One trademark move that sets apart most of the world's best players is how they release the golf club after the impact position.
Many club golfers feel like the golf swing stops at the impact position and that what happens after this position is unimportant. However, the correct release of the golf club after the impact position is one of the key areas where power and accuracy can be gained.
In order to correctly release the golf club at speed, try to feel that your forearms touch each other as the club comes to waist height in your follow through.
Here is a fantastic drill to get this feeling to become natural:
Gently swing the golf club backwards and forwards to waist height. As your hands and arms pass through the impact area, you should feel how your wrists and forearms rotate.
If you struggle to initially feel the correct motion, try the exercise again, this time with your feet together. This should encourage your body to be slower and your forearm rotation to be quicker.
Once this motion becomes more comfortable and natural, start swinging faster until you return to your full golf swing speed. As your hands and arms hit through the golf ball, extend your forearms towards the target and allow them to touch and release.
You should notice straighter, longer and more consistent golf shots. Remember this is often a movement that you don't see the professionals doing unless you watch their golf swings in slow motion but 99% of the players on the PGA tour all do this move.
Touch Forearms for Flawless Swing Release
The release is one of the most important, and most mysterious, parts of the golf swing. In order to hit the ball properly – and with the maximum amount of power that your swing can generate – you need to do a good job of releasing the club head through the hitting area. But what does that mean? What does a good release look like? Considering the speed with which the release happens in real time, there is no way to actually see it take place while you swing the club. This is the single-fastest part of the swing (at least it should be), which is why it can be so difficult for many amateur golfers to properly understand.
Before getting any further into the discussion on how you can create a 'flawless' swing release, we should first clearly define the release itself. To release the club, in golf lingo, means to rotate your hands and the club head through impact. As the club swings down, the face of the club is naturally going to be open to the target line. Therefore, in order to move the club into a square position, you are going to need to release the club head aggressively in the final moments before you contact the ball. A swing with no release is almost always going to miss to the right of the target (for a right handed golfer). If you were to release the club too early, the shot would likely go left (again, for a right handed golfer), although this is rarely an issue for the average amateur player.
One of the tricky things about the release is the fact that you have to do plenty of things correctly leading up to the release in order to have success. If you make mistakes earlier in your swing, it won't really matter what you try to just prior to impact, as your swing will have already failed. So, before you worry specifically about how you are going to release the club, you need to be concerned with making sure your swing technique earlier in the backswing and downswing is free from any major issues. There are no perfect golf swings, but you do have to eliminate certain mechanical problems if you hope to have a free and powerful release.
In this article, we are going to look at both the release itself, as well as the mechanics and fundamentals leading up to the release. Those two points are closely connected, so it is important to highlight each in this discussion. If you are able to swing the club properly during the backswing and downswing, you will find that the release action will become tremendously easier to execute. Of course, none of this is going to happen without practice, so expect to spend some range time working on these points before your game takes a step in the right direction.
All of the content 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.
The Connection Between Lag and Release
When you talk about the action of releasing the golf club, you almost have to talk about lag at the same time. The two topics – lag and release – are closely connected, as it is pretty much impossible to have one without the other. If you hope to release the club nicely through impact, you need to be doing a good job of holding on to your lag in the downswing. Without that lag, you really won't have anything left to release through the ball.
So what is lag? Basically, the term 'lag' in the golf world refers to the club lagging behind your hands during the downswing. As your hands swing down toward the ball, there should be an angle formed between your left arm and the shaft of the club. That angle should be at least 90*, and you should do your best to hold on to that angle for as long as possible. Many people talk about there being a 'secret' to distance in golf – if there is a so-called secret, this is it. When you lag the club properly, you will be storing up a tremendous amount of energy that can be unleashed into the back of the ball.
Sadly, most golfers waste their lag early in the swing due to overactive hands. As your downswing begins, your hands should stay out of the way while your arms pull the club down toward the ball. Also, your lower body should be rotating aggressively toward the target. The hands should ideally play almost no role in the early part of the downswing, only getting into the action as impact approaches. Professional golfers do a great job of holding onto their lag by keeping the hands out of the equation – which is why so many of them can hit the ball such impressive distances. The topic of understanding lag and improving it in your own game requires its own article (or book), but rest assured that this is something you should be working on if you want to improve your game overall.
