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Find a release that squares the clubface at impact

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The last time we discussed release, we defined it as the point of extension of the lead arm and the golf club. The other part of release we need to concern ourselves with is that of squaring the clubface, which is the impact condition that leads to straighter shots. This, too, is defined as part of the “release,” albeit somewhat ambiguously.

The extension of the lead arm and the golf club, which I discussed in my last story, is a result of what is known as ulnar and radial deviation. The squaring of the face, which I am going to discuss in this article, is a result of the pronation and supination of the hands and arms. Both are essential parts of the release. The first part achieves a consistent swing bottom, while the second part squares the club face.

At address, the face of the golf club is at a right angle to the target line and the plane on which the club is about to swing. To facilitate the up-and-around motion, there is a certain amount of rotation of the arms so that at the top of the swing the club face is no longer at right angles to the plane — it is actually lying on the plane.

This position is referred to as “square,” but it is in fact 90 degrees open to the target line. If it were “square” as it was at address it would not be lying on the plane; it would coming off it at a right angle. All you’d need to see this is to pull the club down with no rotation and it would be precisely 9o degrees open to the ball at impact. So because the club was rotated by the arms and turning of the torso on the way up, it must be “re-rotated” on the way down. I think of this as “releasing the face,” an essential movement in solid contact.

In Part 1 of the release, I suggested that golfers uncock their wrists at different points in the downswing depending on the path and plane on which they are swinging. This also holds true for rotation and roll of the arms and hands into the ball. The factors determining when and how the face is released are also allied to the path and plane on which the golf club is swinging into the ball.

If you are a steep swinger, you need a conscious rolling of the forearms into the ball. That’s because the more vertical the club transitions, the more the face tends to open.

The flatter the swing arc into the ball, the less you need to roll your forearms into the ball. Your hands can be more “quiet” into impact. You still will need to square the clubface, but you can be more passive in doing so.

Here’s a great checklist if you’re struggling with hooks or slices

  • Low snap hooks are the result of too much hand action from a flat arc.
  • High, weak slices are the result of not enough hands from a steep arc.

It’s that simple.

If you tend to uncock the wrists early, this part of your swing may be in your golfing DNA. Don’t sweat the small stuff — simply play around it by making the necessary adjustments in your plane and path to facilitate it. The same goes for your freedom to release the club. If you’re coming in low on the swing plane, you can turn your body through and use less hands. If you’re high and steep coming down, let it roll, baby, roll. Any Doors fans still around today?

The best release drill I know is still one of the very first ones I learned: The Split Grip Drill. Simply split your grip so your left hand (for righties) is on the golf club normally. The position your right hand all the way down on the shaft below the handle. Now take some baseball swings; you’ll feel the roll-over, or the rotation. Do it several times. It helps.

For those of you who are regular followers of my writing and teaching, you see one consistent theme — work with what you already have in your swing. This is not a cop-out on my part as a teacher; I’m merely suggesting that certain motions are very difficult to change, but the good news is that you don’t have to.

What’s the problem with a flying elbow, a weak grip, a flat plane, bent left arm, across the line, laid off, etc.

Answer: Nothing. Qualification: Nothing in and of itself.

There are any number of golfers in the Hall of Fame who have swung the club with one or more of the positions I just described. How did they get away with it? They balanced their swing to arrive at impact correctly. That’s been the case since the first Scot slapped the first brassie from a mud peg and it remains the case today.

I can help anyone play better and become their own teacher if they are willing to make changes that are more compatible with their core move.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Josh

    Dec 21, 2014 at 6:20 pm

  2. Craig

    Nov 11, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Dennis, would you be able to relate this to having heel and toe contact as well? I’m a 5-10 handicap and have been told I have an inside to out swing, but I find that my not so solid shots are on the heel or even the s-word.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      sorry Steve, just saw this…Inside out produces heels hits more often because the hand path is swinging away from the body-can even shank that way sometimes. In fact, in-to-out open face is a very common shank

  3. steve

    Oct 31, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Alittle late to party here. Dennis would you agree or disagree that in general a steep arc is better for a taller player (over 6′). And a flatter swing would suit a shorter player better, even though a shorter could still use a steep swing. Me being 6’3″ I tried to flatten my swing and it seemed not worth the effort. Wanted it flatter so I could use less hands, but lost alot of power. In the end I was happier with a pitching wedge in the rough then 8 iron in the fairway.

