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Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Do I Start The Downswing?

I am ready to scream. Not a little quiet scream but a full out blood curdling scream that will wake up the Neighbor’s Dog, who at, 4:34 am, is no doubt sleeping next door dreaming about bones or squirrels or whatever dogs dream about. (Hey I think I will do a blog about dog dreams, I better jot that idea down,) If you have read this far, you are likely wondering what has caused me to want to break the morning peace with screams. I will tell you what; the downswing. Yep, that part of the golf swing that starts once you have taken the golf club away from the ball and now you want to swing down mightily at the ball praying for a beautiful shot of solid contact, fierce velocity, beautiful flight altitude and absolutely perfect direction. What causes me to want to scream is the very simple question:

“How does one start this downswing?”

But first, a little background. Up through 7 or 8 years ago, I was a semi decent golfer. Not great, but decent. I played to a 10 handicap and could in fact play to my handicap. From time to time I won my flight of various club events at my Utah club and my Palm Desert Club. However, over the years starting, maybe 10 years ago, I developed some back problems that I won’t detail but needless to say, it became hard to make a good backswing and equally as difficult to make a good follow through. Prior to this time, I did not think about the golf swing I just swung the club and hit the ball and more times than not the ball went where I had intended it to go. But in an effort to regain lost distance due to back pain and flexibility issues I have done the worse thing an amateur golfer could do. I have read dozens of golf instruction books, hundreds of golf instruction articles and tips, and taken lessons from several different golf professionals in two states.

When I was playing my best, I was told my swing looked liked the odd swing of Jim Furyck. Now, I am told my swing not only looks like the swing of Charles Barkley, but that I actually make Charles’ swing look good. People laugh at my swing, belittle my swing and turn away so they don’t have to watch my swing. So over the last few years I have become not only a bad golfer but the subject of scorn and derision and a source of visual pollution on the golf course.

With the background set, I must tell you, I have forgotten how to start the down swing. I have literally asked 500 people how they start the down swing. I have asked playing partners, golf pro’s, strangers on the driving range. Many people really don’t know how they start the downswing and my question gets them to thinking about their own downswing which results in an immediate loss of their own fine swing.

Last summer I had a colonoscopy procedure. As I was laying butt up on an exam table wearing nothing but a hospital gown and comfortable shoes, affixed to a min-cam, surrounded by nurses all of which were presided over by Doctor John (a member of my Salt Lake Club and very good golfer and a first rate butt explorer), I turned to him in a drug induced state and groggily asked: “Doc, how do you start your downswing?” I don’t recall his answer.

I have read so many instructions manuals and articles and tried so many swings that I have truly forgotten what I used to do. My personal authentic swing is gone. My relationship with the Lovely Sharon has suffered as a result of my search for a golf swing. Sharon, as you know is a first rate player who does not overly contemplate her golf swing. Dozens of time she has heard me proclaim that I have figured out what I was doing wrong or that today I am going to try a new swing. It has gotten to the point that she brings an air sick bag along when we play together because she knows that I am going to talk about some new swing or tweak of an old swing and it will make her sick.

She has actually started hiding golf magazines from me. When we go to the book store, she steers me away from the golf book section to the section of how to make your marriage work books. She has threatened to have The Golf Channel removed from our cable TV. Some men hide their boozing or their trysts with other women from their incumbent spouses. I have resorted to hiding my attempts at new golf swings from the Lovely Sharon. I tell her I am going to the library or to afternoon mass and then sneak to the driving range.

I have tried the one plane swing, the two plane swing, stack and tilt, Don Traham’s lift the club up swing (the catcher’s mitt and the tree), natural golf, short back swing, long back swing, swing like a ferris wheel, don’t swing like a merry-go-round, swing somewhere between a ferris wheel and a merry-go-round, swing in a barrel, don’t break your wrists too early, break your wrists early, and so on.

