Ringing the Bell in a Golf Downswing

By Mike Southern
Tom Watson "rings the bell" as he starts down, dropping his right elbow in close to his side as his hips turn toward the target.
Tom Watson "rings the bell" as he starts down, dropping his right elbow in close to his side as his hips turn toward the target.

Golfers frequently use mental images to help them correct swing flaws. These images typically use everyday movements, or at least movements with which most players are familiar. These movements aren't always exactly the same as the desired golf move, but they're close enough to help you learn the correct action. One traditional image you'll sometimes encounter in classic instruction but with which you might not be familiar is called "ringing a bell.'

History

Bells were an important part of community life before clocks and mass communication became widespread. Most towns had a central bell tower that was used to alert people in case of danger, to call them for gatherings, or even just to let them know what time of day it was. Because of its importance, the technique for ringing the bell was known by many people. That made it a useful image for golf instructors to use when teaching the game.

The Image

The bell was typically mounted on a pivot in a tall tower. Two ropes -- or sometimes just one huge loop of rope -- hung down from the bell. The person ringing the bell would pull down on one of the ropes (or one side of the loop) then let go of it and grab the other rope (or other side of the loop). He would pull down on that rope and then let go to grab the first rope again. He repeated the process for as long as necessary. Bells were heavy and took a fair amount of effort to get them ringing, so the ringer had to reach high on the rope and use his whole body to set the bell in motion.

Why It Works

The action of pulling the rope is similar to the action you use to start your downswing. Your hands are above your head, and you use your lower body to help you start the downswing. The key moves are (1) the shift of your weight from your back foot to your front foot as your hips turn toward the target and (2) the bending of your right elbow (for right-handed golfers) as you start down. Instructors from Herman Peery to Jim Hardy have explained this movement in terms of your straight left arm being pulled around as your hips turn, but some players might think more in terms of the bending elbow.

What It Does

Many players have a problem with casting from the top of their swing. That means you straighten your bent elbow too early in your downswing; that makes your wrists uncock too early. If you "ring the bell" properly, the combination of weight shift (turning your hips toward the target) and "pulling down on the rope" with your hands helps keep that elbow bent until it is near your side. That stops your wrists from uncocking too early in the downswing, which in turn helps increase your club head speed. Practicing with this bell ringing image in mind can help you increase your distance.

About the Author

North Carolina native Mike Southern has been writing since 1979. He is the author of the instructional golf book "Ruthless Putting" and edited a collection of swashbuckling novels. Southern was trained in electronics at Forsyth Technical Community College and is also an occasional woodworker.

Photo Credits

  • Phil Inglis/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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