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Swing Principle #3: Weight Transfer

It is important to maintain the proper perspective in everything we do, and golf is no exception.

With this simple truth in mind, here is one of Golf's real rules: There are two things you can learn by stopping your backswing at the top and checking the position of your hands:
  1. how many hands you have; and
  2. which hand is wearing the glove.
This article focuses on the third Concept Golf Swing Principle, weight transfer. Before I explain weight transfer and its importance, I would like to review the whole Concept Golf idea of what the golf swing is really all about.

The Five Swing Principles

The five Concept Golf Swing Principles are the definition of the golf swing. They create a total, complete definition of the swing. They create an understanding that allows you, the golfer, to make an effective swing without thinking about your body or the process. The focus of the five principles is never on the mechanics of the five principles; it is always on the understanding of the total idea of the athletic motion or, in this case, the golf swing.

With that being said, let's examine the weight transfer principle. The first two principles, Address Position and Alignment, were the static principles that take place before the swing motion begins. Weight transfer is the first of the dynamic principles.

A Strong Foundation: Weight transfer is the foundation of the entire swing motion

Without proper weight transfer, nothing else in your entire swing will work properly! This is the foundation upon which the whole golf swing is built. If the foundation of your swing is made of quicksand -- such as the several hundred so-called "perfect" positions in which you "must" hold your body -- a slight shift in the wind will cause the entire swing to crumble. If your swing is built on a rock-solid foundation comprised of sound, fundamental ideas, you can withstand all that the world throws at you and still hit good shots.

The great players have that solid foundation. Nicklaus, Hogan, Nelson and a few others have that unshakable underpinning that they can't be talked out of. When the principles of the swing make sense and work, it is very unlikely that you will try to "fix" your swing because of a few bad shots -- or even a few bad weeks.

Weight transfer is simply the moving of the body's weight to the back foot and then back to the front foot. The baseball pitcher moves his weight to the back foot and then to the front foot in order to utilize the strength of his body and his legs in moving his body around. In the same way, you must use the strength of your body to move your body around. You use your legs to cause the trunk of your body to move, which in turn causes your arms to be moved so that they don't have to move themselves.

Virtually all athletic motions are based on the legs using the feet to move the body. Once again, consider the earlier example of the pitcher throwing the ball. What does he use to cause the body to move? He uses his legs, through his feet. The ground provides the resistance for the feet so that the legs can do all of the work. The arm does not move itself in order for the pitcher or the golfer to be effective.

Without proper weight transfer the other principles are meaningless. The whole purpose of having the feet and legs move the body is to keep the arms relaxed and allow them to have maximum speed and consistency, returning the club through the ball for a true shot. Most bad shots are a result of the arms trying to do all of the work.

How do the arms and head fit in? The arms must be followers, not independent leaders

If the arms try to work independently of the body and move themselves, the muscles will tighten and thus move more slowly. When the arms tighten, the immediate result is a real loss of club speed which results in poor shots. Very frequently the club will hit the ground before it can get to the ball.

For good, consistent shots the arms must be followers, not independent leaders. The arms can (and will) follow the body effectively because they are attached at the shoulders. They will be swung along the path through the ball to the target. Weight transfer is a simple concept: weight to the back, weight to the front. When working with students, I have them assume a good address position, then simply pick up the front (left) foot, followed by the back (right) foot in order to understand the concept and the rhythm of the weight transfer motion. One hundred percent of your weight goes to the right foot, and then one hundred percent to the left foot. This creates the swing; the arms simply follow.

Some will say that the problem is that the head is moving with the body and not staying perfectly still. Now, that is a real problem -- especially for Curtis Strange, a back-to-back US Open winner. He has a very generous lateral movement of his whole body to the right. We've been told that the head MUST stay perfectly still during the swing or you will miss the ball. Or worse than that, your buddies will say, "You looked up." I think we have been taught this "Myth of The Still Head" because the good ball striker "felt" like his head didn't move when he swung. This myth started before the advent of movie cameras and it became a "law" that the camera could not undo. People tend to accept what they are told -- not what actually takes place -- as truth. We have accepted the myth of a perfectly still head because it has been told to us so many times. However, it is not true and never has been -- so feel free to move your head with your body as your body moves to the right and to the left. NEVER try to keep your head still; it will ruin your whole swing.

Making it Happen

Proper weight transfer is a pure lateral movement to the right and then to the left. It's a very simple motion with no attempt to turn. Don't try to turn the body, just move your weight over to the right foot and then over to the left foot, keeping the front of your body facing the ball. Some of you may ask, "That's just fine, but don't I have to try to turn?" I would say, "No." Most golfers think of a turn as the whole body (the shoulders and the hips) turning. The shoulders will rotate without you consciously attempting to make them turn. There are a couple of reasons you don't want the hips to turn.

The "coiling" (creating greater strength) of the body comes when there is resistance. The shoulders rotate but the hips and lower body resist and the body gets stronger. You want the hips to remain facing forward so that the right leg and foot can stay in a position of strength. If the hips turn, they will pull the right foot out of position and put your weight and pressure on the outside of your heel, rather than keeping it on the inside front part of your right foot. You cannot throw a ball with any speed or power if your weight is on the outside of your right foot; it deadens the lower body. Try throwing a ball and getting your weight to the outside of your right foot. You have no power. You don't want to try to turn the entire body; just let the shoulders rotate.

Since proper weight transfer is so important, how do you begin? Stand as if you were having a conversation, but with your feet spread shoulder-width inside your heels. Next, simply pick your left foot up in the air. Notice how all of your weight goes to your right foot. Now lift up your right foot. Notice how all your weight goes to the left foot. It's not overly complex, but it is very effective. That's all there really is to the weight transfer principle. Stand on the right foot, then stand on the left foot -- without any attempt to turn.

If you are still convinced that weight transfer is not for you because it breaks too many "rules," let's examine a swing with the body turning and one that uses the proper lateral motion of weight transfer. With the "turn swing," the swing is made with a conscious effort to turn in one spot while keeping the head still. Notice the path the club travels with that type of swing. It goes inside very quickly and returns to the ball, then back to the inside very quickly (See the illustration below). It is on line to the target for only a moment.

Swing Examples
The "turn swing" also makes you have a reverse weight shift: weight to the left, then to the right. A reverse weight shift is a "power robber" and has the club on the line to the target for a very short time. On the other hand, proper weight transfer makes you powerful and will keep the club on the target line a long time. This works.

Weight transfer is one of the five fundamental principles which form the foundation of an effective golf swing. In fact, it is the foundation of the entire swing motion. Without proper weight transfer, nothing else in your entire swing will work properly! Build your golf game on the rock-solid foundation of the five Concept Golf swing principles.

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