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Instruction

Release with a “hit” to improve your golf swing

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The “release” involves the swing of the club head around the hands in the forward swing. We may sense that the uncocking of the wrists, which permits the release, originates in the trailing or right hand, but for good ball-strikers it is always accompanied by a straightening of that arm. The bending and straightening of the arm is a powerful action used by humans in countless everyday tasks and in sports by the fighter to punch, by the hitter to hit in baseball, and by the pitcher and quarterback to throw in baseball and football, to name a few.

There are two essential characteristics of a proper hitting action:

  1. The hitting arm straightens to full extension.
  2. Full extension is reached past/after contact or separation.

This is why we are instructed in sports to continue punching/hitting/throwing through, not simply to, the object/ball. Golf is no exception, as a proper release sees the hitting arm continue extending past the ball in any swing, full or short, where the arm has bent or cocked to any degree in the backswing. Except for the collision with the ball and ground, the club head will continue accelerating until full extension is reached. Far ahead of his time, Ben Hogan wrote that the club head should reach maximum speed after impact.

This is the most essential element of the swing that is lacking among poor ball-strikers, and IT affects the efficiency of the strike in the following three ways:

  1. Allows the golfer to produce the speed/power that he or she is physically capable of.
  2. Allows the golfer to return the club face square to the path of the swing.
  3. Allows the golfer to strike the ball with a descending attack angle just before the club head reaches the bottom/low point of its arc.

As the release unfolds in-step with the straightening of the trail arm, the low point/bottom of the club-head arc will occur just prior to the point where the arm reaches full extension or is no longer straightening, dependent upon ball position. Thus, full extension must be reached sufficiently past the ball to achieve a descending attack angle. “Hitting down on the ball,” as it’s know, in most situations where the ball lies on the ground/turf, is a requirement for contacting the ball on the “sweet spot” of the club face before excessive interaction between the club head and ground/turf can occur that can rob distance-controlling speed and spin-producing friction. Expressed another popular way, only by hitting past the ball can a golfer “compress” the ball.

It is not uncommon to hear a golfer complain that he “gave it too much right hand.” In the sense that a proper hitting action involves fully extending the hitting arm, it is not possible to hit too hard with the right/trail arm/hand. Hogan wrote that on a normal full swing, you should hit as hard as you can with the right hand. He said he wished he had three right hands! The error is in completing the hitting action too early, or worse, ceasing the hitting action altogether before impact (care for some hot sauce with that “chicken wing”?).

Adrian-Gonzalez-swing

An example of the proper hitting action, as seen in baseball by MLB player Adrian Gonzalez. The trail arm straightens from a cocked position before impact to a fully extended position past impact.

Cam-Newton-throwing

A proper throwing motion, shown here by NFL quarterback Cam Newton, features the same two essential characteristics as a proper hitting action.

Rory-McIlroy-swing

Seen from down-the-line of flight, PGA Tour star Rory McIlroy exhibits the proper hitting action.

Na-Yeon-Choi-swing

Seen face-on, LPGA Tour player Na Yeon Choi exhibits the proper hitting action.

A simple practice drill for helping to acquire the skill of hitting past the ball can be performed using only the trail arm with a laser pointer or flashlight held in the hand. Address a ball normally with your lead arm off to your side, your trail wrist in-line with a point just behind the ball, and the light pointing there. Cock the trail arm back, simulating the backswing. The point of light should always follow the swing-target line on the ground, indicating the proper direction of the swing. Simulate the forward swing by straightening the trail arm fully and past the ball. There should be no independent hand/wrist bending or twisting in this exercise. When the trail arm has fully extended, the light point will stop. That point should be approximately 3 inches past the back of the ball, for any ball position.

I anticipate some of the reactions to be along these lines:

  • What about the lead/left arm/hand? Should it not play an active role?
  • Isn’t the body pivot an important component of the release?

In response, yes, actively use the left if you like. Hogan said that hitting hard with the right hand was only half of the story, and that you must hit as hard with the left as with the right. Skilled golfers use every muscle in their body in swinging the club to strike the ball. Just make sure that your trail arm continues hitting past the ball.

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As an independent contractor based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Todd Dugan provides video swing analysis as a player gift to groups hosting golf tournaments and also is available for private instruction. * PGA Certified Instructor * Teaching professionally since 1993 CONTACT: ToddDugan@PGA.com vimeo.com/channels/todddugangolf

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Todd Dugan

    May 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    You said, “Everything in this article are unverifiable anecdotal assertions”. That the trail arms extends past the ball in the swings of all great ball-strikers, and in countless other sports, is easily verified by video analysis. This article illustrates several examples. In the swings of average golfers, the trail arm often straightens at or before impact. In the swings of poor golfers, the trail arm often does not fully extend at all. Make of that what you will, but the article does make clear the implications.

  2. Edge of Lean

    May 15, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Seems to be some contradiction in this article.
    Full paragraph #2, sentence #2, says: “…a proper release sees the hitting arm continue extending past the ball in any swing, full or short, where the arm has bent or cocked to any degree in the backswing.”
    This is confirmed in the paragraph after the 3 points, in sentence #2: “…full extension must be reached sufficiently past the ball to achieve a descending attack angle.”
    These statements are the opposite of what you assert in the caption to the illustration of batter Adrian Gonzalez, where you state: “The trail arm straightens from a cocked position before impact to a fully extended position past impact.”
    The contradiction is in the word “before.” This should read “after” to be consistent with your main assertion (unless I’m seriously misunderstanding something).

    • RJH

      May 16, 2017 at 10:05 am

      No contradiction! You will understand the consistence of meanings if you read the whole sentence as below: “The trail arm straightens from {a cocked position before impact} to {a fully extended position past impact}. Kindly note that both “before” and “past” here refer to the time when the trail hand is “cocked” or “fully extended” respectively. The “ before” impact here does not refer to the time when the trail arm is straighten.

