The release is one of the more mysterious parts of the golf swing.

Senior Release Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro

Referring to the moment at the bottom of the swing when the club head ‘releases’ and turns over through the hitting area, the release happens in just a fraction of a second. To be clear, this does not have anything to do with your hands releasing their grip on the club – that would result in the club flying down the fairway. Rather, release is the term that’s used for letting the club face square up when it reaches the ball and then continue to close as it swings through. This is a complex topic, to be sure, and we hope to make some sense of it in the content that follows.

For a senior golfer, it is particularly important to release the club properly, as you may not be able to muscle the ball down the fairway as you could have done in your younger years. If your swing speed is dwindling a bit, using a proper release all the way through the hitting area will help you send the ball soaring through the sky. It’s only natural to lose a bit of speed and power as you age but optimizing your release can help you fight back against such a decline.

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.

Understanding the Basics of the Release

Senior Release Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro

Before we get too deep into this topic, we want to clear up one thing right from the start – the release is not something that you should be trying to make happen manually as you swing through. If you are trying to consciously release the club head at impact, you’ll never succeed. The swing happens too quickly to make this work, as the moment of impact lasts for just a tiny fraction of a second.

So, if you aren’t going to manually control the release, how do you make it happen? The key is to use other swing fundamentals that will allow the release to fall into place naturally. If you are able to put a variety of other swing pieces into place properly, the release will more or less take care of itself. Let’s take a look at a few of the key swing points you’ll want to monitor when trying to improve your release.

  • A full shoulder turn. This is where it all starts. By making a full shoulder turn away from the ball, you will be creating the potential for generating significant speed through impact. Turning your shoulders properly away from the ball isn’t the final step in a good swing, of course, but you’ll be laying the groundwork for what is to come. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers struggle with this point. Instead of making a full turn, many players cut the backswing short and wind up rushing into the transition. Not only will this rob you of power, it will also make it hard to achieve a clean strike at impact. If you aren’t currently making a good turn away from the ball, prioritize improvement on this point before moving on.
  • Relaxed grip pressure. This is a point which would be easy to overlook while talking about the release. Many amateur golfers have a habit of gripping the club too tightly both at address and during the swing, and that excessive grip pressure will ultimately inhibit the release. You need enough grip pressure to keep the club in your hands throughout the swing, of course, but not so much that you add tension and make it hard for the club head to turn over through the hitting area. The best way to work on your grip pressure is to hit small shots during practice while working on using a softer grip. Then, as you gain comfort and confidence, work your way up to full shots using a grip pressure that is firm enough to control the club, but not tight.
  • Passive right hand on the way down. For a right-handed golfer, it’s important to make sure the right hand stays quiet and passive during the early stages of the downswing. This is perhaps one of the most-common errors in the amateur game, and it is the reason many golfers hit a weak slice instead of a powerful draw. If you let your right hand get involved too early, you’ll essentially be releasing the club at the top of the downswing rather than at the bottom. It might feel like you are adding power to the swing by actively using your right hand, but all you’ll be doing is getting the club out of position and wasting potential power. Work on the feeling of pulling the club down toward the ball with your left hand to teach your right hand how to stay out of the way. In fact, you might even want to make a few one-handed practice swings with your left-hand only to get the idea.
  • Great lower body turn through the shot. If you have done everything right up until this point, you’ll be on track for a proper release. It can still go wrong, however, so you need to see it through and make sure the finish the swing off properly. That means fully turning your lower body all the way through to a full, balanced finished position. This is another one of those things that amateur golfers don’t tend to do very well. The lower body is underused by a vast percentage of the golfing population, as many players give up on their lower body turn before impact arrives – or they never even bother to get it started in the first place. If you are going to live up to your potential as a player, and if you are going to hit the ball with authority with all of your clubs, it’s essential to turn your lower body properly through the swing.
  • A full finish. Some golfers don’t bother swinging up to a full finish, as they think it doesn’t matter since the ball is already gone. Unfortunately, this is a mistake which could have significant consequences. If you cut your finish short, you might actually wind up cutting your turn short as well – and the club won’t release properly as a result. Even though the ball is gone well before you arrive at a full finish, use this part of the swing as a good landmark to monitor how your technique is progressing. If you make it all the way to a full, balanced finish after each swing, you can feel fairly confident that your mechanics are in good shape.

