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At the transition between the back and downswings there is a point in time and space that sets the tone for the coup de grace of the golf swing, namely impact–that vital moment when the hands lead the clubhead down and into the ball, compressing the ball, which leaps to an elliptical surge, tracing a trajectory, if hit true, like a mortar shell. The battlefield of golf. An explosion of energy, an expression of aggression without corresponding recoil. We shop at the market. We drive in traffic. We work at ordinary jobs in ordinary buildings with ordinary people who wish us ordinary good mornings, good nights, and good weekends. All pretty mild stuff. But impact in a golf swing? That’s bombastic. That’s hyperbolic. That’s sesquipedalian (just look it up). I don’t care if you’re Maude Frickert swinging at 60 mph (RIP Jonathan Winters). Impact is exciting.

I know most instructors teach that the downswing starts with the legs and hips, followed by the upper body and arms, but I have a different hit on it, based on observation and personal experimentation. Watch any slo mo, Peter Kostis analysis of a pro’s swing and you’ll see that the downswing starts with the hands and arms which lead the lower body into the impact zone. It’s a swing, after all, and what’s the most logical part of the body to lead a swing? The arms and hands. Leading is their natural function. The grosser lower body follows adding density and bulk to the equation. Witness Jack Nicklaus in his prime. In fact, the actual key that should start the downswing is driving the butt of the left hand downward toward the ball. That key downswing move is the signal for the body to begin to move its weight forward and clear the hips out of the way to allow the arms and hands to swing through. But most importantly, this move delays the hit, creating a greater angle of lag in the wrists. This delay, when approaching the impact area, is the harbinger of power. Witness Sergio Garcia, who is the king of lag.

So the swing thought/action is simply to pull the butt of the club downward toward the ball at a pace about the same as you would for your 7-iron. Your grip should, of course, be in your fingers, allowing the free movement of the hands and wrists in the downswing. As evolution has dictated, your mind expects the hands and arms to be in control of any swinging motion. Witness any chimpanzee. The nerve endings there are conditioned to react to an implement, in this case the golf club, that needs to be swung to fulfill its function, in this case propeling a golf ball a long way, accurately. Fingers are designed for fine, detailed work, like gripping, holding, and directing. The grosser body will follow the fingers. And the move conveniently and automatically tucks the right elbow into the right side of the body where it should be on the downswing. One less thing to think about in this complicated series of movements called the golf swing.

What about moving the body weight to the left side at the start of the downswing to prevent hitting the shot fat? Don’t you have to consciously do that with your hips first? In my estimation, the answer is no. The hands and hips start almost simultaneously as the downswing starts, moving naturally and easily forward. The more the wrists lag as you approach impact, the more time the hips have to move out of the way as the momentum of the swing proceeds. With the left foot firmly planted, the left side stiffens at impact, allowing you to “hit against a firm left side.” Braced as such, the hands and wrists can release and slam the club into the ball, keeping the head slightly behind the impact area. The firm left side (right side in a lefty) is a kind of ramrod to force the gunpowder (your wrists and hands) up tight against the projectile (the ball), and preventing misfiring. (By the way, as an aside, that’s the kind of reloading the Founding Fathers were referring to when they wrote the Second Amendment.)

The longer the club, the wider the stance, since controlling the swing is harder, the longer the implement. This will depend on your height though, as well. With all this swinging, golf truly is a balance sport, and a hand-eye coordination sport. The keystone in the above instruction is the head. With any movement, there is risk you will lose accuracy. Tiger Woods used to dip his head at the start of the downswing, and his driving would get him into trouble. When two-time U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen was a kid learning the game, his teacher would literally hold his head in place as he swung, to teach him what that felt like and how it could affect the results. The head is the axel: The hands and arms are the spokes: The body is the chassis.

You can apply this key move to almost any club in the bag. Just position the ball more towards the middle of the stance, the shorter the club. It works for the driver down to the wedges. Putting is a game unto itself. Entire books have been written on it alone.

And, of course, there is the mind. I tried out my key downswing move a few years ago, had great success on the range, then flopped with it on the course the first time out. As often happens, I tried modifying the technique as I was playing and wound up getting into deeper and deeper trouble. The mind was looking for a way out of its misery. So instead of sticking with the method and letting it find its level during actual play, I grew impatient and started my infernal trial and error routine, which is a recipe for disaster as you’re playing. When the pros talk about “staying patient”, I think this is what they’re talking about. Stay with the swing thoughts and actions you last practiced on the range and don’t change them because of a few bad shots.

This technique of driving the butt of the left hand down toward the ball on the downswing may take a while to settle into the mind and body. You may hit a few fat shots until the body finds the right timing in its move forward. But practice it on the range for awhile. Get comfortable with it. Let your confidence grow so you begin to expect positive results. Then take it to the course and see if it holds up. If it does, great. Ride the wave. If it doesn’t, that’s OK too. Return to the range and make sure you’ve ingrained the sequences into your routine. It’s all grist for the game improvement mill, and part of the challenge of this great game.


Eyes and head in same position as address. I know: no ball. Just imagine it.

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115 Responses to The Key Downswing Move

  1. Joan King says:

    Good analysis of the downswing. I remember Joanne Gunderson Carner, “The Great Gundy” explaining this move to a few of us after dinner one night in the 1970’s in North Palm Beach, Florida. It was the first time we had seen the pull down of the left hand. Lag time wasn’t even in the golf vocabulary then. She didn’t need a term to describe her prodigious length, only the feeling.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thanks, Joan, for verification of my analysis. I remember Joanne Carner well, but didn’t know she advised this method for creating and maintaining lag, even before lag was ever talked about.
      Really appreciate your comment.

      • bread says:

        You are right. If you watch ben hogan slow motion the arms go a split second before the hips. Then they clear. Same with adam scott and tiger. For me watching videos of these guys for years shows me they get their arms and club head out in front of body.

        • Stephen Altschuler says:

          Thanks for the vote of confidence, dear reader. I too have looked closely at golfers like the ones you mentioned and noticed what you’ve noticed: The arms do head downward a split second before the hips, something Louis Oosthuizen verified on Golf Channel recently. The hips do clear and the weight does shift to the front leg, allowing the club head to square at impact. The key is to keep the club on plane, which I’ll cover more fully in an upcoming post.
          Keep me informed around your continuing observations and experiments.
          By the way, I had a wonderful day of ball striking yesterday, using these ideas, culminating in a 77, along with my third hole-in-one! I just turned 68 a few days ago.

  2. Rob Wallace says:

    The hands and arms never ever start the downswing. The downswing is a release to the coiling developed by the backswing, and in order for the downswing to enable acceleration through the hitting area, the uncoiling must begin with the feet- hips- torso. True, it does feel as though the butt of the club is swinging toward the ball on plane, but this is a reactionary feeling of the correct lower body release and should never initiate the downswing; if it does, then you’ve lost the correct uncoiling sequence, and you’ll probably come over the top.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Well, I’ve got a former LPGA pro (see Joan King comment) that verifies what I’m suggesting is true, Rob. Watch slo mo videos of pros. The hands and arms start down slightly ahead of the lower body. This swing thought is much easier and more efficient than instructing the legs or hips to move first. You won’t come over the top if lag is maintained, and this method insures lag will be created and maintained. Since most amateurs slice their tee ball, I’m suggesting a better way to approach the downswing.
      Thanks for your comment.

    • Chris says:

      I have to agree with Rob here. The great Ben Hogan said it starts with the hips, then the shoulders, then the arms and lastly the hands. IN THAT ORDER! If you start with the hands and arms and don’t rotate the body much you can still come from the inside. If you rotate the body as much as Hogan but start with the arms and hands first you are doomed to come over the top every single time. The first move is aggressive hip turn, they drag the shoulders through and you hold off the arms and hands until they are waist high. If you want to try and swing like the greatest ball striker of all time that is. It isn’t for everyone but that’s my 2 cents.