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 31, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      Steve, yes in general I agree. Matt Kuchar is a rare exception but leverage is best achieved up for taller and around for shorter. The arm length and the torso to pelvis measurement area also factors. But at 6’3”i wouldn’t think flat is the way go. Of course everyone is different. need to see a video to be sure though

  4. other paul

    Oct 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I was swinging in my garage the other day and realized that when I consciously try to release the club I made worse contact then when I don’t try to control it at all. I just let it take its self to the ball. Club seems to go back to where it starts. Its kind of messing with my head.

  5. Dennis Clark

    Oct 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Mo made an interesting point about grip. it is THE single biggest factor in pronation and supination. so if your swing arc is flat and coming from well inside, do NOT go to stronger grip because it promotes maximum closing of the face. And vice versa.

    • other paul

      Oct 29, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      I just figured that out. Switched to a neutral grip.

    • Philip

      Oct 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

      So that’s why a stronger grip makes my swing more on plane. I have always used a neutral/weak grip and find I am so vertical on the back swing and have issues hitting fat shots and cuts.

      • Dennis Clark

        Oct 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm

        Phil I don’t know it makes it more “on plane”, but the fats and cuts may be a result of throwing the club at the ball due to the weaker grip. 80% of all golfers are better slightly stronger on the grip IMO…

  6. jon

    Oct 29, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    nice article Dennis and yes, there are some doors fans left!

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      I met JM once, talk about living in an alternate reality 🙂

  7. Dennis Clark

    Oct 29, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Great comments by all, thx for the feedback. As a teacher, the bottom line is this: At the top of the swing the back of the left hand is at right angles to the target. At impact it needs to be facing the target. No amount of body turn or proper sequencing, in and of itself, will rotate the arm WITHOUT conscious effort and deliberate torque by the player. A good body rotation CERTAINLY HELPS, but I have no end to “handle pullers” who do not properly square the club. But not all have to rotate the same amount, that’s why your path and plane are so key. thx again. DC

  8. MO

    Oct 29, 2014 at 10:33 am

    So with a steep swing, in your teaching, do you favor an abrupt left hand supination for impact or can it be gradual? Many with steep swings cast anyway and have trouble with the timing at impact, leaving the clubface open as well due to lack of rotation. With those players are there two releases? the early cast (ulnar deviation) and then the rotation (left hand supination)? It seems women and men with lithe forearms may have the most problem with this.

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 29, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Mo, Yes and no…I don’t “favor” anything other than what works. My experience has been that there more pulling down in a vertical attitude the club face simply opens more. So yes the more need to square it via the rolling of the forearms and hands. The early cast you refer is a different thing. Typically they cast because the steepness makes them late so they’re trying to be earlier; that was the first article i wrote and it is a bottom of the swing arc issue. On the supination and pronation, they need to square an open face. Do you follow?

      • MO

        Oct 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm

        yes and no from me also. I agree there are two separate problems for early ulnar deviation/casting -vs- supination. I guess I am asking for help with a ‘workable’ way not to leave the clubface open at impact in this scenario. Supination, I think, also is affected by other items than forearm strength such as how strong or weak is a grip position. It seems logical you just can’t rotate/supinate as much if you can’t see 2-3 knuckles on the grip at address… or would moving the left hand under actually promote more supination from the get go to square the club moving from the backswing to impact?

        btw- love your approach to helping everyone with their own swing. I went to the vertical swing due to shoulder and back pain issues and have never looked back… but I find instructors constantly want to change me back to a rotary swing.

        • Dennis Clark

          Oct 29, 2014 at 5:16 pm

          Here’s the deal with grip, and not many people get this right. When you use a strong grip, you are in a position that allows for maximum closing and minimum opening. Try it it’s interesting to feel the position. you can’t roll open at all because you’re already maxed out there. but you can close it a bunch. But the grip MUST match the swing arc. A player playing from well inside cannot use the strong grip because it’s not a match; everything has to balance. If you got a flightscope reading of 6 degrees inside on your path, a strong grip will likely hook and vice versa.

