Golf instructors often talk about “releasing the hands” or “releasing the club” at the bottom of the swing, but it's actually the forearms which control this crucial motion.
The release is when the right arm, wrist and hand roll over the left (opposite for lefties), squaring and then closing the clubface as it passes through impact. If you don't release the club completely, shots will fly right. You'll also lose power and strike the ball poorly.
A correct release involves more than the actual rolling action; it's the result of sound swing mechanics including weight shift, hip and shoulder rotation. Simply flipping the arms through impact is no substitute for proper, start-to-finish technique.
That said, it's important to know what a good release feels like and to groove the correct movement. A good way to get this sense is to practice rolling the right forearm over the left through the impact zone so that they touch after the ball has been hit. Do this while making a series of light swings, without a ball. You can even practice this move without a club.
After several repetitions, begin hitting balls with a wedge, swinging slowly while visualizing the forearms brushing on the through-swing. The arms should not actually touch, but they should come very close.
This drill will also eliminate the dreaded “chicken wing” follow-through which plagues many golfers.
Touch Forearms for Proper Release Through Impact
The release is perhaps the biggest mystery in the golf swing. Most golfers know that they need to release the club through impact, but very few do it correctly. When done properly, the release is able to use all of the potential energy that you have built up during your swing. A great release is the final piece of the puzzle that makes is possible to hit long and straight golf shots. Of course, if you don't release the club correctly, problems will quickly arise. In addition to losing distance without a good release, striking the ball cleanly will be difficult as well. If you wish to reach your potential as a golfer, mastering the release needs to become a top priority.
One of the biggest challenges that any golf teacher will face in their career is trying to teach someone how to correctly release the club through the hitting area. The release happens so fast – in just a fraction of a second – that it is nearly impossible for the student to feel everything that is going on during that part of the swing. The release cannot be done 'manually', because there isn't enough time for your brain to tell your hands and arms what to do. Therefore, you will need to have everything in place leading up to impact so that the release can happen naturally. A good golf teacher will understand this point, and they will work on the fundamentals of the swing prior to impact so that the student has a great chance of executing a proper release when the time comes.
If you haven't spent too much time thinking about your release up until this point, don't worry – you are in the same boat as most amateur golfers. There is plenty to work on in the swing, so something as complicated and difficult as the release is often pushed to the back burner. With that said, it is worth your time to work on the release because of the tremendous improvements that you could make if you are able to fine tune your technique in this area.
Your forearm have a lot to do with the path and behavior of your swing because they are so close to the club itself. The combination of your hands and your forearms will do most of the work when it comes to controlling the club, so you should pay careful attention to the actions of both. When it comes to the release, working to touch your forearm together after impact is good target to keep in mind. Depending on your specific swing (and your body), you may or may not be able to actually get them to touch through impact. However, even if they don't quite touch, simply keeping that goal in mind during your swing may be enough to improve your release.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Are You Releasing the Club?
At this point, you might not even be sure if you are releasing the club or not. In order to work on improving your release, you should first have a good idea of what it looks like at the moment. Fortunately, there are plenty of clues that you can look for in your game to tell you if the club is being successfully released through the hitting area. Even without recording your swing on video or hiring a professional teacher, you should be able to get a great idea of the current state of your release.
Following are three points to look for in your game that are signs of release trouble.
- Block to the right. If your shots are consistently missing to the right of the target – and not because of a slice – it is likely that you are failing to release the club in time. Shots that fly straight out to the right of the target are caused by an open club face, which is in turn caused by a poor release. It is possible to do everything else right in your swing and still miss to the right if your release isn't doing its job correctly.
- Disappointing distance. When you find that your ball is coming up well short of the target on a regular basis, you may be lacking in the release department. The release is your last opportunity to add speed to the swing, and the club can accelerate dramatically at this final moment if you do everything right. Unfortunately, most amateur golfers don't get this part right, and their shots never live up to their full distance potential. Instead of trying to radically change your swing in order to find more yards, simply work on improving your release and the distance should quickly follow.
