Slide vs. Turn Golf Downswing

Arnold Palmer Invitational Pro-Am

A strong hip turn is a key element of the downswing. Hip rotation helps shift your weight forward, and clears your body out of the way so your hands can travel toward the impact zone on the proper angle. Some golfers, however, make the mistake of sliding their hips forward instead of rotating fully, costing themselves power, accuracy or both.

Hip Turn

Conventional wisdom states that the downswing begins from the ground up. A golfer must shift his weight forward and begin rotating his hips before swinging his arms forward. Golf instructor Jimmy Ballard explains that when your weight shifts forward and your hips rotate properly your arms “respond naturally, falling into the correct downswing plane” as they approach the ball.

Focus on One Hip

Former PGA Tour great Jack Nicklaus advises golfers who are pushing shots to the right -- from a right-hander’s perspective -- to investigate a faulty hip turn as the likely culprit. Nicklaus says players who push shots most often slide their hips toward the target on the downswing, rather than rotating. He recommends focusing on the right hip during the downswing. As your weight begins shifting to your front foot, think about turning your right hip toward the ball. Focusing on one hip is easier than thinking about both of them, Nicklaus says. And, obviously, if the right hip rotates, the left will move in concert.

Hip Rotation Drill

Swing coach Butch Harmon agrees that an excessive slide creates a push. If you’re confused about whether a shot flying off to the right is a push or a slice, watch the ball flight carefully. A push is a straight shot that travels at an angle, relative to the target. A slice curves toward the right during flight. If you’re pushing the ball, Harmon suggests hitting off the practice tee with your feet about a foot apart, swinging with about 75 percent effort. To keep your balance, you’ll have to turn rather than slide your hips.

Keep Turning

Not only should you rotate your hips on the downswing, but noted golf instructor Jim McLean tells players to continue to rotate during their follow-through. Conventional wisdom states that you should complete your swing by facing the target. But McLean says there’s nothing wrong with turning so much that you continue rotating beyond the target at the end of your follow-through.

Permissible Hip Slide

PGA pro Rick Smith says a slight hip slide, preceding your hip turn, can be beneficial during the downswing. Smith says the downswing should begin with a “slight” lateral hip and trunk slide toward the target, which helps shift your weight forward. To gain a feel for the move, Smith recommends bringing a 7-iron to the practice tee. Take a narrow stance, with the ball opposite your front foot. At the top of your backswing, take a small step forward with your front foot, much as a baseball player does when stepping into a pitch.