of your perfect motion.
There are players like Rory Mcllroy who complete a swing before you can realize what’s happening. For him, the pause is as short as it can be. Then there is Hideki Matsuyama. He definitely takes his time to transfer the weight of the club in the other direction.
The goal here is to make a part of the swing as much as possible rather than being a hesitation. You may want to practice the move on your own. It’ll definitely feel weird at first. But when you learn about the other things we’re going to teach you, it’ll become natural.
The Rotation of the Hips
The second point in the swing transition sequence. If you’re a right-handed player, you’ve rotated your hips to the right for the backswing. Think of your hip muscles as a coil of spring. You’ve stored the energy by compressing it. Now, you need to release it for the sudden burst of energy.
Your hips should move toward the target laterally. For right-handed players, the hips should move to the left. We’ve seen many players who master pause gracefully only to push their hips forward instead of sideways.
To eliminate it, you need to shift the weight of your body to your lead foot and press it firmly on the ground. Using it as an anchor, you need to shift your hips toward the right as you bend your shoulders to the left. As part of the process, your arms holding the club will start to come down.
When you fail to perform this move in one smooth motion, that’s how you end up with over-the-top shots. It’s the simple law of physics. When you don’t make enough room for your club to come down shallow, it’ll come down steep. As a result, you’ll hit the ball left to the target.
The bottom line is, start to unwind your hips before anything else as you start the downswing. The hips should be the first big muscle group to move in your body. Everything else like your torso and shoulders will follow.
Drop the Hands
As your hips are moving toward the target, it’s time to shift your attention to the arms. The arms need to drop in a certain way to keep your club head from becoming too steep or too shallow.
According to Sergio Garcia, the famous Spanish golfer, you need to feel like you’re pulling a chain with your arms. The hypothetical chain, in this case, is your golf club.
You can imagine the motion right. Your hands need to move in that way. Only then it’ll be possible for you to keep the club angle shallow and generate the most power possible. This is also the cause of the infamous lag in a golf swing.
The key is not to do anything deliberately. As we’ve been saying from the beginning, you need to perform the swing in one smooth motion. Thinking too much whether you’re doing right or wrong will only hurt your game.
Notice the Trailing Elbow
It’s part of golf 101. We’ve been saying it in plenty of our other guides. You need to keep your elbow close to your body. Specifically, the trailing elbow.
In golf, every body part that moves first is the leading part. And the one following is the trailing part. So, if you’re a right-handed player, your right elbow is the trailing arm.
What happens is players let their elbow go away from the body which automatically creates the over-the-top motion. But you don’t want that to be a part of your swing transition. Even if it feels hard to keep track of every piece of information at once, you must try harder to master it.
When you keep your elbow close to your ribcage, you’re essentially shallowing the club and maintaining the angle of the swing.
Another important aspect to keep in mind here is that you don’t want to end up with the chicken wing move. What we mean is while your job is to keep the elbow close to your body, you don’t want to touch the side of your ribs with it.
The Wrist Angle
If you ever record yourself and see your backswing, you’ll notice that your clubs are at a certain angle. It’s usually 90-degree with your forearm. What happens to most players is that they don’t maintain the angle.
What happens when you don’t maintain the angle? Well, you change the club face angle! The club face angle is the ultimate factor that determines which direction your ball will fly out.
So, you need to lock your wrists in place. It’s one of those fundamental practices every golf player should focus on.
If your seeing too much inconsistency with your shots or cannot maintain the course to the target no matter how accurately you square the face at address, your wrist position might be at fault.
When a golf swing transition is concerned, the position of your feet is a debated topic. Let’s start with the front foot.
You may have come across instructors who instruct to lift the heel of the front foot up and shift the weight of the body to the toe for a more swift motion. You may have also come across instructors who oppose that.
In our opinion, you should be placing your feet firmly on the ground until you’re into the follow through. The firm stance will eliminate any possibilities of energy loss during the swing.
Coming to your back foot, you may want to lift your heel as you’ve hit the ball already and your club is going behind you. Lifting the heel is important in this case because you don’t want any additional stress on your ligaments and joints.
