How to Get Down
1. WIND BACK (above left): When you reach the top, your body should be turned well behind the ball, and the muscle under your left shoulder blade (the left "lat") should feel fully stretched.
2. SHIFT FORWARD (above center): As you start down, make a lateral move toward the target with your left lat. Your left hip and entire lower body will support this move naturally. Now you're ready to unwind.
3. TURN THROUGH (above right): Leading the turn with your left side, let your upper body rotate hard toward the target. Don't allow the clubhead to pass your left hand until you've smashed the ball.
Every move you make in your golf swing should be to influence a better impact position. Having said that, few amateurs understand how to get down to the ball from the top -- specifically what the upper body should do. If you make a proper backswing, where you're fully wound and your torso is behind the ball, then your left side should lead a lateral shift toward the target before your torso unwinds. This sequence is important because it correctly transfers your body mass forward, gets your arms moving down on the proper inside path, and helps give your swing a whip-like action. Most people think of the downswing as a body rotation only. But without this lateral shift at the start, you'll have no room to let your arms and the club swing down in the "power slot" -- from inside your target line. Here's how to perfect your downswing and hit powerful shots.
TAKE A STEP TO LEARN THE SHIFT
When you reach the top in your normal driver swing, you should be able to tap your left foot on the ground. That means you're fully loaded onto your right side and ready to shift toward the target to start down. The step drill (above) will help ingrain that lateral shift. Grab your driver, set up in a narrow stance about six inches behind the ball and make a full backswing. Then lean left, step toward the target and swing down. Feel your weight move into your left side as your body shifts forward. You even can hit some shots this way.
CROSS HANDS TO LOAD AND LAG
Reverse your hands on the club at address and swing back. Feel that stretch across your left lat? The muscle should be tight and ready to fire. Now practice starting down -- don't hit the ball -- letting that lat shift forward and your body begin to rotate. The cross-handed grip also will help maintain your wrist hinge and clubhead lag as you swing down.
Your left arm has to keep leading into the follow-through. If your right arm overtakes it, you'll lose power and accuracy. Key on your hands: Train your left hand to stay ahead of your right hand and the clubhead well past impact by using this drill. At address, grip the club normally with your left hand, then cover your left hand with your right (below, inset). Make a real swing, but as you're coming into impact, drop your right hand off the club (below). You'll really feel your left arm staying extended through the shot.
DROP IT OFF: To feel your left side leading through impact, let go with your right hand as you hit the ball.
RICK SMITH is based at Treetops Resort, in Gaylord, Mich., and Tiburón, in Naples, Fla.