      • Stephen Altschuler says:

        You guys are probably right, at least for yourselves. And who can deny Hogan’s swing and record. But as I age, I got to thinking maybe it changes. Maybe my hips need a little help from some friends up top. Those hips are achier now than when I started this game. They don’t turn so easily. I can’t call my hip turn aggressive any more. But my hands and arms, I can still move them pretty well. So I’m trying something new that others seem to agree with. But I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll let you know.
        Thanks so much for the comments, Chris.

      • k says:

        Chris, Hogan said no such thing. If you watch a video of Hogan, Tiger or any other great player from behind, you will see an almost simultaneous lateral shift, along with a pulling down of the back of the left hand into the ball. Trevino said that in fact is his key downswing thought–pull the back of the left hand into the ball as if he is trying to drag the knuckles of his left hand along the ground. That my friend is what Hogan calls supination. All you will do is come over the top if you spin your hips. immediately at the top of the backswing.

        • Chris says:

          Read hogans book and I think you will rebuke your statement. He clearly states it in his “5 fundamentals of golf”. Fact.

          • k says:

            Chris, you need to go back and re-read Hogan. He clearly states that the downswing begins with a slight lateral bump before the hips come into play. You get that bump via the vertical drop/drag of your left arm into the slot. No way you get lag/supination if you spin your hips immediately from the top of the swing. Guaranteed that you will come over the top and flip your right wrist. The great Moe Norman in the video link below (discussion begins at the 10:13 mark) forcefully states that his downswing is a PULL of the left arm–the right arm is just an ornament. In fact he demonstrates this by releasing his right arm from the club as he comes into contact with the ball. He scoffs at hip-spinning because all that yields is over-the-top swings.

          • Stephen Altschuler says:

            Great addition to the discussion, K. Really liked the Mo Norman video. Amazing ball striker. Great technical advice. Yes, turn the shoulders. Don’t worry about the hips. And pull that left arm down against a firm yet supple left side.
            Thanks for commenting, and good golf ahead.

        • Stephen Altschuler says:

          To Chris and K: Golf instruction is constantly evolving, and what’s clear to me is that there is no cookie cutter approach. You have to experiment with what works for your body and disposition. But, yes, there are some givens. And one is that the rotation of the hips can easily outpace the arms and hands on the downswing, creating an outside-in club head path. This can lead to a slice or pull. The hips do need to rotate and the hands do need to drop, but it all has to happen in the right sequence and pace. Experiment.
          Thanks to both of you for commenting on this controversial subject.

          • Steve says:

            All I can say about the downswing is that today’s top golf teachers are advocating starting the downswing with the hands/arms a split second before the hips/shoulders. The reason being is that the arms have the longest distance to travel from the top of the swing to the ball. As far as degree is concerned, your shoulders are at a 90 degree angle to the ground, your hips are ~60-65 degrees! The arms need to travel a greater distance to impact. If the hips are starting the downswing, the tendency is for the torso to get too far out in front of the arms/hands and will take the club off plane and result in pushes/blocks.

          • Stephen Altschuler says:

            This is a great addition to this discussion, Steve. It adds mathematics to the rationale for starting the downswing just slightly before the hips and legs. It helps make sense of why the hands/arms must lead the lower body towards impact.
            Thanks so much for your contribution.

        • Craig says:

          Is there not a difference between pulling the butt of the club toward the ball and drag the knuckles of your left hand into the ball (supination). Wouldn’t the supination have more to do with the release than the downswing?

          • Stephen Altschuler says:

            I see your point, Craig. I find though that the image/thought of pulling the butt of the club down toward the ball is a more graphic way of getting the downswing started. It also leads to supination, but with the club moving that fast at impact, to make supination happen via the knuckles of the left hand would put too much emphasis on the hands at impact. At the start of the downswing, and particularly at impact, the hands, arms, hips, and core must be relatively connected for solid contact. There are different ways of starting the downswing. I just prefer pulling down the butt of the club because it’s easier to remember, and we’re generally used to the hands leading the way in a swinging motion. Anyway, that’s been my experience.
            If your way works for you, then stay with it.
            Thanks so much for your comments.

  3. David Tabb says:

    The debate over how to initiate the downswing will be never ending. I happen to agree with you for several reasons, particularly for the not overly talented geriatric player. But my preference is also more deep seated. I first encountered the “arm initiated” downswing with lessons at Leslie King’s golf studio in Knightbridge in ’85. (Check out King’s book! Master Key to Good Golf). More recently I’ve been tutored by one of the four last living students of Ernest Jones, Woody Wright at Lake Merced Golf Club in SF. He’s an extraordinary teacher who knows how to encourage a simple and repeatable swing. And finally, I would recommend reading Manuel de La Torre’s book, Understanding the Golf Swing, particularly the chapter on the forward swing which is as persuasive a case for initiating the downswing with the upper arms as I can imagine. As you probably are aware De la torre and his father were Jone’s students.

    At any rate I encourage your Bay Area readers to check out Woody. I promise them lasting results. Having played for 60 years I am currently swinging the club with more assurance at 73 than ever before.


    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thanks, David. This is very helpful. The start of the forward swing is a bit of a mystery, made even more cryptic by the fact that something might work for awhile and then suddenly stop working. This is experienced by pros and amateurs alike, but particularly amateurs who don’t play much. I’ll look up Mr. Wright, providing he doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. I desperately need both for my swing.
      I have de la Torre’s book, which is a classic.
      All the best with your game.

      • David Tabb says:

        Good to hear from you. On rereading your downswing comment I’m reminded that that Woody also focuses on moving the butt of the club outward at the top of the downswing, He always suggests not to worry about coming over the top with the move and for some reason he is right. For me it is important that I take what feels like a 3/4 swing and that I focus on the rhythm of the swing which allows me to initiate the downswing motion without feeling I am jerking the club. Otherwise I do have the tendency of coming over the top. It also is important for me in getting this right that I check my alignment since I have a tendency to align right. When aligning parallel with the target the move will more often than not promote me hitting the ball straight, relatively high and in the sweet spot. There is hardly a nicer sound and feel than the pop/click of a ball hit squarely at impact with some reasonable compression.

        Since I’ve always needed to live on a teacher’s salary be assured that Woody’s rates are affordable. Mention that I suggested you contact him. He usually has a two week backlog but is always responsive.

        • Stephen Altschuler says:

          This is vital material, David, especially the bit on alignment, which I well remember on the range but not the course. Woody’s instruction on the butt of the club moving outward at the start of the forward swing is fascinating to me. I’ll definitely have to experiment with this (or see Woody). I’ve had a loop in my swing forever, which has bedeviled me, but this may be a conscious solution.
          Again, thanks for your astute and helpful comments.

          • David Tabb says:

            The way I have attempted to establish an allignment routine on the course is to first pick an intermediate target a couple feet in front of the ball a la Jack’s advice and then set the club squarely before setting my feet. All old fundamental stuff but so easy to forget.

          • Stephen Altschuler says:

            I’ve tried this, David, and it works like a charm (as it did for Jack).
            Thanks for the reminder.

          • David Tabb says:

            Let’s talk about the “key downswing move” once again. I had another lesson today and it wasn’t until I began to understand what “unfolding the right arm” at the beginning of the downswing meant that I began to feel that I disagree with you on one key point. This is really going to sound radical so bear with me. If I am facing you I begin the downswing by moving the butt of the club toward you and unfold my right arm toward you at the same time. This creates a swinging of the club. By “pulling the butt of the club down”, though this may seem like the natural direction toward impact, it’s my experience that I do have a tendency when doing this to get out of swing sequence and to come over the top. Moreover, for me consciously pulling the club down creates a hitting action rather than a swinging action. I apologize if this sounds a bit counter-intuitive, and as one once said about the golf swing (as with life) you learn better by doing than reading. This may be an example where too much reading can be a substitute for thought.

            I’ll leave you with one more radical thought. Ernest Jones once told Sam Snead that the key to the swing was in the right hand, and Sam agreed. How about them apples.

