Symptom: You just can’t hit down on the ball, despite hearing time and again from well-meaning buddies that you must.
So you try, but end up and scooping the ball instead, flipping your wrists, hoping to not hurt the grass too much, and cursing as you watch another weak shot tail off to the right…
Description: Swing such that your head stays put laterally, but dips down through impact.
Why it Works: When you swing such that your head dips down a bit on the downswing, you force your clubhead on an inside path and encourage a down-the line release, which will make it much easier to deliver the shallow, descending blow you seek.
To see how it works, let’s have a look at the sweet, smooth swing of Hunter Mahan. In particular, we want to study Hunter’s downswing and his “hit down” motion through impact.
Here is Hunter from the fairway, with an iron. Note his limited backswing, and the prodigious pelt he takes after impact, and his perfectly balanced finish. Obviously he is hitting down on the ball to take such a large divot–have a look:
Mahan’s release through the ball is outstanding. Study this next video, paying particular attention to his head position. Note how his head stays centered over the ball from address through impact, but his head dips down on the downswing through the release as his hips clear and he fires the club down the target line. Have a look:
I’ve stopped the action at a few key points, and drawn horizontal and vertical reference lines below:
Hunter’s head stays quite centered laterally (green line), but his head dips vertically (yellow line) through impact. So, strictly speaking, Hunter does not keep his head still at all during the swing. But he does not move it laterally either, and so he can still deliver a consistent, downward strike to the ball.
The Bear Down Move
The vertical dip on the downswing, this “bear-down” move as you attack the ball, allows Hunter to keep the clubface square to the target line and low to the ground very consistently at the bottom of his swing (somewhat like another great ball striker who drops his head even more, Tom Lehman). There is no flipping or turning of the wrists or hands — the clubhead is square and solid and descending as it connects with the ball. It’s a consistent, repeatable, and powerful move. And most importantly, this move leads to the shallow, descending blow that you want.
Please note that it is Hunter’s aggressive release and powerful leg drive, coupled with the fact that his head stays put laterally, that combine to give him a “bear down” head move. In other words, the “bear down” of the head is an effect, not a cause, of his great swing.
Now, not every great golfer has this “bear down” move, but many do.
But many bad players have the opposite move, a “raise up” move, on the downswing. Such a move causes all the wrong things to happen in the golf swing — casting, outside-in swings, slicing, hitting behind the ball, etc.
Hit Down, No Scooping!
So, next time you are at the range, keep your head centered over the ball through impact, swing such that you drop your head on the downswing, clear your hips, fire through the ball, extend the clubface down the line after impact — do it like Hunter. (But do it slow at first — you need to be flexible to do this at speed!) You will find that you are finally hitting down on the ball, and enjoying a new consistency to your ball striking that you’ve not seen before.
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