Today we study the essentials of the golf downswing by learning from Nick Watney.

Nick is a great ball striker who seems to produce effortless power with his simple, fluid, and coordinated motion.  As you watch his swing, you think to yourself, “not much that can go wrong with that swing…”, followed closely by, “I wish I could swing like that…”.

Watney has Balance

Here is Watney hitting driver, at full speed. Note in particular his wide swing arc, his well balanced finish, and his utter lack of extraneous or jerky motion:

So where does all the “easy” power come from?  Have a look at this slow motion video video, and pay particular attention to Nick’s downswing move as he attacks the ball:

Nick Watney golf swing downswing attack the ball

Watney plants his left foot and tucks his right elbow on the downswing.

Watney’s position on the downswing (0:11) is nearly ideal: his right elbow is tucked to his side and his left heel is firmly planted.    The left heel gives a solid point to anchor the rotation of the club and body, and is a main source of power and consistency.  The right elbow must return to the side to ensure good lag and an inside swing path, leading to a full release.  The firmly planted left heel makes all these things much easier.  Indeed, every great player, no matter what their swing looked like up until this point, looks like this as they are about to strike the ball.  You need to look this way too.

Watney Down the Line

Fortunately, you can easily check your position versus Watney’s (ideal) position in a mirror, or even at the range, and make corrections as needed.  To see how Watney’s swing looks from behind and down the line, check out this video:

nick watney golf swing right elbow tucked to side

Nick Watney with right elbow tucked to the side on the downswing.

Run the video to (0:09) to get the shaft parallel to the ground, for easy comparison to the side view.  Note (again) his right elbow tucked to his side, and his left arm straight and on the swing plane, with the shaft parallel to the target line.  It’s just about perfect.

The left and right arms form a “triangle” at this point in the swing, which is another easy thing to remember, and another good thing to copy in the mirror.  All good golfers, regardless of their swing plane, or how their swing looked up until this point, look pretty much like this as they attack the ball.

Three Keys for a Good Downswing

So, please remember the three basic keys to a successful downswing–

  1. Return your right elbow to your side,
  2. Plant your left foot firmly, and
  3. Form a triangle with your right and left arms when the shaft is parallel to the ground.

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