What Starts the Downswing?

Over the years, there’s been great debate over what starts the downswing “the arms” or “the body”.  Hopefully by the time you finish reading this tip, you’ll have a firm understanding of it so you can learn how to start your downswing the right way.

Personally, I teach that you start the downswing with the body.  Why?  Well, there are numerous reasons:

1.  The Iron Byron’s arm moves because its motor turns its driveshaft which moves its arm.

2.  There is indisputable proof through the use of 3-D motion capture software that proves the lower body starts the downswing (I’ve included a few quotes down below from Greg Rose, one of the founders of the Titleist TPI center that the explains the research they’ve done on the kinematic sequence in the golf swing).

3.  The great majority of golfers are starting down with their arms and handicaps are not dropping.

4.  Using your lower body will allow you to turn your upper body faster.

5.  Personally, I feel my lower body powering my swing

One of the things I often hear, is that people  have seen someone like “Chuck the Hitman Hiter“  hits a ball 250+ yards off his knees, or while perched on a exercise ball.  The conclusion that’s drawn from this is, you hit the ball with your hands and arms not your legs.

Okay, let’s understand this for a second.  The golfer who’s doing this trick shot isn’t just using their arms to hit the ball.  They’re still rotating their shoulders and body.  If they were to hit the shot with no shoulder or body rotation whatsoever, they would not be able to hit the ball more than about 100 yards.  Don’t believe me?  Stand up, and without turning your shoulders or body in any way, try to swing a golf club back and through.  As you do, you’ll see exactly what I mean.  You’ll have very little power.  So, this is proof that in order to generate any kind of power you need to at least turn your shoulders and upper body.

Also, if the golfer doing this trick shot could actually hit the ball farther then they did standing on their legs, why even bother standing up?  We don’t see any golfers hitting shots from their knees now do we?  We see all top golfers moving their legs.  So, there must be a reason for it.

My Teaching Method:

In my teaching, I say that you don’t have to use your legs, you want to use your legs.  Here’s why:

1.  You can rotate your body faster if you do use your legs.

2.  Using your legs will allow you to turn fully and end up in the follow through position.

3.  Using you legs relieves pressure on your lower back.  Just imagine hitting a ball with your feet totally flat.  Your back would be killing you.

Now, I can say to use the legs all I want but if you don’t understand why, or how you should be doing this, my efforts are futile.  So here’s the rest of the story:

Titleist TPI Center Research

Below are some quotes from Greg Rose one of the founders of the Titleist TPI Center.  There’s tons great information on this site.  I would highly recommend you check it out.  Go here: Titleist TPI Center

The Titleist TPI Center uses state of the art 3D computer technology to measure the biomechanics of the golf swing.

Quote 1:

“The amazing thing is that all great ball strikers have the same kinematic sequence or the same signature of generating speed and transferring speed throughout their body. That means if you compare Ernie Els kinematic sequence to Jim Furyk’s kinematic sequence it’s hard to show a difference. That is a bold statement since there is an obvious difference on a video camera between these two players. All great ball strikers begin by generating speed from their lower body and transferring this speed through their torso, into their arms, and then into the club. What style they use to complete this signature is completely unique to each player.” -  Greg Rose

Quote 2:

“So the key points to know about the kinematic sequence are the following:

1) There is an identical sequence of speed or energy generation for all great ball strikers. That sequence is: lower body first, trunk or torso second, arms third, and the club last. This sequence occurs during the downswing.

2) Each segment of the body builds on the previous segment, increasing speed up the chain.

3) Each segment of the chain slows down once the next segment begins to accelerate. Think of the handle of a whip. The first thing you do is accelerate the handle of a whip to generate speed. Then you rapidly decelerate the handle to transfer speed to the next part of the whip. The same thing happens in the best ball strikers in the world. For example, during the downswing when their lower body starts to decelerate the trunk begins to accelerate faster around the decelerating lower body.

4) Unorthodox styles may have no effect on your ability to generate a good kinematic sequence. In other words, Jim Furyk and Davis Love can have the same kinematic sequence. With that said, there are three things that have been shown to create efficiency or kinematic sequence breakdowns:

1) Improper swing mechanics.
2) Physical limitations
3) Improperly fit equipment.

The kinematic sequence is probably the number one most important piece of information that we use in assessing a new golfer.”  – Greg Rose

Understanding the The Swing Problems

One of the biggest things you can do is understand the problems as to why you are not, or have not, used your lower body to start the downswing.  So, let’s go through them:

1.  It’s easier to hit with your arms

2.  A golf swing powered by the body is visually deceiving

3.  You don’t know how using the lower body should feel

Below, I describe the different problems and how to overcome them:

1.  It’s Easier to Hit with Your Arms

It’s easy to hit with your arms because human nature is telling you to hit the object you are looking at.  It’s also telling you that the harder you hit, the farther the ball will go.  This is a huge hurdle you have to overcome.

You can overcome this hurdle by understanding exactly why you don’t want to hit with your arms and understanding what it’s going to feel like when you don’t (which I will describe below).

Finally, you have to practice your new way of swinging until you make the switch.  This could take 1 day, 1 month or longer but you cannot give up on it.

2.  A Golf Swing Powered by the Body is Visually Deceiving

How many times in the past have you marveled at the pros and how they look like they are barely swinging, yet, the hit the ball a mile?  Although most people see pros doing this, they insist on trying to swing as hard as they can.  So I’m going to unravel the mystery for you.

