Put your back into it
BY. T. J. TOMASI
The role of the downswing is to bring your arms and your club back in front of your chest at impact. They must move aggressively from behind and above you to in front of you in a very short time. Failure to get the arms front and center at impact is one of the most common mistakes made by every class of golfer, duffer and expert alike.
The correct concept involves “pulling” your arms down in front of you using the large muscles of your back and shoulders. You should feel as if there is a point just under your left shoulder blade (the opposite for left-handers) that is the center of this pulling action.
Note two things about this pulling action:
1. Full body repositioning occurs before this pulling begins.
2. The pulling is not done with the forearm and hands, a move that would leave the clubface open at impact and cause a slice. It’s done with a large muscle in the back called the latissimus dorsi.
Research conducted in the biomechanics lab at Penn State University studied muscle activity in the golf swing, primarily the left latissimus dorsi of the back (the lat), and the left pectoralis major of the chest (the pec). The left lat helps rotate your left arm counterclockwise, moving it down and across your chest. The left pec moves your left arm in the opposite direction, toward the midline of your body.
This action pulls the arms down toward the ground and closer to the body, allowing the maximum buildup of energy. As the pulling action of the back muscle subsides, the left pec becomes very active, reaching maximum activity just before impact.
This indicates that the role of the left pec in the downswing is to put the brakes on the left arm, slowing it down as it approaches the hitting area and in effect centering the arms and the club in front of the body.
The message is clear: For you to have an efficient golf swing, your left arm must initially speed up as it takes on the energy passed to it from your coil. Then it must decelerate near the halfway point in your downswing in order to pass its energy down the club shaft and into the clubhead at impact.
Thus the recommendation so often heard to “accelerate your arms through impact” is incorrect. By speeding up your arms during the second half of your downswing, you retain energy in the arms, preventing it from flowing into the clubhead.
This not only robs you of speed where it counts — at the ball — but because it would misposition the arms-and-club unit, it is no doubt responsible for many of the blocked shots and push slices that bedevil those who try this desperate maneuver.
In fact, speeding up the arms when they should be slowing down violates the principle of the COAM — the conservation of angular momentum, so essential for maximum power.