Whether you call it the late release, delayed release, down-cock or lag, holding your wrist hinge from the top of the backswing well into the downswing is a key to hitting long drives.
Unfortunately, plenty of amateur golfers drain this power source the instant they complete the backswing, casting the hands toward the ball and unhinging the wrists.
The late release should occur naturally as a result of proper lower- and upper-body sequencing. Whether you've got that down pat or not, here's an easy and effective way to increase your clubhead lag.
As you make a very slow practice downswing, keep your left thumb pointed up as you pull the arm downward toward the impact zone. To get a better feel for this motion, take the club to the top using just your left arm.
Hook your right forefinger around the shaft, then pull the club down slowly with the left arm, using the right finger to hold the angle between arm and shaft.
Keep the image of the left thumb pointing skyward and you'll enjoy longer, straighter shots.
How a Late Release Can Ruin Your Golf Swing – and How You Can Fix It
When it comes to problems with the release in the golf swing, far more players struggle with an early release than a late one. However, a late release can still be a problem that seriously damages your ability to hit good shots. Timing the release is critical because a properly timed release will allow you to expend all of the energy that you have built up during your downswing right at the moment of impact – meaning you will maximize your club head speed and your distance. When you release the club either too early or too late, you are wasting swing speed that could have been used to add distance to your shot.
There is good news if you are fighting a late release in your golf swing – it is far easier to fix a late release than an early one. In fact, a late release is a sign that most of the things in your golf swing are already going right. Most likely, you are only one or two small adjustments away from being in good shape with your swing mechanics. As long as you are willing to take the time to correct the problem with your release, there is every reason to believe that better golf could be right around the corner.
It is important to understand that fixing your release is something that will take a little bit of effort on the driving range, and you should expect some growing pains along the way. When you alter the way you release the club through the hitting area, you are dramatically changing one of the fundamental things about your swing. That means it is going to take some time for the rest of your body – and your mind – to adjust to this change. The transition shouldn't take too much practice to make successfully, but if you expect instant results, you are likely to be disappointed.
You can expect to make quite a few gains in your game when you are able to correct your problem with a late release. For one, you should quickly start to hit the ball farther because you are maximizing your swing speed at the moment that matters most. Also, it should become easier to make solid contact with the ball, especially from poor lies off of the fairway. Trying to get your club down through the rough and to the back of the ball squarely with a late release is a tremendous challenge. Once you are using a good release through impact, your consistency in finding the sweet spot of the club should dramatically improve.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed player, please be sure to reverse the directions so that they apply correctly to your swing.
Spotting the Warning Signs of a Late Release
As mentioned above, a late release is actually an indication that you are doing a lot of things correct in your golf swing. You cant get into position to make a late release if you don't do some other things properly both in the backswing and the downswing. Of course, you will still need to get to work on fixing the late release problem itself if you want to play your best and hit better golf shots than ever before.
When you are on the course, or even on the driving range, watch for any of the three signs below as a potential warning that you are dealing with a late release in your swing.
- Pushing the ball to the right consistently. This is probably the most-common sign of a late release in golf. When your shots are frequently pushed out to the right of your target, there is a good chance that the club isn't being released on time. Note that there is a significant difference between a push and a slice – even though they can end up in the same place. A slice occurs when the ball starts near the target line, but quickly turns to the right due to side spin. A push, on the other hand, is a shot that flies basically straight, but it starts out on a path that is well right of the intended target line. This distinction is important because the swing mistakes that lead to each of these two shots are drastically difference. Make sure to watch your ball carefully when it heads to the right of your target so you can decide if you are dealing with a push or a slice.
- Low ball flight. If you never get the club properly released through impact, you will likely make contact with the club de-lofted and the ball will fly lower than when a proper release is used. There is nothing wrong with hitting the ball low on some occasions, but you certainly don't want the low ball flight to be the only shot you have in the bag. Learning how to hit the ball high opens up many opportunities on the course when it comes to getting over hazards or getting close to the pin when the greens are firm. If you notice a pattern of low shots coming from your swing even when you make good contact, a late release is the likely culprit.
