How many times have you heard the phrase, "fire the hips"? That phrase gets a lot of golfers in trouble. The hips should never lead your motion in the golf swing. If they do, you will be off balance and your rotation will be stopped. Your motion instead is lead by your sternum or your center of gravity. To prove this point, try this exercise:
Swing an imaginary club to the top of your back swing. Now have someone put their hand flat on your right shoulder and chest. From the top, with your shoulder turn restricted, fire your hips. The only direction your hips can travel without your torso staying on top of them is out or in a lateral motion. When that occurs, most people call it a slide. I usually refer to it as a poor spine angle. When your spine is tilted back when you are trying to generate speed toward the target, you will hit off of your back foot and usually flip the club through impact to avoid running into the ground. This is a very common lesson of both beginners and good players. It also brings up a question often heard on the lesson tee, which is, "how do you start your downswing?"
The golf swing may seem like a movement full of positions and angles due to our use of high speed cameras, but it isn't really. It is a motion made up of rotation and swinging. Nothing is static or stopped after the motion begins. Something is always moving, creating flow and rhythm. As we talked about earlier, the rotation and swinging create momentum and leverage and that is what powers the swing. So, back to the question of how to start your down swing. Your down swing is a part of the full swing. Your back swing doesn't stop at a certain point and then become your through swing. Something is always moving. The transition from back to through happens because your weight begins moving toward the target and your body is rotating to support that movement. This movement toward the target happens before you reach the top of your back swing and it leads your transition. Your arms follow this change in momentum and if relaxed, swing down and through the ball. If you believe you should swing to the top and that there is a pause or that you stop to gather energy, you will have to then create your down swing momentum with your hands. This is a very common cause for an "over the top" move at the ball. The inside of the wheel should always power the outside of the wheel.
When you take a step forward, you begin by leaning a bit with your chest. That momentum is the beginning of the movement chain that allows you to walk. When you throw a ball, you lean forward, step and turn your chest. Both of these are motions we learn as a child and need little or no thought to perform. Golf, however, is often learned at a later stage and many times the motions are taught incorrectly. Now, instead of changing momentum from back to through as we would when throwing a ball, we get caught up in a good back swing and put too much thought into it, versus thinking of swinging to the target. We get stuck.
That is one reason that we often teach beginners what a great finish looks like first. We want beginners to get oriented to the target. We want their movements to be "through" not only down to the ball. We want beginners to use their natural abilities that they use when they throw. The big difference is, this is an underhand move. One of my favorite analogies that clicks with students is to move as though you were skipping stones. It creates the right chain of movements, it allows freedom and rotation and it gets the arms soft and working close to the body. Imagine learning to skip stones as a kid and having the advice of "firing the hips". Now you understand what the hips role is in the swing. They support you and your rotation. They flex to provide you with strength and proper posture. They rotate about 30-40% less than your shoulders. They never lead your turn, whether back or through. I hope this helps you understand the role of your hips and where momentum is created in your swing. If not, fire me a question and I will answer it. Remember, free advice from your buddies might cost you money in the end if you like to make a friendly wager.