          • Stephen Altschuler says:

            Not sure I follow you on this one, David. I wouldn’t worry too much about the unfolding of the right arm. That will happen naturally if previous mechanics are right. Pulling the butt down insures you won’t come over the top and it keeps the lag intact. But even more important, as my present blog post indicates, is keeping a firm grip on the club with the last three fingers of the left hand. This prevents loosening the grip at the top which causes a regripping and the dreaded over the top move. A steady head prevents this as well.
            In light of this, I would disagree with Jones and Snead and would say the key to the swing lies in the left hand and not the right. The right needs to be subdued, as Ben Hogan found out, curing his chronic hook, and going on to become a legend. Could it be that Snead never won an Open because his right hand was too dominant, affecting his accuracy off the tee at tight, Open courses.
            Anyway, as always, thanks for your comments. I love these kinds of interchanges.

          • David Tabb says:

            Thanks for your reply. I’m not qualified to comment on the possible limitations of either Hogan or Snead. I would take the swing of either/and.

            I’ll once again try your recommendation and see how it compares. To add fuel to the fire I’ve also been advised to loosen my left hand grip. I didn’t find this caused either the need to regrip or to come over the top.

            For me it probably is critical that I don’t bring the club back any further than my chin on the backswing. And I do like and agree with your key move on the backswing.


          • Stephen Altschuler says:

            I wouldn’t loosen the last three fingers of the left hand, David. I know everyone has individual requirements according to the needs of their bodies, but I think that advice is fairly sacrosanct. Of course, experimentation is in order. Not too tight. Not too loose. Find what’s right for you. Take a look at Vijay and Couples at impact. Their right hand almost comes off the club, but the left hand is holding on, in control. I heard Couples talk about this a short while ago.

  4. Mark Baker says:


    This is a well written and fun to read article. I had great success hitting my driver by pulling the butt of the club toward the ball on my down swing at the range today. It was very long and consistent. I also tried this technique on my 5 iron and PW with the same results. I came across this article while searching if this was a proper move in the golf swing. The rest of my body works correctly as well with only two thoughts. 1. Pull butt of club toward ball. 2. Rotate body fast into ball after pulling butt toward ball. The body actually starts rotating as you start pulling the butt, but the explosion happens for me closer to impact now.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thanks very much, Mark. It’s good to know some of this stuff I write is working for some people. Golf is a big experiment, requiring trial and error. I just wish the errors would take more a back seat to the trials.
      Continued success, and thanks for commenting.

  5. Piet Pompies says:

    Well here is my 2 cents,

    I’ve gone for several lessons at different pro’s, but none of them was able to give me the correct trigger for the downswing, always the take away. I’ve perfected the take away but always seemed to cast, and hit with a fade that turns into a slice at times.

    Up until the time that I changed to a different instructor, I’ve had 3 lessons so far with the new guy, 1 Grip, 2 Take away and 3 was the downswing, all 3 he left me with very simple concepts…… I was waiting in anticipation for the 3rd lesson as I was looking for this magic that creates the downswing and the draw……

    At the start of my 3rd lesson he observed what I had practiced for a while and then simply said, at the top of your swing pull your left hand towards the ball…. within a matter of a couple of shots I was hitting a slight draw with my 7 iron into a wind (And we all know what a wind does with a fade)

    That was the most simple and uncomplicated explanation I’ve ever received and it works!!!! The shot is difficult to trust as you are not “hitting” towards the ball any more(Feels like you are going to miss it) , but you just got to trust it…… the rest of the swing just falls into place…

    I’ve heard of pulling down with your left hand, but never towards the ball!! and that’s the key that ensures you come from the inside and do not cast…..

    I tell you what, for some one who HATED golf because of the slice, who was told by other instructors – you will always hit with a fade…..

    I’ve tried this move for a week now, I’m hitting further, I have better ball sticking and I’m hitting a slight draw…….

    Stephen Altschuler YOU ARE 100% RIGHT

    To the rest of you, try it and enjoy it, we don’t have to overcomplicate it…

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thanks, Cullen. It’s good to get affirmation from someone who is trying out some of these theories. The move does keep you inside out, improves lag, and has you accelerating towards the ball. The only thing to be mindful of is weight shift. I’ve found a tendency to hit slightly behind the ball at times, cutting into the solidity of the hit. Accuracy is good at these times but distance is off. It’s just a matter of getting the weight over to the left early in the downswing, either by turning the hips or driving the legs/knees to the left as you pull the butt of the club down towards the ball. It’s a timing thing that requires practice.
      Anyway, continued success to you.

  6. matt says:

    Great post.. as usual! Your writing is so articulate and clear, keep it up!

  7. Frederik says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I totally agree with you on your thoughts on swinging the hands down and toward the ball. I “figured” this move out on the range about two years ago and my shots really excelled straight away. However, after a while i started thinning and duffing quite a few of my shots. It was then I realised that hitting down the same degree with all clubs was not correc(for me at least) and my body started compensating. It raised up a little, I guess to make sure I hit the ball and not just the ground all the time which made me thin it a lot for a while. This especially happened with my longer clubs like 3-6 iron. What I now have figured out is that, yes I need to hit down with all clubs(including 3Wood and driver) but “adjust” my hand height at impact with all clubs. For instance i feel like i have my hands just over my left pocket with my 4iron at impact, and right above my knee with my Sand wedge. As soon as I really understood these subtle(but huge in result!!) differences, I started hitting ALL my irons and woods so much better it is crazy. Duffs and skins almost eliminated as a result.

    Anyway, that is my take on the same subject. And YES, lag is very important.

    Best of luck to you, and nice blog!

    Best regards

    Frederik, Norway

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thank you for these insightful comments, Frederik. The range is a vast experimental laboratory, isn’t it? It seems you’ve discovered, for yourself, this holding off action of the hands at impact. It insures that you’ve compressed the ball properly, taking full advantage of the lag you’ve created. Now to do this with a wood, that’s new. I must try this out, since I’m struggling some with my woods at the moment. I would think woods would be harder to control at impact because of their increased length. Any more insights into how you pull this off with the driver and three wood would be appreciated.
      Glad you like the blog.
      Back in my youth in Pennsylvania, I played golf on frozen ground during winter. I could barely swing wearing three sweatshirts, but gosh did that ball roll on ice and frozen turf! Same in Norway?

  8. Merrick says:

    Thanks for the great golf tips, I really love all of them.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      You’re quite welcome, Merrick. Am glad you’re enjoying and, hopefully, benefitting from them. Please spread the word about the blog.
      Good golf to you, and thanks for your comments.

  9. Phil Heal says:

    I also agree with the dropping of the hands to initiate the downswing. I too have struggled for the 10 years i’ve been playing golf to sequence may swing, with thins, fats, poor distance etc.
    Had my first leeson with a new instructor last week and suddenly had a light bulb moment during the lesson (why hadn’t previous instructors taught me these simple actions/swing thoughts before!).
    Take the club back with your left arm and let wrists naturally hinge towards the end of the backswing, and then (this is the moment) drop the hands, wait a split second then “fire the right shoulder” through impact.
    The dropping of the hands allows the hips to start clearing and the firing of the shoulder allows everything to go through impact together and allows for a natural, full finish.
    As stated previously it feels as though the clubface will be nowhere near the ball but just trust it and centrifugal force will take care of the hit.
    Hits are now solid, out the sweetspot and clubhead speed has increase so the ball now fizzes of the face.
    Hope this helps, try it, it may be your answer to the mystery that is the golf swing!!

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I think you’ve got it right, Phil, and obviously it’s working for you. That’s the important thing. We golfers have different bodies and tempos and ages and history. Some depend more on timing, some on core strength, some on arm strength, some on keeping a clear mind and swinging away without a single swing thought. You’ve experimented with what’s right for you, which has led to a ball that “fizzes off the face.” That’s what all of us strive for.
      Well done, and keep it going, man.