- Loss of distance. Of course, if you aren't releasing the club at the right time through the ball, you aren't going to get as much distance out of each shot as you would like. Does it seems like you aren't hitting the ball as far as you should? Or maybe you aren't hitting the ball as far as you used to? Either way, it is worth checking on your swing technique for the possibility of a late release robbing you of power.
It is often the combination of these warning signs that will give you a strong indication of a late release. For example, short shots that fly to the right of your target are a clear warning that there is trouble in the bottom of your swing. Think about the last round or two that you have played, and remember each of the bad shots that you hit. Do they fall into the categories above? If so, it is time to do something about the problem and get your ball flight back on track.
The Mechanics of This Mistake
Before you can make the necessary mechanical corrections to your swing, you need to understand exactly what is going wrong from a technical perspective. Most likely, there is plenty going right in your swing leading up to the late release – so dramatic changes to your swing shouldn't be necessary.
In a golf swing with a proper release, the angle that has been formed between the left arm and the shaft of the club will start to be straightened out in the final moments before impact. That is really what the release is – the extension of that angle so that the club and the left arm form a (mostly) straight line at impact. When you suffer from a late release, that isn't happening in time, so you are never completely releasing that angle that you have developed.
This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, it is the release of that angle (between left arm and club shaft) that really allows the club head to speed up through the ball. Without that release, your golf swing will only be powered by your rotation toward the target – which will give it some speed, but not nearly enough. You need to combine a rotation toward the target with a proper release in order to achieve your power potential. It is a challenge to even get down to the hitting area while maintaining your angle between left arm and club, and many amateur players don't even make it that far. However, once you have made it that far, it is crucial that you use that angle to your advantage to speed up the club head and launch the ball into the air.
The other reason that your late release is a problem is that the club wont be moving down through the ball like it should be. When you release the club properly, not only is the club head speeding up, but it is also taking a nice downward angle toward impact. Holding on to your angle and not releasing the club fully until after impact means that your swing will be more-shallow, and you will likely have a hard time creating a solid strike on the back of the ball. Your spin rate could be low as a result, and your ball flight will almost certainly be too low as well (as mentioned above). Only when you start to release the club properly at the moment of impact can you expect to achieve that aggressive downward hit that makes it possible to create high and straight iron shots on a consistent basis.
Before you get to work trying to fix this error, you should understand that this swing fault is most likely the result of a bad thought process rather than a complex technical error. For most golfers, the late release is simply caused by fear. The fear of hitting a bad shot can ruin even the most-fundamentally sound golf swings. To get into a position where you are ready to release the club into the ball means that you have done a lot of things well – but your brain may be holding you back from taking the last step in order to hit good shots. If you are swinging down toward the ball and lack the confidence in yourself to hit a good shot, you may hold on to the release in an effort to steer the ball into the fairway or onto the green. That isn't going to work, but you may keep doing it over and over again because you cant find the trust and confidence inside yourself to let the swing go and live with the results.
Playing good golf requires a lot of confidence – that probably isn't a secret. However, you may not understand just how much confidence you have to have right at impact when all of your work throughout the swing is put into the ball. If there is any doubt or any flinching at that moment, everything else will be wasted. Trust in yourself and the swing you are making, even if it isn't perfect. If you can get over this mental hurdle and find the confidence to release the club on time, every time, a great ball flight might be closer than you think.
A Drill for Solving the Late Release
While much of the problem with a late release can be mental, there is also physical work that needs to be done to remove this error from your swing. After all, you may have been swinging with a late release for years and years, meaning those faulty mechanics are deeply ingrained in your game. Taking the late release out and replacing it with a proper one will require both an improvement in your confidence and some practice to refine your swing mechanics.
The following drill is meant to help you understand what the release should feel like through impact, so that you can replicate it over and over again out on the course. In order to isolate the release and allow you to feel just how powerful it can be, you are going to take out all other moving parts of your swing. Use the steps below to complete this drill successfully.