In a good players swing, their upper body doesn’t even rotate at 3 mph.  In other words, their center core is moving very slowly.  Because their arms extend only a short distance from the slow-moving body, they’ll appear to move slowly as well.   The true power comes from the whipping action of the club in the golfers loose wrists but his whipping action has to be connected to something.  That “something” is the rotating body.

Think of it this way:  If a pro was to rotate his/her body at 1 mph the club would whip at approx. 1/3 the speed of their best shot.  Moving up to a rotational speed of 2 mph would see the club whipping faster and the pro would hit the ball approx. 2/3 of their normal distance.  Rotating at as close to 3mph as possible would make the club whip its fastest and produce the farthest shots.

So you can see, the difference in rotational speed is in 1 mph increments.  There was no hitting involved yet the distance increased.  This small amount of difference in rotational speed of the body produces a huge difference in the distance the ball is hit.

When you first attempt to take the arms out of your swing, and use your body as the power source, it’s tough to convince yourself that this powerless feeling is going to produce powerful shots.  What you have to do is understand it like this:

1.The power comes from the whipping action of the club
2.The looser your wrists, the faster the club will whip
3.The arms move because they’re connected to your body
4.Your body moves slowly in life which would give your swing a slow look to it

Keep these things in mind the next time you go to practice.  If you have been using your arms to hit the ball, this will be totally different.

3.  You Don’t Know How it Should Feel

The best way I can describe the feeling of using the body to hit the ball is, it’s an UNMISTAKABLE feeling that I used my legs and hips.  After the shot has been hit, I feel a radiating all the way down my right leg and in my hips whereas,  I feel nothing in my hands and arms.

A good thing for you to do is to check your own swing to see what you are using to hit the ball.  All you have to do is hit a shot then stand with your arms at your sides.  Stay very still and feel what you just used to hit that shot.  If you used your arms, I guarantee they’ll be radiating not your legs.

Remember what I said, it’s an unmistakable feeling of using the lower body. You should not have to hem and haw about it.  If you feel your arms radiating, you’re using them.  If you can’t really tell, you are still using them.

The next thing you have to understand is, you have very little time to use your body in the downswing.  What I mean is, from the top of the backswing to impact is ¼ of a second.  Think about it, at the top of your backswing you rotated your hips 45 degrees closed.  By the time you hit impact, your hips should be rotated 45 degrees open (if you use your body properly).  This means that in ¼ of a second there’s 90 degrees rotation in your hips.

What does this mean?  Well, if you’re at the top of the backswing and you’re not thinking about starting the downswing with your lower body, how do you expect to get this much rotation in ¼ of a second?  You won’t.  If you’re thinking about hitting the ball your hands will be at the ball before your body realizes it.

Take a look at the picture below. What I want you to be aware of is my hips and how they’re pointing back to the ball yet, my left arm is just parallel to the ground.  This means they’ve turned 45 degrees in the few milliseconds it took to come down this far.


If you look at an average player at this point in their swing, you’ll see the left leg.  This is because they are using the arms to hit the ball.  So, your goal is to not see any of your left leg at this point in the swing.


Try the drills below to get your lower body moving in your downswing:

Drill #1

For this drill, just take the club to the top of the backswing and stop.  Then, at this very moment, make sure your arms are relaxed.  Once relaxed, take your belt buckle and immediately point it back to the ball (when you do this drill, you don’t have to hit a ball).  You can just allow the club to come down half way if you wish.  By doing this drill, you’re relaxing the arms, you’re changing your focus onto your legs and hips and you’re getting used to starting the lower body first in the downswing.  Like all changes, you will not get this instantly.  This means you cannot give up on it.  You have to do this drill as much as possible until it’s second nature to start the downswing with the rotation of the lower body.

Drill #2

For this drill, you just pick up a few balls and throw them overhand out in front of you.  As you do, I want you to be aware of what you used to throw the ball.   Did you just use your arm?  No.  You turned your body which made your arm swing.  Because your wrists was loose, it whipped and the ball was released from your hand.  So this throwing action is the very same action you should be doing in your golf swing.

Drill #3 – You should be doing this drill every day for the rest of your life!

All I want you to do is to take your set up then lift your club off the ground until it’s just under knee high.  Then, take the club back and swing through off the ground.  By swinging in the air, you take the ball out of the picture.  If there’s no ball sitting in front of you, there isn’t anything to hit so why would you use your arms?  You wouldn’t.  So, holding the club in the air allows you to feel your body making the golf club swing.  This is the feeling you must get used to so do this drill as much as you can.

Do it at home in the back yard, do it on the range and even do it before you hit each shot on the course.  The idea is that you’re trying to feel the legs and hips making the club swing NOT the hands and arms.

Drill #4

Another good way to practice the drill above, is to do the first few swings very slowly and listen to the whipping sound the club makes (turn at 1 mph).  Then, turn your body a little faster and listen to the club whip faster (turn at 2 mph).  Finally, you drive your body top speed and listen to how fast the club whips (turn at 3 mph).  By doing the drill this way, you’re relating the driving action of the body to the sound of the whipping club.  In other words, you’re telling yourself that driving the body faster does make the club whip faster.


I know that using the body to hit the ball is different, and it takes some time to get used to, but if you’re not improving, you have to do something different than what you are currently doing.  This “something different” isn’t just tweaking your grip or trying to manually get the club on plane.  Haven’t you already tried this stuff?  You have to do something radically different.   You have to do exactly the opposite.  Right now, you’re trying to hit with your arms.  What I want you to do is hit with your legs and hips.  If you take this approach, it won’t be long until you develop an efficient golf swing that works.

All the best,

Paul Wilson

Creator – Swing Machine Golf

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