At its simplest, the golfer's downswing consists of driving your golf club from a raised position toward the golf ball. Beyond the basics, nearly endless variations exist, with various trainers and pro golfers continuously developing new strategies. Generally, though, the swing involves rotation at the shoulders and hips, with weight shifting from right to left, provided you are right-handed. As a result, your right leg typically bends in a loose, relaxed fashion as your center of balance shifts left.
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Right Leg Basics
When learning the proper form for a downswing, it's most likely that you'll learn to focus your attention on your hips, where you initiate the movement. The relative rotation of your hips to your shoulders is vital to a powerful stroke, as is the tilt of your hips and, secondarily, the tilt of your shoulders, according to a 2011 study of golf swings carried out at Stanford University. Nonetheless, improper form at your legs can inhibit the ideal movement of the hips and upper body. As you rotate at the hips and shift your weight to your left leg, you exert less pressure on your right knee and more on the left knee. Instead of supporting your weight, the right knee must remain loose, withstanding a shearing force as it angles forward along with your right hip.
Focusing on the Knees
One technique to improve your downswing is to focus your attention on your knees throughout the movement. Tom Lehman, U.S. Ryder Cup captain, uses his knees instead of his hips to initiate the downswing, an unusual approach. If you wish to model Lehman's movement, practice by rotating over your right knee, keeping it stable, as you draw your club up on the backswing. When you shift into the downswing, use your left knee to initiate the rotation and the swinging movement. As you do so, you can shift the weight off your right leg. As your right knee is no longer under pressure, it may have a "collapsed" sensation. However, you should feel completely stable over the left leg.
The Stacking Strategy
During a standard downswing, you shift your weight from the right to the left side of your body. By contrast, for the "stack and tilt" swing variation, you begin with your center of balance "stacked" over the left foot. If you usually have difficulty maintaining weight on your right side, this alternative movement may prove more effective. Just as for a standard downswing, you rotate your hips and finish with the right leg relaxed and loosely bent.
Warnings and Additional Considerations
Technically, the downswing only refers to the segment of your swing when your club is cutting downward, until it makes contact with the ball. Therefore, for much of the downswing, you still have some of your weight on your right side. If you feel that your right leg is collapsing too early, as opposed to a smooth shift of weight toward the left, then you may need to work with a coach to identify problems in your form. For example, if you lack sufficient flexibility in your hips, you may not be rotating or shifting your weight properly.