As you can see, the ‘basics of the release’ don’t really have much to do specifically with the release itself. Instead, it is everything surrounding the release that will determine how you fare on this point. If you manage to successfully check off all the points on the list above, it’s virtually impossible to imagine that you will struggle to release the club. Get all of these points in place and the release should take care of itself.

Spotting Signs of Trouble

Senior Release Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro

How do you know that you are struggling with a poor release? You certainly can’t see it in real time, as this part of the swing happens much too fast for you to observe visually in any meaningful way. In fact, you might even have trouble checking your release on video, unless you have some high-powered, expensive equipment. To get an indication that your release is giving you problems, the best thing to do is carefully watch your results on the course. The ball doesn’t lie in this game, so seeing what the ball is doing after it leaves the club can tell you a lot about how the club is behaving through impact. The following points may indicate that your release needs some work.

  • Consistently missing to the right. This is a big clue that your release is not in good shape. If the ball persistently sails out to the right of the target – for a right-handed golfer – there is a good chance the release is either slow or lacking. Of course, to improve it, you’ll need to go back to the points we highlighted in the previous section and make sure you are performing well in those various areas. You don’t want to just tell your hands to ‘roll over’ or ‘move faster’ through the ball. Rather, you want to sharpen up your surrounding mechanics and allow the release to come into form naturally as a result.
  • Lacking power. It’s common for golfers to complain about their lack of power. And, to be sure, plenty of players focus on distance far more than they should. Hitting the ball long distances is great, but there are plenty of other skills required to play this game well. With that said, if you are lacking power and you feel that you are capable of a lot more, it might be that your release is holding you back. For instance, if you play golf with others who are of a similar age, fitness level, and skill level, and yet you are way behind them off the tee, something is going on that needs to be corrected. A proper release will allow your swing speed to be maximized at the moment that matters most – impact. Don’t make dramatic changes in search of extra distance but do consider the possibility that improving your release will help you send the ball farther down the fairway time after time.
  • Hitting the ball fat. There are a number of potential causes of hitting the ball fat. Just hitting a few fat shots during a round does not mean you automatically have a release problem, but it is worth considering if this problem comes up over and over again. When you don’t release the club correctly, you are left to drag the club head through the hitting area – and it’s hard to get to the ball in time when you are dragging the club. Instead of making clean contact, your swing arc will bottom out early and you will hit the shot fat. Even if you do make decent contact on some of your shots, they will lack the power that they would have otherwise. Consistent fat shots are frustrating and could be the result of a poor release.
  • A slice. As you are probably aware, slicing the ball is an extremely common mistake in the amateur game. It’s hard to play decent with a slice, as the dramatic left-to-right ball flight robs you of distance and makes it extremely hard to hit your targets. With the slice, the underlying culprit is often a premature release. If you release the club too early – and the top of the swing instead of the bottom – you’ll end up cutting across the ball at impact and a slice pattern will result. This is an issue where your hands are too active at the top, rather than waiting their turn until the club approaches the ball. It’s notoriously difficult to break this habit, so be patient with yourself while trying to take your hand action out of the top of the swing.

There are plenty of potential indications that your release is not up to par, so pay attention on the course and diagnose any issues you may be having. Rather than just getting angry about your bad shots, take the time to analyze them and figure out where you can make improvements. Even if the improvements are small and take some time to become comfortable, you’ll be taking baby steps toward a better game in the long run.

Proper Practice

Senior Release Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro

Do you know how to practice? That might seem like a silly question at first, as pretty much every golfer knows how to buy some range balls, find a place to hit, and start swinging away. However, there is much more to proper golf practice than just tossing down some range balls and going for it. Only when you practice correctly will you really get any benefit from your time and effort.