  9. Jonny B

    Oct 29, 2014 at 8:11 am

    I find that working on this “second” part of a proper release – supination and pronation of the wrists – is a major necessity to proper ball contact, once a basic swing is grooved. With irons, a good release is the essential key to pinching the ball off the turf and getting the proper compression that will lead to consistent ball flights and distacnces. When I find myself not pinching the ball the way I want to (usually leading to hitting high fades/blocks), I know I need to head to the range and work on my release.

    One way I work on getting the proper release is by just grabbing a 7 iron on the range and starting with slow, half swings. I concentrate on releasing my wrist cock and turning my arms over at the precise moment of contact and look for a nice penetrating flight with a slight draw. Slowing everything down is a great way to work on this – these 7 iron shots only go about 100 yards. Remember to keep your weight slightly forward during this drill. From there, once comfortable, I start adding more distance, about 10 yards for every 5 balls hit, until I am hitting full shots. It really helps too if you can get to a range with grass tees so you can ensure your divot starts after the ball.

  10. marty

    Oct 29, 2014 at 7:57 am

    On my release I lock out both elbows at the same time right after impact. This helps me follow out to the target line. I really have not read about this any where. But I see the pros do it especially the women.

  11. Howard

    Oct 28, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Great article Dennis. I’m repeatedly told I’m too handsy through impact and am encouraged to hold off my release and extend my finish toward the target rather than around my body. I hit a lot of low hooks. Would a stiffer and/or heavier shaft help? I currently use a light regular flex steel shaft but I have a very slow tempo. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 28, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      Well extending toward the target may not be the best thought for hooking. Finishing more left with a more active body turn is what I’d be suggesting. Remember that hooks from a path Inside where the club face is pointed. So ur goal is to reduce that amount of inside. Club wise a stiffer heavier shaft MAY help. So might a grip change?

  12. Bogeypro

    Oct 28, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    You seem to advocate very active hands and arms in the golf swing. What are your thoughts on a more body controlled release where the arms and hands are much more passive?

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 29, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Bogey, If you read it again I’m not really advocating anything but what works. I suggest active hands and arms for steeper and less inside swings, and more body with quiet hands for flatter arcs and more inside paths. Thats the lesson in the article; the club face can be squared both ways. Find which one is right for you. Thx

  13. marcel

    Oct 28, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    get a proper coach and dont worry about the rest. and also visit gym at least 2-3 per week.

  14. Philip

    Oct 28, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    This weekend I came to the same conclusion that all I should really care about is my impact position. Visualize my impact and follow-through and let my body do what is required to get me there. As a result, my body started making adjustments to reduce the steepness in my swing, eliminating my fat hits, while getting me closer to the impact position I was visualizing. During the round I started wondering what changed and happened to notice the difference in my left wrist at set-up. I sure wish I had tried this before the last day of the season.

    Next year.

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      ye sir…there’s always next year! Impact is golf and golf is impact!

  15. Toño

    Oct 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    RELEASE = double lever extension ( -muñeca arm / wrist -palo ) WHERE Control = lowest, AS = extension education , ELEMENTS = ground -body- suit, bola.OBJETIVO = ball impact . .Did you know that may influence the clubface hits while immediately after you think? Or do things happen before?

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      could you repeat the question? I understood very little of the phrasing.

    • Stretch

      Oct 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      The wrists have ulnar deviation (upcocking) and radial deviation (downcocking). The arm bones have supination (rotation away from the target) and pronation (rotation back to the address position and past impact). Sideways back wrist hinging is extension and sideways fore wrist hinging is flexion. Cupping of the forward wrist is extension plus supination.

      Everyone has a similar yet different biomechanical makeup. To answer your question one would need to watch your swing. What I can tell you is when the club and arms are dropped into the slot, square to the aim line, the throw out motion of the arm rotation and wrist unhinging produces centrifugal force. This must counteract the centripetal force that wants to swing the club and arms inside after impact in order to deliver the power down the aim line. Artist feel the square release. Engineers think the positions. Da Vincis combine the two.

  16. jd

    Oct 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    First, you can’t perform ulnar and radial deviation at the same time so I take that as some type of typographical error. Second, the problem with using right arm pronation and left arm supination for a right hander to square the clubface is that it leads to inconsistencies you often see in all but the best golfers.

