The unloading motion, most basically, is a reflexive movement – the load unloads. It starts when the player senses that he/she has all the stored energy built up in the loading motion necessary to hit the desired result. There is intent to go through the ball to the finish. It is one cohesive unbroken movement to the finish. If the starting position and loading motion are correct, then you’re poised to make the unload properly if you start with the lower body and move directly to the finish – allowing the golf ball to get in the way of the motion. In the unload, transfer your body weight to the finishing position. In a perfect world, the rest happens on its own. In an imperfect world we need to know more.
Remember, the unload can never be better than the quality of the load. The load can never be better than the quality of your starting position. And the starting position can never be better than the quality of your grip. The more you get correct and fundamental in the beginning, the better your chances of doing things properly and purposely in the later stages.
The unloading motion begins by transferring the body weight to the finishing position. The weight shifts from the right foot to the left foot so that at the finish 100% of the weight is on the left foot.
In conjunction, the trunk begins to unwind. The mass (the arms, the hands and the club) is pulled downward and outward, centrifugally. It is allowed to flow as it may, inertially, through to the finish. For the more advanced golfer, the appropriate understanding and application of the sequence of movements (the lower body, upper body, arms and hands) before impact can create even more security, consistency and power.
The Sequence of the Unload
Again, the head is not a pivot point. It stays balanced on top of the trunk as it moves freely with the transfer of weight to the finish. All movements are done within the confines of beat and balance. This of course means that you make these movements, well through impact, within the general original posture established at address. Every part of the body finds its end on its way to the finishing position – in sequence. First the left foot stabilizes, then the left leg, hips, shoulders, arms, hands and finally the clubhead. The breadth of the finish will be determined by momentum and the player’s flexibility. The entire body moves in an athletic and coordinated movement during the swing.
With your hands on as described in my previous articles, the hands and the club will want to and are able to remain passive yet educated. The hands will return back to their natural form at impact, both palms vertical to the ground, both arms near full extension (the right arm is still slightly bent) and the wrists in the same degree of archness as at address. The most basic component of the starting position is the grip. The most basic component of the finishing position is the stability of the left foot, as compared to the space it occupied in the starting position.
Spinning the left foot out is a common error by a very high percentage of golfers. Shore this up to start repeating your arc and your move through the ball.
The Plane of the Unload
Here is a brief word about the plane of the loading and unloading motions. During the overall swing there are only a couple of places where you may have some influence of how and where the club moves in space – that’s in the beginning of both the loading motion and the unloading motion.
In Ben Hogan’s, The Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, his explanation of the two different planes in the golf swing is classic and representative of a quantum jump in understanding. I have tried to expound on the great man’s work so that the average golfer can better understand and work on this extremely important aspect to a reliable, consistent and repetitive swing motion.
The loading motion’s plane is oriented to the target and our alignment. The unloading motion’s plane is not. It is slightly flatter, is oriented a bit to the right of the original alignment and is a bit tipped to the original plane with the leading edge of the pane of glass off the ground. The opening for the head elongates and moves up, left and back on the pane in order to accommodate the eventual movement of the head and body. The head eventually balances on top of the left foot. The unloading plane gives a feeling of the clubface being slightly more open coming into the ball and on a path that insures that it’s moving a bit from the inside out. The transfer of all the body weight to start the unload sets up this movement and opens up space for the arms, hands and club to move on this new plane. This is critical in developing confidence and security over even our most testing shot making situations. There is a definite reason for the change of plane and why the club must be a bit more open and coming from the inside out just a bit (more to come of this in a future article).
Along with the plane, the arc of the clubhead changes in the unload as well. It does not retrace the space that it inscribed in the load. From the front view, the arc is more narrow all the way into impact so that the bottom of the arc becomes very close to the inside part of the left foot. As the body transfers to the left foot, the arc moves with it.