With regard to improving your release, there are a number of elements that need to come together correctly if you are going to let the club release beautifully through the ball. We touched on those points earlier, and you probably have realized that you need to improve in at least one or two of those areas. If that is the case, you’ll want to practice, and you’ll want to practice effectively. Let’s touch on a few keys to good practice so you can make sure to get the most possible value out of your upcoming sessions.

  • Each shot matters. With a bucket full of range balls at your disposal, it’s easy to take individual swings for granted, thinking that you can just make a better swing next time if the current one doesn’t go right. That’s a misguided approach, however, because when you are actually on the course, each individual shot matters and you don’t get to do them over again. If you make a poor swing, you have to deal with the results of that swing, as there is no second chance. So, while the stakes aren’t the same in practice, you should have the mindset that each individual shot matters significantly. Take your time to prepare for each shot, pick a target, focus your thoughts, and execute your technique. You won’t go through your bucket of balls very quickly this way, but your practice will be far more productive. In fact, instead of hitting 50 or 60 balls during a practice session, you might find that you only need to hit 30 to feel like you’ve made some progress. It’s not about the quantity of shots you hit, but rather the quality of those swings and the effort you put into each one.
  • Don’t measure distance. A common mistake made on the driving range by amateur players is trying to judge distance based off what they see happening with range balls. Simply put, range balls are not like regular golf balls that you would use on the course. They are produced to be economical and durable and are not built for performance. So, if you see the ball falling short of your normal on-course distances, or if the trajectory of your shots isn’t quite right, don’t worry about it. Instead, pay attention to how well you are striking the ball at impact. If you are consistently making good contact, and you feel like you are swinging through the ball effectively, your distances should be what you expect once out on the course.
  • Variety is your friend. Do you ever find yourself stuck in a pattern of hitting the same shot over and over again on the range? It’s an easy pattern to fall into but do what you can to avoid this trap. Here’s the thing – you almost never hit the same kind of full shot twice in a row on the course. Most golf courses demand variety, so you typically change clubs between shots, and you may need to adjust your ball flight according to the layout in front of you. In other words, repetition on the range isn’t worth much once you get onto the course. It’s okay to hit a few repetitions of the same shot when you are working on something specific within your technique, but generally including as much variety as possible is the best way to go.

Don’t consider your practice sessions a success as long as you work up a sweat. Unless you are paying attention to what you are doing and taking your time to make sure each swing a good one, you’ll just be exercising rather than practicing golf. Build good habits on the range and you might be surprised to see how much progress you make on the course.

Closing Thoughts

Senior Release Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro

Believe it or not, the best way to get over release issues is to put them out of your mind. This is not something that is going to get better if you focus all of your attention on it while at the range or on the course. In fact, if you think too much about your release, you are likely to make things worse. Since the release happens to fast for you to manage it manually, thinking about it is only going to allow your mind to get in the way of what should be happening naturally.

So, instead of obsessing over how to get your release to work properly, the better approach is to work on your surrounding swing mechanics. By improving the overall quality of your swing from top to bottom, your release is naturally going to improve by association. You’ll be putting your body and the club in a better position as the swing develops, meaning it will be easy for the release to take place at the bottom.

As you continue to make progress with your swing, you’ll find that the release seems to be less and less of an issue, and your shots will improve gradually. At first, you might notice that you are hitting the ball a little farther than before. Then, you may realize that the quality of the strike is improving, and your control over the trajectory has improved, as well. Golfers like to look for big leaps when working on their games, but progress usually comes slow and steady more than anything else. Be patient and keep working on the fundamentals until your release is no longer an issue.

Mastering the release is a story more about mastering the rest of your swing technique than anything else. If you can get the other fundamentals right and rehearse them enough to be consistent swing after swing, it shouldn’t be any problem to get the club to release correctly through the hitting area. Good luck!