What’s the “release” in a golf swing? For purposes of this article, I’ll define it as the point in the swing when the lead arm and the golf club begin to become a straight line.
Whenever the release occurs for you isn’t as important as this; you can play your best golf with the release you have right now. That’s why you shouldn’t be frustrated that you don’t have the late release of Sergio Garcia. His “lag,” which is golf lingo for a late release, might not be the best thing for you anyways. David Toms has an early release and has won 13 times on the PGA Tour, including a major championship. Had he spent all his time on the range trying to change his release, we might never have heard of him.
Let’s start from the beginning so you can see what I mean.
At the top of the swing, the angle between the lead arm and the golf club is usually somewhere near 90 degrees. Every golfer begins to diminish this angle at some point in the downswing to eventually arrive at impact at 180 degrees. When golfers do this establishes whether they release the club early or late.
Most everything golfers do with their bodies is a reaction to the straightening of this angle. If it is done early in the downswing, the body needs to react in a certain way. If it is done later in the downswing, a completely different series of body motions are required. The importance of the release point cannot be underestimated. That’s why golfers need to be aware of when they actually release the club, not when they’ve been told they should release it.
A lot of students tell me, “I know I come over the top and I cast.” My response is: “YOU BETTER!”
Why? Because if you’re over the top, you moved the bottom of the arc forward, or “late,” we might say. Add that to a delayed hit (called lag) and you have moved the bottom of the arc even further forward. Now you can’t get to the bottom of the golf ball at all. So you need to release — what some call “cast” — the club to catch up, but it’s really all the same thing; A player starts out slicing, learns to come over the top as a response, then starts casting out of necessity. What a vicious cycle!
So your teacher explains the problem and you work on hitting more “from the inside.” Now that same cast (or early release) that worked for the outside-in path is now an absolute killer. You’ll lay the sod over every iron shot you hit.
I don’t mean to be a prophet of gloom, but I’m here to tell you this: changing your release point is the hardest thing to do in the golf swing. Over many years of teaching I have seen very few change it very much, if at all. But there is a bright side: You may not have to change your release point.
Mind you, early straightening of the lead arm and club has its consequences. It make it much harder to hit down on the golf ball, it can cause you to lose speed and it generally requires at least one compensation — but you can make a choice for it to be functional. What you cannot do if you want to play your best is keep hitting the ground first or topping the ball.
If you have been playing for some time and learned to release early, you will have to accept a somewhat outside-in path and upright plane to play. It is a compensation for what you do naturally. Both out-to-in and upright paths are compatible with early-releasing.
If you learned to hook the ball when you first learned the game, you probably have an inside path. It may be inside-out or inside-in, but chances are you are hitting from the inside. And if you’re a low-handicap player hitting solid shots from an inside path, you probably have timed your release correctly. In other words, you have sufficient angle retention in your transition.
If you’re hooking the ball or hitting fat shots when coming from the inside, there is a good chance you are releasing too early. So you too have a choice. You could add a little more delay in your hit, or a little more up and over the plane in your motion. As I said, very few learn delay, but the ones I have seen have all been strong players who come from the inside. With hard work and dedication, you stand a chance.
I heard Tom Watson say many times that he learned a “secret” later in his career. He talked about the difference in turning his body into the ball more level instead of going under it into the “reverse C” position of his younger days. And I think what Tom found is that the reverse-C move is better for a player with an earlier release, which he had most of his successful playing days. Then we see Sergio Garcia, a very late-releaser, stay behind and go under.
The principles I’m describing apply to players of any level. The better player more consistently solves this release-body motion equation. No two release points are the same, nor do they have to be. Once you know your pattern, you can play with it, and play better.
Drills for an earlier or later release
As always, the thoughts below come from my teaching experience and reflect what has worked best on the lesson tee these last three-plus decades. If they help, consider them; if not, dismiss them. Remember, however, that changing your release point is difficult at the very least, and futile for most. The process of getting more on a correct plane and a better path is gradual. That said, if you are willing to invest a lot of time, you can get more lag. But its been my experience that some very good players have ruined their golf swings trying.
Here’s a drill that may help you with delaying your hit, if that be your goal.
Put a lie board or an aim stick a few inches behind the golf ball. Start your backswing on the front edge of the lie board or on the stick. Now try hitting the ball.
One of the curious things about early releasing is that it often causes LOWER ball flight because the player is forced to move in front of the ball to avoid hitting behind it. You cannot get adequate right side bend (axis tilt) with a very early release. That position is reserved for players with a later hit, or those who are really quick with opening their body early into the downswing.
If your release is early, you can add one or more of the following things to make you release later.
- Set up a little open to the target.
- Stay more centered on the takeaway.
- Swing more upright.
- Turn more level through the ball (not sliding under).
- Narrow your arc.
If your release is late, consider adding one or more of these things to make you release earlier.
- Set up slightly closed to the target.
- Move more to your right side in the takeaway.
- Swing a little more around (flatter).
- Stay a little more behind the ball with the upper body into impact.
- Widen your arc.
Golf is a game of trade offs. Most of us can’t have our cake and eat it too. Well, you could, but you’d be playing on the TV on the weekend and we would have all heard of you!
As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.
What should your hips do in the golf swing?
If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.
Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind
Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player
As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?
As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.
I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.
Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?
Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.
The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?
We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.
I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.
The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)
- Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
- Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.
The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.
Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.
The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.
Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.
No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.
There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…
- We are relaxed
- We are having fun
- We are just doing
In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!
Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!
Please reach out to me at email@example.com to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.
Equipment improvements are even better for women! Now they are getting over 300 yards!
We had a sweet driver shaft fitting at Club Champion in January. We picked up the shaft in their store in Phoenix and that afternoon, and Savannah hit two benchmark drives at 305 and another at 317 yards! Kinda makes you a bit of a believer, huh!? We are looking forward to seeing the numbers on our GC Quad back home this week to check out the difference. Stay tuned for next week!
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