  10. chris says:

    hi tried this theory and found i had very high hands at the finish ie way above my head. do you have same results? many thanks

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I haven’t had this result, i.e. high hands at finish. But each golfer is different according to body type and age. Where and how the ball flies is the important thing.
      Thanks for your comment.

  11. Stan says:

    I have to agree with Chris, Rob Wallace, Hogan and Bobby Jones; The downswing is initiated with the lower body either through a push off of the right foot as Jack Nicklaus recommends or a shift of the weight to the left side by laterally shifting the hips towards the target. No matter how you initiate the downswing it is done from the ground up or the waist down. I recommend purchasing the excellent Warner Bros. videos of Bobby Jones. Jones demonstrates in a back swing segment in slow motion & stop action whereby he shows quite clearly that he starts back down to the ball BEFORE his hands have reached the completion of their arc. This move, starting down with the lower body before the hands have reached the top of the swing, increases the torque or ‘X’ factor between the upper and lower body thus increasing distance. Obviously this is an advanced move requiring a supple body. Starting down by ‘pulling on a bell rope or the last 3 fingers of the left hand can possibly work particularly if one is not supple but this is not what Hogan, Bobby Jones or Nicklaus advocated to initiate the downswing. They all have stated the arms and hands are followers in the downswing and not leaders.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      And I don’t necessarily disagree with you and the other respected golfers you mentioned, Stan. But your reference to differences in suppleness does point to the need for a bifurcation in golf swing instruction: a method for pros who have the time and money to practice and train, and a method for amateurs who nip at the edges of practice and play time. Yes, the weight must shift to the forward side at the start of the downswing, but to do so in perfect sequence among hips, legs, core, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands is a task far beyond the capacity of most amateurs, especially those of us who don’t have the time, motivation, or lower back to hit 300 or so balls a day on the range, which includes myself. I find it much easier to not be too concerned with this sequence and do what comes naturally, namely to start the downswing with the butt of the left hand and the hips about the same time. That should get you to impact without either the hips outracing the arms or the hands getting stuck too far behind the hips (something even the pros struggle with). I think the less mechanics, the better, keeping this complicated set of motions as simple as possible.
      Personally, I can’t swing the club like Hogan did. And as for Bobby Jones, his whipping action derived quite a bit from using hickory shafts. Rob, who is a friend of mine and who uses the swing sequence you recommend very effectively, struggles some with recent back issues. My goal is to develop a system that works just as effectively for the younger player as for the aging golfer. It’s still a work in progress, and I welcome astute comments like yours to help keep me on target.
      Thanks very much, Stan.

  12. John says:

    The final answer:
    At top of back swing, you can bump forward and commence breaking left knee toward target–whilst dropping hands till right arm is snug to your side, ( you almost feel as though your hand/arm complex is behind you—once you feel inside of right arm is snug to your right side-elbow in- the club path is low enough to accelerate hips and spin hard pressuring club forward….you can’t start from top of backswing pulling the club butt down toward the ball as you are pressuring the wrong side of the shaft and will come over the top– you cast and loose your coiled power…

    • RLP says:

      You can’t come over the top when you are pulling your arms down (same idea with butt of the club down towards the ball). It’s impossible. The over the top move is when you start the downswing with your upper body. When you rotate your upper body to start the downswing is how you come over the top, NOT by dropping your arms. Literally the move “dropping your arms” is the opposite of coming over the top.

      I feel like some people are misunderstanding some of the terminology here.

  13. Michael Sievers says:

    Not being blessed with great eye hand coordination I need a golf swing that is simple. I came across an article by Zach Johnson. He says the same. In order to start downswing he also starts by letting the arms pull your body from the top. http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/2012-01/zach-johnson-downswing-drills

    It really helps in keeping lag and making better ball contact.

  14. Mark Baker says:

    For me pulling the butt of the club toward the ball is more to get the club on the right path and not necessarily the start of the downswing. The pull down and body turn starts almost at the same time. It is however my start the downswing thought. Like most, I’m sure, my swing comes and goes. Below are a few additional observations I’ve pieced together after analyzing my swing during the times when I am hitting well. These help me be more consistent and to get my swing back quicker if/when I do loose it.

    1. At address and start of the backswing, I keep my knuckles down. The knuckles continue the same position up to the top (facing away from target). I now have a flat left wrist at the top.
    2. Downswing is pulling the butt toward the ball and steadily faster body turn at same time. I keep my knuckles down through the swing with loose wrists.
    3. At the top, I forget about my hands, wrists and right arm bend until I’m standing in my finish position. The only thought is swing the butt of the club past the ball with loose wrists and knuckles down. The hands and wrists naturally square the club face and unhinge the right arm at the impact position. This is key to my accuracy, high ball flight and draw. Pulls and weak shots result if I think about hitting the ball.

    Two additional thoughts are stay tall to allow the club head room to release past the body and left shoulder back and up and not just up to allow me to rotate my shoulders and not collapse my right side.

    • RLP says:

      When you’re in your backswing and the thought is to pull the arms down, then your brain knows the only way you’re going to hit this ball is if you start to turn the body and clear the hips so that’s what it does. It’s because of this reason that the arms pulling down starts the backswing.

      All we are doing with the swing is setting things up to a point where your instincts take over. Every swing relies on reflexes and instincts right before you hit the ball. Your brain knows what it has to do to hit the ball so if you put it in a bad position then it compensates for it. Some compensations are harder than others to consistently do. The goal of the swing is to make the least amount of instinctual compensations happen. This is why it can’t be mastered. Nobody can make the least amount of instinctual compensations all the time, but getting it in a decent range of positions will allow better shots.

  15. Wade says:

    An observation from a student of the swing. If the hips swing the arms – how can you possibly get your right elbow to the right hip? By default you must pull down with the butt of the club to get the right elbow down to the hip.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I agree, Wade. If the hips move too fast and too soon, the arms and right elbow can easily get stuck and compensate by coming over the top. Keep it simple and pull the butt of that club down so that the right elbow fits right into that right hip. Just make sure you get that weight over to the left side with the irons.
      Thanks for your comment.

  16. DH says:

    I find all the comments here interesting. I agree with the butt of the club going towards the target to generate lag. Can someone please elaborate on what the right arm is doing?

    I noticed that if I engage the right arm too early, I will shank the ball.


    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      The right arm and hand present a bit of trouble at impact. It’s why Vijay and Freddy are seen to almost release the right hand grip at impact. Too much power from the right arm and a hook is common–often a duck hook. It lost Furyk the Open at Olympic in SF. Hogan and Trevino protected against this, taking the left side out of the course out of the equation. They both used a more neutral grip. But too little influence from the right arm and you can lose control of the club path. I think this may be why you shank at times, DH, but I’m not certain. My solution would be to grip firmly with the last three fingers of the left hand, have less grip pressure in the right hand, keep the hands unified throughout, and follow the key downswing move.
      Good golfing, and thanks for your interest, DH.

    • RLP says:

      Honestly I would look at if you are starting your downswing with your hip slide too early. If you do this then the face of your club will be wide open. This is why starting with dropping your arms is the right thing to do. Your hips are faster and have to travel a shorter distance than your arms. The idea is your hips can catch up, but your arms can’t catch up to your hips so that leaves the club face open.

  17. william reichert says:

    At the start of the down swing the hands and especially the club head
    actually moves away from the target line and initially backwards. The arms
    propel the mass of the club backwards at the start. This force is felt by the
    golfer’s balance sense and the hips move towards the target. to main tain
    the balance from being thrown backwards. The hips move in response
    to the arm/club mass going backwards. The danger of. thinking
    of driving yout left hand toward the ball is that this can cause you. to
    propel the right hand with the right shoulder causing you to
    come. ” over the top”. and create an outside in swing path. It is best
    to restrain the right shoulder. from moving early in the down swing.
    Starting the down swing with. the arms is helpful, especially if the
    vector of force established by the arms is initially bacwards.

    • RLP says:

      “The danger of. thinking
      of driving yout left hand toward the ball is that this can cause you. to
      propel the right hand with the right shoulder causing you to
      come. ” over the top”. and create an outside in swing path.”

