This drill is designed to create power, consistency, accuracy and distance. The release of the golf club correctly squares the club face to the target at impact.
The releasing action of the golf club also provides the club head with more speed and power. The correct release incorporates the body and the arms to work together. If the golf club is not correctly released, the hands and the wrists work too hard to square the club face on impact which will lead to inconsistency of the club face angle at impact, therefore resulting in wayward golf shots.
Fault - The golfer has a lack of power and accuracy with the driver. The ball flight tends to fly off target towards the right for a right handed golfer and the left for a left handed golfer. Incorrect release can also result in a lack of consistency as the wrists and hands will have to work hard to help work the club face angle to hit straight golf shots. Also, if you are struggling with a flying elbow post impact that will most likely be a bi-product of incorrect release.
Fix - The best drill to help produce a much better release of the arms and the golf club would be to use an alignment stick or bamboo stick to place alongside the golf club so that you are holding the stick close to the shaft and the grip. This will indicate where the butt end of the shaft is pointing at during different parts of the golf swing.
Key point - A correct grip is essential when looking to release the golf club correctly. See below for help creating the perfect golf grip.
Key grip tips - The top hand goes on the golf club first, making sure we hold the golf club straight. Hold the grip in the base of the fingers and wrap the hand on top, pointing the thumb down the front of the grip.
Check point 1 - Make sure you can see 2½ knuckles on the hand when looking down.
Check point 2 - The thumb and index finger create a crease that points to your shoulder that is away from the target. Place the bottom hand on the golf club holding again with the base of the fingers and wrap the thumb pad on top of the other hand's thumb.
Check point 3 - The crease between the thumb and the index finger points towards the shoulder furthest away from the target. Link the fingers at the back of the grip by either interlocking or overlapping the index finger of the top hand and the little finger of the bottom hand.
Top tip - Hold the club gently. Avoid strangling the golf club as this will restrict the correct hand action through the ball.
Once you have the correct grip, set up to an empty tee peg ready to swing. Take your normal backswing, allowing the golf club to swing to the top of the swing. During the downswing the aim is to make sure the right forearm crosses over the left forearm as we approach impact. The golf club face should start to gently rotate and become square at impact. Post impact, the right forearm and the left forearm should have crossed over so that they almost touch together. From this point, the aim is to point the butt end of the golf club (i.e. the stick) near the empty tee peg at the half way point of the follow through.
Key points - The right arm should be straight and pointing at the target and the left elbow should be gently folded. The wrists should be slightly cocked so that the golf club shaft is vertical.
How to Release the Golf Club
The concept of 'releasing the golf club' is one that is lost on many amateur players. A large number of players have never even considered this concept, and even among those who are familiar with it, there is a lot of confusion about what it means and what it does for your shots. You can be sure, however, that this is not a topic that is lost on professional golfers. Pros understand just how important it is to release the club correctly through the hitting area, and they work on this part of the swing regularly.
Before getting into the details of how you can improve your release to take your ball striking to a new level, we first need to make sure you are perfectly clear as to what the release is, and why it is important. Obviously, 'releasing' the club doesn't actually mean letting it fly off into the distance – you need to maintain a grip on the club at all times. Rather, releasing the club refers to the action that is going to take place through the hitting area in a good swing. When the club releases through impact, the toe passes the heel as the club face turns down to the left (for a right handed golfer). Players who fail to release the club properly are said to be 'holding it off' - meaning they are preventing the release from taking place. In that kind of a swing, the heel will refuse to give way to the toe through impact, and the shot will frequently miss well to the right of the target.
The first benefit of releasing the club properly is the ability to get the ball on line more times than not. When the club releases correctly, the club face will get back into a square (or close to square) position as it contacts the ball. That is obviously important, as squaring up the face will give you a great chance to hit your target with the shot. When you are able to perform the release the same way time after time, you will be able to hit your targets consistently – which is a huge advantage in the battle for lower scores. However, a square club face is not the only advantage of using this technique correctly. In addition to accuracy, you should also gain significant power by releasing the club. During the release, the club head will be accelerating aggressively, meaning plenty of power will be passed into the ball. If you were to complete the release too early, or too late, the power that is generated during this part of the swing would be wasted. Master the art of releasing the club perfectly at the moment of impact and you will tap into power that you have never before experienced in your game.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Setting the Stage for a Good Release
The release technically takes place at the bottom of the swing, but you need to be setting the stage for that action well in advance. In fact, you can start setting yourself up for a good release before the club even goes in motion. By taking care of the variety of 'smaller points' that go into the swing in the early stages, you can make it much easier to release the club correctly through impact. By building a good stance at address, and by making a quality backswing, you will find that the release actually becomes a relatively simple task.