- Get to the range. You will need to be at the driving range to complete this drill. Find a comfortable spot on the range where you can practice without too many distraction. While you only need a few golf balls to do the drill initially, it will be helpful if you can hit as many as 20 or 30 to really learn the proper feeling through impact.
- Pick a club. The best choice of club for this drill is something in the mid-to-short iron range. That means that anything from a six iron through a pitching wedge will be a good choice. You aren't going to be trying to hit the ball very far with this drill, so it doesn't particularly matter which of these irons that you pick. However, don't try to do this drill with a long iron, or with any of your woods.
- Take your stance. To start, you are going to prepare to hit a shot just like you would any regular shot on the course. Set a ball in position, and take your stance as usual. Make sure you are in a good athletic posture and you are well-balanced.
- Set the club. This is where the drill starts to deviate from your normal swing. Instead of making a backswing, you are just going to set the club into position as if you were already on the way down into the ball. That means that you want to hinge your wrists back so that you create an approximately 90* angle between your left arm and the club shaft. When done properly, the shaft of the club should be roughly parallel with the ground, while your hands will be only a couple inches behind the ball. Imagine that you were swinging down toward impact but stopped suddenly and held your position – that is the kind of pose that you are looking for.
- Hit the ball. Since you are standing in a static position with no kind of forward momentum taking you toward the target, there is only going to be one way to hit the ball – by unhinging your wrists and releasing the club. That is what this drill is all about. You are going to hit shots with your release, and only your release. There will be no lower body rotation, no shoulder turn – nothing else to help you move the club through impact. Of course those other factors are greatly helpful in a normal swing, but you want to take them out of this drill so you can feel what it is like to hit the ball with a full release. Hit as many shots as you would like using only your release until you are satisfied that you have learned the new move.
Don't look for the ball to fly very far when doing this drill. Depending on the club you are using, even hitting the ball 30 or 40 yards would be a good result. What you want to look for is solid contact time after time. You should feel how the club can speed up when the proper release is applied, and how solid the contact can feel when you strike the back of the ball with the sweet spot of the club. After doing plenty of repetitions with this drill, slowly work your way back into the full swing and try to integrate the full release in with the rest of your swing mechanics. Go back and forth between doing the drill and making your normal swing until you start to feel the two blend together into one.
How You Will Need to Adjust
With your release sorted out, there will be a whole new world of shots available to you. It should be much easier to hit the ball high, and you might even be able to hit a draw or fade on command. Of course, with that kind of power comes some necessary adjustments to your game and your strategy. You have likely become quite comfortable with getting your ball around the course using your old swing. Now that your swing has changed, your approach to the course will need to change as well.
One of the first adjustments to make is simply figuring out how far you can now hit the ball. Distance has likely been gained since you improved your release, but added distance only helps when you know how far you are going to hit each club. Take some time on the course to get comfortable with your new distances. It might be helpful to write down the distance that you hit each shot over the next few rounds so that you can speed up the learning curve in adapting to your added power.
Also, you are going to need to adjust your target lines based on the new ball flights that you are capable of hitting. Where you might have previously needed to aim away from a bunker because you didn't hit the ball high enough to carry it and still stop your shot on the green, you may not be able to pick a more aggressive line. Taking advantage of your new ball flight in this way is one of the best chances you will have to turn your improved swing into lower scores. Pay close attention to the kind of ball flight that you are now producing, and then use it to the best of your advantage to spot opportunities out on the course.
If you have been playing golf for a long time while using a late release, the shots you can hit once a proper release is in place will seem incredible to you. More power has likely been hiding in your swing this whole time, just waiting to be unleashed into the ball. Fortunately, golfers with a late release usually are doing a lot of other things right in the golf swing – so you might not be that far away from a swing that you will love. Work on the simple drill provided above to understand the feeling of a timely release, and then start to gradually work it into your full swing. The progress will take some time to fully show up on the course, but stay patient and keep practicing. Before long, your improved shots will translate from the range to the course and you will be playing some excellent golf.