Synch Up Your Sequence Part 2 - The Start to a Better Downswing

#1 In the slot

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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In the November edition I discussed the correct sequence to a better backswing. This month we will explore the start of the downswing. I would say that without doubt the transition from backswing to downswing is one of the biggest differences separating better players from higher handicappers.

Let’s quickly review… The first step to a successful on plane backswing starts with the assembly of the hands and arms. This allows the club head and shaft to start back on plane. From this point, the torso should turn as the arms swing. This motion flattens the swing plane at the top of the backswing as well as allows the upper body to load properly for an efficient weight shift to the inside of the back foot.

Step #2 The Transition
I mentioned earlier that the transition from the top of the backswing down is one of the biggest differences I see between better players and higher handicappers. The downswing undoubtedly has to start from the ground up. What I mean is the lower body has to initiate the downswing. Without getting really technical, what I would like to see is the lead hip or knee move laterally towards the target. As this happens, the upper body (head) has to stay back. I would also like to see a slight “squatting motion” in which the knees bend subtly as you sit into the middle of your feet. These motions allow the right shoulder to move towards the ground. When done correctly, the arms and the golf club will swing back down on plane. This move is commonly referred to as “in the slot.” (See Picture #1)

What I commonly see higher handicappers do is lunge the torso towards the target as the lower body “spins out.” This will no doubt create a steep swing plane into the ball because it forces the arms to swing out away from the body. This mistake generally leads to weak fades or slices and shots off the toe of the club face. (See picture #2)

It is important to note that the second phase of the pivot (the transition) lasts the shortest amount of time in duration. It is only from the top of the backswing until the club moves down to waist high. This phase is crucial in allowing the golf club to move into impact from the correct path. The final phase (the rotational phase) will consist of the remaining part of the downswing and follow through. We will explore that next month.

John Stahlschmidt is the PGA Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale. To book a lesson or comment on this tip, email John at