Why is it important to lag the club if you want to release the club head through the ball nicely? Simple – it is the lag that will give you something to release. If you have already given up your lag earlier in the downswing, you will have effectively already released the club – meaning the club face has turned over and you have used up your opportunity to accelerate the club head. There will be no release left to be made, so you will only be able to drag the club through the hitting area. When you swing this way, the shots you hit will have little power, and they will rarely find the target.
Before you get too far into the topic of learning how to release the club through impact, you need to make sure you are doing a good job holding onto your lag. Without having the lag in place, there is really no reason to bother working on your release, as you aren't going to be successful. In other words, you have to learn how to walk before you can run. Start your journey toward a more powerful swing by learning how to hold on to your lag, and then take the next step forward by mastering the release.
It should be clear by now that lag plays a big role in your ability to release the club correctly through the hitting area. However, lag is not the only fundamental which requires your attention. If you would like to give yourself the best possible chance to release the club correctly in the downswing, pay attention to the fundamentals in the list below as well.
- Balanced at the top. You always want to be balanced during the golf swing, but it is especially important to be balanced at the top before you head down for impact. If you aren't well-balanced, you will struggle to release the club properly, even if you are doing everything else right. When you reach the top of the backswing, you shouldn't feel as though you are leaning in any one direction – your weight should be nicely in the middle of your stance, and not out on your toes or back on your heels. You hardly ever see a professional golfer hit a shot while off-balance, which should tell you all you need to know about just how important this point is to your success.
- Eyes on the ball. You have certainly heard this tip before, but it needs to be highlighted here because it can actually help you to release the club properly. When you keep your eyes down on the ball, your head and shoulders are naturally going to stay down into the shot as well. What does that mean? It means that your hands and arms will have the opportunity to release the club because your upper body won't be pulling away as impact arrives. Many golfers pull up out of their swings before they even hit the ball – an action which makes it nearly impossible to achieve a full release. Pick out a spot on the top of your golf ball and watch that spot throughout the swing until you have made contact and the ball is launched into the air.
- Relaxed grip pressure. As far as the release is concerned, this is one of the most-important fundamentals of all (along with lag). When making a full swing, you need to make sure that your grip is as relaxed as possible – while still enabling you to keep control of the club. A tight grip is going to make it very difficult to achieve a good release, as the tension in your hands and forearms will limit how well you can turn the club face over through the hitting area. So, on this point, you need to strike a nice balance – your grip should be tight enough to allow you to control the club, but not so tight that it inhibits the release in some way.
- Aggressive mindset. Okay – so this point isn't a physical fundamental, but it is still a fundamental that you need to have working in your favor when you swing the club. From the moment that the club starts in motion to the point that it comes to a stop, you want to be thinking aggressively about the shot you are hitting. Too many golfers swing the club cautiously, afraid to make a mistake. That kind of thinking is never going to pay off on the golf course. You need to swing aggressively, and you need to swing with confidence. Note – swinging aggressively doesn't necessarily mean you are going to swing as hard as you can in terms of raw speed. Instead, it means that you are going to swing down through the ball with no doubts in the back of your mind. You will be sure that you are going to hit a good shot, and you will look up to see the ball flying directly for its intended target.
There is a lot that needs to be done correctly in order to hit a good golf shot. As you know, golf is an extremely difficult game, and very few people ever manage to play it at a high level. By working on each of the fundamentals above, you can start to take your game in the right direction moving forward. Will these fundamentals alone mean that you are going to play great golf each time you hit the links? Of course not – but they are an excellent place to start.
The Release Itself
With all of the background work out of the way, it is now time to talk about the actual release. As was mentioned in the beginning of this article, the release happens fast – much too fast for you to think about it step-by-step as it is happening. You need to be prepared to release the club by hitting on all of the fundamentals above, and then you need to have one single thought in your mind which can guide the way you move through the ball. For many players, the best thought to use is the goal of having your forearms touch at the end of the release.
