Understanding Weight Movement
by Kip Puterbaugh, PGA at Kip Puterbaugh Aviara Golf Academy at Aviara Golf Club
Throughout my years of teaching I continually hear comments about how the weight is moving through the golf swing. There are certain words that are continually used, that I think need to be stricken from golfers vocabulary. The first word we will discuss is “shift’.
When concerned with the backswing you will often hear that the backswing should start with a “shift” of weight to your back foot, or right foot for a right handed golfer. Or you might hear it explained that the primary goal of the backswing is to “shift” your weight behind the ball. To most people the word shift means, “side to side” or “lateral” movement. The problems with these two statements are the misapplication the amateur makes in their backswing trying to achieve shift. When studying the great players of the game, the backswing consist of a rotational transfer of weight to the “Top of the Backswing” not a lateral or side-to-side movement of weight. Looking at the photos below, we can see that from the address position the player’s hips are inside of the right foot and the spine is tilted slightly to the players right at address. This is important because many amateurs try to get their weight over to their right side at address, and their hips end up being to far to their right at address, which often causes the player to now have their spine leaning to their left at address. This makes the backswing virtually impossible to perform correctly. From the correct address position we can see that at the top of the backswing that the hips have stayed within the confines of their starting position, with no lateral or side-to-side motion. We will also notice that the spine is still pointing to their right of vertical at the Top of the Backswing. What we can now see is that there is more mass of the players body to his right side, or behind the ball then there was at address, but this movement of weight came from rotation of the shoulders and hips around his spine that is staying slightly right of vertical. This correct rotation and transfer of weight through rotation are what sets the golfer up for the proper transfer of weight at the Top of the Backswing to the Start of the Downswing.
With all of the technology available today, it is amazing that there is still confusion about how the downswing should start. We have those that still insist that there should be no lateral shift of weight to start the downswing. One of my favorites was an analysis of Nick Price’s swing when he was winning everything, and was recognized as one of the premier ball strikers’ in the game. In his analysis there was evidence of his hips moving to his left or laterally at the start of his downswing. So this is what the person doing the analysis stated: “Nick Price has a fault found in many great players, and that is he has a lateral movement of weight to start his downswing”. I almost fell out of my chair laughing at this statement. If many great players have this lateral movement, maybe, just maybe, it is not a fault.
In this article I want to expand a little on this lateral movement of weight because I think it can also be misunderstood. The weight also has to move on a downward vector as it goes slightly forward. This downward movement is apparent in all of the great ball strikers, and it is a key element to understanding how the weight moves. If you look at the enclosed swings I have transitional moves of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Dustin Johnson. I am not putting Dustin Johnson’s game equal to the great Hogan and Snead, but all three were or are very powerful players. It also is to show that the great players in the past had the same basic’s in common with today’s top players. In looking at the photos you can clearly see that the hips have moved forward and the energy is going down into the left side. You can also see that the shoulders and hips have had virtually no unwinding through this move. What this move has done is load the weight more “into the ground” and now this player can use the ground to help accelerate his hips and shoulders “out of the ground”. I use the analogy of a boxer hitting an upper cut, the most powerful hit. The boxer loads down into the ground and then comes out of the ground. The ground is a big part of an effective motion. Imagine if someone put a harness around your torso and lifted you off of the ground and now you were going to hit a ball. You would be basically powerless. The effective transfer of weight is critical to a functional swing, and keeping the club on plane. Jack Nicklaus stated that he started his downswing by “slamming” his left heal down on the ground, which proved for him to be a very effective way to get his energy into the ground. Another way to feel this transfer is to “feel” your left knee go down and forward slightly to initiate the downswing. You can also try to keep your left shoulder moving slightly forward and staying low as you start down. Keep your back to the target as you start down is a tip that has worked many times in my teaching career.
The proper rotation of the hips and shoulders on the backswing sets your body up to move in the proper way on the forward swing. The correct swing is a chain of events, and you have to understand how the weight moves to get the proper sequence moving.