  3. Tim

    May 15, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    The average golfer doesn’t need more right hand. Why doesn’t golfwrx post a study showing muscle tension in the extremities compared to the core during the swing. You can bet the farm that for 95% of golfers the right arm would have the most tension because of this “instinctive” action to hit with the dominant arm/side. That’s probably the root cause of most golfing issues. Instinct isn’t always the best thing and just because you see something in a picture doesn’t mean it happened for the reason you think it did. The right arm extension primarily happens just because it is attached via fingers to the club and the club is moving away from the right side of the body in the last part of the swing.

    • Todd Dugan

      May 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      The trail arm extends to full extension past the point of separation in ALL sports that feature a hitting or throwing motion. Coincidence?

  4. H

    May 15, 2017 at 11:12 am

    “It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

  5. Tony Luczak

    May 15, 2017 at 10:54 am

    It’s refreshing to hear someone talk about the importance of the right arm but unfortunately all of this info is not entirely accurate. Golf research from Dr Ferdinands has evaluated right arm extension contribution to club head speed and it is negligible. There is some contribution but other right arm factors are more important. Sometimes extension occurs after impact (one of your pics show that) so it is a perception that is real but once the ball leaves the club we have no influence over ball flight. The right arm is critical in the golf swing but it is through addiction not extension.

    • Todd Dugan

      May 16, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Contribution to clubhead speed is just one of three ways, presented in the article, that trail arm extension past the ball affects the efficiency of the strike. There is no great ball-striker who does not exhibit this trait.

  6. Ray Bennett

    May 15, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Look at the picture of the golfer at impact at the. Start if the article. His body has stalled with little body rotation which means his body rotation occurs past impact. What good is body rotation past impact? This method can only work with a release that has he clubface rotating from very open to shut through the ball position at best. The release needs to be matched to body rotation. When the body stalls as in the above pic, the player has to throw his hands and clubhead at the ball and hope for the best.

    • mctrees02

      May 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

      I assume you’re referring to the picture of Rory hitting driver at the top of this article. Have you never watched Rory’s swing before?

    • mctrees02

      May 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

      I think you’re referring to the picture of Rory at the top of this article. Have you never watched his swing before?

      • Ray Bennett

        May 15, 2017 at 7:06 pm

        Rory can swing any old way because he is an expert with 10,000+ hours of deep practice under his belt. This article targets the average golfer not the elite player, the purpose being to articulate concepts.

  7. Double Mocha Man

    May 14, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    If I had a nickle for every contradictory piece of golf advice out there I could buy that membership at the local country club with a pool.

    I’m thinking any advice is good, since my swing remains contradictory. I’ll be trying this out at the range tomorrow morning.

  8. Double Mocha Man

    May 14, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Yes.

  9. James Stephens

    May 14, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    No.

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Instruction

How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location

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One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:

Observations

  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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Instruction

Master your takeaway with force and torques

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Most golf swings last less than 2 seconds, so it’s difficult to recover from any errors in the takeaway. Time is obviously limited. What most golfers fail to realize is that the force and torque they apply to the club in the initial stages of the swing can have major effects on how they are able to leverage the club with their arms and wrists.

Our research has shown that it is best to see the golfer as a series of connected links with the most consistent golfers transferring motion smoothly from one link to another and finally to the club. Approximately 19-25 percent of all the energy created in a golf swing actually makes its way into the motion of the club. That means the remaining 75-80 percent is used up in moving the body segments. This emphasizes the fact that a smooth takeaway is your best chance sequence the body links and become more efficient with your energy transfers.

In the video above, I give a very important lesson on how the forces and torques applied by the golfer in the takeaway shape the rest of the swing. There will be more to come on the subject in future articles.

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Instruction

Learn from the Legends: Introduction

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There is a better way to swing the golf club. I’d prefer to write that there is a correct way to swing the club, but I know that really freaks people out. People love to talk about how everyone’s swing is different. “There are lots of ways to get it done,” they say. “Look at Jim Furyk’s swing – it’s not what you’d teach, but it works for him.”

To some extent, they’re right. Elite swings do have different looks. Some take it back inside (Ray Floyd). Some cross the line (Tom Watson). Some swings are long (Bubba Watson). Some are short (young Tiger). But these differences are superficial and largely irrelevant. When it comes to the engine – the core of the swing – the greatest players throughout the history of the game are all very similar.

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you. In this series of articles, I will do my best to show you – with pictures and videos and data – that the legends all move a specific way. Focusing on these elements (while ignoring others) and practicing a certain way is the surest path to improving your golf swing and lowering your scores.

So, let’s get into it. There are a number of important elements that all the legends have, but the biggest and most important of these elements is rotation. Every great player throughout the history of the game has had elite rotation. It’s the most important thing they do, and it’s easy to see. When you’re looking down the line at all the great players at impact, you’ll see hips and torso open.

This is what the legends look like at impact:

1Hips open
2Torso open
3Both butt cheeks visible
4Left leg extended and visible

And here’s what some very good players with less good rotation look like at impact:

These are very successful players (one of them is a major champion!), but they don’t move like the legends of the game.
1Hips and shoulders not open
2Left leg not totally visible
3Can’t see both butt cheeks

Now, there are plenty of nuances to how great players rotate. They do it while keeping spine flexion, for example, and they do it with very little (or no) lateral movement toward the target (lateral movement impedes rotation). I will discuss these things in detail. My hope is that at the end of this series you will have a much better understanding of what separates the legends from the very good… and from the rest of us.

You will understand their “engine,” and hopefully this understanding will help you begin to create your own legendary swing!

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19th Hole

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