The release, perhaps the most discussed term in the golf instruction lexicon, is also one of the least understood. Let’s take a few minutes to define it, clarify it and look at how it might apply to your swing.

Two distinct motions are involved in releasing the golf club: Unhinging the wrists (which have hinged in the backswing) and torquing the shaft to square the face of the club. In this piece I’d like to discuss the twisting or torquing of the shaft, which is distinctly different than releasing the club itself.

Not surprisingly, great players have different ways of doing it, and it is also NOT done at the same time or to the same degree for every player. The video below explains this part of the release, but I wish to elaborate on the concept in the written portion of this article below.

Dennis Clark Quick Tip 1 Squaring the Club Face from Tracy Danbert Tirrell on Vimeo.

Most GolfWRX readers understand the face-to-path relationship in the act of squaring the club face. They also know that ball flight begins mostly in the direction of the club face at impact, and curves away from the path of the club head. But HOW does the club face get to open or closed? That’s less understood.

To put it simply: The more horizontally the club swings, the LESS the shaft has to be twisted. The more vertically the club swings, the MORE it has to be twisted.

In other words if your swing approaches the golf ball FLATTER, it needs less “pronation and supination” of your arms and hands. On this plane, a LOT of twisting hits low, snap hooks that barely get off the ground. Contrast that with a club that comes into impact with with higher hands and the shaft “standing up.” The same amount of twist might very well square the face nicely.

Golfers tend to believe that if the golf club arrives from inside, it will hook. And if it arrives from the outside (of the face of course) it will slice. True, all things being equal. Those things are created by the plane of the club and of course, your grip, and golfers who struggle with squaring the face may very well be ignoring the plane.

A VERY high percentage of golfers are coming into impact too steeply (they have too high of a vertical swing plane), and their swings require a lot of twisting to square the club face. That’s why they use a stronger grip, and it’s good they do. But take the same strong grip and alter the swing to create a swing much lower on the vertical swing plane, and look out left!

Take, for example, hitting on side hills: why does the golf ball fly left from a side-hill, above-the-feet lie and go right from a side-hill, below-the-feet lie? Two reasons: yes, the lie angle of the golf ball is altered with the toe well up on the above-the-feet lie, and the heel way up on the below-the-feet lie. But we also see perfect evidence of the dynamic I am  discussing here. Flatter arc=close(ing) face and upright arc=open(ing) face.

You can try this out in your own swing. If the feeling of a rollover release is causing you to hit low sniping hooks, you will need “quieter” hands through impact. If high, right slices are your problem, it may be the result of a steep plane which requires very “active” hands to keep from blocks or slices.

If you’d like to look into my online swing analysis program, email me or message me on my Facebook page.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional and an advanced certified instructor. He 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 7-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 Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

24 COMMENTS

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  1. This has already been explained before. If you haven’t seen it, read The Release, by Jim Hardy. It was put out earlier this year and goes into detail on exactly these two types of releases. Excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing!

      • Oh, but I think you do, even if you come in lower. What if your left arm is broken and can only do the chicken wing that pulls it away because it’s already in that shape, and normally the handle get way ahead of the head. You’d have to really force that flip with the right side even if you were really flat and was very flat in the swing compared to standard clubs, the clubhead could use some toe-up set up too

        • you’re describing flexion and extension, a form of release. (slapping) ala Calvin Peete to cite your example. Pronation and supination (rollover) are not needed, or need to a much less degree, when the plane is flatter. Thx

  2. Nice, succinct and very useful article and video. Thanks for that. I have the steep/strong approach with an occasional miss left which is a result of a long history of coming in too flat and resorting to that under pressure. Good to remember….

  3. If you are thinking of these kinds of things while swinging you are doomed. Golf is an athletic game pure and simple. It takes great hand eye coordination to be consistent. People who start out listening to others get so many ideas in their head they cant make a tension free swing.

    Impact is like trying to grab an apple off a mail box from the back of a pickup truck doing 80mph. Now is that a smart thing to do?

  4. Interesting article. My understanding of the terms might be a bit off. The demo in the video, when you showed the more ‘upright’ swing plane, seems to show the swing plane to be dramatically from the inside, which, if you don’t roll your forearms, will of course cause a block to the right. As a player with a more naturally upright swing plane, I know if my swing flattens by the duck-hook that results on my driver. I’ve played with my swing plane without any other changes to my grip or swing to fight that hook and it does work. I’m now playing the tiniest of fades.

    • The inclined plane of the golf club is quite another matter from the direction. Steep is steep regardless of outside or inside. It is still likely to be more open if its more upright. Inside steep is right to right blocks and outside steep is left to right slices. Same principle. Flatter arc into impact= easier to close face and vice versa. Thx

  5. Really interesting, thanks. Sounds like this can be a relatively quick adjustment if things start to go sideways on the course.

    How does this explain the phenomena of the predominate miss with wedges being a draw, and predominate miss with driver an open face high push slice? Flatter driver swing would suggest the driver should more naturally square at impact.

    • IIt’s not a phenomena at all really but if it’s YOUR MISS consider loft and lie…10 degrees vs 50 degrees and 45 degrees and 62 degrees lie. And I can show you no end to people swinging ther driver 10-15 degrees more vertical at impact than address.

  6. Dennis, You are the first instructor who suggests the correct way. In this case, have a flatter plane. But, also offers a suggestions for the average AM – if you make a mistake there is a way of living with it (roll the hands/arms). Your articles are appreciates. Not every golfer cares to or is able to physically make the correct moves and just wants to have fun. You cover both!

  7. Great info, thanks for sharing. I’m surprised this article didn’t turn into a golf instructor bashing session with the typical WRX responses: “All golf instructors are worthless, especially PGA members. I’ve met 2 PGA members in my life, but all 27,000 are bad instructors. I’m a 17 handicap and post in the equipment boards all the time and I know way more than every instructor.”

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