Weight shift or transfer of the weight during a golf swing is a basic fundamental that has to be mastered to become a better player and consistent ball striker. This is also called the “power move” and without it, no power will be generated through the ball at impact.
The same weight shift is employed by baseball players, cricketers, and footballers. Put in simple terms, it is moving the weight away from the ball, then moving the weight forward through the shot or stroke.
A Baseball Pitcher
Picture a major league pitcher standing on the mound. The first movement is to transfer his weight onto the back foot, then coil his body and shoulders, before transferring his weight by stepping onto his front foot and releasing all the power through his arm.
In fact, this is a great drill and pre-round swing warmup, if you have trouble with weight shift. A batter up at the plate does exactly the same moves. Golf is no different!
Weight at Address
Standing over the golf ball at address before hitting a tee shot, the weight should be split 50/50 and be positioned on the balls of both feet. Some teachers advocate a 40/60 split with more weight on the back foot.
Either way, this balanced setup, allows the player to move the weight onto the back foot during the backswing, load up the coiled power in the shoulders and hips, then transfer the weight onto the front foot, turn the hips, and uncoil the generated power with the arms, through the ball. A full follow-through sees the weight now at 90/10 on the front foot.
The above describes a complete swing, but there is a proper sequence that needs to be applied to get the best results. It all starts with the weight transfer on the backswing, and then returning the weight as the first step, on the downswing.
Turning not Swaying onto the Back Foot
It is important to understand the difference between swaying and turning. The hips and shoulders turn away from the ball, while the weight is transferred to the heel of the back foot. Sliding the hips backward is a very common fault and is a swing destroyer.
Do not let the weight shift to outside the back foot. By this I mean, don’t move the knee of the back leg outside the position it was at address. If this sounds complicated, let me simplify it.
Think of standing in a large barrel when you set up to the ball. Now any lower body movement must be contained within this barrel, on both the backswing and the downswing. This was a Ben Hogan tip and he was one of the best strikers of a golf ball ever!.
This will give a feeling of having to turn rather than sway or slide during the swing. A term often used in golf today is to remain “centered” over the ball. The spine is the center around which all movement is carried out.
Shifting the weight onto the back foot is possibly best demonstrated by watching Hendrik Stenson. Most other top players are not as deliberate as he is when starting his swing. He actually moves his weight onto the right heel in a separate movement, before turning all the other body parts. If you have problems transferring your weight, try his method
Getting onto the Front Foot
We have discussed in detail the weight transfer onto the back foot, but the transition between shifting weight from the top of the backswing to the downswing is the toughest move in the golf swing. Here is where the swing sequence comes into play. The downswing is started with the weight shift to the front foot and the left hip turning or clearing away towards the target, to make way for the arms to swing freely through the ball.
Over the Top Move
The most common swing fault with golfers is the “over the top” move. It refers to golfers starting the downswing with the arms and shoulders in an effort to overpower the ball. It is a score and swing wrecker of note! Duck hooks, slices, topped or thin shots mainly start here. The club shaft is pulled away from the body, and all the power is lost.
For some unknown reason, we all tend to rush the change from the backswing to the downswing. It is as if someone is about to steal the ball unless it is hit quickly! By rushing, all the sequence is lost, and contact may be made with the ball, but the power loss is enormous.
Re-Gripping at the Start of the Downswing
Once the grip pressure is applied at address, it should not at any time be increased or decreased during the swing. It is another common fault that throws the club out of the intended plane, with disastrous results.
Weight Transition and Swing Sequence Practice
I cannot overemphasize the importance of getting the swing sequence and weight transition right if you want to improve your golf above “social” status. Stand in front of a mirror or large glass window and do all the sequence moves in slow motion, to try and develop muscle memory. Do it without a club, but do it often.
Start with short half-shots with a wedge and go through the bag hitting half shots. Forget about where the ball goes, just concentrate on transferring the weight correctly. Stop at the top of the backswing for a second, and then move the weight onto the front foot. Sometimes this will help with rushing the shot.
A Quick Summary
- Set up with a 50/50 weight split
- Consciously turn the shoulders and hips while transferring the weight to the heel of the right foot
- Turn doesn’t slide or sway away from the ball
- Stay centered around the spine
- The first downswing move is the weight transfer followed by clearing the left hip
- Don’t start the downswing with the arms and shoulders
- Never rush the transition to the downswing
- Don’t change grip pressure during the swing
- Practice the Swing Sequence in slow motion
Weight transfer in the golf swing is a basic fundamental that must be mastered. Practice the swing sequence regularly at home or wherever you are. I suggested that hesitating fractionally at the top of the swing, may assist in improving swing sequence and weight transfer. Try it.
Get this part of the game right and your handicap will come down rapidly, and your enjoyment will be doubled!
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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.