Following is a list of points that you can use to make sure you are setting yourself up nicely for a quality release when the impact phase of the swing rolls around. Pay specific attention to each of these points during your upcoming practice sessions.
- Bend your knees for a stable base. The release is an aggressive action, meaning you have to have good balance and stability in your swing in order to support that action properly. To build a good base, make sure there is plenty of knee flex in your stance as you prepare to swing. By flexing your knees, you will engage the big muscles in your legs right from the start, which will allow them to help support your swing all the way through. In addition to helping the release, there are a number of other benefits to flexing your knees at address, so don't skip over this important point.
- Relaxed grip. Another key to a good release through the ball is a relaxed grip. Many golfers fall into the habit of gripping the club too tightly both before and during the swing – and they have trouble releasing the club through impact as a result. The release is all about freedom and speed, two things which can quickly be compromised if you hold on too tight. Make sure your grip pressure is relatively relaxed during the swing so that the club has the freedom it needs to rip through the hitting area. Of course, you have to make sure to keep control over the club during the swing, so make sure you are holding on at least tight enough to prevent the club from slipping out of your grasp.
- Stand far enough away from the ball. This point is something of a fine line, as you don't want to stand too far away from the ball – but it is important to make sure you are at least standing far enough away to give yourself room for a nice release. When standing too close, your hands will become cramped in by your body during the downswing, and they may not have enough room to release through the shot. Players who stand right up next to the ball usually make upright swings that lack a release – which is a common recipe for a slice, or at least a push well out to the right. If you feel like you are crowded when you swing down toward impact, try backing up just an inch or so before hitting a few more balls. Work your way back from the ball until you find a good spot that leaves you able to reach the ball easily while still providing room for the release.
- Complete a full backswing. The last point on our list has to do with the backswing that you use to set up the downswing. In order to give yourself the best chance of a full release through impact, be sure to finish the backswing completely before you transition into the forward swing. It is often tempting to cut your backswing short as you hurry to strike the ball and see where it is going to go, but that will only hurt your chances of hitting a good shot. You need a smooth, even tempo to release the club properly, and that all starts by finishing your backswing. Give yourself as much time as is needed to finish the backswing and start moving forward by using your lower body to turn to the left.
If you can successfully hit on all four points listed above, you will be doing a good job of preparing for a proper release at the bottom of the swing. That doesn't mean that you are guaranteed of a good release – there is still work to be done – but you will be starting off on the right foot to be sure.
Making It Happen
With all of the preparations made and the swing underway, there will be no time for turning back – you are simply going to need to be ready to release the club when the bottom of the swing arrives. This is where it starts to get a bit tricky, however, as you need to release the club without actively trying to do so. Of course, that advice probably sounds strange – you aren't supposed to try to release the club, even though that is exactly what you need to do? How is the club going to release if you don't force the action?
It all comes down to cause and effect when trying to get this point right. You can't actively try to make the release happen on the way through impact because there isn't nearly enough time for you to tell your hands and arms what they need to do. If you try to 'time out' the release at the bottom of the swing, you are going to be late almost every time. Instead, you need to use your hands correctly early in the downswing, which will lead automatically to a great release at the bottom. This is where most amateur golfers go so wrong – they try to time the release manually and are disappointed with the results. You are never going to be able to complete the release successfully with this plan, so don't even try.
Instead, follow the steps below to start your downswing in a way that will ensure a great release through impact.
- From the top of the swing, get the downswing started with an aggressive turn of your lower body toward the target. This is the very first thing that should happen when you make the turn from backswing to downswing. At this point, your hands and arms (along with the club) should be 'hanging' at the top while your lower body gets started. If you were to start your hands immediately down, you would be wasting your release early in the downswing and it would be completely gone by the time you reached impact. This is a common amateur mistake, and it is a costly one. To save your release for later, start down with your hips and allow both the hands and the club to trail behind.
- As your hips begin to clear out of the way, your hands will naturally start to pull down toward the ball. In many ways, this is the make or break moment for your swing. If you can hold on to your release at this point while pulling down with the back of your left hand, you will be on track for success. Unfortunately, most amateurs lose the release at this point and the potential that they had for speed in the swing is gone. One good way to think about this phase of the downswing is to imagine that you are trying to pull the butt end of the club down toward the ball as quickly as possible. Keep the butt end of the grip pointed at the ball deep into the downswing and you will create a beautiful lag angle that can be unleash through impact for a powerful release. This is one of the most difficult parts of the swing to learn, however, so spend plenty of time working on this technique during your practice sessions. If necessary, try hitting some shorter pitch shots while lagging the club in order to get a good feel for this mechanic.
