The Quality Of A Student’s Transition Move
No less than Ben Hogan wrote, in his book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, “THE HIPS INITIATE THE DOWNSWING. They are the pivotal element in the chain action. Starting them first and moving them correctly – this one action
practically makes the downswing.”
Unfortunately, most of our students have transition moves that can be described as less than correct.
The transition move seems to come naturally to kids. This is likely because the club is heavier to them than it is to adults, and to get the club moving efficiently they automatically use their lower bodies to start the downswing. Kids also, for some reason, seem to naturally have a gift to do things the most effective way physically. When adults take up the game, the club is relatively light and doesn’t require the use of the lower body to swing the club. In fact, to use the lower body can feel awkward to many adults.
Consequently, you see adults who took up the game as kids making up the large majority of low-handicappers, and adults who took up the game as adults making up the large majority of average golfers.
If you’re teaching a student who took up the game as a kid, you will almost always see some elements of a good transition, even if they’ve been away from the game for many years and are now just starting up again. When you teach someone who took up the game as an adult, you rarely see elements of a good transition. There is no sugarcoating it – teaching this second group to make a good transition is hard work.
Why is the transition important? It is critical because the quality of the transition move determines, in large part, the quality of the downswing path. The more a golfer tends to start the downswing with the upper body, the more outside-in, through impact, the clubhead path tends to be. The more correctly a golfer starts down, the more correct the swingpath will likely be.
It is important to note that other problems, such as casting and chicken-winging, are direct results of how well the transition move was made. If we had a student who is casting (or early-releasing), and we merely told them to retain the wrist angle longer on the downswing, this would be very poor advice, as it addresses the symptom, and not the cause, of the problem.
Theoretically, simply having the player with a outside-in path through impact swing inside-out wouldn’t work either, unless the player has an adequate transition prior to this move. In the real world, though, getting the player to swing inside-out often is accompanied by a more proper transition move, and it’s a move many students make naturally in order to swing out. Of course, it’s fairly easy to do this with no ball present, as most drills are.
Although technically the top of the backswing position is a position within the transition move, if a student’s positioning is incorrect at the top, working on the transition move will likely prove fruitless. For example, if a student is reverse-pivoted at the top, or if he sways his lower body severely to the right, correcting the transition won’t produce results? Why? Because incorrect positioning at the top makes it almost impossible to make a correct transition move. The student who is reverse-pivoted will almost always come over the top to start the downswing. Working on their transition move without addressing the reverse pivot simply doesn’t produce results. Again, we cannot address symptoms of problems – we must address root causes.
Teaching the transition can be difficult, and it can be difficult for students to learn. However, when it’s time to take their game to the next level, and the main thing they are lacking is a better transition, we must go to it. For drills concerning transition, please refer to the USGTF publication, American Golf Teaching Method®.