Remember, at least one arm is always extended during the swing. The left arm maintains its extension that it had in the load and doesn’t start to bend until the clubhead is a few feet past impact. The right arm gradually straightens in the last stages of the motion before impact and fully extends just past impact. Centrifugal force pulls the club, hands and arms out away from the body allowing for a natural maximum arc.
This narrower arc before impact allows for a wide arc past the ball. It allows for the very uncommon sweeping arc through to the finish with the right arm maintaining its extension all the way until the body stops, then it finally bends. In their primes, Hogan, Nicklaus and Woods stand out as prime examples of this movement.
Another Useful Perspective of Sequence
I prefer to give my students a variety of ideas to help them understand what to do in the swing. Whereas above, I like to give the player an idea of where the finish is by sequentially considering the end of the motion, it can be very helpful and just as important to know what happens in the earliest stages of the unload to help make everything work correctly and sequentially at that time – so the finish happens automatically. Just before the end of the load, the contracted muscles of the feet, lower legs, thighs, and hips initiate the movement at the start of the unload.
You must never start forward with your upper body, arms or hands first.
This movement moves the weight back into the left foot and leg. At the same time, the left hip starts to turn to the left simultaneously with the right hip as it moves around and forward toward the left foot. From this perspective, this is the critical element in the unload. It makes the rest of the movement automatic. During this brief time, the chest, shoulders, arms and hands do nothing but follow this lead. This movement provides early speed to the rest of the upper body which then (later) passes it along to the arms, on to the hands and finally into the clubhead. This sequence of movement and participation of the entire body is crucial to the success of the swing and shot. It’s the loading motion that sets up this potentiality by having the general sequence of its movement in the opposite manner.
Consider a spring. You load the spring from the top to bottom with a little movement to the right. The muscles are stretched and contracted from the hands to the feet. Then, the spring is unloaded from the bottom to top while moving completely to the left. The muscles that were stretched contract and the muscles that were contracted stretch, except it happens in the opposite sequence. It is a flowing motion, an athletic motion, a dance. It’ is similar to a second baseman scooping up a mid-height grounder and throwing it side arm and a bit underhand over to first. It is like a two handed driving forehand top spin in tennis. Use whatever analogy that is helpful to you – or a combination of several.
In the unload, the body does not retrace the movement that was made in the load. It is most definitely more into the left foot (with 85% – 90% of the weight on the left foot at impact) and the body is more advanced in rotation from the legs up to the neck. When you truly understand this unloading sequence of motion and learn to perform it correctly and purposefully, then you can’t keep from moving into and through the ball properly. Your shots will take on a new and greatly improved character.
When you get to the finish as a consequence, and as a chain action of all of the proper movements that have come before it, then the details of the movement becomes nearly automatic, or involuntary. You can’t keep from doing it correctly.
At the final stages of the impact area the left hand and wrist begin to supinate. The palm of the left hand moves from facing down and toward you to up and away from you while moving past impact (for a straight shot, at impact the back of the left hand is square to the target…vertical to the ground, as is the clubface). The speed and momentum produced from this sequentially athletic movement will carry the body and club all the way into a full and complete finish for that particular swing.
Don’t think of how the club will contact the ball in the least. That’s been taken care of by everything else that has come before.
Let it go! The clubhead is moving much too fast to control that moment in time.
Having all this information about the swing is a necessary starting point along your pathway toward building a perfectly repetitive natural swing motion. You can’t change effectively unless you fully understand what you are trying to do. However, few of us get to start with a clean slate and develop from there. Most, if not all, of us have had a swing motion based on specious, erroneous, and outright incorrect information from which we have tried to develop a game. From that starting point, it becomes much more challenging to feed these fundamentals into your game in order to take full advantage. Learning how to go about doing this becomes the next step in your improvement toward optimizing all your talents.
Keep feeding these fundamentals into your game. Next time we’ll discuss some of the greats of the game and how we can relate to their movements. May all your swings be free!