As long as you’re keeping solid contact with the ground throughout your backswing and downswing, you’re good to go.
It’s definitely one of the lesser discussed areas of golf swing transition. Players don’t tend to focus on the head position because it’s not an active part of the swing. However, we all know that our body follows the head.
So, it’s ideal that you keep your head at the same height from the ground throughout your swing. Many players tend to bring their heads up as they initiate the downswing. What it essentially does is changes your clearance from the ground and it can change your divot as well. Be careful!
The Biggest Mistakes a Player Can Make During the Transition
By now, you should have a precise idea of what to do to get the perfect swing transition. Now, let’s take a look at some of the mistakes you may make down the line.
We’ve seen players get too hungover on the pause factor of the swing. They get too much in their head that what is supposed to be a natural phenomenon turns into hesitation. And hesitation is not a good thing. Not in any case of life.
Rather, you need to be confident about what you’re doing with your motion. You need to spend enough time at the driving range practicing the moves that the concept of hesitation completely dissolves from the equation.
Adjusting on the Go
Amateur players usually suffer the most from this mistake. They do a good backswing. And they start the downswing strongly. What happens is that they realize midway that they’ve made a mistake. It might be changing the wrist angle or letting the elbow drift away from the body.
Whatever it is, you cannot undo what is done. You need to follow through with the motion no matter what. If you try to fix things on the go, it won’t bring anything good to you.
Too Much Weight on the Back Foot
The ideal rule of golf is that the weight should always be evenly distributed when you’re at stance. And when you’re swinging the club, the weight should be transferred to the front foot.
The mistake, in this case, is that many players shift the weight to their back foot. It comes as a natural movement because they think hitting under the golf ball is the best way to get it in the air.
But in reality, you need to hit down the ball in most cases. The lie angle, the loft, and the face angle are the primary reasons behind this.
So, if you’ve been guilty of putting too much weight on your back foot, it’s time to stop doing it. It ruins your transition and focuses the energy in the wrong place.
Some Drills to Help with Your Golf Swing Transition
We’ve reached near the end of our post. And so, it’s time to suggest to you some drills that you can either practice at the driving range or at home to nail the transition.
The Hip Bump
As hips are the first muscle to move in your body during the downswing, we’ll practice a hip drill first. You’re going to need either an alignment stick or a snow pole for this one.
- Stick the alignment stick in the ground vertically on your left side (the front side).
- Take your stance a few inches right of the stick.
- Now, get your favorite iron or driver to hit a few imaginary balls. It’s best if you reduce your swing speed to around 60%.
- Your goal is to bump the alignment stick with your hips at the beginning of your downswing.
- Keep practicing until the motion comes naturally to you.
The Exaggerating Pause
If you’re read the entire content, you may have realized that the pause at the top of the backswing is a very important factor for transition success. So, you’re going to work on it and in an aggressive way.
- Get into a stance with your favorite club.
- Do the backswing as you would normally do.
- At the top of the backswing, spend way more time than you would normally do. The ideal duration would be 2 seconds for this drill.
- The first few times, you may feel like an idiot. But as you keep practicing, you’ll discover the art of pausing gracefully. That’s exactly what you want.
The Wrist Angle Drill
We really like this drill because you don’t necessarily need the driving range or the course for this one. You can simply practice it at home as long as you have access to your clubs.
- Get into position with your club.
- Notice the angle between your club shaft and your forearm. Ideally, it should be 90 degrees.
- Now, try to keep the angle constant throughout your swing.
- On the first few tries, the angle will not be sustained. It’s completely normal. The goal is to keep trying until you can retain the wrist angle without putting stress on the joints.
The golf swing is a vast area for discussion. There are hundreds of drills and thousands of methods of perfecting it. Different players take different routes to master their swing. There are no rights and wrongs as long as you have the basics clear as a day.
The golf swing transition is a very important part of the progress. In this post, we’ve tried to chalk up the perfect plan to get your transition correct.
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