      I don’t agree with this at all really. If you are dropping your arms it doesn’t also mean rotate the right shoulder. It simply means, drop the arms period. When you are dropping your arms only you can’t come from over the top. If anything this dropping of the arms makes it seems like you’re going to miss the ball entirely but it only takes 5 mins of doing this to realize that you won’t.

  18. eric erlendson says:

    Hi Stephen, I’ve enjoyed all the discussion about the downswing and appreciate that you sound like a fine gentleman who has encouraged a very civil discussion on such a hot topic. My own view is that everyone needs some type of trigger to help coordinate such a counterintuitive move. The difficulty, or one of the difficulties in making a swing is to make an athletic motion while focusing on so many thoughts. The beauty of your suggestion is that the golfer think of one thing and then everything just happens. I believe that for the clubface to square you need to create torque and to create speed there needs to be tautness or lag. The key for this is that the butt of the club must face the target line or outside of the line. And the only way for that to happen is the right shoulder must drop instead of move across. When the right shoulder drops the left hip will automatically shift targetward. I think this is what Hogan means by the magic move. Any way that you can achieve this objective is, in my mind, correct.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thanks so much for the affirmations, Eric. It’s gratifying to be seen and appreciated. I like your analysis of the downswing very much, and, once my injury heals, intend to experiment with that dropping of the right shoulder. The only danger I can foresee is that it drops too much, almost Tiger-like in days past, or perhaps Tom Lehman-like in his day. There are some dangers there, and compensations needed if the move gets too exaggerated. Although I’m not overly certain, it seems the head could drop along with the right shoulder, causing the body to leave the proper plane coming into impact. The magic move? It certainly worked for Hogan. But would it work for the average 15 handicap?
      Onward to the range to try it out.
      At any rate, thanks for astutely adding to the downswing discussion, Eric.

  19. Grr says:

    Gotta disagree Ive read another of your articles on connection and this is what causes the long accelerating pull and strike on the handle look at a bb pitcher do you think he starts his throw with his hand!
    Also at the top level its not a swing its a strike! ask any professional soccer player what his “swinger” is and he will tell you its when he has to shoot with his unatural leg, usually his left, he strikes the ball with his right using all his co-ordinated power!

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I’ve heard these analogies before, but I don’t think you can compare a baseball pitch or a soccer kick to hitting a golf ball.
      Thanks for the comments.

  20. Grr says:

    It is a natural throwing action that most people have within them if theyve been ok at other ball/racquet sports, think of the coconut shy, to knock the coconut off you have to produce speed and accuracy, we developed this to survive in the wild by throwing things to bring down animals or fruit in trees!
    Where hackers go wrong is they see the golf action as a hitting (clubbing a seal) action not a throwing or slinging action in which the ball gets in the way. Golf looks like a bb batting action but the muscles are more relaxed like a pitcher( abb batters main skill is the ability to hit a fast moving swerving ball which doesnt apply in golf.
    The main reason hackers never get this is that unlike in other sports theyve tried they never practice co-ordination drills specific to golf ie you have to have total confidence the ball is going to get in the way of the club! One way to do this is to learn to bounce a ball on a wedge ALL GOOD PLAYERS can DO this, start holding the shaft 6 ins from the head, when you can bounce it 10 times lenthen it, in 6 weeks you will be able to hold the grip and bounce the ball. Another way is down the range, feet close together to start swing back and forth continuously clipping the rubber tee peg, you may miss a couple of times to start with eventually you will be able to shut your eyes and do it!

    • RLP says:

      I’ve found standing close to the ball (like really close) gets the point across. The only way you can hit it is by really dropping your arms. Then move back a little and do the same thing.

  21. Dean says:

    I have struggled with a steep downswing for many years . The elusive inside move using my hips has never worked for me and only got me OTT right away. Only upper body leaning back with a trap move would drop the shaft inside for me but always led to a block and a push or a bad hook trying to save it. Shoulders at Impact always pointing right but shaft in the slot from down the line….face of club open. Going right. My instructer had me do some drills today by starting the sequence with a little arm drop..shaft parallel with shaft plane dropping in….he was purposefully disconnecting my golf swing to get my mind to understand the proper direction parts are supposed to move.. Then just start releasing the toe at hands hip level as I kept my hands in front of me. All while turning left with the lower body.. The DTL video looks much better and more correct and the sequencing looks like what I am used to seeing on TV. The transition from the backswing to the down is smooth and on plane with no vertical shaft redirection I am used to seeing. There is something to this if even for a drill but has helped me feel the proper way to get my upper body to go despite what initiates the movement. My hips take over after a little drop of the arms with the shaft on plane and works well for me. No more am I stuck and trapped inside.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Looks like you’ve got the sequence down, which is really the toughest thing for a golfer, either pro or amateur, to get.
      You’ve got a good instructor there.
      Thanks for commenting.

  22. Grr says:

    Although I learnt what I thought was a very connected swing in the past I think correct sequencing has the same effect but via a different route
    Overconnecting is useful with my pitching 20-80 yds but for power and release sequencing, I hope I become better at explaining in the future

  23. Dean Pelton says:

    Hey gang. Posting again about my path to a better swing. I am very excited and wanted to share my thoughts.
    I have been hard at work unwinding a bad swing and understanding proper sequencing. For me, the key, in part, to solving the mystery did lay hidden in dropping the arms down in what I would call the “pump drill position”. I am not saying that is the only move my body makes before the shaft is parallel to the ground however. I spent countless hours in my makeshift swing studio watching down the line swings and finally broke through. My instructor explained that some of what I believed to be correct was actually not. I held my right arm to shaft angle..about 90 at the top of the backswing … and tried to hold on to it all the way to impact. Oh…I noticed that from a DTL view it would put the club head “over the top” at a mid point on the downswing unless I did some crazy move with my shoulder plane and get stuck inside…I would describe it as hanging back and dipping underneath….…interesting.
    What happened next really made me think…”if I do what he wants me to do, I will pull the ball dead left”. Well that didn’t happen….in fact….it went dead straight. This is what worked “for me”. Grip and posture and even the takeaway to the top in my case is reasonably solid and not an issue for me…. so this is just an understanding of what to do next without throwing away all the good things in the first half of my swing.
    Boiling it down now:
    1. He had me make a takeaway with less hip turn but a full shoulder turn=I felt some “coil” between upper and lower body. This shorted my swing quite a bit and worried about power.
    2. Hands always in front of me which was hard to grasp but basically meant that if I can’t turn my upper body away from the target line anymore, then don’t let the arms keep going and get disconnected. Lower body resistance helped keep this in check and hips only move a little with a firm right leg that stayed flexed. Hands feel like they are in front of right chest and I took it back always feeling that way. This put the club in a 3/4 position that looked layed off from DTL but actually was not because it was just a shorter backswing that never got to parallel. Another misconception I had was that I need to get to that parallel position, I was told to not worry about that.
    3. Crunch time. I started to drop my arms straight down…describe it as ” over my toe line like the pump drill move” but broke my right knee inward instead of toward the ball a moment after I started to drop…I also felt a tiny weight shift to my left side.
    4. With my right knee breaking to the inside of my left leg (not towards the ball) my hands were quickly at my right hip as I dropped my arms down…shaft was parallel to the ground.
    5. This is were I thought I would pull it dead left. From this position, my instructor had me turn hard left with my hands staying in front of my chest throughout the move. This swung the club head in an arc from my toe line across to the ball from the inside. It felt terrible.
    The DTL video showed something else…an on plane golf swing. I am almost in the same position at impact as address. Hands just a little further away from me but not much and I was shocked.
    I took this to the range with a wedge and about 70% of the shots went dead straight. My miss was a slight tug to the left or a thin shot but I never pushed a single shot to the right and only toed a couple of shots out of about 150.
    That has never happened. I push the ball a lot and hit on the toe all the time. It felt great.

