Starting the Downswing in Golf

While the takeaway is important, there is an old 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. Though the difference quickly shrinks as they start down. The acceptable corridors to swing the club back are so much larger than coming down. The golf downswing is what separates all levels of ball strikers. That is a fact.

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 in shooting a basketball, throwing a baseball, and almost all other athletic movements, there is a pattern of movement that is needed for power and consistency. Understanding and learning this pattern is what will lead to a swing that you can truly own.

Golf Downswing Sequence

1. Plant the Left Heel

The golf swing starts from the ground up. Even as the upper body and arms are still 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.

2. Knees Follow the Hips

How to start the downswing with the hips is an interesting topic. In realty the hips move back towards the target before anything else, although a lot of players might feel it is their knees. The big key here is to think of starting the downswing from the ground up. The ground is essential for proper sequence and power, and using it effectively can be very advantageous.

3. Rotate Hips Before Arms

The rotation of the body coming down helps drop the hands to start the downswing, and to move them out in the transition. However, the arms should not be moving independently yet. Using the arms first and pulling from the top is a great way to end up in the Death position, creating a steep shaft angle or a narrow downswing.  From this position consistent shots will be few and far between. I love the idea of passive arms and hands in the transition. So be patient, allow the body to initiate to where the hands drop to start the downswing in a good position. From there, just like in other athletic movements, go ahead and use the arms and hands.

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4. Tuck Your Trail Elbow

Once the lower body starts the downswing the upper torso quickly follows, and the baton is passed on to the arms. The trail elbow working close to the body and under the lead elbow is what gets the club on an inside track and ready to be delivered with body rotation and more power! A large separation of the elbows at the top or after the transition starts will put you in the Death position.

5. 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 too soon, you stand up and as a result become even less consistent than before. 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.

6. Maintain Your Wrist Hinge

With the correct lower body, torso, and arm sequence, it is almost automatic that the clubhead will lag behind your hands. In fact, for many top players a well sequenced golf swing can give them too much lag. This is rare for most, but chances are if you are trying force lag, there is an underlying issue with your sequence.

7. Transfer Your Weight

Weight transfer or what we like to refer to now as pressure transfer is a staple in all good golf swings. There should be pressure moving into the trail foot early in the backswing. As the backswing is coming to an end, even before starting the downswing, pressure should be moving back into the lead foot. This sets up the chain of events from there with the torso, arms, and hands following accordingly. A well-timed shift back and through is one of the major influences of good timing and rhythm in a golf swing. 

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 an externally rotated trail arm 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

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At this point pressure should be moving into the lead leg and the trail arm should be under the lead arm, but you should still have the same spine angle with your lead shoulder and chest down.  Don’t stand up out of your posture! A slight downward (or level) angle of the Swing Align rod is a good indication that you’ve maintained 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 debilitate a successful downswing and give you little chance to hit a good shot. Do not start the downswing with your arms!
  2. Extending the spine 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, with a loss of both power and control.

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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 actually 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.