How the Transition in Golf works? Different Transition Variations

Ask any qualified observer of golf tour professionals what separates the pro’s from the amateurs and they will likely say the transition.

It’s a term that is used a lot but there is some lack of consistency in what it actually means. This is the reason for this article - to clarify and provide concrete examples of different transitions.

And by the way, my name is Petter Tärbe and I have a history as a decent scratch player, a golf instructor for some years, but first and foremost I’m a huge golf development nerd that loves to pass on what I know. 

Some parts of this article will get technical so scroll down to the bottom terminology list if you get stuck.

My Definition

For me the transition is whatever needs to happen (or doesn’t need to happen) between your backswing top position and the ideal striking position that you wish to be in for your release style.

In other words the transition is the puzzle piece that makes your club and your body come in the correct positions for the continuation of your swing. You might, in simpler terms, call it a swing plane alteration but that’s perhaps too simplifying.

Some swings portray a massive transition, some look like the swing is just one plane and some even have a negative plane transition. How does this work? Let the below examples shed some light.

Homework Assignment before Examples

It would be very advantageous if you know more about what a swing plane is and what shallowing the club actually means. Read this article first if you are insecure. It will help.

Example A - The Big Shallowing Move

In many swings on tour today you see a more vertical backswing and then a transition that reroutes the club several decimeters from a down the line perspective before it comes down to what the broadcasters will call “the slot”. From there the players explode and tilt their bodies to the right to make the most of their technique. The most extreme version would be Matthew Wolf and a more digestible version would be Victor Hovland.

This is what I call the big shallowing move. It’s a backswing, then a long transition that reroutes the club and your body which leads to a follow through “explosion”. 

So what is actually the point of this? From a club path traveling perspective the rerouting of the club is actually creating a longer path (longer path means more space to accelerate). Advocates for this type of move will say that the more vertical you make the club in the backswing, the more tendency the club has to be shallow by itself. This is true IF you have the mental space for it.

Furthermore, it fits with a release style that uses a low hand position in p 5.5 (think shaft almost parallel to the ground in the downswing) because after this the hands will move up and to the left. Hence, the transition move is needed for the continuation of the swing and the release style that is used.

Easy to perform? Heck no and that’s why maybe only 2-5% of the golfing population will ever get this right. But if it intrigues you and you wish to dig deep, then go into my Slingshot Golf Swing Article here…

Example B - The Same Track Transition

In some swings, like Tiger Woods or Ludvig Åberg, you hardly see a transition at all. It looks like they take the club up and then that it reroutes on the same observed path. How is this possible? 

Well, there is a misconception that the swing plane is a thing you see from the down the line view only. This is just part of the story. If you are wide in your backswing and have your arms “in front of you” you will automatically create a shallow downswing plane without having the arms stuck. Furthermore, you can indeed alter your downswing plane with your follow through plane. Again, read my swing plane article for clarity.

Easy to perform? Well, MUCH easier than the example A version but with the note that you need to get into the proper backswing position. If you are strong enough, then this is definitely an ideal transition. It becomes much more a two part swing instead of a three part swing like Example A.

Example C - The Steepening Transition

Some players like Bernhard Langer and Miguel Jimenez actually steepen their shaft in transition and the feeling of a non existing transition becomes quite potent.

This is very interesting indeed. All the shallowing fanatics say that you NEED to shallow the club yet some of the best players of all time do the opposite.

How do they make it work? Well, they are deep and narrow in their backswing (they swing around themselves with a hand position very far from the ball), which in itself offers a much more shallow downswing plane. To accompany this they have a quite bent trail arm (in an externally rotated elbow position) which creates a contraction of the trail biceps which then pushes out in the downswing = it creates width. So this additional width matches up with the more steepened plane observed down the line swing plane. And voila, they don’t need a transition at all.

Easy to perform? In my opinion, the easiest way to make a transition from the brain department perspective. They accomplish the same swing plane as “the same track transition” but without being forced to have the massive physical strength of e.g. Tiger Woods. There is more timing involved though, but for the common club golfer this would definitely be something to look for. If you are intrigued - check out The Hogan Golf Swing Article here.

Example D - The Throw to Shallow Transition

In the 1970-1990 era there were quite some players that made a high backswing with their hand quite close to their head (think john daly) and still managed to get a shallow downswing plane. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and even the modern Jake Knapp portray this type of transition. The tempo town players to speak social media language.

How could they do this? Well, it’s all about doing a final wrist cock (radial deviation) at the top of the backswing. This creates a stretch in the wrist that will shoot the club straight out from where it came. This “little throw” should not be confused with an active casting of the club but is something that is happening dynamically from the club's center of mass and your wrists.

Easy to do? You need to be a very laid back chilled person to allow this more automatic transition to happen. If you are eager to hit this is a complete mismatch. If you are interested, read my Old School Swingers Golf Swing Article here. This is what it is all about.

Training the Transition? 

It all depends on your overall swing protocol.

Want to perform the big shallow move? Start drilling and training like crazy. This is one of the key drivers of the Slingshot Golf Swing. I would train it in beats and really make this a top priority of my sessions. But, most importantly, I would only go down this path IF I had the head space needed for these more 3 Beat Swings. If not, I would seek other swing protocols.

If you aspire to do the same track transition with the “wide hands in front of you” then I would suggest hitting the gym. You just need to be comfortable with this width and it just takes physical strength. I’m no expert in exactly which muscles it is but I’m sure some backswing training searches will do the job for you.

If you are into the more easily digestible steepening transition which basically means no transition I would rather just work on my backswing position. What is needed to get as narrow and deep as e.g. Ben Hogan, Ken Venturi, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Jimenez etc. The Hogan Golf Swing article here.

For the throw to shallow transition I’d just work on creating swings with high degrees of relaxation where the final wrist cock of the backswing starts to feel natural. Then I’d go to tempo apps to just manifest it into a rhythm that fits my brain.

Summary and Final Thoughts

The transition is a complex phenomenon that is really achievable if you know the rest of your swing. It’s a puzzle piece that makes or breaks a good swing. DEPENDING on which type of swing you are pursuing.

Good Luck!

Wish to Read More? 

Snöleo Golf Academy Overview Page

Early Extension in Golf? A Non-Band-Aid Solution

How Golf Swing Plane Works? Peeling the Swing Plane Layers

Consistency in Golf? The Perception of Control

The Slingshot Golf Swing - The Modern Power Swing

The Hogan Golf Swing - Ben Hogan’s Foundation Explained

The Old School Swinger Golf Swing - Nicklaus then and Scheffler now

The MORAD 86 Golf Swing - Mac O’Grady’s Legendary Swing

Terminology List

Swing plane = How your golf club is positioned in time and space.

Arms in front of you = Imagine watching a right handed player from the face on view. Think of the top backswing position. If you hands are in line with the head of the player the arms are more “behind you”. 

Wrist cock = the same as radial deviation = take your right arm and straighten it in front of you. Take the thumb and point it in your eyes direction. Then pull the thumb towards you. That's a wrist cock.

Casting the club = deliberately releasing your wrist angles in the downswing too early. This leads to less power due to the stored energy in the shaft diminishes.