    My twelve cents.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Sounds like you have a great instructor, Dean. Keep extending the limits of the coiling of the shoulders, back, and core, then come down from the inside with those same muscles with arms and hands along for the ride. I’ve increased my driving distance by almost 40 yards with a nice manageable draw to boot.
      You are on the right track, my friend.
      Thanks for the comments and sharing of your experience.

  24. manny says:

    Hi All. This is my first post to a very interesting discussion. Thank you Stephen for such a well managed conversation. I believe being relaxed and keeping the left hand in front of the ball at impact (right-hander) is really all you should think about. At our (non-professional) level we must avoid making it too confusing,…anything more than one swing thought is beyond our ability to manage when on the course. With a little bit of practice and just focusing on a few important factors, the tee-to-green facet of our game will become acceptable. All further practice time should be spent with touch and feel around and on the greens … it is difficult to do but the challenge really is to not think too deeply about your swing mechanics (it’s all about the lag) and to trust your natural body movements to figure it out ….. and to rely on your short game to improve your scores.

  25. drzwi drewniane says:

    It’s awesome to go to see this site and reading the views of all
    mates regarding this post, while I am also keen of getting experience.

  26. Ron Doré says:

    I have tried many swing thoughts over my 50+ years of playing golf. I’ve tried the Nicklaus method, Hogan method of starting with the planting of the left foot and turning, or uncoiling….and had some success with it. But the most successful swing is one that uses the left arm exclusively. I take the club back with the left arm, make the good shoulder turn, make sure I cock the left wrist at the top of the swing and when I feel that I’m collected at the top…..I then start my downswing with my left arm. I find it’s impossible for the left arm to start down without the weight shifting to the left side automatically….you don’t have to think about the left side….it just happens naturally. The left arm pulling down at a nice tempo and rhythm will produce perfect straight shots.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I’m off to the range to try it out, Ron. If this really gets the weight over naturally, it’s gold. I particularly like the comment about nice tempo and rhythm. Lydia Ko is my current model.
      Thanks so much for joining the discussion.

  27. Rich Blay says:

    I stumbled across this thread today…thankfully. I have always started my downswing with the hips and fought the OTT move for as long as I have been playing. It rained all morning and finally stopped so had to go try swinging the butt. It was a struggle until I made sure my right shoulder stayed out of sight on the initial move down with the hands/arms. Does this make sense? Thanks

    • Grr says:

      As regards the topic if youre swinging well can you tell!
      But if your arms particuarly the left are active to much and to early in the backswing then it makes sense that theyve got to move first to reconnect/catch up/ get in position on the downswing.
      But I dont think its what most modern tour pros do.

    • RLP says:

      Just think about dropping your arms. It’s impossible to come over the top when you do that because it’s such a strange move to drop the arms AND rotate your right shoulder (which is what you’re doing with an OTT move). You can see that when you watch the pros. They simple drop their arms downward.

      • Grr says:

        I think the main reason why most of us hackers are prone to coming over the top with our right shoulder is due to Hit Anxiety ie the main instinct from the top of the backswing is to try and hit the ball with the clubhead. either out of fear of missing or half missing it,or aggression or both!
        Good players are confident the ball will get in the way of a clubhead being released by the arms,hands, shaft and their instict/skill is to work on,connect too, the handle end not clubhead.

  28. Grr says:

    Having taken up golf late in life and read to much instruction I decided to free my mind and relearn.The two major differences that have reulted in me coming down to 6 and heading lower and hitting the ball further every month
    1 Set Up more like the pros ie head right of centre and heres the biggie with the right shoulder actived and in a more powerful position
    2 coil around the right shoulder axis point with great width and reistance which paradoxically results in a powerful left sided pull on the downswing and no weak ott move
    My previous over the top move was caused by poor set up and whipping the club out around and inside due to no powerful rightside coil resulting in the right side trying to get in on the act coming down
    Today I played hitting massive 300yd + drives ok downwind but all carry and birdieng par 5 from 200yd fairway bunker shot these are things that were beyonnd me and seem stupid at 55!

  29. […] The Key Downswing Move I Mindful Golf I Understanding Golf – There is a key move that starts the downswing that simplifies the golf swing, acknowledging that it is truly a swing. […]

  30. Malcolm Grimes says:

    In 1981 whilst living in the north of Australia I was practicing 5 irons on the range one day when I was approached by a chap in his 70’s who asked me if I was trying to hit a draw. I said I was and he told me to swing thinking only of my left hand and to forget about my right hand. He then turned and walked away. I was very skeptical at his suggestion but gave it a try. A beautiful draw, again and again. I was unknowingly (at the time) simply dropping my hands from the top and allowing everything else to care of itself without conscious thought or attempted manipulation. I never found out that man’s name but I have spent the last 34 years thanking him. Any attempt by the right hand, or shoulder, to take over the swing results in OTT and inconsistent striking of the golf ball.

  31. Malcolm Grimes says:

    My apology, I neglected to tick the appropriate boxes to allow me to see any replies/comments to my previous message.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Love how you came to this revelation, Malcolm. Could be the start of a mystical golf movie. Could you say more about your move coming down thinking only of the left hand. I’m unclear as to how that produces a draw. And how do you insure the weight moves over to the left?
      I’m intrigued.
      Thanks so much for commenting.

  32. Tony G says:

    Hiello to you all,
    i came by this site whilst doing a search and found it very intersting, if you would allow me the privillage here are my thoughts on the subject matter.
    After many years of starting the down swing with my hips, i am now convinced that the hips do not start the down swing,

    i have been reading the Lelie king method,i peronally thought it made a lot of sense, finally on the range today i became completely convinced, the light bulb moment happened when looking in the mirror that some thoughtfiul person has had installed,, i was using the mirror to check my backswing as i have a tendancy to take the club way on the inside to much.

    Back to my point, when pulling the club down with the left hand, i noticed that my hips naturally moved a little towards the target and then began to rotate, i found that you cannot pull down with the left hand arm and without this naturally happening, the more i think about it the more it makes sense, after all it is really difficult to pull down with the left arm without thee left side moving

    Pulling down forces the weight onto the left side,and the left hip to clear, the right foot also plays a part a the heal comes off the ground a little and the toes are used to keep you in position.
    just as Mr king said it did .
    I have watched hundreds of video clips of pros, and in nearly everycase the arms/hands move before anything else, the problem we all have is what we think we are doing is different to what we are actually doing, this is not unique to amatuers, Mr Hogan said he did not do this, but if you watch the footage his arms /hands are the first thing to move,
    I am in no position to question what Mr Hogan said is wrong, but that was his thought process and his alone,all his moves i agree with, but not the sequence, he did not have the benefit of the frame by frame analisys that we are lucky to have,.

    Try standing in front of a mirror and just concentrate on the left hand/arm and see what happens to your hips.
    Just found this site whilst doing a search and think there is some great info and opinions.

    Like a lot of you guys i have had the lessons and got the tee shirts, and not one tutor has told me to pull down, thay have all had me clearing the hips, which in my opinion led me to come over or pull the shoulders to the left too early and pull or hook everything, and the more i did it, the more i took the club to the inside to try and compensate,

    The one thing i will never do again is start the downswing with the hips
    happy golfing everybody

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Tony.I agree that the advantages of starting the downswing with the left arm/hand slightly before the hips turn far outweighs starting with the hips, as more traditional instruction dictates. Especially for handicappers, starting with the hips often leads to an over the top move that is the start of much trouble to come. You’re right: The hips turn naturally with the dropping of the left arm/hand at the start of downswing, maintaining the proper sequence into the impact area.
      Good golfing to you as well.

      • Tony G says:

        wet out on the course today with the thought of the hips still i my head, i was thinking along the lines that once the left arm has done its thing, regarding starting the hips, i wondered what would happen if at that point what would hapen if i gave the hips a little more attention,

        Yup, tops hooks, pushes etc, stuck with it for the full round just to see if i could make it work.
        Once the round was over i went into the driving bay and went back to the left hand arm thought, i also made a correction to the swing plane,i had been working with the pro in my last lesson, whereby he wanted me to take the club up a little higher over my shoulder in the backswing to create a more neutral plane, which gives me a slightly higher ball flight but a lot straighter,with less draw.