- Hitting shots fat. Many players who consistently hit behind the ball are failing to release the club completely through impact. If the right hand never gets involved to rotate the club head through the hitting area, the club is prone to sticking in the ground short of the ball. Fat shots are particularly frustrating to deal with because they almost always come up short of the target – and usually in some pretty bad places. Clean ball striking is one of the basic elements of being a good player, so spend time on your release to eliminate the fat shot pattern from your game.
If you notice all three of these points at various times on the course, there is a great chance that your release needs work. In fact, even if you only notice one or two of these points in your game, you still may need improvement in this crucial area of golf technique. The sooner you can work on fine tuning your release through the ball, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits of hitting your shots longer and straighter than ever before.
Feel the Basic Motion
One of the main reasons why most golfers never really improve is that they go rushing into a new swing motion or technique without laying the proper groundwork first. The golf swing is a complicated and challenging motion, and if you don't take your time to learn new moves correctly, you are going to be forever disappointed with the results. Investing time in seemingly basic steps upfront can go a long way toward improving results down the line.
In terms of the release, you need to fully understand how your right hand should be working through the shot. Instead of just rushing off to the driving range with the intention of making a better release, start working on your technique at home first. After you have done some basic preparations, you will then be ready to start hitting balls. In order to learn the right hand release through impact, try the following drill.
- Take one of your golf clubs out of your bag while you are at home and have some free time. It doesn't matter which club you decide to use.
- Find a space around your house (or outside) where you can safely complete the drill. You aren't going to be making full swings, but you will be moving the club around a bit – so you don't want to be in an area of your home where there are breakable items present.
- Start by taking your normal stance as if you were going to hit a regular golf shot. Take your grip as you would regularly, and get into a comfortable posture. Pick out a 'target' for this pretend shot, and use it to aim your stance.
- Next, drop your left hand on the club so that you are only holding on with your right hand. Be careful not to adjust the position of the club face when you take your left hand off the club – everything about your stance should remain the same with the exception of dropping the top hand off the grip.
- While still holding on with just your right hand, rotate the club so that the club face is pointing toward your left foot (instead of toward the target you selected). The only parts of your body that should be moving at this point is your right hand and right forearm – everything else should remain quiet and stable.
- Once you have rotated the club face to pointed at your left foot, rotate it back open to again point at the target (just as it was at address). Go back and forth between these two positions several times simply by using the rotation of your right hand and right forearm.
The mechanics involved in this basic drill are the same as those involved in releasing the club through impact in your golf swing. Of course, when you are actually swinging the club, the release will happen far faster and there will be many more moving parts. However, the concept remains the same. This drill should help you feel the proper motion in your hand and forearm because none of the rest of your body is moving. Do this drill as often as you like until you get comfortable with how your hand and forearm are meant to control the club through the hit. Once you feel confident that you have spent enough time with this drill, you can move on to the next section, where you will actually be hitting some shots.
Working Up to a Full Swing
Even though you can now head to the practice range to hit some balls, you aren't going to be hitting full shots just yet. Instead, you are going to start at the short game area where you can work on your release on a smaller scale. The swings you make when chipping or pitching the ball are really just miniature versions of your full swing, so starting with short shots makes perfect sense. Don't worry, you won't have to wait long to start hitting full shots – in fact, you can probably work all the way up to full swings in just one practice session.
Find an area to pitch the golf ball around the practice range and take your pitching wedge out of the bag. Try to find a spot where you can hit some long pitch shots of around 40 yards, if possible. Once you have found a suitable spot, pick a target for your shots and drop a few balls onto the ground. With each ball, you are going to try to hit a low, running pitch shot that has plenty of roll after it lands. To do this successfully, you will have to release the club through impact – and maybe even touch your forearms to each other in the process. Feel the rotation in your right forearm as you move through the ball, just as you did in the previous drill that you completed at home. Each pitch should have a great release, and the result should be a shot that stays low and runs toward the target.
At this point, it might actually help to go back and forth between types of pitch shots so you can really highlight the importance of the release. Try hitting one pitch shot with a full release, followed by one that has very little release through the ball. The differences should be obvious – the full release shot will roll out after it lands, while the shot with little release should land softer and stop quicker. Alternate between these two kinds of pitch shots until you are comfortable with the feeling that each of them offers. If you get off track at any point and find it difficult to get a good release with your forearms, take a step back and work on the drill that you did at home. Returning to that basic point should remind you of the goal for your release so that you can put it into action much easier.