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Is that what you have observed in your students?

      • jd

        Oct 28, 2014 at 4:39 pm

        I’m not an instructor. I do think that squaring the club face with the body is the best way to be consistent.

        • Dennis Clark

          Oct 28, 2014 at 6:11 pm

          i agree. But…if you look at video from down the line and see the golf club in transition through your shoulder or even upper bicep, or you’re VSP reading is 60 degrees or so for a 6-iron, you cannot release the face sufficiently to square it simply by using a “body” release, aka quiet hands through impact. If you “body release” from that vertical a plane, you will be FAR too late and the face will be left well open. Yes, Radial deviation going back and ulnar deviation coming down are separate movements from pronation and supination. But after the angle formed at the top of the swing begins to diminish, the turning down of the forearms can begin. Sooner for some than others. As the left hand grip begins to strengthen the golfer is actually much more in a flexion/extension position than ulnar/radial deviation. Thats why I strengthen grips to get more wrist cock when
          needed. Try it. Thx

          • jd

            Oct 28, 2014 at 10:34 pm

            Dennis,
            I appreciate your response. I really should not argue because I don’t have much at stake and maybe it’s just an argument about semantics anyhow. But if you look at many of the pictures at impact position, ulnar deviation has occurred in both wrists, but the leading arm and trailing arm have not supinated and pronated, respectively, that much. This suggests that the motion of the body more than the arms have squared the club face. We all know that the proper release cannot and should not be manipulated with the arms or wrists. It occurs automatically by forces and angles that are set in motion which start with the body (lower before upper), then arms/wrists. When this happens the golf swing looks effortless. Of course, if one cannot get the body to be in the right dynamic position to release the club properly, in order to make club contact with the ball, the golfer has no choice but to perform an arm release. Such an arm release can vary widely from day to day because it requires more precise timing and hence leads to inconsistencies.

          • Stretch

            Oct 29, 2014 at 1:51 pm

            The first teacher ever to explain wrist and arm movements in clear biomechanical terms.

            The two best ball strikers I ever saw had the same hand and arm action. The front wrist had radial deviation and pronation. The back wrist had no radial deviation or pronation but did have extension. The releasing of these movements to an impact fix and holding well beyond produced serious accuracy.

            They were Moe Norman and Johnny Bullas.

    • IJP

      Oct 28, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      so no one should swing like the best golfers?

  17. Jeff

    Oct 28, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    I have a kind of stupid question, is the golfers similar on every club in the bag, or do we release the driver much more than say, a 90 yard wedge?

    • Jeff

      Oct 28, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Golfer’s Release similar*

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      well not as Ive seen it; a driver is clearly released earlier as it wants to slight ascend. But that’s the uncocking of the wrists,a distinctively different motion than the rolling of the wrists (ulnar or radial deviation as opposed to pronation and supination) that I referred to in the article. Go back and read the piece I wrote, “Tiger’s late release” and you’ll see what I mean. I think in his better driving days he clearly released earlier. But again, the rolling of the hands and arms, is based in the plane and path the golfers is playing. I know you’re a regular reader and I appreciate your interest in learning

  18. Jeff

    Oct 28, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I actually got an email from “Haney University” trying to sell me a split-grip “NEW” training aid for “Beta testing.” The problem with calling it new is I’ve had one for about 8 years, and I bought it at goodwill for about a buck.

    The Swing Magic by Kallasay or something is a great split grip training aid. You can find em on ebay cheap, or Hank Haney can find you one for 100 bucks, an email address, and the
    life-time earnings of your first born son(best deal on Haneys website).

    But im sure the drill works the old fashioned way too, thanks Mr. Clark, you’re really one of the best things about GolfWRX.

    • Dennis Clark

      Oct 28, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Thx yes there are some very misleading ads out there. But I get the feeling you’re a little ahead of that game ???? some are good though just have to separate wheat from chafe. You can do a lot with a little if you understand the principle. Sounds like you do!

  19. Dennis Clark

    Oct 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    You’re welcome. Thanks for the kind words

  20. juststeve

    Oct 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Dennis:

    I always enjoy your articles. This Is another good one. Thanks for sharing.

    Steve.

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