        All i thought about on the range was pulling the left arm down and all the way through with the emphasis on keeping my hands leading the club head all the way through this worked great and back to striking to the ball better.

        So for me it looks like i need to put any thoughts of the hips into a little box and lock it away.

      • Tony G says:

        cheers buddy

    • Grr says:

      I think that the reason good golfers fire the hips is more a timing than a power move ie an anti hook move but I think that when good golfers learnt to swing when they were kids they had to use their hips and legs to get the heavy club moving both at the start and change of direction
      I think the feel of pulling with the left arm is the result of soft heavy connected arms that are not left behind by the body firing/releasing
      If hit balls with my left arm only as I am not left handed I have to use a body release that whips a connected left arm and club through the ball, it feels like the left arm is being pulled through the ball but Im not really pulling with it! Like a lot of things in golf that might not appear to make sense!

  33. Grr says:

    Its like throwing a frisbee left handed keep the arm soft and whip it through then try and work out the muscles used and the sequence

  34. Rick Carpenter says:

    I taught myself to lead with the butt of the grip long ago. The idea came from a baseball drill one of my coaches taught me years ago about swinging a bat. This is no different, except for the swing plane. But I still suffered from the bad habit of lunging forward, trying to generate extra power. Doing so made me inconsistent at times. I would come across the ball, tilting my body axis forward during the lunge. What I DID learn here from this post, though, was to begin the swing by bringing the hands straight down toward the ground, and let my natural shoulder turn and centrifugal force bring the clubhead to the ball. Amazing how it works. I even went and looked at several pros, and sure enough, they do the same thing. What’s more, I found that yanking the club straight down with my arms forces my hips and my body weight to shift forward subconsciously. It’s as if I don’t even need to think about weight shift and hip/leg shift, because it happens involuntarily as I bring my hands straight down to begin the backswing. Thanks for your insight and your keen knowledge of swing mechanics. This just might be the key that lets me break through the 4-handicap barrier on a consistent basis.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      You’re welcome, Rick. Glad this post was helpful. The golf swing is just that:a swing. And the first things we initiate and think about in any swing are the hands and arms. The rest of the body will naturally follow suit.
      May your handicap continue in a southerly fashion.

  35. Malcolm Grimes says:

    Stephen, I have just returned from overseas and note the contributions from other golfers with which I entirely agree. They have added the parts which I omitted in my initial message. It all seems to happen quite naturally when the arms/hands start down firstly. Have you read a book by Gerry Hogan (no relation to the great man) who addresses this matter perfectly? His book is my ‘bible’ and is never far away when I need to review the basics particularly the role of the hands and arms.

  36. Lee Harvey says:

    The pull down with the left hand approach was popular with some instructors decades ago, but you rarely see it advocated much today. However, the left hand first might be best way to swing a golf club for most average golfers – there’s definitely worst ways . Most pros torque their upper body against the lower body tremendously on the backswing. Then, the lower body starts to unwind with a slight lateral shift of weight to the leading foot. (no hip spinning here, just the natural release of the hips). The shoulders still maintain most of their coiled position as the arms are simply allowed to fall. (no proactive move with the arms and hands whatsoever) . The swing plane shallows somewhat (more so with some, Sergio for instance and Raymond Floyd in the old days ;Floyd dropped the club at least a foot ). . At impact, the left wrist supinates somewhat and the right elbow straightens while maintaining the bowed back right wrist. The hips are almost facing the target and still turning while pulling the arms through.

    • Grr says:

      In my humble opinion trying to “torque” the upper body against the lower is one of the biggest mistakes us hackers make in trying to copy the pros,its an illusion,they look like they are in a powerful wound muscle position but there upper body muscles are soft and relaxed not wound, when i demonstrate my backswing to the top fellow members say it looks very powerful and wound but I say Im talking to them in a normal voice whilst when they use a lot of effort to try and emulate this”torqued” position they sound like a strangled duck!

      • Tony G says:

        Got to say i agree entirley with your thoughts on this Grr, i did this for many years and found that it led to a restriction in the hip turn,i also found that i tried to restrict the hips and turn more with the upper body, this led to the club being taken away or finding its way too much on the inside.

        This then leads to all sorts of issues such as coming over the top, spinning the hips out, flipping the hands, overswinging of the club at the top, which all create uneccessary and inefficient movements in the swing

  37. Grr says:

    For you american readers I will try and explain with a baseball comparison, Its a batters body action with pitchers arms!In otherwords a batter has to deal with a heavy ball coming at him at 90mph and has to absorb and use the impact to propel it back whilst a pitcher is trying to generate speed and release to target

  38. Lee Harvey says:

    I’m referring to the differential turn between the hips and shoulders and the torque moments at the hip level. I do believe that the shoulders and arms remain supple and as tension free as possible.

  39. John says:

    Back in Cleveland, Ohio, circa the winter of 1959, my first golf instructor, Joe Nesper PGA, utilizing an indoor net in his golf studio on Euclid Ave. used to tell me to “ring the bell ” to initiate the downswing. As long as the left shoulder does not open up prematurely ( see the Zach Johnson article referenced above ), ‘ringing the bell ‘ in the direction of the back of the ball, is a viable option for initiating the downswing. Over the years, it’s never ceased to amaze me just how beautiful my swing is when I swing w/only my left hand on the club…I can so easily swing to a balanced finish w/ a full release of my lower body w/o having to put any conscious effort into doing so. Again, there is no one right way to initiate the downswing ( or backswing … or anything else about the golf swing…or anything else period )…eg. my Henry Griffetts ( spelling is off here ) golf club fitter ( Kenny Sheba )at the City of Industry Golf Club in SoCal circa 1998 I believe, encouraged me to begin the downswing by throwing the club head directly behind me / away from the target …this counterintuitive move resulted in many good things happening including the counter balancing move of my lower body moving onto my left side…alas, nothing lasts, including the productivity of that move…it comes and it goes….Rickie Fowler’s golf mentor at the Murrieta Driving Range, Barry McDonald used to tell me that Hogan had 50 golf swings…meaning that he had many different golf feels he could tap into when one particular move/feel wasn’t working on any particular day…I suspect that part of how Hogan used his time on the range before any round of gold was to establish / find which move or feel he was going to use for the round that day. Thanks for providing a forum to spout off about my passion which is golf…

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Thanks for the insights and memories, John. And glad you finally stumbled upon us. Now, if only Arnold Palmer, another passionate golfer, who is 86 today, could find us as well. He got me into this game 55 years ago.

      • Marshall kuperstein says:

        I’m a 10 handicap that lost it till I went back to getting left wrist pointing to ball in downswing im67 yrs old my best friend parents Moe and Rose Altschuler went to camp Stoney Hollow sound familiar

  40. John says:

    Great forum…lots of good stuff here…wish I had found this before…

  41. Grr says:

    Whilst my thoughts on golf appear to be the polar opposite of most on here maybe there is some common ground,Whilst i think it is important when starting golf to feel the weight of the clubhead swinging to become a striker you have got to feel the weight of the clubhead in the hands or grip/butt end of the club from halfway back otherwise the weight of the cluhead dominates and youre doomed to be just a swinger

  42. mstair says:

    “On the left side, (or the side towards the target) the arm hangs vertical so the connection is made near the armpit. On the right side (or the side away from the target), contact is maintained by adhering the triceps of the arm to the abdominal oblique muscle. Maintaining these connections through the swing, gives the feeling that the arms and the club form one unit creating what most teachers refer to as a “triangle with the shaft emerging as a spire at it’s apex.” Although the connection of the arms to the torso are constant, these initial locations of the connections are not. Both will change during the back-swing. The right arm (furthest from the target) will change the most.

    Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/KfNyD.l

  43. Ray says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the comments so far. I would like to contribute to the conversation. We all agree that two of most critical elements in playing golf is ball contact and trajectory. After 40 years of golf, switching between a dominant right arm and a dominant left arm, I have found that equal medium pressure in both hands and arms works for me(more power and more consistent). The swing I use, is to keep my head steady and slightly behind the ball, I focus on striking the back side of the ball with a shallow lateral and ever so slight, downward movement in the direction of the target; dropping the arms straight down first, then shifting to a firm left side(this is a smooth simultaneous drop and shift). Your left arm pit is the fulcrum of the swing. Dropping the arms, puts the club shaft and face in the correct position to hit the back of the ball first and then the grass. I don’t let the left wrist break toward the target. I keep turning my body through with the same spine angle until facing the target. When you drop your arms and turn your body, it becomes a natural in to out swing as long as the left pit stays connected. If this helps anyone, please let me know.

  44. […] The Key Downswing Move I Mindful Golf I Understanding Golf – Good analysis of the downswing. I remember Joanne Gunderson Carner, “The Great Gundy” explaining this move to a few of us after dinner one night in the 1970’s … […]

  45. peter says:

    I have read this lengthy conversation with some sadness. The downswing is naturally complicated whether you start down with the left arm pulling or with the hips. The answer to the question depends upon whether your brain regards the swing as a left sided action i.e initiating the downswing with the left arm or a right sided action i.e. driving initially with the hips. Hogan decided it was right sided and hence his comments of wishing to have 3 right hands at impact. You can clearly play the game both ways but you have to come to terms with what you believe to be the most comfortable.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Yes, there has been some vitriol connected with this topic, Peter. I can understand the sadness. Then, as the body ages and changes, there must be compensating changes. The hips start to work less efficiently, so the sequence gets out of timing. The arms begin to assume a primary function, with your dominant arm taking charge. I’m not sure if Hogan mentions this but three right hands at impact would have greatly worried him with that duck hook that almost ended his career early on. You’ve got to find a balance and a way to keep the extremes out of your swing.
      Thanks very much for your interesting comments.

  46. Stephane Gauthier says:


    wow. that was a long discussion but worth every minute.

    Here’s a mash up of my replies/opinions on what I have read so far:

    Like many others, I’ve been through the journey of a beginner golfer (slicer!), followed by the switch to a more hip driven downswing which caused excessive in-to-out and the pleasurable hooks and pulls! I miss my slice now that I’ve been fighting the hooks for the last two years. But the contact is flush so It’s not all bad.

    I came across a few sites that said that the pulling the grip down is the key and started researching…
    From what I gather so far it’s a move that’s more aimed towards iron play (Zach Johnson is know for accuracy and not power). The whole hip trigger thing is seen more in the long club for generating extra power.
    The difference is that you want to hit down on irons (steep) and to hit up up on driver (shallow). (the pros hit down apparently but that’s another story.)

    I find that for this “reactive” pivot to work well you need to have a sufficiently “deep” backswing so over restricting the hips is not recommended.

    I think it’s important not to overdo the pulling (goes for anything in golf!). How it’s done is key too or it will just end up making the slicers worse.
    For me it’s the opposite, I need to slow my overactive hips or else my hands/arms get caught behind and then I flip it.. 🙁

    Hogan said a lot of things that he felt were real but weren’t in his book so I wouldn’t blindly trust it. Some people say he’s a swinger and some say he’s a hitter (3 left hands!) but we’ll never know…

    I’ve been reading a few threads on the Golfing Machine lately as I’ve always had the instinct of the hitter (hockey does that!) so it was enlightening to see the differences highlighted between the two styles.

    btw, Here’s a great video I ran into yesteday by Chris Ryan called the “Spear Drill” which teaches a similar feeling:

    Here’s a video on the throwing feel by Zach Johnson’s coach Mike Bender:

  47. J.O. says:

    Very informative thread. For most of my golfing life I was a “lead with the hips” swinger and it served me well, but beginning in my late 40s/early 50s (I’m 60 now), the hips no longer fired as fast as they once did (maybe having something to do with the bursitis that developed, probably from repetitive motion). A few years ago, on my own, I came upon the “pull the left arm toward the ball” swing and thus was happy to have it validated by (most) of the posters on this site including the OP. I still go back and forth somewhat between the two types of swings, depending on what’s working that day (and how willing I am to live with the bursitis flareup the next day).

    When my timing is on, the left arm swing produces great distance and nice, slight draws. The one problem I’ve had with it, though, is that if I get too lazy with the right side and neglect to fire it through, I can hit a big block (straight push to the right). Somehow the thought of just continuing to pull through with the left arm doesn’t do the trick, I need some right side impetus to balance things out. I’ve tried a variety of methods to achieve this–turning the right knee inward on the downswing; turning the right hip toward the ball; driving the right shoulder toward the ball and under the chin–but none seemed to work consistently. Lately I’ve taken to simply feeling the right arm straighten and sweep through the ball as the left arm pulls down.

    I love the simplicity of the left arm swing but I really need that “oomph” from the right side, too. Has anyone experienced the same issue and how have you sought or managed to address it?

    • Grr says:

      I think theres a fine line between pulling with the left arm and causing a pull on the left arm which I prefer.
      As for the right side if I prime it from the start by using my internal shoulder muscles to take it to the “Waitrers Tray” position then it usuallly fires naturally and late. Try a split handed swing to feel the right side fire.

      • Stephen Altschuler says:

        Not sure I understand the distinction between that “pulling with the left arm and causing a pull on the left arm”, Graham. Perhaps you could explain that further.
        Thanks for commenting.

        • Grr says:

          If you use my left handed frisbee throw analogy you could throw it by just using your left arm to pull it through,Or for a long powerful throw you could use your legs and body to fling your soft left arm causing a pull and release.

        • Grr says:

          I see it more as a golf fling not swing!
          Shot my best ever score of one over par on Sat so its working for me.

          • J.O. says:

            If that’s working for you, great. Can’t argue with success. I guess I would see using the body and legs to propel the left arm as something fundamentally different from what Steve has written about, but maybe I’ve misinterpreted. Would be interested in Steve’s reaction.

          • Grr says:

            you can minimise the amount of power in the legs and body and you dont feel the pull on the arm until its approx parallel to the ground on the downswing (so maybe not a lot of difference) but from then on the left arm has got to be flung and the right arm kick in which is one of the reasons golf so hard!
            Have you ever tried a 2 handed tennis shot,unless you learnt as a kid its almost impossible.
            But going back to your original post, apart from right arm only swinging, have you tried split hand swinging to feel the right side kick in late, I think this right side firing is more important for woods than irons because you hit a driver almost on the up ie later in the arc than an iron

          • J.O. says:

            Will try the split grip. And definitely agree on driver vs irons although I still can push the latter. It’s also possible my hands are too slow in relation to the club head, and that I need to get them through impact faster.

          • Grr says:

            Ive been playing golf for nearly 6 years and trying hard to improve for nearly 3. i recently improved my hand arm release by 40% when I suddenly realised the perfect grip i thought I had wasnt!
            Superficially it looked good, aclassic Hogan style but I realised I basically just clapped my hands together in a passive way, I now clap and wrap! I do this by starting with my palms facing up and then clapping together in a wrapping action. Hard to describe, I pinched the idea after noticing the right hand of Lydia Ko and then realised Hogan did it as well, this has led to a knock on effect in the rest of my swing and a big overall imprvment.
            Going back to the original post, the key downswing move, there is a classic interview on you tube of Hogan and Snead stating their key downswing move and on a good day I feel Hogans move leading to Sneads!

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I think you’re talking about a kind of pop through the ball, J.O., and how to attain that. It’s an excellent point, because you can make good contact at impact with a left arm swing, but the results often lack that certain surge of power that brings us back to golf time after time. There’s nothing quite like it, is there? We can get there on occasion, but the consistency is not there as it is with the pros. As for the firing of the right side as part of the solution, I’ll get back to you on that once I figure it out myself.
      Thanks, J.O., for offering your comments to this thread.

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