In many ways, golf is a game of individual style. From the clothes we wear to the clubs we use, to the swing we adopt, we have the freedom to fashion our own unique way of playing the game.
However, there are some universal truths of swing technique that should not be ignored. One of those, as this article will explore, is the importance of not lifting up during the downswing. We’ll discuss why lifting up is bad and why it happens. Then we’ll provide some tips on how to stop lifting up in a golf downswing.
Why Shouldn’t You Lift Up During the Downswing?
Lifting up during the downswing refers to both the lifting of the head and the lifting of the body as your clubhead approaches the ball. The movement is such that it will almost always have a negative impact on the shot that is played.
Since you are essentially elevating the arc of your swing, the most common error that will occur is a topped shot. But lifting up during the downswing also creates difficulties in keeping the clubface square, resulting in many inconsistencies. Essentially, if you lift up during the downswing, you could end up playing fat shots, thin shots, toe shots, heel shots, and everything in between.
You could even end up missing the ball entirely – not fun!
If you are lifting up during the downswing, it means that your body is performing some unnecessary movements. Whether it’s shoulders lifting, back-arching, knees or waist extending, or head raising, the result is almost always going to be a slight loss of balance.
This is an unignorable problem, as retaining balance is one of the core components of a successful golf swing.
Maintaining the correct posture throughout the swing is necessary to perform accurate shots. You could set up and backswing with the perfect body position, but if you break your posture on the downswing, it will count for nothing.
It’s also worth noting that forcing your spine into undesirable positions could result in injury.
Why Do You Lift Up During Your Downswing?
There are a number of things that can cause you to lift during your downswing, but here are the three main things to look out for.
The weaker golf grip is one of the most common causes of unnecessary lifting. If you are gripping the club too weakly, your clubface is probably going to open too much on the backswing.
From the back-end of your swing, it’s very hard to close the clubface in time for impact, which is when slices occur.
So in order to correct this, those with a weak grip tend to unconsciously lift up their bodies as they come down at the ball, to give themselves time to close the clubface before it strikes. Even if they manage to successfully close the clubface, the action of lifting up will have done more harm than good.
The Right Shoulder
Any pro and any instructor will advise that, during your golf swing, your right shoulder should be lower than your left. This is because having a higher right shoulder normally results in having an open club face, which subsequently causes you to lift your body in order to compensate.
This begins at the address. Right-handed players should make sure that their right shoulder is lower than their left when they are preparing their shot. If this shoulder position is maintained throughout the swing, it will help to curb any lifting movements that your body might be making.
Many players make the mistake of standing with a round, arched back at the address. This causes complications as soon as you start to swing.
When you have a rounded back address, it makes it difficult to turn properly. This will first cause you to lift up on your backswing, and subsequently alter your body position even further on the downswing.
Even if you don’t lift up on the backswing, you are going to face difficulties on the downswing. This is because everything will be too compact, and as a result, your body unconsciously ‘fixes’ it by lifting up.
How to Stop Lifting Up in a Golf Downswing
Gripping the club tighter, keeping your right shoulder lower than your left shoulder, and adopting a straighter posture are great places to start when combating lifting up in a downswing.
However, there are a couple of drills that we recommend to really help keep your body where it should be.
Spine Angle Drill
This drill can be used to train your body to stop lifting up during your swing.
Start by setting up to address as you normally would. Hold your club in front of your chest, with the grip end pointing forwards towards your target.
Now it’s time to perform a mock swing. On the backswing, the idea is to have the grip end of the club pointing down at the ball. If the grip is pointing above the ball, it means your spine is causing you to lift.
On the downswing, the goal is now to have the clubhead pointing towards the ball. Again, if it is pointing above the ball, it shows that you are lifting.
With this feedback, you can adjust your spine position accordingly, and then make sure that it stays in place throughout your swing. It might take some practice, but your body will eventually learn to stay down.
Head in the Box
Oftentimes, lifting up during the downswing can be solved by simply learning to keep your head still. If the head remains in its original position for the full swing, the spine angle should automatically follow suit by remaining constant.
It is especially important to keep your head down at impact – and just after. An infamous golfing error is to lift your head at impact in order to get a quick look at your shot the moment you strike it. You should always try to keep your head down for as long as possible, coming up only when you have reached the end of your follow-through.
A good way to practice this is to have someone stand opposite you when you set up to address, holding their hand just above your head. They will keep their hand there whilst you swing – if your body lifts, you will feel your head push against their hand.
For a slightly more aggressive version of this drill, you could have your friend apply a downward force on your head, preventing you from lifting during the swing. This will help you to learn the feeling of keeping your head, and subsequently your body, still.
The head in the box exercise can also be achieved if you are by yourself. You just have to focus and concentrate on keeping your head in its original position.
Here are a few extra tips to help prevent a bad downswing:
- Always keep your knees slightly bent – don’t lock them during the swing.
- Try to bend from the hips instead of the waist – this will help you to keep a straighter back.
- Make sure your feet are roughly a shoulder-width apart – this will encourage better posture and better balance.
- Keep your eye on the ball!
Lifting up during the downswing is a common problem, and it’s certainly a nuisance. It affects your clubhead consistency, your balance, and your posture, all of which must be handled well in order to play good shots.
But once you are aware that it is happening, and why it is happening, it is easily fixable. Whether it’s due to a weak grip, incorrect shoulder positions, or a rounded spine, all it takes is a bit of focused practice to get you swinging more smoothly.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.