Now when I take the club back and get to the top of the swing, I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I just leave the club at the top and go putt for awhile or get a cup of water and then come back later and pick up where I left the back swing (at the top) and try to move on from there. Two weeks ago in Palm Desert, I woke up around 2:00 am and started re-reading Hank Haney’s 1999 instruction book called something like “The Only Golf Lesson You Will Ever Need”. Hank, as you no doubt know, is Tiger Wood’s coach, Mark O’Meara’s coach and is now on The Golf Channel with “The Haney Project”. He is always ranked as the number one or number two golf teacher in the US alternating positions with Butch Harmon.

So at 2:00 am on that particular morning I was trying to discover what Hank instructs concerning the starting of the downswing. I had high hopes for golf enlightenment. Like the Dalai Lama, Hank would provide me with guidance, with enlightenment if you will, for a proper downswing. I was skimming the book to find advice on the downswing. Eureka, I came a across a page with several photo’s of pro golfer Mark O’Meara. The first photo had a caption that read:

“Mark starts his downswing with a lateral shift to the left.”

There it was the, answer. Succinct and simple.  Start the downswing with a lateral shift toward the intended target. I now knew the proper trigger for the downswing. Life felt sweet. I considered waking the Lovely Sharon up to share my new found knowledge, but wisely decided against it. Like a Mormon missionary, I wanted to put on a white shirt, dark trousers and a name tag, and spread the gospel of the downswing.

Since I now knew the proper trigger to the start the downswing, and since I was already awake, I might as well continue looking at this golfing bible of Prophet Hank Haney. So I looked at the next picture of Mark O’Meara. It was on the same page, and was directly adjacent to, the first picture that was now my holy grail of downswing knowledge. The caption under the second photo read:

“Mark starts his downswing by dropping his arms.”

What? How can that be? Two pictures side by side, two captions, two different triggers for the downswing? Hank what are you doing to me? I am so glad I did not wake the Lovely Sharon up to give her the good news. I felt panic set in. I started sweating. My heart was racing. In a maniacal manner I continued looking through “The Only Golf Instruction Book You Will Ever Need” . Twelve pages later I found a sentence that almost made me cry. It was more information from the erstwhile Dalai Lama about the downswing. Here Hank said:

“Of course you start the downswing from the ground up.”

Oh my. I have been betrayed by my golfing Lama. In one single golfing treatise Hank has advised me to the start the downswing with a lateral move, then he tells me to start by dropping my arms and finally I am instructed to start my downswing from the ground up. For heaven’s sake Hank, no wonder Tiger resorted to cavorting with dozens of women. You have so confused him that he has forgotten where he lives and who he is married to. In a state of total confusion he has wandered aimlessly from woman to woman trying to figure out how to start his downswing.

I need to look for another instruction book, another golf tips article, or another instruction show on the golf channel. My quest continues. I will leave the Lovely Sharon to her sleep of the innocent, but for me, I will continue on.

Now let me think again, “How do I start the downswing?”


  1. I think if we sold all the how to golf books we own on ebay you could buy a down swing or we could go on a very nice vacation without golf clubs or swing thoughts. The Lovely Sharon

  2. The actual Dalai Lama would tell you that you're over-thinking this and you should just listen to what The Lovely Sharon says in her comment and go on vacation- without golf clubs. :-)

  3. that is why HH has screwed up more golfers than he has ever took him 5 or so years to mess up the greatest player of all time...

  4. that is why HH has screwed up more golfers than he has ever took him 5 or so years to mess up the greatest player of all time...

  5. that is why HH has screwed up more golfers than he has ever took him 5 or so years to mess up the greatest player of all time...

  6. The solution is simple: It is one movement, shifting your weight and dropping the arms (or leading back your right elbow back in direction of your right hip).
    You can do this starting movement of the downsing by two methods, either you are left orientated or right orientated.
    You can find out, what you are by skipping a stone. Do you start the throwing motion by pressing your weight forward by the inner side of the right foot or do you press your weight on the ball of your left foot?
    Both kinds of proposals you will find for the golf swing by golf teachers like Harmon, Haney, Leadbetter, Foley or Bennett/Plummer.
    Both methods are possible. It depends, what type of golfer you are.You must find out by yourself, you only must not mix up the methods.