Starting the Downswing in Golf

While the takeaway is important, there is a saying... “You don’t hit the golf ball with your backswing.” Through the years we have seen great players with their own way of swinging the club back. Two of the biggest money winners in PGA Tour history are Jim Fuyrk and Matt Kuchar, and they could not be further away from each other at the top of the swing. The acceptable corridors to swing the club back are so much larger than coming down. The golf downswing, in particular coming into the ball shallow versus steep, is what separates all levels of ball strikers.

The Golf Downswing Sequence

The key factor in how to start the downswing in golf is the sequence. This is the DNA of a golf swing, and really what separates the best players from high handicappers. Just like all other athletic movements, there is a pattern of movement that is needed for consistent ball-then-turf contact, accuracy and distance.

1. Good arm structure at the top

While there can be some variety in how you complete your backswing it is imperative to rotate your way there. Keep your arms and body connected, don't just lift your arms to the top. Ben Hogan thought about keeping his elbows close together on the way back, and the way down!

2. Plant the Left Heel

The golf swing starts from the ground up. Just before the upper body and arms stop going back, the lower body is starting the downswing. Putting pressure into the lead foot early in the transition is a big key to setting up the rest of the downswing.

3. Shift Your Pressure

There should be pressure moving into your trail foot early in the backswing but before starting down, pressure moves back onto your lead side. This sets up the downswing chain of events with the torso then arms following accordingly. A well-timed pressure shift back and through is one of the major influences of good timing and rhythm in a golf swing. 

Golf Downswing Sequence

4. Knees Follow the Hips

The hips should move back towards the target before anything else, although a lot of players might feel it is their knees. The big key here again is to think of starting the downswing from the ground up but in order to do that feel the ground under your lead side by bumping your hips forward.

5. Rotate Hips Before Arms

The rotation of the lower body first helps drop the arms down before moving them around. Moving the arms first and pulling them results in out and "over the top" ending up in the Death position with a steep shaft angle and narrow downswing.  From this position consistent shots will be few and far between. So be patient, allow the lower body to initiate to first and then feel the hands and arms drop to start the downswing. From there, just like in other athletic movements, your body rotation will create speed in the arms.

Hogan golf swing "Learn More" Button

6. Tuck Your Trail Elbow

Once the lower body starts the downswing, the arms drop, the upper torso will quickly follow. The trail elbow works in and close to the body and under the lead elbow. This is what gets the club on a shallow and inside track, ready to be delivered with rotation and more power! A large separation of the elbows at the top or after the transition starts will get the club too steep.

7. Keep The Lead Shoulder Down

One other thing I see with players who struggle to shallow the club when starting the downswing is that they try to use their shoulders to get their trail arm under their lead arm. If your lead shoulder moves up you stand up out of your posture and get too steep. Although it is important that the trail arm works under the lead arm in the transition, it is important to do so while keeping the lead shoulder and chest down. This combination leads to beautiful results at impact.

8. Wrist Bend and Hinge

With the correct lower body, torso, and arm sequence, it is almost automatic that your wrists will bend in a bowing motion versus scopping.  And the clubhead will lag behind your hands with your wrists unhinging late for maximum power and flush contact.

Start a Correct Downswing with Swing Align!

So, how to put it all together, how to start the downswing? The correct golf downswing sequence starts with a pressure shift to the lead leg, followed by your arms dropping and elbow starting to tuck close to your body to shallow the angle of the club, before rotating the torso through to impact. Using the Swing Align device is a huge help in visualizing and rehearsing these complicated body positions, in particular when it comes to how to start the downswing. When the lead arm is parallel to the ground on the way down, make sure the rod across your chest stays level or pointed slightly down toward the ball.

start the golf downswing

Hogan golf swing "Learn More" Button

At this the trail arm should be moving under the lead arm. You should still have the same spine angle with your lead shoulder and chest down. Don’t stand up out of your posture! As your golf downswing sequence continues, and the club approaches parallel with the ground, your trail elbow should be close to your body. Your shoulders will level out and the front end of the alignment rod should start to point up. Understanding and practicing this sequence, and seeing it demonstrated physically by Swing Align, will do a lot to help you improve!

golf downswing sequence

What not to do! The two big no-no’s are as follows. 
  1. An aggressive arm pull, or upper body lunge from the top. This will get the club too steep and kill a successful downswing with little chance to hit a good shot. Do not start the downswing with your arms!
  2. Standing up and coming out of your posture early. This is one of the worst moves you can make in a golf swing. Although the intention is good, the results will be disastrous, coming in steep, toe down and face generally open, with a loss of both power and control.

Learn More Button

Perfect Your Downswing with Swing Align!

With the downswing sequence being so important in regard to your success in golf, why would you ever practice without feedback? Swing Align helps with so many important aspects of the golf downswing, all with one easy to use wearable device that allows you to rehearse positions as well as hit actual golf shots. Because of the highly visible alignment rod you can see the shifting of the lower body first without opening up with the upper body, allowing you to practice much more effectively. It is also easy to see and feel how the trail arm needs to work under the lead arm. Finally, the connection belt will ensure your arms stay in a good package at the top of your swing, connected to your body and in front of you for improved impact.  A little practice with Swing Align at home or on the range will lead to better results on the golf course. Get yours today!



Back to Instruction

The Swing Align Golf Instruction Blog is a great resource for a variety of golf swing tips and golf drills to help you improve your game. You’ll find lessons on how to hit a draw, how to eliminate a golf slice, golf chipping tips and more! Any golfer will find these golf swing lessons useful, even if you don’t own a Swing Align golf training aid. But if you do own a Swing Align, you’ll learn how to use it to improve key fundamentals including alignment, posture, rotation, swing plane and connection. The red button at the top of the page will take you to the Swing Align YouTube channel where you’ll find even more golf swing instruction.