After a period of time spend working on pitch shots, you should be ready to walk over to the full range for some regular swings. The idea here is simple – hit the ball with your full swing while making sure to aggressively release your hands and forearm through the ball. Remember, you don't have to get too caught up on whether or not your forearms actually touch, as that is something that won't necessarily happen for every player, even when making a full release. Instead, focus on feeling like the club is speeding up through impact thanks to the rotation of your forearms and hands. The speed increase at the bottom of the swing that you can gain from a better release will be easy to feel, and you will likely know it immediately when you start doing it correctly.
As you are hitting balls on the driving range, watch for the following signs that you are making good progress with your release.
- Hitting a draw. This is the best sign of all when it comes to the release. Players who get a nice release through impact generally are able to hit a powerful draw out toward the target. As mentioned earlier, shots that are pushed to the right signify a lackluster release, so it only stands to reason that a great release would produce a nice draw instead. Even if your draw isn't under control just yet, you should be very happy if you see the ball turning from right to left as you look down the range.
- Additional distance. Obviously, you want to see the ball start to fly farther when you work on improving your release. Compare your results on the range to previous range sessions so you can determine whether or not you have actually gained power in your swing. The driving range is generally not a great place to evaluate your distance, but it can work as long as you are only comparing your shots to other range visits – not shots that you have hit out on the course.
- Solid strikes. Hitting the ball cleanly is a satisfying feeling, even if it only happens once in a while. Hopefully, now that you are trying to release the club more aggressively, you will feel that solid contact more and more frequently. Pay attention to the quality of your ball striking on the range as you work on your release. Is it getting better, or worse? Obviously, you want to make sure your strikes are getting better, and you should figure out what is going wrong if they get worse. Additional speed in your swing isn't going to do you any good if you can't make solid contact, so make sure you are moving in the right direction on this point.
Building up from short shots to long swings is a great way to teach yourself any new technique in golf. Not only is spending time in the short game area good for your chipping and pitching results, but it is also good for the condition of your full swing technique. In this case, use the short game area to practice releasing the club nicely through your shots. With plenty of practice under your belt on short shots, making the change to your long swing technique should seem instantly easier.
There is a Fine Line
One of the reasons that many golf teachers don't like to get into the release is that there is a fine line between a good release and a 'handsy' golf swing. If you use your hands too much in the golf swing, you can do more harm than good – even if your release is in good shape. For the most part, you want to keep your hands out of the golf swing and allow your body to do the rotating back and through. Overactive hands are a serious problem for many golfers, and that issue can be made even worse when trying to consciously release the club through impact.
So what can you do? Should you forget about working on your release altogether so that you can keep your hands quiet in your swing? No, not at all. You want to have a good release with your hands and forearms, you just don't want it to get out of control –and keeping it under control all comes down to using your forearms correctly. At impact, your forearms should be rotating to the left aggressively as the club comes along for the right. While your forearms rotate, your hands will be forced to rotate as well, which is exactly what you want to have happen. As long as your hands are rotating, you should be in good shape to strike a solid shot.
The hands start to be a problem when there is no (or very little) forearm rotation through impact. If that happens, your hands will simply flip the club head at the ball with minimal force or accuracy. It is really the rotation of your whole body, including the forearms, that allows your hands to finish the job when the club collides with the ball. Many amateur players use all hands to perform the release, when in reality there are many other important elements at play. Focus your practice sessions on a great rotation with your whole body through the shot and you shouldn't run into any trouble with being too handsy.
It is possible that you will never be able to get your forearms to touch during the release phase of your swing. That is nothing to worry about. What you should be worried about, however, is getting a great release through impact thanks to an aggressive hand and forearm rotation. As long as you are release the club to the best of your ability by rotating your forearms toward the target, it isn't important whether or not your forearms come together and touch. Take the instruction provided above and use it to improve your release as soon as your very next practice session.