This is an idea that has likely never before crossed your mind as a golfer, but it is beautifully simple and directs your body to do exactly what it needs to do. If you are thinking about causing your forearms to touch after the release – while you are still holding onto the club with both hands, of course – you will have to rotate through the hitting area aggressively. The only way your forearms are actually going to touch is if you fire your right hand through the shot, allowing it to pass over the left just as you make contact with the ball. When you make this move properly, your right forearm may graze the underside of your left forearm on the way to a full finish.
Will your forearms actually touch when you execute the release correctly? Maybe, maybe not. A lot depends on the size of your arms, the shape of your swing, the speed of your release, and more. However, it isn't really significant whether or not your forearms physically touch – the important thing is that you intended to make them touch with your aggressive release. When you have that thought in the back of your mind, you will be inclined to release the club fully through impact. Even if you don't manage to cause your forearms to touch, the simple idea of this technique should be enough to improve your swing.
To get started with this concept, the best thing to do is to imitate your swing without a club in your hands. Join your hands by interlocking the pointer finger of your left hand and the pinky finger of your right hand, as you would when gripping a club. Then, make an imaginary swing, while thinking about trying to touch your forearms at the end of the release. Right away, you are likely to see that you need to be more aggressive with your hands through the hitting area than you have been previously. Repeat this kind of imaginary swing several times before picking up a club and trying to replicate the move. You still don't need to be hitting balls at this point – just find a place where you can safely make some practice swings.
After you start to swing the club, you will notice that a big part of this equation comes down to timing. You are going to have to time the release just right – releasing too early results in lost speed, and releasing too late results in a push to the right of the target (and perhaps, poor contact as well). To make the timing of your release as easy as possible, be sure to keep turning your body through impact and all the way into a balanced finish. If you commit to great body rotation in the swing, you will find it much easier time up the release just right because your body will carry you through the hitting area while the club is being rotated through the ball.
Mastering an excellent release is not something that is going to happen immediately. This is an advanced-level skill within the game of golf, and it is going to take plenty of time and effort for you to learn the release successfully. While you work on this element of your technique, keep the thought of touching your forearms to each other in the back of your mind. Remember, it doesn't matter if they actually touch – as long as you are releasing the club in a way that brings them close together, you are doing your job nicely.
The Release in the Short Game
Anytime you work on part of your golf swing, you also want to think about how that work is going to affect your short game. Some of the things you do in the long game have a direct bearing on the short game as well, while other elements of your full swing are completely unrelated. In this case, it is a mixed bag – the release has nothing to do with your putting stroke, but is very important when you are chipping or pitching from around the green.
First, let's quickly address the topic of putting. When you make a putting stroke, you don't want to have any releasing action in your hands whatsoever. The putting stroke is a simple motion where you move the putter head back and forth by rocking your shoulders. You don't want your hands to play any kind of an active role at all in your putting technique, so the topic of the release is irrelevant. Keep your hands quiet and work on using your big muscles to control the movement of your putter.
Moving on to chipping and pitching, however, we see that the release is an important piece of the puzzle. However, you are not going to release the club so dramatically that you are able to move your forearms close together as was discussed in the previous section. The swing that you make when close to the green simply isn't big enough to worry about trying to pass your forearms across each other (with the possible exception of hitting a flop shot, but that is a topic for another article).
The best way to think about the release in the short game is to pay attention to the way your right hand moves through impact. You want your right hand to play an active role in your chip shots, while the back of your left hand continues to move toward the target. Many people get in trouble when chipping because they stop their hands completely as impact arrives, and they hit the ball fat as a result. Then, thinking it was the right hand that was the guilty party, they limit how much the right hand is used when hitting the shot. This only makes the problem worse. To chip and pitch the ball with consistency and control, you do want to use your right hand to release the club – but you have to make sure that you keep your hands and arms moving toward the target at the same time.
Make no mistake, the release is one of the trickiest parts of the golf swing to master. In fact, you probably won't ever reach a point where you can say that you have 'mastered' it. However, you can dramatically improve your release, and that improvement is sure to show up in the quality of your golf shots. Work on using the instruction above – both as it relates to the release as well as the other fundamentals – and your swing should be on the right track in the near future.