- If you have done a good job of lagging down toward impact, the actual moment that you release the club through the ball should happen naturally. The lag that you have been holding onto will be undone thanks to the continued rotation of your body, and the club will slam into the back of the ball with impressive speed. It is important to note that you shouldn't be trying to manually do anything with your hands at this point. Instead of forcing the right hand to 'turn over' at impact, just allow the force of the downswing to handle the release while you keep turning toward the target. It is the rotation of your body that drives the release, as long as you have done everything else properly up until this point.
The release is a far more effective tool when it happens as a result of other parts of your swing coming together correctly. Work on the points that have been included above to make sure you are making the release as easy as possible when the bottom of your swing rolls around. It may take some time to get comfortable with this kind of 'automatic' release, but it can work wonders once you have it in place.
The Connection Between the Release and the Slice
As you already know, the slice is likely the biggest problem in the game today for the average amateur. It would not be an exaggeration to say that millions of players have dealt with the slice at least at one point or another during their golf experience. Specifically, the slice is a major stumbling block for beginning golfers, and it even causes some players to give up on the game entirely before they are able to correct the problem.
There are a number of potential causes of the slice, but attempting to manually time the release at the bottom of the swing is certainly high on that list. If you try to release the club by rolling your hands over at impact (as many players believe they need to do), you will likely impact the ball on an outside-in path and a slice will be the result. When you get your right hand involved in the downswing prematurely, the club moves over the ideal path and you are left with no choice but to swipe across the ball at impact.
Unfortunately, this mistake can lead to something of a downward spiral, as it is common for players making this mistake to believe that they aren't releasing the club enough – so they try even harder to turn it over, and the problem gets even worse. As they put more and more effort into trying to get the right hand to pass over the left at impact, the swing path will become even more dramatic from outside-in, and the slice will persist. Without proper instruction or assistance, this is a pattern that can continue with no end in sight.
Of course, the way you break out of this cycle is to take the focus off of the actual release and instead work on the earlier parts of your swing that are going to set you up for a good release at the bottom of the swing. By working on everything that has been included in the instruction above, you can take away the need to think about how you are actually releasing the club when impact arrives. Again, as was mentioned earlier, it is far better to set yourself up for an 'automatic' release than it is to try timing the release manually with each shot that you hit. You will have much more success when the release happens naturally at the bottom of the swing, and your ball flights will be more consistent as well.
Is There a Release in the Short Game?
With all of this talk about the release in the full swing, it is natural to wonder if you need to think about releasing the club when hitting short game shots. As you might suspect in a game as complicated as golf, the answer is not a simple one. In reality, it depends on what type of short game shot you are hitting as to whether or not you need to release the club. Following is a quick break down of a few popular short game shots and their standing with regard to the release.
- Putting. You do not want to release the club when putting. While there will be some degree of release in terms of the toe passing the heel, that is a natural response to the rocking of your shoulders back and through. There should be no hand and/or wrist action whatsoever when putting, meaning there is no release like the one that you will use while hitting full shots.
- Low chip shots. If you are chipping the ball from a short distance and you want to keep it low to the ground, you will not release the club through impact. For shots such as the bump and run, you are going to keep the back of your left wrist pointed at the target through impact – which will hold the club face square to the line and give you a great chance of hitting an accurate shot.
- High chip shots. When playing a high short game shot like a flop shot, you will need to release the club aggressively through impact to add loft and send the ball skyward. This motion naturally makes the shot riskier than a low shot, as you have to be able to time up the release perfectly in order to succeed. However, you do have the advantage of making a smaller swing than the one you use to hit full shots, meaning it is possible to manually release the club successfully on chip and pitch shots. As long as you are willing to put in the practice time to iron out your release timing on this tricky shots, you should be able to pull them off on the course with relative consistency.
- Bunker shots. You are absolutely going to need to release the club at the bottom of the swing when hitting a bunker shot from near the green. The classic 'explosion' shot relies on a full release the send the club head through the sand and under the ball. If you fail to release the club with your hands, your swing will lack speed and the bottom and you may not even get the ball out of the bunker. Even though you are only a short distance from the hole on a greenside bunker shot, you need to swing aggressively with a full release to get up and out of the sand cleanly time after time.
The release is an important part of the golf swing. Many amateur players struggle to understand how to release the club properly, and the results speak for themselves when the ball heads well out to the right of the target on a regular basis. With the help of the instruction included above, however, you should be able to correct any release problems you have in your swing at the moment. Good luck!