The Critical Transition Factor
In my opinion, one of the most misunderstood areas of the golf swing is the transition from backswing to downswing, but I don’t read much on this in the golf publications. So, here’s my take on the subject.
Whether it’s a short putt, chip or pitch, half wedge, full iron or driver swing, there is a point where the club’s motion in the backswing has to come to a complete stop – even if for just a nano-second – and reverse direction into the forward swing. What makes this even more difficult is that it is not just the club that is stopping and reversing direction, but the entire body from the feet up through the body core, shoulders, arms and hands.
In my observation, most golfers have a transition that is much too quick and jerky, as they are apparently in a hurry to generate clubhead speed into the downswing and through impact. But, just as you (hopefully) begin your backswing with a slow take-away from the ball, a proper start to the downswing is also a slower move, starting from this complete stop and building to maximum clubhead speed just past impact. If you will work on your transition, your ball striking and distance will improve, as will your accuracy on your short shots and putts. Let’s start there.
With pitches, chips and putts, your primary objective is to apply just the exact amount of force to propel the ball the desired distance. In order to do that, you move the club slower, as that allows more precision. I like to think of the pendulum on a grandfather clock as my guide to tempo and transition. As the weight goes back and forth, it comes to a complete stop at each end, and achieves maximum speed at the exact bottom of the arc. If you put that picture in your head when you chip and putt, you will develop a tempo that forces a smooth transition at the end of the backswing.
The idea is to achieve a gradual acceleration from the end of the backswing to the point of impact, but the whole swing is likely much slower than yours is currently. Do not be in a hurry to force this acceleration, as that causes a quick jab with the hands, because the shoulder rotation and slight body rotation cannot move that quickly from its end-of-backswing rotation. Drawing on that grandfather clock visual, hold your wedge or putter by the very end of the grip with two fingers, and get it moving like the clock pendulum – back and through. Watch the tempo and transition and try to mimic that with your chipping tempo. No faster, no slower.
A great exercise is to have a friend hold a club in this manner right in front of you while you are practicing your chipping stroke and try to “shadow” that motion with your swings. You will likely find that your transition is much too fast and jerky to give you the results you are after. But practice this and your short range transition will become really solid and repeatable. From there, it’s just a matter of extending the length of the swing to mid-range pitches, full short irons, mid-irons, fairway woods and driver – all while feeling for that gradual transition that makes for great timing, sequencing and tempo.
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I've also heard the point of transition as a time to let gravity start your downswing with your club. I find that the less tension and "effort" I have in my hands and arms at the top, the better I hit the ball. It's when I'm trying to steer the ball or overpower it that I start making bad contact and lose all control of the club face.
Good post today. Really connected to it.
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